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Co-operative Futures Conference 2019 #FC19

How can we make Co-operative deserts bloom? That’s the big question that Co-op Futures wanted the answer to, but how could they get answers to such a vast and complex question? What do you do when you’re faced with seemingly intractable problems? In this case, Think:Digital were called into action!

We were approached by Jo White and the team at Co-op Futures to help them facilitate an event on helping the co-operative movement expand in areas where co-operators and our ideals seem to be scarce. Do you scratch your head sometimes wondering why some parts of the country seem to be fertile ground for co-operatives, and other parts seem to be deserts?

To tackle these problems, Think:Digital would use design thinking techniques such as Customer Experience Journey Mapping (CXJM) and Design Sprints, created by the sharpest minds in the world, to empower people to look at the problem from a different perspective and come up with exciting solutions.

The best part about these tools? Anyone can use these techniques, and actually it helps to have a mixture of experts and non-experts look at the problem to try and discover different and creative solutions. That’s exactly what happened at this conference. When everyone was allowed to let go and put down their most creative ideas, they did just that, which lead to some pretty exciting solutions to the original questions.

In order to prepare for this event, we collaborated with Co-op Futures to create persona’s and journeys of would be co-operators in the past and understand their journeys to becoming co-operatives and where they had succeeded and failed. The team at Co-op Futures were really receptive to our process and were quickly facilitating sessions themselves. Before the event they had built 6 persona’s and accompanying detailed journey maps to help the conference move smoothly and swiftly on the day.

The Event


Friday afternoon the delegates arrived and were thrown straight into action, building on the previously created journey maps. We broke the delegates into groups of 6 with each group being facilitated by a member of either the Think:Digital or Co-op Futures teams. After completing the first journey map we moved the delegates around the room to have a crack at another one. We wanted the delegates to not only end the event with an outcome but to learn these tools as they progressed.

By Friday evening each group of delegates had two summary’s of their completed journey maps which showed an understanding of the areas in the journey which could be improved, the positive and negative impacts, and an understanding of the emotional and moment needs we have to resolve to make the person’s journey a success.


As facilitators we took the findings from Friday afternoon and created 6 “how might we” questions. When the delegates returned in the morning we again split into groups of 6 and challenged each group to come up with solutions based on their allocated question. After the groups completed their questions we had a quick break before rotating the teams and setting them on a second “how might we” question.

Once each group had completed two questions we presented our findings and chose 3 solutions to take forward into the afternoon.

In the afternoon we asked the delegates to choose a solution to discuss and how they might go away from the conference and deliver it.

The conference was a wild success! All the Co-operatives from different parts of the UK managed to come together to unite and tackle this problem, everyone enjoyed themselves and we can only give everyone that attended our highest praises for getting stuck in and learning something new.  All the attendees left with pledges which they will be reminded of by post in 6 months time and are putting their ideas into action!

We believe Co-operative deserts can bloom, but they can only bloom if we work hard on turning that desert into an oasis again, together.

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