Community Pioneer


Diana Varakina reports on her new job as the first Co-op Member Pioneer for the Wanstead and South Woodford area, a position she believes can improve our wellbeing and build community resilience

My name is Diana, I moved to Wanstead two years ago. Right from the start, I loved the area, from the vibrant High Street to the local swans, the neighbourly and community feel, the green open spaces and Epping Forest.

After lockdown started, and with more time on my hands, I wanted to help during the pandemic. I found that Co-op was actively looking to employ people to support their local community. I applied, was selected and am now excited to be the very first Co-op Member Pioneer for the Wanstead and South Woodford area.

Co-op values and principles resonate strongly with me. People over profit, contribution, self-responsibility, democracy, equality and solidarity – these all meant I could do something for my community with a partner who believes in the same things as I do.

The Member Pioneer role is designed to increase cooperation and participation in the community, working with local colleagues, causes and members to enable great things to happen. My aim is to be a genuine local voice in the community, promoting Co-op member involvement and the Co-op values and principles. What this means in practice is connecting people and building relationships, listening to what matters to people and identifying issues affecting the community and then using Co-op’s reach and resources, as well as other local initiatives, to make a positive difference.

Co-op is the world’s largest consumer co-operative, owned by its millions of members and recognised for its social goals and community-led programmes. It’s also the UK’s fifth-largest food retailer. Many people do not know that every time members buy Co-op branded products and services, 1% of their purchase is donated to local causes in their community.

As a Member Pioneer, I am in a great position to listen to the needs of the Wanstead and South Woodford community and work alongside the residents to reach solutions that not only solve the issue, but do so in a way that empowers the local community and respects equality, human rights and the environment. Now more than ever, we’re seeing the difference these Co-op member donations are making to some amazing causes, especially those supporting people through the current crisis.

Whilst I’m new to the role, I’m excited to play a part in the community and connect with local residents, business and organisations. As we collectively face a challenging period, it is community and togetherness that can make such a difference to people’s lives.

For more information on Co-op’s Local Community Fund, email diana.varakina@coopmembers.co.uk