On a dark Monday evening in February, the lucky few who had been selected to form the first cohort of the Chris Herries Development Programme attended the inaugural zoom call. We were greeted by Emma Foody, Jennifer Hemingway, Anna Turley, and our trainers from the Labour Women’s Network. It was on this night that Anna opened up about her friendship with Chris, and the times they worked together such as when Anna was the Chair of the Co-operative Party and Chris Herries acted as Deputy Chair and then went on to succeed her.

Anna talked about how Chris was the ultimate co-operator who provided great advice and was forever helping those in need. We were told how this development programme was designed to empower us to continue to develop on Chris’ great legacy – an incredibly high standard to achieve.

The training delivered through Labour Women’s Network, with Claire Reynolds and Nan Sloane, focused on the feminist giants of the Co-operative Party’s history and how to reflect these values in our own leadership. We were encouraged to push ourselves to think more strategically and to bring out the best in those with whom we work.

The Co-operative Party generously funded a 10 month in-depth programme, alongside supporting our travel costs so that we could all meet in person in November for graduation (storm CiarĂ¡n permitting). During this horrific cost-of-living crisis, this investment into our personal development was really appreciated. I know that without the Party’s generosity and support, many of us wouldn’t have been able to attend.

One of the greatest outcomes of the programme has been getting to know the other course attendees. It has created a strong network of Co-operative feminists who are all seeking to support each other, who can share openly about their problems, and get honest, supportive feedback. Meeting the rest of the cohort has been a privilege and I am certain they will all go on to do great things.

If you are thinking about applying for the second cohort, I would whole-heartedly encourage you to do so. I am sure any of this year’s graduates would say the same and we will happily answer any of your questions on the process.

On behalf of all the attendees, I would like to thank each and every one of you as your support of the Co-operative Party has enabled them to invest in us and to share the memory and values of Chris Herries to the next generation. Thank you so much Co-operative Party for this life-changing course.