Co-op hires Emer Coleman to advise on start-ups and the community

The Co-operative Group has hired Emer Coleman to advise CoopDigital on its initiative to expand its digital reach in the local community.

Joining the group as technology engagement advisor, Coleman will ensure its ongoing digital transformation strategy - which includes the development of digital products and services - helps the wider community.

Coleman will begin by consulting with various tech communities in Manchester, but soon will be looking for a building to house the digital team and create a shared working space for technology start-ups in the region. The start-up ecosystem will benefit users right across the business, including Co-op members, customers and innovations in supply chain.

Coleman described to Essential Retail how a start-up with a digital product could benefit the retailer through the ecosystem. This company could take part in a programme held at the CoopDigital's shared working space, where it may receive help from the digital team to grow into a "sustainable, solid, digital business".

"It might be key young companies creating a product or service that would benefit our customers, because we wouldn't necessarily build it ourselves, but we would commission and support the start-up to be a good digital business," Coleman told Essential Retail. "We don't need to build everything ourselves, but we need to grow new companies."

She added: "The main thing is to give signal to technology companies that it is not just about the Co-op, but using its digital transformation to connect with other companies and encourage more start-ups in the ecosystem."

Coleman's experience of digital transformation spans both the public and private sector. She was part of the team that built TransportAPI and is chair of the Open Data Governance Board Ireland. She has also lectured and written on Techno Ethics and the need for new ethical approaches in the digital economy.

She was hired by the retailer's chief digital officer, Mike Bracken, who joined the Co-op from HM Government last summer. As the executive director for the Government Digital Service (GDS), head of digital at the Cabinet Office, and more recently chief data officer, he was involved in the development of, creating online public services, as well as championing the use of open data in government. As Coleman pointed out Bracken's focus when it comes to digital in business is on the end-user need.

"And whether it is members or customers, we're trying to find out how the work that has been done from Co-op's digital journey will benefit the wider community – both in Manchester and the wider tech community," she added.

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