The Co-operative College has announced that Simon Parkinson will be joining as Principal and Chief Executive designate at the start of March, and taking over the role of CEP in April. Simon has spent the past 16 years working at Royal Mencap Society, the country’s leading charity for people with learning disabilities, most recently as the Director of External Relations and Communities. Simon was responsible for both building and supporting the membership of Royal Mencap Society and leading their specialist education, learning and work provision.
Simon grew up in Salford and attended both Salford University and Warwick University. He has a Masters degree in Public Administration and now lives in Slaithwaite, West Yorkshire. His two daughters attend Honley High School, a co-operative Trust, where he is a governor. Simon will be using both Twitter (@SimonParkinson6) and Linked In as a way of promoting the work of the College.
Simon said: “I am excited by the opportunity to lead the Co-operative College through the next stage of its journey and I am looking forward to meeting as many people as possible in the co-operative movement and understanding how the College can continue to help support the work of the movement. I would like to acknowledge the great job that my predecessor, Mervyn Wilson, has done over many years at the College. Everyone at the College wishes him well for the future.”
Mervyn Wilson, who retires as Principal and Chief Executive at the end of March after a long career in the co-operative movement, added: “After more than twenty years at the College, with over fourteen of those as Principal, I am pleased to have a successor who has a foot both in and outside of the co-operative movement. I am confident that I am leaving the College with a very capable team, and that Simon has the experience, expertise and enthusiasm to build on the College’s work for the future.”
Nigel Todd, the Chair of the College’s Trustees, who oversaw the recruitment process, said: “We’re delighted with the appointment of Simon Parkinson. He will be joining us at a point when the Co-operative College embarks on a new and exciting phase in its long history, becoming an educational co-operative in its own right. Simon’s background in a national, membership-based voluntary organisation, and his awareness of the co-operative movement, are tremendous assets to bring to the role of Principal and Chief Executive.”
In addition, Dr Cilla Ross, the College’s current Co-operative Learning & Development Manager, will become Vice-Principal following the retirement of current Vice-Principal – Co-operative Education and Research, Dr Linda Shaw. Linda is another long-serving member of College staff, who joined soon after the College returned to Manchester from Leicestershire in 2001. Cilla Ross trained as a historian and has a background working in higher, adult and trade union education. Before joining the College as a staff member in 2014 Cilla had previously worked as a College associate, delivering programmes for Twin Trading in Ghana and Tanzania on behalf of the College as well as co-managing a number of projects in East Africa.
Cilla commented: “This role will allow me to build on the skills, knowledge and experience I have developed through my very diverse background in education and research. This has stretched across a passionate commitment to values-driven education, whether community, trade union or higher education, and my job has always been to be a bridge between those things. I am a non-traditional educator and researcher and I have always wanted to work in social movements due my interest in change and empowerment, so this role is a natural progression for me.”
She added: ”We are at an incredible moment for co-operative ideas and the movement, with both policy change and the repositioning of co-operative thinking as the movement is rebuilt after recent crises. We know globally how important the co-operative movement is and the College can play a critical role in enhancing its renewal in the UK as the movement responds to change and refreshes itself. ”
Mervyn Wilson commented: “The College has a strong team in place, which builds on its existing strength and depth. This means that the College can lose some veterans but retain the institutional and residual knowledge which has been built up over its long history. With the College centenary fast-approaching, and with a far more diverse co-operative sector than that at the time when I joined the College, there are now major opportunities for Simon and the team to seize.”