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August 6, 2015

Mike Bracken prepares to rebuild Co-Op as CDO

Departure from government is return to civic tech roots.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Mike Bracken, the former executive director of the Government Digital Service (GDS), is joining the Co-Operative Group as chief digital officer, starting in October.

His move follows an abrupt departure, a mere seven months after he was appointed chief data officer for the government, and more than four years after he joined the Cabinet Office, which works with the prime minister.

Writing on his blog, Bracken said: "The values and ethics of Co-operatives are more relevant in society today than they have ever been and are highly congruent with the open Internet.

"The organisation, after some painful years, is in rebuild mode, and it is its digital strategy, focussed on its membership and people, that will define it in the next few years."

He added that there were "many parallels" between government and his new employer, including the opportunity to work at scale, set a digital strategy and to build businesses for a diverse set of customers.

Bracken joins the company not long after a drugs scandal involving the former Co-Op Bank chair Paul Flowers, who left the group in 2013 after the banking group suffered a credit crisis in which its credit rating was relegated to junk status.

Jessica Figueras, research director at Kable Market Intelligence, said Bracken’s appointment to the Co-Op was something of a return to his roots in the "civic tech movement"

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"Bracken came into GDS as part of what you might call the ‘open democracy movement’," she said. "So you can really see the Co-Op gig is a great move for him."

After joining GDS Bracken earnt a reputation as a pioneer of the government’s digitisation process, championing the government-as-a-platform concept which allows departments to draw on a shared pool of IT resources.

He has also been an outspoken proponent of greater digital access for all, and plans to continue his work with governments around the world even as he takes up his new role, which will involve "a lot of time" in Manchester, where the Co-Op is quartered.

Richard Pennycook, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, said: "Mike brings with him outstanding and ground-breaking industry experience and will make a major contribution to our long-term recovery.

"His appointment is another clear demonstration that we are attracting the best talent in Britain as we rebuild our business."

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