Co-op directors

Ali Al-Assam


PhD | 1978 | Thames University – Magnetic Domains
Post Doctorate res. | 1978-1982 | Imperial College – University of London OPTICAL FIBER SWITCHING DEVICES
Founder and Managing Director | Diwan | 1982-1995
Co-founder of a very successful social enterprise that created the desktop publishing revolution in the Arab World, in alliance with Apple Inc.
Managing Director | KnowledgeView Ltd | 1995-2017
Founder, Chairman and CEO. Channelled large investment in R&D for building publishing systems adopted by more that 50 media companies worldwide.
Secretary | NewsSocial Ltd – converted to Cooperative in 2022| 2014-Present
Lead the development and launch of a pioneering social network platform, enhancing community engagement and dialogue.

Philip Blundell


Philip is a dedicated advocate for equality and person-centered service development, driven by his personal experiences as a service user and carer. Over three decades, Philip has upheld these principles in various roles, including as a trustee, representative, and Labour Party member.

With a background in Human Resources, Finance, and Mediation, he holds a master’s in Human Resources with a focus on the Equality Act.

Philip actively engages in political and union activities, serving as Disability Officer for the Preston Labour Party and participating in various committees. As a dyslexic with learning disabilities and mental health challenges himself, he collaborates with diverse stakeholders to find sustainable solutions to the barriers disabled individuals and their carers face.

He values Disability Labour as a platform to advocate for disabled individuals, ensuring their voices are heard within the party and in broader society. Passionate about inclusivity, Philip aligns with PCEC’s mission for equality in all endeavors.

Aniela Bylinski Gelder


Aniela is a local Borough Councillor and Cabinet Member for Communities Social Justice and Wealth Building in South Ribble.

Aniela has a keen interest in supporting a move towards a mixed economy of worker-owner co-ops where democratic decision making may exist outside just the political sphere. In order to improve this mix of business models Aniela has become a Director of the PCEC to encourage the incubation of ideas across Preston and South Ribble educating and encouraging future business owners to consider cooperative principles when setting up their businesses.

Aniela has implemented a CWB agenda in South Ribble ensuring Social Value procurement is in place and wealth and skills stay local benefitting the local communities.

In addition, Aniela has modelled the five Community Hubs in South Ribble around cooperative principles. They have been modernised, increasing autonomy to members and local communities, giving residents and members more of a say over community projects and budgets in their area, empowering local people to become involved in the democratic decision making process. A recent review of the five Community Hubs saw a fantastic response; 93% of respondents stating they feel as though their Community Hub has the autonomy to identify and act on local priorities.

John Harrison


John graduated with a Master’s Degree by Research from the University of Gloucestershire in 2019, and studies radical social and religious movements in the 17th Century. 

He has been a Cooperative Development Officer for Cooperatives UK, and more recently worked on a Preston Cooperative Education Centre project to promote cooperative education within the local trade union movement. 

John is active in the trade union movement in Preston, Unite, and the Preston and South Ribble TUC. He is a strong advocate for increased cooperation between working class movements as a means of bringing about meaningful social and cultural change.

Connor Hodgson-Brunniche


Connor is a researcher, activist and trade unionist. Originally from Newcastle upon Tyne, Connor has studied and advocated for the development of cooperatives within frameworks of Community Wealth Building in Preston and elsewhere, as well as the proposition of Public-Common Partnerships.

His most recent work has been as a researcher based at Glasgow Caledonian University, studying the development of CWB in Scotland where it has been adopted as the national framework for economic development by the devolved government.

Connor has a background in radical political education in the labour movement, and is interested in the role of critical pedagogy in developing the capacities of the organised working classes for self-emancipation. He sees cooperatives, trade unions, and renters unions as forms of organising that must go hand in hand to bring about positive social change.

Julian Manley

founding director and secretary

Julian Manley researches and teaches at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in Preston. He is the Co-ordinator of the Preston Model Project Committee and was a founder member and first Chair of the Preston Co-operative Development Network.

He was a member of the Interim Academic Board of the Co-operative University project, and is currently a member of the Co-operative University Federation Steering Group.

Julian has a lifetime commitment to education, and before joining UCLan, he was teacher and a member of the Senior Management Team of the British Council School in Madrid, Spain.

He has a long standing relationship with the co-operatives in Mondragón, where he has provided training and consultancy services to Otalora, the Mondragon Centre for Management and Co-operative Development.

He has co-authored a chapter on co-operative education in the recently published book ThePreston Model and Community Wealth Building (Edited by Manley and Whyman, published by Routledge, 2021).

Mick McKeown

founding director

Mick McKeown is professor of democratic mental health, School of Nursing, University of Central Lancashire and trade union activist with Unison, playing a role in union strategising on professional nursing.

He has taken a lead in arguing the case for trade union solidarity and alliances with service user/survivor groupings and is active in promoting union interests in cooperative solutions linked to organising.

Mick sees union renewal as inextricably linked to aspirations for workplace democracy and views unions as key within wider systems of community action, civic engagement, and fair economic regeneration.

He is a board member of Preston Cooperative Development Network and a member of Union Co-ops UK.

Janet Newsham

founding director

Janet Newsham is chair of the UK Hazards Campaign which is an occupational health and safety campaigning organisation and organises the UK Hazards Conference which is one of the largest health and safety conferences for safety reps in Europe. 

She is coordinator of Greater Manchester Hazards Centre which supports workers and trade unions across the North West on occupational health and safety issues.  This involves delivering training sessions on all aspects of health, safety and welfare to trade union and community groups and working closely with trade unions and other groups.

Sits on Employment Tribunals as a member and has previously worked in Trade Union Education as a lecturer, she has worked for UCU on a Union Learning Fund project and for BAe as a programmer/analyst at Samlesbury. 

Janet lives in Preston and is an active member of Preston and South Ribble Trades Council and the Unite Union branch.