A group of prize-winning young co-operatives have joined forces to set up a national young co-operators network.
In 2014, AltGen, which helps 18-29 year olds set up worker co-ops, and Co-operatives UK announced the Young Co-operators Prize (YCP) as part of a wider campaign to empower young people. Blake House film co-op, Chapel Street Studio, Founders and Coders, London Student, Ceramics Co-op were announced as the YCP winners in April, and in November the group held a weekend of development in Bradford, where the idea for the network was developed.
The network plans to support, educate and trade with each other to create a different kind of work, “where young entrepreneurs’ voices are valued, profits and opportunities are distributed fairly, and there is care about the impact on people and the environment”.
“As well as access to support, skill sharing, funding and a wider network, we expect that our network will be the driving force behind enacting social change and taking the co-operative movement to the young, dynamic entrepreneurs that we know are out there,” said Rhiannon Colvin from AltGen.
“We are here to inspire, facilitate and support.”
This support will be in the form of workshops, events and resources, said Ms Colvin, with different packages of support available depending on what stage the co-operative is on its journey.
“The network is more about a specific attitude to, or approach to co-operation,” she added. “This includes new ways of working to enact democracy and equality.”
Although the network will primarily be focused on young people, and young co-operatives, the network is conscious of the fact that there are plenty of established co-operatives (and co-operators) with experience to share, so there doesn’t have to be a restrictive age bracket.
“There are so many innovative models of using co-operation in an interesting, different way which, even if they are not led by youth, could still be part of the network,” said Ms Colvin.
“But to maintain a youth voice, we have purposely made it so that once they are over five years old, co-operative members of the network become network supporters – staying within the network and providing much-needed support and experience, but not being an active part of the democratic structure.”
The network will be recruiting other ‘young’ co-ops (0-5yrs) over the winter months to join the network and take part in a co-creation hack weekend (date tbc) at a new Young Co-op hub space in London, where the foundations of the organisations will be set-up.
“Although there were only five winners, 33 groups applied for the Young Co-operator’s Prize, so we will be speaking to them, and to Co-operatives UK to see if any youth co-operatives have registered recently,” said Ms Colvin.
“The hack weekend will be a place where we can all finalise the membership offer, build a brand and website, set up social media, and make a crowdfunding video if that’s something that we decide to do. It’s a really exciting time.”