An online course has been developed to help people create co-op businesses – the first initiative of its kind in Australia.
Developed by the government-backed Farm Co-operative and Collaboration Program (Farming Together), it features an animated guide to help groups understand collaborative business structures, and compares co-ops with incorporated associations.
With information on governance, financing and member engagement, the course comprises six 10-minute video lessons with quizzes.
While it is designed for agricultural groups, it is relevant for other potential co-ops – such as housing or energy co-ops – anywhere in Australia. Participants who complete the course and pass the tests will receive certification from Farming Together.
The course, which can be found here, offers two versions: a simpler ‘how-to’ course preview and the full certification course. Both are currently free, and the video lessons are self-paced, you can begin and stop them at any time and each lesson provides access to support resources.
Farming Together programme director Lorraine Gordon said: “If you’re thinking about forming a co-op, becoming a co-op director, or if you’re just curious about co-ops, this course provides a broad and deep understanding of what co-ops require and what they deliver.
“Maybe you’ll discover that a co-op is not the best platform for your group, and that you’d rather use a different form of collaboration. Or maybe you’ll discover the community-good potential of a co-op beyond its immediate membership.
“You could learn about how profits get shared, how to develop your co-op’s business plan or why different business structures suit different collaboration purposes. There is much to learn from this information-rich resource.”
A second course, for groups already registered as co-operatives and wanting to understand how to operate successfully, will be launched later this month.
The video course was produced by Farming Together’s systems and knowledge portal manager Dr Cathy Byrne, assisted by Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals consultants and Australia’s foremost co-operative law experts, Robyn Donnelly and Elizabeth Makin.
Farming Together is a two-year, $13.8m initiative being delivered by Southern Cross University on behalf of the Australian government to help agricultural groups value-add, secure premium pricing, scale-up production, attract capital investment, earn new markets or secure lower input costs.