New scheme aims to drive youth co-operative development across the world

Hanna Persson, education and training officer at Cooperatives Europe looks at the opportunities brought by the new scheme.

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and its regional offices have launched a mentorship scheme for young people interested in starting a co-operative.

Due to start in the autumn, the Global Cooperative Entrepreneurs (GCE) programme will help participants build new networks to create positive changes in their communities. We spoke to Hanna Persson, education and training officer at Cooperatives Europe to find out more.

How does the Global Cooperatives Entrepreneurs (GCE) scheme build on previous work by the ICA?

GCE is inspired by Cooperatives Europe’s CoopStarter 2.0 Erasmus+ funded project. It’s an initiative developed within the framework of the ICA-EU Partnership for international co-operative development (#coops4dev), to benefit and advance the co-operative sector worldwide and bring the co-operative model to the next level within policies and programmes by focusing on youth.

How is the scheme trying to address the biggest challenges facing young people looking to start a co-op?

It gives young entrepreneurs opportunities to learn about democratic and people-centred businesses. The co-operative model fosters youth participation and shared responsibilities, and its collective approach empowers members, which can decrease some of the common challenges and risks that young entrepreneurs often encounter. The mentoring programme offers long-term support from mentors with extensive background in both co-operative development and youth entrepreneurship. The mentoring sessions and training provided can be adjusted to different challenges, depending on the circumstances.

What areas will the training cover?

The GCE is primarily a mentoring programme. The youth ambassadors will be taking part in initial regional training sessions introducing them to the programme and key learnings related to co-operative entrepreneurship. After this, they will be mentored by trained mentors from co-operative associations and youth organisations working with entrepreneurs. The mentoring programme builds on a three-step methodology and it is expected to take approximately six months to implement.

The mentors are working in local vocational education and training (VET) partnerships with the corresponding mentors in their country and are part of a global community of practice with mentors from the other pilot countries: Poland, Colombia, El Salvador, Uganda, Zimbabwe, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.  

What will be their role as youth ambassadors in their communities? What is the envisioned outcome?

The youth ambassadors will organise and implement three multiplier events, mobilising youth in their communities around their co-operative start-up idea, while learning about co-op entrepreneurship. The programme will provide practical support and learning opportunities for youth interested in setting up co-operatives by strengthening the capacity of partnerships between co-operative associations and youth organisations to stimulate youth co-operative entrepreneurship at national, regional and global level.

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