A TWO-YEAR project to introduce more than 3,000 young people to the principles and practice of co-operation, has been given a £ 25,000 development grant from Co-operative Action.
Young Co-operatives is already attracting national attention in its own right. "It's the modern face of a traditional co-operative vision for education," says Stephen Youd-Thomas of Co-operative Action.
"Young Co-operatives addresses the need for young, active members ? and every opportunity to introduce a new generation to the ethical benefits of co-operation has to be worth seizing."
Young Co-operatives demonstrates ethical values and principles to young people in schools and youth projects through a practical combination of co-operative enterprise, Fairtrade and business skills. Groups are then set up and run their own co-op businesses selling fairly traded products.
During the secondary school pilot phase last year, 16 such projects began trading during the first term, achieving a combined turnover of over £ 5,000.
Building on that, when the actual project begins in September, it will be adapted for younger 10 and 11 year-old children at primary schools. The emphasis there will be on different teaching techniques.
In total, next year, well over 1,000 young people will be involved in new Young Co-operatives groups throughout the UK.
"Young Co-operatives is about increasing understanding of the Co-operative Movement ? its history, values, principles and contribution to today's economies," says national co-ordinator Kevin McGrother.
"The prospect of thousands of young people talking about the benefits of co-operative working is exciting but our audience goes beyond that to the teachers, governors and parents who, we hope, will also learn values and ethics that will stay with them throughout their lives."
Young Co-operatives was established in 2002 by Cleveland Co-operative Development Agency and is run in partnership with Traidcraft, the UK's leading Fairtrade organisation and the Co-operative Group. It was promoted at last year's National Union of Teachers conference and organisers are forging links with Co-operativesUK, the Co-operative College, the Co-operative Bank and regional societies.
More than 130 delegates attended the first Young Co-operatives Congress in March. Two months later they were presented with the Blandford Trust award at Co-operative Congress in Manchester.
Next year Young Co-operatives plans to host a workshop at the 2005 Co-operative Congress as well as its own Young Co-operatives Congresses in the spring of 2005 and 2006.
? Young Co-operatives can be contacted at PO Box 235, Hartlepool TS26 9ZP; tel. 01429 861303; e-mail, or visit their website: www.youngcooperatives.org.uk