YOUNG CO-OPERATIVES brought the 2005/6 academic year to a close with its third annual Congress ? the first to be held in London.
The event, financially supported by the Co-operative Group in the South East, was attended by around 100 youngsters from the co-ops formed to sell fairly traded products in their schools.
The majority attending were from the South Eastern region but others had travelled from further afield including the Group-sponsored Sir Thomas Boughey High School in Staffordshire.
Speakers came from co-operative and Fairtrade organisations with Co-op Party chair and International Development Minister Gareth Thomas MP giving the keynote address.
His talk looked at the contribution that co-operatives make in both the UK and around the world, and he cited Tower Colliery, Coin Street Community Builders and Kuapa Kokoo as examples of successful co-ops.
He went on to make the connection between co-operation and Fairtrade: "We have seen that many Fairtrade producers operate as co-operatives because it is a fair and democratic way of working.
"The co-operative principles of self help, self responsibility, equality, equity and solidarity have been tested over time.
"These co-operative principles enable small producers and consumers to feel welcome, included and not discriminated on the basis of the small size of their transaction."
Other speakers included representatives from the Co-operative Group, Fairtrade fashion firm People Tree and honey producers Tropical Forest.
A lively programme of workshops was led by Day Chocolate Company, AgroFair and Olive Co-operative. An additional workshop looked at the impact on young co-operatives of the Transforming School Food report.
The day also included a consultation exercise looking at the development of official Fairtrade Schools criteria, a process being led by the Fairtrade Foundation, with Young Co-operatives part of the steering group.
The Congress marked the end of another successful year for Young Co-operatives. The organisation recently secured £ 120,462 funding from the Department for International Development; the first students to complete the organisation's Certificate in Co-operative and Fair Trade Enterprise have had their work approved by Open College Network; and the first Young Co-operatives Awards are currently being judged.
The last few months have also seen recognition for a number of individual young co-operatives: the Stonelaw High Fair Traders were highly commended in the Edge Upstarts social enterprise awards; and the first two young co-operatives established, Hartlepool's Coco Banana and The Chocolateers were jointly named as one of three finalists in the Young Campaigner of the Year category in the Observer Ethical Awards.
Visit: www.youngcooperatives.org.uk for more information.
? Kevin McGrother is National Co-ordinator for the Young Co-operatives.
In this article
- Alternative trading organizations
- Business models
- Co-operative Party
- Consumers' cooperative
- Contact Details
- Divine Chocolate
- Fairtrade certification
- Fairtrade Schools
- Food industry
- Party chair
- Rochdale Principles
- Social economy
- Social Issues
- The Co-operative Group
- Tower Colliery