That sort of feedback was not untypical and all supported organiser Pam Walker’s view that “the conference is always great, but this year it really was excellent”.
This year’s InterAct took place at Moulton College, Northampton last month was attended by more than 80 delegates. Originally an East of England Co-op event, InterAct is now very much a national gathering and has the backing of a number of other UK societies: Anglia, Midcounties, Midlands and Southern Co-operatives as well as the Co-operative Group’s Central & Eastern, South & West and South East regions.
Delegates travelled from all parts of the UK to the event variously described as “a truly remarkable conference”, “a unique contribution to co-operative education in this country” and “a wonderful, inspiring, challenging, thought-provoking, inclusive, energising and fun InterAct 2009 conference”.
As well as the geographic spread, organiser Ms Walker — also East of England Co-op Educational Officer said: “We’ve had school governors, teachers and head teachers, co-op committee members, CDA workers, members of small co-ops, students, police officers, arts workers and people from the Woodcraft Folk,” she said.
For the second year running, the conference was hit by political misfortune. Last year, Phil Hope MP had to pull out due to family bereavement and this year the planned keynote speaker Sarah McCarthy-Fry found herself reshuffled shortly before the event.
But InterAct is as much about participation and involvement as it is about listening, so Ms McCarthy Fry’s speech was replaced by a mocked-up House of Commons with delegates debating how successful, or otherwise, community cohesion has been in the UK.
That theme of community cohesion, and how the Movement can assist it, was the overarching theme of the conference. A community was created within the conference to help tackle the questions of what makes a community, what makes it cohesive and how can co-operative values and principles help.
Those big questions were tackled from different angles in 18 different workshops and plenaries. These included themes of crime and community, community gardens and the credit crunch.
A series of toolbox sessions provided practical help and information on issues as varied as ‘How the brain works’, ‘Co-operative Play’ and ‘A bluffer’s guide to the Co-operative Movement’.
As in previous years, the conference was facilitated and led by the education and training co-operative CIC, CLADA (Co-operative Learning and Development Associates) and supported by trainers from 1st Question (North and East regions) and Dynamix.
A virtual learning environment is being developed to enable delegates to continue the sense of community developed at the conference and a website carrying photographs from the event is set to be launched.