Teach staff about values through stories

In an effort to engage co-operative staff in Canada, a ready-made presentation has been produced that is littered with controversial and historical facts.

In an effort to engage co-operative staff in Canada, a ready-made presentation has been produced that is littered with controversial and historical facts.

“From Beards to Eternity — Our History of Co-operation” has been developed by the All4each, an education project of the Ontario Co-operative Association, to inspire the “co-operative conscience”. The presentation has also been voted the best presentation this year by the Cooperative Communicators Association, which represents 350 practitioners.

Kerr Smith, a former teacher and current Education Manager at the OCA, said he had designed the presentation in an attempt to find a fun way of teaching history instead of memorising dates.

Asked to describe his project, Kerr said it is “fun, educational and inspiring”. The author of the presentation said he had combined the “Da Vinci Code type of story with key facts from the history of the co-operative movement”, making it both intriguing and exciting.

Kerr hopes staff engages not only with the business, but with co-operative principles. “We want to find ways to inspire them and make them proud of the movement,” he says.

He has travelled across the Canadian province to share the 90 minute presentation with various groups of co-operators and students. The Association is also working with the Canadian Co-operative Association to hold similar presentations in different regions across the world.

One of his latest engagements was at the head office of The Co-operators, Canada’s largest insurance co-operative that has revenues of $3.5 billion. The response has been very positive.

Jeannie Shore, Manager of Member and Co-operative Relations at The Co-operators, says: “The presentation teaches us just how embedded co-operatives are in our history, but in a fun and exciting way that we can all relate to. It has been a tremendous learning tool for some of our staff who were fortunate enough to attend the presentations.”

The ultimate objective behind the presentation and how it unfolds, notes Kerr, is to inspire today’s co-operators, by showcasing our sectors’ remarkable history and its ongoing relevance in present day. “It’s in part, a look back at our co-op leaders of the past, and how they stood up and made a difference … based on the simple principle of co-operation.”

Asked what advice he would give to co-ops around the world who want to promote co-operation through similar dynamic presentations, he says the key to success is not to focus on the business aspect, but rather on finding inspirational stories that could appeal to the wider public, particularly young people.

“To enjoy presentations we need to find those human inspiring stories,” he says. Kerr adds that the ideas of social justice, civil engagement and democracy are closely connected to co-operative principles and ideas.

But in spite of the success of his presentation, Kerr says his goal is to never have to give the presentation again. This would imply that members of staff from various co-ops and credit unions across Canada are so engaged in the movement’s values that they are to spread the message of co-operation unaided.

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