The co-operative principles, the guidelines by which co-ops put their values into practice, are at the heart of what makes co-operatives different. The fifth principle states that co-operatives must provide education and training to both their members, elected representatives, managers and employees (so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives) and the general public (to educate about the nature and benefits of co-operation).
The Co-operative College has developed a series of new toolkits based around this principle, which are aimed at both new members of co-operatives and managers who have been members for years.
The eight toolkits are designed to work alongside a series of short animations, produced for the College by Accrington-based Huckleberry Films, and cover:
- Values and principles
- What is a co-operative?
- Membership engagement
- Good governance
- Roles and responsibilities of directors
- Monitoring co-operative performance
- Financial accounting
- Financial reporting.
They include activities that work alongside the films, and get more complex as the series progresses.
Ruth Holtom has been working on the toolkits, drawing on the College’s expertise and existing resources. “They give a good grounding in what co-operatives are,” she says. “It seems simple but it’s easy to forget in your day-to-day job. The toolkits are a way to make sure that members of co-operatives really think about the values and principles, and can be used to introduce co-operatives to people who might not have heard about them before.”
The toolkits have been designed to appeal to a broad audience, and created so that across the whole series of eight there is something for every kind of co-operative and all kinds of experiences. “The toolkits need to be as accessible as possible for any kind of person,” explains Ruth. “You don’t have to be a member of a co-operative to do the activities. They could be done in the community, or with schools and young people.”
Each toolkit contains a facilitators’ guide and information on how to use the pack, as well as resources to use in workshops and timetables for sample sessions, and detail the history of co-operatives and look at co-operatives around the world.
The toolkits also contain discussion-based activities aimed at sharing ideas, along with fun co-operative games, and have the advantage of being flexible: they can either be used individually or as part of a series. “Furthermore,” says Ruth, “if you have the pack you can deliver the activities yourself and don’t get need to get anyone external in.”
Ruth has extensive experience of both being on the receiving end of and delivering these kinds of sessions herself, mainly through the co-operative youth organisation Woodcraft Folk, volunteering at Woodcraft Folk summer camps, running workshops and playing co-operative games with young children.
When developing the toolkits, Ruth interviewed representatives from consumer co-operatives and workers’ co-operatives, including the Co-operative Group and Unicorn, the co-operative grocery based in Chorlton, Manchester, for insights which have been used in case studies giving a broad perspective on the movement.
- For more information on the toolkits, contact Julie Thorpe, Lead for School Programmes and Digital Learning, at [email protected].