The fifth principle states that co-operatives must provide education and training, not only for members, managers and employees, but also for the general public who aren’t involved in the co-operative movement. After all, co-operatives should be open to everyone, not just those on the inside.
To assist co-operatives in fulfilling this objective, the Co-operative College has developed a series of toolkits aimed at helping as many people as possible understand just what co-operatives are, and how they work.
There are six different toolkits for principle five:
- What is a co-operative?
- Values and principles
- Membership engagement
- Good governance
- Roles and responsibilities of directors
- Monitoring co-operative performance
Each toolkit is made up of a variety of educational materials, including a comprehensive guide for group leaders with information on how to effectively run related events. There are also guides, information sheets and cue cards for games and activities. It’s all aimed at informing and provoking discussion about co-operative issues. Each pack also has a DVD featuring a short animated film introducing the concepts from the toolkit.
Ruth Holtom, from the Co-operative College, helped work on the toolkit. “It seems simple but it’s easy to forget in your day-to-day job,” she says. “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.”
Since launching last year, the toolkits have been put to good use across different sectors. The College itself, for example, has been working closely with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing to develop a young persons’ membership scheme, RBH Young Voices. Ms Holtom has been delivering regular sessions and workshops with young RBH members, and has used the toolkit on several occasions.
Edward Carpenter from Rochdale Boroughwide Housing thinks the toolkit helped bring to life the values and principles of co-operation. Commenting on Ms Holton’s presentation, he said: “What could be a dry and theoretical session became fun and inclusive. I also felt people of any age could use the toolkit.”
It stretches far beyond the UK too. The Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand was one of the first organisations to purchase the 5th Principle Toolkit. Will Valverde, producer support and relations officer for the association, used the unit “What is a Co-operative” when he worked in in East Timor with farmers who have recently formed co-ops.
“I found the activities in the toolkit really helpful and it was a great resource to consult,’ he said. “Many of the farmers that we work with in East Timor have problems with their reading and writing, so I was glad to see the variety of activities in the toolkit, and there were several visual and interactive activities I could use with the group.”
At a Rochdale Pioneers Museum event last year for young and adult members, Ms Holtom used resources from the “What is a Co-operative” and “Values and Principles” kits, including interactive, match-up activities designed to get everybody involved.
And they have been used by the Chelmsford Star at a refresher session for the society’s directors and members of the membership committee and members’ council.
The toolkit was also used by Trevor MacFarlane, culture manager at the office of Labour MEP Julie Ward. He says: “We used the toolkit for the first time at the CATS (Children as Actors for Transforming Society) conference in Caux, Switzerland. “It proved an invaluable resource, giving our facilitators all the materials they needed to deliver an engaging workshop for children and adults from around the world.
“The group activities exploring co-operative values and principles were entirely in keeping with the aims of the conference – to engage children in active citizenship and encourage them to think carefully about the choices they make in their futures. Having seen the toolkit in action, we’re now planning a series of workshops back in the constituency to encourage the next generation of co-operators.”
You can order your own toolkit here.
Animation made by Huckleberry Films, featuring characters from the 5th Principle Toolkit
Case Study featured in the Members Engagement Toolkit
Our Coffee Co-operative is a young co-operative set up with the help of Young Co-operatives, which aims to educate young people in schools about co-operatives and help them to set up their own co-operative business.
The co-operative was set up by students at Reddish Vale Technology College, a co-operative school in Stockport, and is an example of community to community trading, with coffee purchased from the Oromo Coffee Company, which is run by Ethiopian refugees in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester. The profits are split 50-50 between the Oromos and the Young Co-operative.
Lia, Director of Our Coffee Co-operative, says, “Our Ethiopian Coffee Co-operative is a great idea! You get an amazing product whilst knowing you are helping others. You also get a great experience from being involved in a trading business that links one community directly with another. It doesn’t cost a great deal either, only £3.50 a packet! You can buy it directly from the reception in school and we are using the money to promote an understanding of the Ethiopian culture in school.”