Transforming communities and changing lives: the impact of co-operative education

Simon Parkinson, principal and chief executive of the Co-operative College, introduces a series of articles on its work

From the start, co-operators have acknowledged the importance of education – both in terms of giving colleagues and members the opportunity to learn, and raising awareness of the co-operative model. The Rochdale Pioneers enshrined education in their founding principles 175 years ago.

And it was 100 years ago that the Co-operative College was established to continue this legacy.

As principal and chief executive of the College, it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to a series of articles, which you can find by following the links in this piece. They come from this month’s takeover edition of Co-op News, which forms part of our  centenary celebrations. We would like to thank everyone associated with Co-op Press for this opportunity to not only showcase the work we have been doing, but to recognise people involved in the sector and explore the conversation around co-operative education more widely.

For the edition, we draw on our long-standing partnership with the Co-operative Heritage Trust to look at the history behind the College and the continuing importance of the Rochdale and the Pioneers Museum as a place of international historic significance.

And, to celebrate the work of a dedicated co-operator, we have an interview with Gillian Lonergan, librarian at the Heritage Trust’s National Co-operative Archive, on her retirement.

By using some of our amazing heritage in new and imaginative ways, we can demonstrate the difference that co-operation makes. This year the College is engaging in a number of exciting projects that, with the movement’s support, could improve the lives of many people both in the UK and internationally, meeting our shared commitments under Principle 5.

We are within touching distance of the College gaining degree awarding powers as the final step towards a Co-operative University. We are influencing future policy through our Adult Education 100 campaign, which maps out a new vision for lifelong learning across the UK (see interview with Nigel Todd). And we are making tremendous progress in reaching out to marginalised young people in the UK, making them aware of the power that co-operation has in supporting them to improve their lives.

Over the last 100 years we have developed our long standing reputation as an international co-operative development organisation and, with our partners, continue to have a positive impact in building co-operative enterprises in developing countries.

The College empowers people with the skills and knowledge to make a real difference; great things really do happen when people co-operate. We are hugely grateful for the long standing support we have received from the co-operative movement – and we look forward to continue working with you over the next 100 years.

Also in the education edition

Interview with Russell Gill, chair of the Co-op Academies Trust

Nick Matthews from Co-operatives UK reviews a new history of the College