Introducing Sarah Alldred, International Programmes Manager
When Dr Sarah Alldred joined the Co-operative College as International Programmes Manger at the end of July, she didn’t have to allow much extra time for her new commute. The College is based on the second floor of Holyoake House – the floor above Sarah’s old employer, Co-operatives UK. She says: “It’s wonderful coming upstairs because I’m still in the co-operative family.”
Sarah spent four and a half years as a project manager at Co-operatives UK on the Making Local Food Work programme. Co-operatives UK’s role was advising on governance and legal structures, helping support small-scale community food enterprises. During her time at Co-operatives UK, Sarah was also involved in the Co-operative Women’s Challenge, and the Women’s Voices conference, so she knows researcher Rachael Vorberg-Rugh who spends a lot of time at the College.
She explains why the Women’s Challenge, which aims to increase participation in co-operative democratic and membership structures, is important: “Most co-operatives are unique because they’ve got two parallel structures going on: membership and employment. I’m curious about what the challenges are for women; do some types of co-operatives make themselves more attractive to women, and how does the whole movement appeal to them, for example News from Nowhere, the women-run worker co-operative bookshop in Liverpool has being going strong for nearly 40 years.
Prior to that, Sarah spent four years as a project officer at a peace charity in Warrington helping victims of the Northern Ireland conflict who are living in the UK. After a geography degree, Sarah studied for a Masters and a PhD in Peace Studies, in Bradford and Coventry respectively. She sees parallels between the two movements, reflected in her chosen career path. She explains: “I wanted experience of working with people and value based organisations. The co-operative movement has very similar values and principles to the peace movement. The international work of the Co-operative College is embedded in social justice, promoting democratic and autonomous co-operative enterprise as a pathway out of poverty.
“For me the circle is coming round. This job is bringing together all my experience over the past ten years.”
Sarah’s PhD was undertaken at the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies in Coventry and looked at how the arts, especially community arts, can help with the post-conflict peacebuilding, focusing on Northern Ireland. She enjoyed it, as it involved interviewing artists and circus performers. She explains: “I’m really interested in how communities heal themselves after conflicts. How do the arts divide and heal communities? How can you find other ways to communicate?” Sarah has also worked on peace-building in Asia.
Sarah’s role as International Programmes Manager will be developing the College’s international programmes, in the first instance focusing on eastern and southern Africa; two in Ethiopia and one in Malawi. This includes conducting a feasibility study on transforming an agricultural college in Ethiopia into a Co-operative College, and undertaking an assessment of international co-operative certification and rebranding, via case studies, to help influence the Ethiopian co-operative sector.
Her role includes managing associates and a range of external and internal stakeholders, along with implementing robust programme systems and processes. Part of Sarah’s role will include international travel, and her first excursion is visiting Ethiopia in September. She says: “There’s a real power in research from practice. The College does a lot of action research.”
Sarah knew she had to apply for the post of International Programmes Manager when the vacancy came up because “it was too exciting!” She explains: “I’m interested in social change and justice: co-operatives as a tool for economic and social equality and poverty alleviation. They address all the boxes of the UN Millennium Development Goals.”
Closer to home, Sarah is getting to know the College’s courses and internal stakeholders. Sarah says “my strengths are collaborative working”, and she hopes to be working closely with the different teams at the College – such as Co-operative Learning and Development and Finance. Sarah thinks it is important to “work across teams so you’re not working in isolation”. At Co-operatives UK Sarah got involved with revamping the Co-operatives UK website, and is looking forward to getting stuck into the College blog, as “we need to showcase the brilliant work we do here at the Co-operative College”.
Sarah sees her role as a ‘new challenge’.. She admits that when you start a new job “you can always do 60 per cent of a job, then there’s hopefully always a 40 per cent stretch to keep you motivated”. Sarah was relieved that “the ability to ask questions was in the person specification!” So far, Sarah has found that there is “lots of new learning to do”, because “co-operatives internationally are different to the UK, which is fascinating”
Finally, Sarah says: “I’m looking forward to being part of the College team because people here come across as dedicated, friendly and open to learning, and I get to do some really interesting things! I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into the work and learning about international co-operatives, Africa and other countries and having my mind opened up once again.”
Sarah is working closely with Linda Shaw, Vice Principal – Research and International, and College associate Stirling Smith. She says: “I’m looking forward to tapping Linda and Stirling’s big brains, which are steeped in the world of international co-operation!
Published On: August 9, 2012
Written By: Natalie