In this blog, Nicola discusses how over the two days of the College’s Annual Education & Research Conference, delegates got a glimpse of the enormity of the movement and how, above everything else, we are all connected by a shared belief in the Co-operative Values & Principles.

The conference

The College brings together both academics and practitioners at its Annual Conference, offering a varied programme of breakout sessions comprising academic papers and workshops. This approach gives delegates the opportunity to plot their own programme according to their interests. 

As a practitioner, I was keen to immerse myself in the workshops, allowing me to attend some of the more international elements of the programme.  My first was a session delivered by Marketa Vinkelhoferova.  Marketa had co-established a coffee roasting plant in the Czech Republic called Fair & Bio Co-operative, which processed Fairtrade organic coffee.  We were given insights into the Czech coffee market including some of the struggles the Czechs experience in promoting the co-operative business model as their people embraced ‘free market competition’. 

a slide from Marketa

Working together

This session resonated with me as one of my ‘co-op’ hats is as a Director of Revolver Coffee Co-operative.  At the conference were fellow Revolver Directors John Boyle (Co-operative College Trustee and Revolver Chair) and Pat Juby.  The many networking sessions built into the conference programme provided us with perfect opportunities to explore how we might be able to work with Marketa in a post-Brexit world.  It is this sense of comradeship and ‘can-do’ attitude that sets co-operators and co-operative events apart from the mainstream.

Revolver Co-op coffee

It’s no surprise that the International Co-operative Alliance is now choosing to organise its main events in developing countries.  In a small, but significant way, this decision puts the global co-operative spotlight on areas where the co-operative sector can have most impact in changing people’s lives.  It was therefore a real pleasure to meet Rosidah Rashid and Nasibah Ahmad, from the Co-operative College in Malaysia. Rosidah’s and Nasibah’ Paper looked at the involvement of Youth in the top management of co-operatives. 

Co-ops and youth

What was particularly interesting was the Malaysian definition of “Youth” which was defined as those between 15 and 40 years of age!  With a population of 30 million, some 46% of Malaysians are classified as Youth.  The Malaysian Youth Development programme divides this group further:

  1. 15 – 25 years – training includes basic youth development such as character building and value development, professional and vocational skills and competencies
  2. 26 – 40 years – individuals are targeted for youth development initiatives and experiences

The Paper concluded that:

  1. Youth involvement is importance for the development & sustainability of co-ops
  2. Co-ops need to do more to attract Youth to join, and that Youth needs to be involved in them at the highest management of the co-op
  3. Closer working between Veterans and Youth should be encouraged to promote mutual respect in the decision-making process and greater involvement by Youth in co-op activities and governance.

Had this Paper looked at the Retail Co-operative Sector in the UK, it would have probably reached similar conclusions. These are all issues we are familiar with,and what was particularly interesting is that so many people are targeted for co-operative education and training in order to develop managers as individuals and for the benefit of the sector. 

Nicola with just some of the people she met at conference

With 1.2 billion co-operators globally, the Co-operative College’s Education and Research Conference is an ideal opportunity to find out more about what’s happening across the globe to expand co-operative pedagogy.  Whoever we meet at the Centenary Conference in 2019, we can be sure that we will all be connected by our Values and Principles.