September was a very busy month for the College as we welcomed three study tours from three different continents! With each group having different learning needs and practical requirements, we called on all our organisational and co-operative skills to ensure that each visit went smoothly. And we even managed some cross-continent learning!

Read on to find out more about the visits, and the process involved in planning and running our study tours.

The organisations:

Confebras (the Brazilian confederation of credit co-operatives) 22 delegates for a five-day visit.

Co-op Liguria (an Italian retail co-operative) 17 delegates for a one-day visit as part of their wider UK tour.

Nigerian Co-op Federation (the apex body for all co-operatives in Nigeria) 12 delegates for a five-day visit.


Organising a study tour involves input from several staff members, but it’s our Business Development Officer, Jess Rule, who’s in charge of co-ordinating much of the planning stage.

Prior to a visit, Jess is in regular contact with the organisers of each group to find out their practical requirements, such as number of delegates, catering preferences, and tour dates. In addition to this, Jess and members of our Learning Team hold online co-design sessions with each group to establish their learning needs. Over our many years in this sector, we’ve made some fantastic connections with other UK co-operatives and can call on some of our long-standing co-operative partners to help put together bespoke programmes of learning.

I’m the main contact for each group and deal with the logistics of who needs to be where and when. I’m also in charge of trouble-shooting any issues that we face during the study tours – such as purchasing emergency rain ponchos for our Nigerian visitors when it would just not stop pouring!

Jess Rule, Business Development Officer

The study visit

All our study tours have learning at their core, but the topics covered will vary depending on the needs of each group. For example, our visitors from Liguria wanted to explore co-operative identity, which our tutor Amanda Benson facilitated, while Confebras were interested in the UK financial co-operative sector and we were able to organise guest speakers from the Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL) and Co-operative and Mutual Solutions (CMS) to talk to the visitors from Brazil.  

Our Italian group were really knowledgeable about the co-operative movement and shared some great examples of co-ops from Italy and enjoyed reflecting on the issues facing communities and their members today.

Amanda Benson, Curriculum Development Manager

In a first for the College, we even hosted a joint, cross-continent learning session. The topic was sustainability and leadership, and thanks to fantastic translators, the session was interactive, informative, and thoroughly enjoyed by both groups.

The session we delivered with both our Brazilian and Nigerian groups was a huge success and with the support of the translators we were able to ensure our learning approach was still integral, considering values, personal experiences and finding the common ground of wanting to co-operate for the greater good.

Stacey Salt, Adult Education Tutor

Most tours also incorporate a visit to Rochdale Pioneers Museum (referred to as ‘the cradle of co-operation’ by our Brazilian visitors), a walking tour of Manchester’s co-operative quarter, and a session on the history and heritage of the UK co-operative movement.

After the tour

As part of our continuous improvement as an organisation, the College ensures that all our working processes incorporate regular reflection and evaluation sessions. After each study tour our team gets together to discuss what went well, the challenges we faced, and areas that we can improve on. All study tour delegates are asked to provide feedback on their learning and overall experience, and we use this to identify positive experiences that we can replicate for future tours, and to help us address areas that require improvement.

Organising three study tours in quick succession, all of different sizes, and with each group having their own bespoke learning needs, was an ambitious undertaking for our busy team. However, every member of staff stepped-up and played their role in the planning, facilitation and delivery of these visits. It really was an enormous success.

Neil Calvert, CEO and Principal

If you would be interested in organising a study tour, find out more here