Emma Raftery, Marketing Manager at The Phone Co-op, tells us what she thought of our Co-operative Values and Principles course that she attended earlier this year, how she's used that knowledge to help another start up business and why continuing to learn is so important to her.

Earlier in the year I was lucky enough to attend a course at Co-operative College on Values and Principles. This course was really beneficial for me as my role at The Phone Co-op was my first foray into the world of co-operatives and I had a lot to learn about what makes them different.

The course

During the course I learnt the distinct features of a co-operative, how to identify these features at The Phone Co-op and how values and principles work in my organisation. It’s amazing how much they differ from other organisations I’ve worked at with The Phone Co-op leading with our values of:

  • Making a positive and lasting impact because we believe everyone matters
  • Developing strong, trust based relationships with shared principles and for mutual benefit
  • Demonstrating openness, accountability and integrity in all our relationships

Continuing to learn

continuing to learn throughout adulthood is so important

I think continuing to learn throughout adulthood is so important, learning shouldn’t end at 16,18,21 – whenever your traditional education ended. According to Humanium more than 72 million children around the world of primary education age are not in in school and 759 million adults are illiterate. A lack of education can be caused by persisting inequality and marginalisation with factors linked to poverty such as unemployment, illness and the illiteracy of parents multiply the risk of non-schooling and drop-out rates by 2.

Poverty aside, there is gender inequality with girls having the least access to education, making up more than 54% of the non-schooled population in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa it is estimated over 12 million girls are at risk of never receiving an education.

So important to grasp learning opportunities with both hands when you get the chance

In Yemen more than 80% of girls will never have the opportunity to go to school. In the UK we have the facilities for everyone to receive a education, yet girls miss out due to period poverty. One in 10 girls between the ages and 14 and 21 in the UK have been unable to afford sanitary products, whilst 49% of people have missed an entire day of school because of their period. Some girls are forced to choose between buying lunch or buying tampons, with some forced to use toilet roll, newspaper or socks because they couldn’t afford sanitary products.

Grabbing the opportunity

With all of these obstacles stopping millions of people from receiving a proper education, I think it is so important to grasp learning opportunities with both hands when you get the chance. The great thing about the values and principles course from the Co-operative College is I can use this knowledge to help others. Shortly after this course I got involved with the Co-operative College Together Enterprise programme and started working with an amazing start-up called Get up and Grow as they began their journey to become a co-operative.

Putting the learning into practice

At Get up and Grow they’re passionate about green care and horticultural therapy. They provide clinical horticultural therapy interventions to GP’s the NHS and Clinical Commissioning Groups as well as horticultural training to vulnerable adults. 

Founded by Hayley Watson and Michelle Garrity, Get up and Grow improve the lives of people across the UK using therapy and education – in my opinion a perfect co-operative! Their services include social and therapeutic horticulture, horticultural training and therapeutic garden design, as well as growing and food workshops.

I think the Co-operative College is doing a great job educating people on co-operative values and connecting people within co-ops so they can all learn from each other and succeed. My wish is for people in every area of the world to have easy access to education and I think that will become easier as connectivity improves and the internet is made available to more and more people.

My advice is – if you have the opportunity to further your learning, take it!

Has Emma's blog inspired you to learn? Take a look at some of the workshops that we've got running over the coming months, browse our eLearning courses or explore what a future co-operative University might look like here.