Angela, our Learning and Development Manager visited Ankara in Turkey earlier this as part of the ETSC project. Here she talks about her visits to various rural co-ops in the Ankara region and how she saw first hand the difference that co-ops are making.

A week ago I was in Turkey – the region of Ankara to be precise. The sun was starting to shine as a group of us boarded a minibus at 7am set for field visits to rural co ops. Having left a heavy work load back in the UK, I wondered what I’d get out of the long day ahead. Off we went, powered by Turkish coffee.

The trip

What I got was inspiration, pride and a real sense that co-ops provide a perfect solution to the employability issues facing small towns situated in the stunning countryside locations in the region.

As a partner for the Educated Trainers, Stronger Co-operatives EU-funded project, my colleagues and I have led the development of a training manual and toolkit that will support groups of individuals set up and cultivate co-operative enterprises, providing an income for themselves and their families. These co-ops also benefit the communities that they serve.

The co-ops

Many of the co-ops we visited protect traditional crafts and working practices, passing on skills and knowledge to young people and securing these for future generations.

After leaving the sprawling metropolis and its 5.5 million people, our first stop was the outskirts of the rural town of Nallihan. Set amongst the dramatic hills (which my geologist brother would love to explore) we enjoyed a traditional Turkish breakfast in a co-operative cafe. Repleat, and feeling a bit guilty for leaving so much of the fabulous spread, we headed into the town itself to visit two co-operative craft shops selling handcrafted jewellery and silk scarves made by members of the Nal-Etik and Han-İpek Cooperatives.

photo of some of the silk scarves

We were given a demonstration of needle lace-making and met with members to hear how their membership had changed their lives and secured a future for them in their town of birth. They explained that many young people continued to leave towns such as this to head for work in the big cities, leaving a skill shortage and an aging population.

The co-operative difference

A picture of Han-İpek Cooperative

This visit alone made me truly understand the power of co-ops and the impact our project will hopefully have. If, through training and sharing best practice case studies, we are able to help one young person to get involved in a co-op which enables them to contribute to their own local economy then we will have succeeded. Clearly our goals are a little higher than this!

Would you like to read part two of Angela's fantastic blog? If the answer is yes, then click below!

Take me to part two