In December 2023, we wrapped up the final round of our Co-op Foundation funded 'Youth Co-operative Action' (YCA) project in all three of our regional locations of Rochdale, London and Lowestoft.

Running since 2018, YCA combined co-operative skills and values, social action and youth leadership to empower young people to become change makers in their local communities.

Here's a round-up of the fantastic work of each of our winter 2023 cohorts:

YCA London

This cohort consisted of sixth form students from Maria Fidelis Catholic School in Camden and was delivered in partnership with 7PK Equality to Equity. The young participants called their group 'APR - Achieve, Perceive, Receive' and chose to focus their social action project around empowering disengaged year 10 students from their school. APR designed and delivered a week-long programme for their peers, which included facilitating two workshops and organising an interactive learning visit to one of London's busy winter markets.

The first workshop was on the topic of positive mindset, and saw the cohort discuss techniques, and deliver advice to the year 10 students to help promote self-esteem and raise aspirations. The second workshop covered employability, and the year 10 attendees were able to learn CV writing skills and conduct mock interviews. The group ended the week with a visit to London's second biggest winter market, where they had arranged talks and tours with the organisers of the market, local vendors, and social enterprises. 

YCA Lowestoft

Over on the coast, 'The Greatest YCA' cohort decided to put on a show for other local young people, families, and friends, to raise awareness of discrimination. Our project partner in Lowestoft is YMCA Trinity Group, and the cohort was made up of members of their youth club. Each participant played the part of a character from the Greatest Showman film, performing songs and speaking to the audience about what they had learned on the project and why standing up to discrimination is so important. 

In addition to the performance, there was face painting, music, and general Christmas merriment to accompany the group's social action message of equality and empathy. 

YCA Rochdale

For this Greater Manchester cohort, we piloted a new project, a successor to YCA, which focuses self and collective development through real-world life and employability activities and skills. The project was delivered by Co-operative College staff in partnership with Falinge Park High School.

The 10-week pilot was offered to year 8 and 9 students most at risk of disengagement or behavioural issues and saw overwhelmingly positive engagement among participants. The cohort developed confidence and found their voices to explore issues that they are passionate about such as mental health, wellbeing, and equity.

Developing interpersonal skills and reflective practices, the group practised communication, self-awareness and embodying co-operative values to improve their engagement and attainment at school. The pilot culminated with a showcase of participant's 'zines', which are small, folding magazines made using a variety of media including text and images. The zines were created by the group to explore the values they had learned and offer advice and encouragement for other young people on how to manage their mental health, aspirations and push themselves to be their best self.   

The Co-operative College is thankful to the Co-op Foundation, 7PK Equality to Equity, YMCA Trinty Group, Falinge Park High School and all our regional stakeholders and community partners for making this fantastic work possible!