Earlier this month we held our first Co-operative Youth Takeover at the Rochdale Pioneer’s Museum. Funded through Unicorn Grocery’s 1% fund, the weekend was designed to get young people in Rochdale to have a fun get-together and learn about all things co-op. Our Research and Projects Officer Amanda went along to see how the project is making a real difference in one of the most deprived areas of the UK.

Inspiring future pioneers

On day one we learned all about the original Pioneers through some interactive role-play, with the young people performing as Oscar-worthy characters in an original drama that created the first co-operative shop. It was made all the more special as the perfomance took place in the first ever co-operative shop!

Young people in shop

After that, I did a presentation and Q&A session about the College and all of the different types of projects we do, and also talked about how events like this Co-op Youth Takeover can help us to come up with new and exciting ideas for projects based on what young people in Rochdale actually want to see in their local area.

After a vote on lunch options and floating about in a post-pizza happy-place, Matt from Unicorn Grocery came to talk to the young people about what it’s like to work in a worker co-op. There were a whole host of questions, like how do you run a business without one boss and how do you ever get anything done or make decisions? He gave everyone a potted history of the co-op that’s been feeding Chorlton and South Manchester healthy, ethical and vegan food for nearly 23 years. He also described his day-to-day activities and how everyone who works there can turn their hand to everything that’s needed to help the business be the vibrant and award-winning shop it is today.

Co-operative solutions

The next item in a packed day was some research with the young people to ask them about what types of things were missing in Rochdale, and what types of co-op solutions they could think of, especially focusing in on younger people. They came up with stacks of ideas about some of the issues, such as Rochdale having a bad reputation or bad press recently and there being not enough youth activities or support with mental health problems. Travel was also highlighted by many as being too expensive and a big barrier to progress.

Post-it notes from young people

The group suggested lots of co-operative solutions to combat the problems, such as co-op spaces to hang out or a hub and non-judgemental space for young people to get support with mental health and career advice.

Cat, our youth project officer, ensured the whole day was energetic, interactive and lively with plenty of games to keep everyone engaged and lots of snacks to keep energy levels up.

Making plans

The second day of the Co-op Youth Takeover saw lots of energising activities take place to get the room buzzing. Everyone really enjoyed the spot the difference game where half of us left the room and had to spot the difference when we came back in. After a lot more discussion about what a co-operative youth hub in Rochdale could look like, the young people came up with some questions they thought they needed to answer by asking more people: What are the issues facing young people in Rochdale? How can we deal with them? and also asking what other people thought needs to be included in a young persons’ hub.

Young people in conversation

After this, Cat ran a session on techniques to use when interviewing people – be engaging, polite and at least pretend to be interested were the key messages. She then did some really funny example role-plays of all of the things NOT to do when interviewing someone, purposely acting like the worst interviewer ever!

Putting it all into practice

We all did some mock interviews to practice with the tech and build up confidence before being unleashed onto the high street in Rochdale to talk to actual people! After a hesitant start, everyone took the plunge and loved it! By the end we had a  range of opinions from lots of different people - a huge triumph considering how shy everyone was at the start!

Young people interviewing

Afterwards we did a session back at Rochdale Pioneers Museum focused on team building, making towers out of marshmallows and spaghetti. Competition was fierce - it was less a case of ‘many hands make light work’ and more like too many hands make a very wobbly tower!

Filming and follow up

That was followed by Community Reporting training led by one of the young people from our Youth Co-operative Social Action project. We all had a go at making a short film on our phones about an object in the museum, giving it an imaginary background story. Saima made a fantastic one, all about a vintage box of cornflakes, and how many years ago her grandparents had once lived off cornflakes for 3 weeks.

Young people practice interviewing

It was fun to watch everyone’s films together and see how different people’s imaginations had pinged off into weird and wonderful directions. We finished the day with a round-up of the weekend, telling the young people that we'll take their ideas forwards to Rochdale Council as we develop our new Together Enterprise project. Look out for a  Co-operative Hub coming to Rochdale later this year!

Don't forget, you can read more about our UK projects via the button below.

Our UK Projects