In Manchester, Liverpool and London our study visit became a fiesta of co-operative camaraderie with our colleagues from the Philippines. Cultures mixed, laughter echoed, and the co-operative spirit turned it into a celebration of unity, happiness and fun!

Jess Rule, Co-operative College Engagement and Events Officer

In February 2024, we held one of our most complex international study visits yet, taking place over three cities, with over 40 delegates from CLIMBS Life and General Insurance Co-operative. We pride ourselves in our ability to create bespoke visits that inspire creativity, engage participants in a way that suits their individual learning style, and showcase the very best of UK co-operation. This study visit highlighted all these features, and more:

Day 1

Participants arrived in Rochdale, the birthplace of co-operation, to experience the Rochdale Pioneers Museum. We started the day with an opening ceremony, including a warm welcome from our Director of Learning and Teaching, Ali Longden. This was followed by learning sessions with our tutors, Amanda Benson and Stacey Salt, and another with Liz McIvor from the Co-operative Heritage Trust.

This year’s study tour has been another huge success and it’s been great to see the enthusiasm and commitment to learning from all participants, as well as the fun they had during the whole experience.

Ali Longden, Co-operative College Director of Learning

Day 2

We spent the day at Angel Square with guest speakers from Co-operatives UK and ICMIF (International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation). The group then braved Manchester’s cold weather by going on a guided walking tour of the co-operative quarter.

Day 3

Our visitors split into groups to visit two very different co-operative enterprises. The first group went to ICMIF to learn how their work is helping to strengthen the network of values-led insurance across the globe. The second group visited FC United of Manchester, where they received a tour and fascinating talk on the history of this co-operatively owned football club.

Day 4, 5 and 6

The group travelled from Manchester to Liverpool to spend the next few days exploring the city and participating in a leadership masterclass. In addition to the masterclass sessions, the group also received a guest session on social enterprise, met and exchanged ideas with a group of third-year students from Liverpool Hope University, and finished with a round-up from College trustee, Rose Harvey.

The second day of the group’s leadership masterclass highlighted our tutors’ ability to adapt the learning environment to meet the needs of our participants. This meant that in addition to traditional presentations, some groups chose to deliver their learning using the medium of music and dance!

This year’s CLIMBS study tour was fantastic in a way that provided participants with opportunities, not only to visit different cities but also experience and network with several co-operatives, academics and have a platform to share, reflect and contribute what they learnt to group discussions. The two-day Co-operative Leadership course was filled with creativity and the arts and, through our co-operative learning approach, the sessions where informed by the participants, allowing them to be their true authentic selves. The content and feedback were shaped by both the co-operative values and delegates’ personal values, including joy, kindness and dedication.

Stacey Salt, Co-operative College Education Practitioner

On the final day in Liverpool, our facilitators, Stacey Salt and Amanda Benson recapped on the previous days’ activities, focusing on the collaboratively created solutions and ideas the participants can take back to their co-operatives in the Philippines. Delegates then moved onto an exploration of young leaders and how co-operatives can attract, nurture and empower young people into the world of co-operative leadership and social action. 

To finalise the masterclasses, delegates participated in a graduation, each receiving a certificate of completion, before heading off for their gala dinner.

The participants were truly committed to making the most of their visit. This meant that all of the learning activities were entered into with energetic enthusiasm and a spirit of fun, which was infectious and made the week thoroughly enjoyable.

Amanda Benson, Co-operative College Curriculum Development Manager

Day 7 and 8

The group departed Liverpool and arrived in London for the final stop in their UK tour. After some free time to explore the city on day one, the group, accompanied by the College’s Director of Business Development and Operations, Jacqui Thomasen, was taken on a bespoke tour of London, which combined sightseeing of the major landmarks with a fascinating exploration of the social history of the city.

Joining the participants on their tour of London was a great way to see the city with fresh eyes. We enjoyed a bespoke tour created by a professional guide, who took us to the key sights but nuanced the tour with a social history narrative; it was great to look beyond Big Ben and the Winston Churchill statue and to visit and learn more about the human rights heroes memorialised in Parliament Square.

Jacqui Thomasen, Co-operative College Director of Operations and Business Development

Every staff member at the College plays a part in the organisation and implementation of our study tours. They are very much a collaboration between the College, and our guest speakers, venue hosts and friends. We appreciate the help and support of everyone who has been involved truly upholding Principle 5 - Education, training and information, and Principle 6 - Co-operation among co-operatives.