The middle evening of our Centenary Conference saw our inaugural Gala Dinner and Centenary Awards take place, with a number of winners crowned throughout the evening.

Innovation in Co-operative Education

This was the first award of the evening, with the judges looking for examples of exciting new ideas that make a major impact to changing people attitudes, powered by co-operative education.

It was won by Newham Venturers, a group of young people aged just 14 who began 2019 wanting to challenge what they saw as the abhorrent DSEI Europe’s biggest arms fair. Concluding they could make most impact through educating others, they used their youth to advantage and established a peer education programme. They trained with Campaign Against the Arms Trade and made an ambitious programme of peer training and stalls.

They also coordinated the Kitchen at the stopDSEI campaign, feeding a hundred people each day for a week. As their programme developed, they became involved in the School Strikes Against Climate Change and found their skills in peer education could be put to additional use. They have led peer education around climate change in schools and spoken at NEU events.

Their unique brand of engaging, participatory peer education has proved popular enabling large groups of young people to become far better informed about these challenges. A truly brilliant example of the change maker generation.

Young Co-operative Educator Award

The second award of the evening focused on youth, with the judges looking for an inspirational young person passionate about co-operative education. 

It was won by Ollie Bream McIntosh, an individual with a background in leading citizenship education projects in deprived schools. In 2017, Ollie turned his attention to HE, lobbying Nottingham University to back the UK’s first student-led online education project, titled 'A Students Guide to the Future.'

Motivated by concerns that ‘big tech’ was ‘colonising’ younger generations’ conceptions of the future, ‘A Student’s Guide to the Future’ advocates for critically-informed and inclusive conversations about ‘emerging realities’, from AI to Instagram.

Championing democratic, cooperative pedagogies in a space where such approaches are widely avoided, he and his team of students and graduates design and deliver annually a university-accredited, multimedia curriculum and debate forum where hundreds of students from all disciplines/levels unite under the banner ‘values, dialogue, consensus’, to re-imagine what ‘the future’ could and should look like.

The project was voted ‘Course of the Year 2018’ by students and is now expanding overseas. Ollie is 24 and works entirely unpaid for his efforts.

Community Education Award

Helen Chicot collects award

The third award of the evening was for those who are turning innovative ideas into action, delivering life changing results for communities in the process. Out of the many nominations, the judges chose Helen Chicot, Place Lead at Rochdale Borough Council.

Helen is responsible for forming Rochdale Council’s Integrated Place teams, who work in some of the area’s most deprived and challenging communities. Using cooperation as the basis for their model, the teams have become an essential part of the delivery of Public Service Reform there.

They target and address vulnerability, working with some of the highest demand families and individuals across the local area. They have been described as delivering services that are at the “leading edge of innovation and delivering powerful results” in a report by Collaborate.

Its Citizens’ Curriculum offer, supported by employment-related support, has helped more than 200 people find employment. They have also encouraged active citizen involvement, empowering the community to contribute directly to the service and also to facilitate involvement in leadership and system change. This recent article, written in The Guardian, explains their work and the difference it's made in more detail.

Lifetime Contribution to Co-operative Education Award

Gillian Lonergan collects her award

Last but not least, the final award of the evening was presented as a heartfelt thank you to Gillian Lonergan,  who after over 36 years as part of the Co-operative Union, Co-operative College and Co-operative Heritage Trust retired earlier this year.

Joining the Co-operative Union back in January 1983, Gillian held a number of positions throughout her long and distinguished career, including Head of Archive and Learning Resources, as well as managing a number of high profile projects such as a major two year redevelopment project of the Rochdale Pioneers Museum. Re-opened in October 2012, the revamped space included new interactive education and exhibition areas, as well as improved access.

Gillian's passion for co-operatives and co-operation has seen her become revered across the movement and beyond, with her depth of knowledge on co-operatives truly astounding.

Read more about Gillian's astonishing career and view a feature length interview with her via the button below

See more about Gillian

Look out for more Centenary Conference updates coming soon, including highlights videos, keynote speakers and a look at some of the brilliant workshops that took place over the three days.