First Enterprise Practitioners Association Meeting 27th August

1 Comment

CETS are delighted to be the first organisation to support this newly formed network of Enterprising Practitioners in Scotland.

As Determined to Succeed funding comes to an end this session, the groups which were supported by this funding, are now also having to consider whether or not they can continue. Neil Mclennan,  Enterprise  LTS and Leigh Brown Enterprise, Scotland’s Colleges, decided that it was really important to make sure there was an opportunity for these individuals to have a regular opportunity to meet and share ideas, experiences and expertise.  To this end they have set up a group called the Enterprise Practitioners Network, click here for details

CETS became involved through a discussion with Neil, to try and find premises and a theme for the first meeting. After a couple of phone calls and emails, we were able to offer Scotmid as a venue and co-op themed workshops for the afternoon.  We also managed to secure Stonelaw’s award winning pupils (UK’s Young Social Entrepreneurs of the year) to run a workshop on setting up and running a Young Co-op in your school!

 Sign up and attend – only £5 for members and £10 for Non members!  See details of the day, below:

  Event Title 27 aug 2011[1]

CETS Competition Winners!

1 Comment

 Author: Morag

This week I am not “ranting” but “raving”! (well, ok, maybe a wee rant towards the end!)

We were delighted to receive so many excellent entries for our competition and it is good to know that so many young people are now aware of and looking to set up a business, using the co-operative model. The competition challenge was to write a business plan showing how they could set up and run a successful Young Co-op in their school and community. In true democratic fashion, we had allocated 3 equal prizes of £500 and congratulations must go to the 3 worthy winners of our competition who are:

They will each receive £500 to develop their co-operative, Well done!

I had the pleasure of visiting Whitehills Primary last week to deliver their prize and have a chat with the talented pupils in P7. I was impressed with the knowledge and understanding they had on a variety of topics relating to the setting up and running of their Fairtrade café. The level of enthusiasm and commitment to this “real” project confirmed, for me, that Curriculum for Excellence, when translated into a inter disciplinary project such as this, has a positive impact on learning.

The pupils who have been involved with the cafe will be moving on to the high school after the summer. However, their legacy of the ground -work in setting up this project will be continued by the current P6.  The P7’s have committed to “training” the P6 class in how to run their business and most, when asked, would happily volunteer to come back and help them even after they have moved on to the High School!

Now that the school has had the boost of an additional £500, they are planning to expand the project into growing food in their own garden to sell in their café!  This will perhaps lead to forming more community links with the local farmers market and offering different products in their cafe. The possibilities for linking all of this to the curriculum across all stages in the school are endless.

I will at this point out another great TED talk  which I believe would endorse this type of learning. He is promoting the concept that learning is organic and not linear and that we need a revolution in education, not just a change, to enable our young people to feel that they can happily and effectively contribute to society.

If schools across Scotland can use this seed of their idea to spread and grow this type of project, then I think they will, like many other primary schools, be embracing organic rather than linear learning. Ultimately, the youngsters in our schools now will be the educators of the future and will no doubt wonder why it took us so long to see the light!

Perhaps the revolution is already underway in Scotland’s primaries? Although I haven’t visited Hillhead and Govan myself, judging by feedback from our director, they are  two of the secondaries schools leading the way in implementing Curriculum for Excellence but the process in secondary sector is, for a number of reasons, much slower. However, if the young people moving into secondary now, help to spread the revolution more widely to the secondary sector in the coming years, this may help speed up the process? But only if we empower our students as we have promised!

Instantaneous Democracy

Leave a comment


As a registered charity it is not our place to comment directly  on the results of the Holyrood election or the party politics involved.  However, as an organisation promoting democratic forms of enterprise, I think we can safely make some observations on the processes and structures of said democratic process.

I have to declare an interest relating to the first point.  My daughter, a 3rd year politics student, now finds herself out of paid employment.  She worked one day a week with our local constituency MSP and he lost the tightest first past the post (FPTP) seat on SEVEN votes.  On the one hand you might see that as good for democracy that any seat is so tightly contested.  If you are a supporter of proportional representation you might think it highlights the inherent unfairness of FPTP that if such tight results were replicated in every constituency then you could collect 40-50% of the popular vote but no seats.  An impossibility many would argue but then we were told, until the early hours of Friday, it was impossible for any one party to gain an outright majority at Holyrood .

It might also be noted that there was a tactical option of standing on both constituency and regional lists.  There seems to me a certain irony, possibly even hypocrisy, to resort to a form of PR to gain a seat in our parliament whilst arguing against PR in principle.  I can’t give any specifics but on the law of probabilities?

Similarly, proponents of PR would suggest that it can’t be fair for public policy for the next 5 years to be shaped by the views of only 25% of the population i.e. 50% share on a 50% turnout (very roughly).  However, the attempt to redress that imbalance with a move to AV (albeit in Westminster) was resoundingly defeated. 

On a similar vein, my brief viewing of results coming in on Friday morning failed to identify any FPTP winners whose votes exceeded the combined total of their opponents, which obviously goes to the core of the additional vote (AV) argument.

It has also been noted that the Westminster FPTP system is the one which needed a negotiated coalition whilst the Holyrood system, supposedly custom designed with its own form of PR to prevent an SNP majority, has produced just that form of strong majority government that only FPTP can produce, according to its adherents.

The main issue from our perspective, of arguing the case for democratic forms of enterprise, is about the quality and levels of participation.  There are lots of different ways of creating a democratic co-operative structure (IPS, guarantee company, CIC and many variations within each) and there are a variety of ways of deciding who runs the country (FPTP, PR, AV, STV and combinations thereof) but if people don’t get off their backsides and get involved then nothing much is likely to change.

The aforementioned politics student who squats on my premises has pointed out that there are other ways of engaging in politics other than voting in elections.  Volunteering, community action, co-ops and stand alone campaigns.  There was somebody in the Westminster elections who suggested we needed a new form of politics and there are signs of significant, seismic changes on the political landscape.  However none of them seem to address the fairly fundamental issue of how do you, and how can you claim, to represent people who don’t engage with whatever system you adopt.

Whether you agree with AV or not, it is quite depressing from an educational perspective to see the credence given to the argument that it was too complicated for the majority of the population to understand.  Maybe we should learn from the X Factor and all those reality shows that consistently achieve such impressive voting turnouts and move to a system of rolling referendums on any number of topics and people can vote from the comfort of their own homes, cars wherever and whenever – is that the new high tech future with Simon Cowell and Lord Sugar competing to be the Presiding Officers in our instantaneous democracy?

The only two things certain in life now are death and exams!

Leave a comment

 How can we make them both useful?

 Author: Morag

With death being the first certainty, should we now sell the heat generated from cremated bodies to the national grid? This is something that we are just about to start questioning in public.  We seem to have got over our issues about donating useful organs from the dead to help the living, so quite rightly, we are now opening up debate about how to make even more use of us when we are no longer energy consumers. I’m not quite sure if this counts as “green” energy, (am I being socially insensitive?) but it sounds as though it may be more dependable than some of our wind farms if some recent information is anything to go by!

The other life certainty has become exams as a lot of people now seem to be able to avoid taxes but you can’t do anything without a written qualification of some sort! However I’m not sure that the usefulness of exams is as clear- cut as the usefulness of organ donation and heat recycling. Maybe this is not as sensitive a subject for discussion as the dead creating heat for the living, but it is taboo to suggest that most of the school exams system is not particularly useful to all our young people!  I write this as I have spent a number of weeks looking at a variety of offerings from a number of bodies and I am beginning to think that the “exam “ is still the end, rather than the means to becoming a useful citizen. The Higher is still viewed as the “gold” standard and this academic rigor is only achievable by a minority of students. How does that make the majority feel?  Second rate?

There are of course a few exceptions to this – courses that are more practical (vocational?) then theoretical (hence us offering ASDAN COPE to schools)  in these particular courses, students, at level 3, are expected to take responsibility for their own learning. I know that Curriculum for Excellence was designed to do just this – liberate the constraints of subject specialism, encourage personalisation and choice, responsibility for their own learning, but……in my discussions with schools and teachers, there is still a huge emphasis on how many and what grade of exams the students have passed. Consequently, a lot of the learning is still teacher led as it seems to me that teachers are assessed as to how well they have got students through the various exam hurdles. If the kids don’t do well in exams and the teacher is questioned – who is responsible for the learning and then who owns the learning? How can we develop the responsible citizens we crave if we don’t really let them take responsibility?  Ultimately schools are driven to get the number of exam passes up to make the school a “magnet” school and in turn ensures a good cohort of students which perpetuates the academic system! With our enduring absorption of favouring front left lobe thinkers are we still creating a two tier system of academic versus vocational? The by- product of this is that a lot our young people may leave school with good theoretical learning but employers complain because they can’t do practical things or use their initiative!  In my current favourite book “The Case for Working with Your Hands – or why office work is bad for us and fixing things feels good” , there is an interesting argument that the tide is turning and we will need more people with practical skills and problem solving in the future, as the online world will change what we, as humans require. An interesting read!

How can we then try to address this imbalance? One obstacle I have encountered, apart from the need for academic qualifications, is that offering alternatives to SQA exams are perceived as more expensive and in a time of budget restraint, a good alternative argument is required.    From my limited research into this it appears that since the SQA are partly funded by the government, local authorities pay for these qualifications, but if schools want to offer an alternative such as ADSDAN or ILM then the schools have to fund this out of their own budget.  If this is not the case, please let me know and I will amend in my next qualifications update! However SQA are now offering more vocational qualifications which can be up to SCQF level 6- a higher equivalence which may offer an alternative to accredit a different, and perhaps more useful, skill set for the majority of our students which will appeal to universities and  potential employers alike.

So this is my issue with our current exam system, to quote a favourite quote, “exams value what is measurable but don’t measure what is valuable” The active learning by doing is harder to “teach” capture and measure for each child, so I do understand that there needs to be some sort of “exam” to ensure tax payers (that are left!) are getting value for money, hence my foraging for alternative such as ASDAN and Institute of Leadership and Management courses.  I think we should all continue to question as to whether the “5 A’s at one sitting to get to uni” approach gives us the breadth and usefulness that our society needs, to prosper?  If courses are still broken down into hours, units, subject areas, timetables and ultimately exams to see if candidates have met the predefined criteria, then the school is judged on how well they have done this, we are still teaching to the exams  and not the students needs. Isn’t it better value for money to have young people free to learn skills that are useful to themselves and society even if there is no formal exam at the end of it?   The enduring conundrum to solve is; how do we get society to perceive all of us as having equal potential and merit so long as the exam system only rewards the chosen few with a university place and a debt of £25000?  The unsuccessful in the exams race hope for an apprenticeship, or a job, but I believe they still have the feeling that they weren’t quite “good enough” despite all their other useful skills

To finishn an optimistic note,(the sun is shiningtoday!) I do perceive a sea- change in attitude towards academic and vocational education having equal merit, but as always it take a long time to filter through the educational system. Let’s hope that we can find a way of more quickly ensuring that education in schools can be allowed to look beyond sitting and passing exams so that our current young people can be happy and useful in life before they are donating organs or in the crematorium, heating the local swimming pool or nursing home!

How does a Garden of Eden grow?

1 Comment

Author: Morag

Having heard Tim Smit speak at an event at Paisley Abbey a couple of years ago, organized by the scottish social enterprise coalition I jumped at the chance of their organized study tour to the legendary Eden Project in Cornwall. Throw in a gourmet dinner at Fifteen Cornwall and I even offered to pay for the visit myself and take annual leave! Having an insightful and generous director…. (any chance of a pay rise this year?!) , meant neither sacrifices were required and I happily left home at 6am to begin the journey to the Garden of Eden.

The aim of my visit – apart from the obvious sensory enjoyment- was to see how really successful social enterprises work and what CETS can learn from them.  Eden and Fifteencornwall are businesses, for money making purposes as well as social good, quite different from a general perception that they are some sort of charity funded partly by token selling of questionable quality goods and services but mostly by government grants, or by you and me through donations to a noisy tin can.

No tin can mentality evident at Eden – any lurking tin can would have been recycled into a pair of earrings or used in an “educational” sculpture.

The first impression of Eden is surprise. Initially that such a huge project was undertaken in such a remote area, and then wonder, at the energy and imagination the development and sustainability of such a site required.  Listening to Tim made me realize why Eden has now managed to survive to celebrate its 10th birthday! Finding out how he secured the funding for this project included needing nerves of steel and perhaps distinct criminal tendencies! In another life with a less supportive family, perhaps his type of character would have become a notorious Robin Hood style gangster or a benign dictator? The traits are the same but the impact on society is different. Fortunately for Cornwall, whatever Tim’s start in life was, he ended up doing remarkable things, for the good. This was evident in the way he talked enthusiastically, with humor and often digressed then meandered back to various points, almost as if he has given his brain the same freedom of expression as he gives his staff!  However, as with the Eden employees – it was always the same message – “Put your whole self into whatever you are doing, take the risks and responsibility with no negativity!” His passion for giving people autonomy to do, and be the best they can, is quite inspiring.

This is what I believe Eden is about:  self-motivation and self-determination to create a better “world” (macro, micro, or bio) and enjoy the process.  The emphasis is on something tangible, not theoretical, something that “is” in a practical way, and something that you can “do”. In a modern “virtual” world it seems we need an antidote to living solely in “the cloud” and people like making and creating stuff.

The result- an economically viable social enterprise!

On my return from this visit I was delighted to read that Stonelaw High’s Young Co-operative had won the Young Social Entrepreneurs of the year at a star studded event in London – congratulations to them. They have been involved in this project for over 5 years now  – have a look at – now their turnover has exceeded £150K proving that this co-operative business model is profitable and works! All they needed was a small start up grant from CETS five years ago (though my Christmas shopping sprees at their annual fayres, have no doubt boosted their profits significantly!) and the resulting success of the venture came from the students motivation and engagement with the business. I do here have to recognize that their “lead” teacher, Isabel Gilchrist, displays many similarities to Tim Smit  – loads of enthusiasm, energy, commitment and belief in the people around her to do a good job.

I’m beginning to see a pattern here….. good leaders with good social goals, who believe in their “crew”…… can achieve anything they really want? If Eden have such belief in their crew and ask them to accept risk and responsibility then the next obvious step is to share ownership with them, so why hasn’t Tim developed it into a co-op, like the young people at Stonelaw?  The “buy in” from the crew could give it even more longevity with potential to grow a democratic Cornwall, along the line of Mondragon ?

Since this was a funded study tour, I needed to explore what benefits my visit will have for the work that CETS does? In order to do this I needed to ask myself a number of questions:

1. What is my job, and what do CETS do?

Not having had a job description for sometime has been very liberating but it is also much more challenging. Where to start and how to choose what to do?! Having distilled my job down to a concept rather than a series of activities: my Mission (should I choose to take it) appears to be “to enlighten and encourage the Scottish youth to understand and apply the values and principles of the Co-operative movement to their life and work” Without sounding like a 19th century free Presbyterian minister from the Western Isles, that could be quite tricky and possibly fairly off putting to Scottish young people! How to make this concept fun and engaging for students and acreditable for teachers would be a success criterion! A visit to Eden and Fifteen was certainly fun and engaging, how to make “exams” in this area meaningful and worthwhile is difficult and quite frankly, I think, pointless…….. So what to do?

2.What have I learned from my visit?

  • Do what you are good at doing and enjoy it.
  • People need practical outcomes, something tangible to make them feel engaged, useful and alive and consequently valued. (See earlier Stonelaw bit)
  • Negative people destroy everyone else’s energy
  • Follow your intuition; think big, blag if you have to and keep believing in your dream. (If you haven’t got a dream get one!)

3. How can apply what I have learned?

This is the tricky bit. Maybe you should only ever look to “self development” as all else is arrogance and vanity and eventually futile?  The only person you can ever educate is yourself, as education has to be a self-motivated and willingly participated in experience to create any change. Not a principle that all teachers can adopt I suspect, despite them being “reflective practitioners”.  The exam system and target setting agenda see to that! However, giving real life experiences such as setting up their own co-operative and running it for profit now can be accredited. We are supporting 200 young people with CoPE ASDAN accreditation.  At long last, the education system is beginning to recognize that vocational and academic skill have equal value. Young people can now do the “useful stuff” within the school day rather than having to squeeze it into lunchtimes a and after school activities,

Perhaps my visit has also allowed me to give myself (more?!) permission to do what I think is right; identifying others’ strengths, telling them what I enjoy about them and encouraging them to follow their intuitions and instincts? Ask them to think big and believe in their visions- ignore  (or sack!) the “abutters” and the “no ah canny becausers”. Sacking those individuals of course may decimate large swathes of certain sectors of the public sector, so its probably just as well I don’t have that kind of power, but I can try to ignore the naysayers and focus on working with the optimistic risk takers!

If this all works, we should see inspirational co-ops springing up in educational establishments all over Scotland. This then may show that my visit to see how to “grow” the Eden effect has been worth the investment and maybe the adults will see the wisdom of the young peoples’ ways?

You have been challenged – in a positive and optimistic way of course!

Co-op History – It’s just one thing after another!


Having been involved in the co-op sector for longer than I care to remember you might think that I have lived some of the history.  I would have to confess to often being frustrated by the tendency to focus too much on the past and not enough on the future.  You know the syndrome, someone can always tell you their Granny’s divi number to establish their co-op credentials but can they show you a current membership card.

Hypocritically, I am now going to focus on various historical projects and anniversaries (I am aging, yes).  You could probably say that there is going to be a lot happening in the next few years, historically (and probably now confusingly) speaking.  Bear with me and all will become clear.

On the 14th March 2011 we will be celebrating the 250th  anniversary of the signing of the charter which established the Fenwick Weavers as a co-operative.  The Weavers claim to be the first recorded co-op. They would accept that Rochdale is the model that has been globally exported but would never want to miss a chance to remind our colleagues in the south of the historical facts.  (I decided not to post a photograph of myself outside the offices of the Philadelphia Contributionship (1752) until I have had my free lunch at Fenwick on the 14th March).  The reason Fenwick remained largely unacclaimed was that most of the archive went off to New Zealand, with half of the population of the village, and didn’t return to the National Library of Scotland until two centuries later.

Dr Elizabeth Macknight, a historian at Aberdeen University, has a publication out later this year explaining the importance of maintaining local archives and how this impacted on the Fenwick story.  She is also exploring another Scottish co-operative milestone.  It is believed that there has been a co-operative food store on Lennoxtown Main Street since 1812 (do the arithmetic and 2012 would be the 200th anniversary, which also happens to be UN Year of the co-operative).  Now that’s what I call sustainability – can you think of any other high street presence which has survived that long?  There are several references to Lennoxtown, alongside Fenwick and Govan as pre-dating Rochdale, so it will be interesting to see if any corroborating records can be uncovered.

So what does 2013 hold for co-operative historians?  Only the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS), better known today as the Co-operative Group, arguably the largest co-op in the world. The Group is rightly looking to celebrate 2013 and is working with Liverpool University and John Moores University to make as much of the historical archive as broadly available as possible.  More importantly, the group is using this as part of a major effort to establish co-operation back at the core of British society (big or otherwise).  The Group have set ambitious targets to ensure that  all basic products that can be fair trade in their stores, will be by 2013 and that they will look to grow membership from 6 million to 20 million.  The latter would represent one third of the UK population – that is big.

Finally, CETS is doing its bit to make sure you know your history.  We are working with local schools in Fenwick around the celebrations and we have been working with Scotland on Screen to create new resources for schools (Primary, Secondary and Additional Learning Needs)  In the spirit of Curriculum for Excellence we have tried to ensure that these resources are not just for history teachers.  Remember, history is something we need to learn from, to better inform our choices and decisions in the future.

The Importance of Democracy – Learning Resources

Leave a comment

Hopscotch Theatre production

“The Parliament Show”

Suitable for P1 – P7 & S1, Touring Feb – June 2011.  

I was invited to the dress rehearsal of Hopscotch’s newest production and was entertained as well as educated for the entire 55minutes! They achieved that difficult task of making “history come to life” for youngsters with humor, clever dialogue, believable characters and audience participation that was finished off with a real good sing along! Even I was reinvigorated with renewed belief in the importance of democracy, having been reminded how hard fought for my right to vote had been!

The production managed to simplify the history of the development of Scottish democracy, from serfdom, through the Darien Adventure, to the union of the Crowns, Suffragettes and back to the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, in an engaging, high speed 55 minutes without losing the thread.  The mixture of clever writing and strong engaging characters, delivered by four enthusiastic and talented actors allowed the audience to be believably carried along with  “wee Jenny’s” transition from couldn’t care less attitude about her school visit to the Scottish Parliament to becoming an active member of her own school council.

I can thoroughly recommend this production as a great starting point to any project involving the students taking personal responsibility, such as setting up co-operative enterprises or tackling Global Citizenship. Perhaps it is particularly relevant at a time when we are seeing the peoples of the Middle East striving for democracy.  

The other as well as or an instead option is a 90minute “Drama and Democracy” workshops, which can be used at any stage in  the school. They also have great accompanying resources written to support this topic further in the classroom. At £150 the drama session looks like great value for money!

Drama Synopsis

Wee Jenny is whisked back in time during a visit to the Scottish Parliament, the ghostly figure of Purly Wilson appears and explains why participating in our representative democracy is so important…how we fought to have our devolved parliament and how women have in recent history fought to have the vote. 

Free – Teachers Resource Packs
These specially commissioned packs contain lots of resources and exciting lesson ideas including some pre-show activities and suggestions. (Packs funded by The Scottish Co-operative Membership)

Newer Entries