Making 2013 a great year for Co-op Education

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‘What could be important in this co-operative initiative is not what is accomplished but what it is intended to do.’
– José María Arizmendiarrieta

One of the key messages of the UN 2012 Year of Co-operatives was to see the celebration not as an ending but as a beginning. We have taken that to heart at CETS and have a variety of activities, resources and projects planned for 2013 that will hopefully improve co-operative education in Scotland and the UK.

  • The first cohort of students will be completing the inaugural SQA Awards in Co-operative Studies in 2013. Offered at levels 4, 5 and 6, the qualification provides secondary students with a detailed understanding of the core historical, social and organisational topics relating to co-operatives. We are working on promoting these awards to other Scottish secondary schools in the year ahead.
  • 2012 saw the development of our interactive online resource on the Commonwealth Games. The Co-operative Games: Succeeding together is aimed at upper primary/early secondary level pupils and covers a variety of topics within the Curriculum for Excellence. We will continue to promote? this resource in the run-up to the 2014 Games.
  • We are always seeking to develop relevant, interesting learning and teaching resources on co-operatives and 2013 will continue this trend. The end of the summer will see the launch of a resource on ‘making your school co-operative’. Loudoun Academy became the first “Scottish School of Co-operation -SSC”. We are now building on our work to create the first cluster of SSC schools in Edinburgh and the first Primary SSC in Angus. We also have plans for a second resource but we’re still at the idea generation stage; any ideas/suggestions are welcome at

2013 will also be also a big year for us in relation to our work at tertiary level:

  • In co-operation with Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), we are organising a series of screenings of the US employee ownership film, We The Owners, across 3 or 4 Scottish Universities. Open to students, academics, local business people, and co-operators, the screenings will take place during late February, early March; contact if interested in attending.
  • March will see the completion of an innovative project, supported by Co-operatives UK, to establish a co-operative providing employment to students from a Scottish university. Student-owned and led, the new co-operative will be launched in late March and will be based on a successful model from Mondragón Corporation in the Basque Country.
  • Finally, work continues, thanks to the support of CDS, on disseminating the outputs of a recent Knowledge Transfer Partnership project between CETS and the University of Aberdeen. These outputs include an academic textbook, a collection of essays, an entrepreneurship guide for students/graduates, and a virtual learning environment. We are also delivering a series of lectures across Scottish universities, in particular with the University of the West of Scotland.

What co-ops mean to kids

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CETS and the Clydebank Co-op have been working in partnership with Kilbowie Primary to look at the Co-operative Values and Principles and put them into child friendly language. The resulting pop-ups and poster will be displayed in Kilbowie Primary and Clydebank Co-op, to promote understanding of the benefits of the co-operative business model and encourage people to join their local co-op.

Kilbowie Co-op Poster

Poster created by Kilbowie Primary pupils on what co-ops mean to them

Big Co-op Event #2: New Lanark 15 June 2012

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In contrast to the 14 June, this event will focus on co-operative studies in higher education and explore ways in which it can be enhanced. Here are the details of the event:

We are happy to play a part in the celebrations around IYOC and to help raise awareness of the scale, scope and sustainable contribution of co-ops to the global economy.

However, we think it is even more important to ensure that 2012 creates a legacy and in particular in the field of education. 

There are many options in terms of co-op structures and growing areas of support but we keep coming back to the imperative, of the need to imbed co-operative values and principles and co-operative models of enterprise at the very core of our education system.  There are alternatives and we need to ensure future generations are made aware that there are alternatives.

Successful co-ops are based on member participation.  Progress, in co-operative teaching and learning, needs the participation of co-operative academics.  The basic economics of making the most efficient use of scarce resources still applies – we need your input to determine the most efficient  way to imbed co-operatives into the system.

We have an interesting programme with significant input from academics, practitioners and most significantly, students.  It will be even more interesting, stimulating and productive with your input so book your place by responding to e-mail below.

New Lanark Programme Details

Hugh Donnelly

Big Co-op Event: New Lanark 14 June 2012

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As part of the celebration of UN International Year of Co-operatives we are hosting an event at New Lanark on Thursday 14th June 2012 to highlight opportunities to develop the Curriculum for Excellence through Co-operative Studies.

  • We now have available, SQA Customised Awards in Co-operative Studies  –
  • We have supported over 120 pupils in 8 schools to the attainment of ASDAN Awards in Co-operative Studies
  • We have launched our online “Co-operative Farm to Food Cycle”   –

We believe that the co-operative values and principles and co-operative business model are at the very core of everything CfE aspires to be.  We have a limited number of free places still available.  Read the attached programme and send your details to for a day of CPD which could prove priceless.

Programme details

CETS new food & drink resource goes live!

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CETS are delighted to announce that their new Co-operative Farm to Food Cycle resource has gone live!

By happy co-incidence, I also attended Scotland’s National Food and Drink Conference at Perth Concert Hall this week:

If CETS had planned to launch our resource at the same time as this event I would have felt that somehow I had moved into a level of foresight I had never before experienced! From the cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead MSP) to Dr Joao Breda, Programme Manager, World Health Organisation and many other speakers at the event, the talk was of the need for real food education in schools. They emphasized the importance of children knowing where their food comes from, how it is processed and how knowing about and growing their own food in school, can have a huge impact on their health and wellbeing. Well… what a co-incidence as that is exactly what our new, free online resource for primary schools is all about! Perhaps this would also explain why over 260 schools have already downloaded our new resource in the past week – the word is out…. food and farming is important for all aspects of  learning in our schools (embedding Curriculum for Excellence) and co-operation in society!  It is almost as if what we know instinctively to be good practical common sense has become fashionable and everyone is out “flash planting”– co-operatively of course – instead of “flashmobbing”!

Thanks again to James Graham of SAOS for having had the foresight to give us some money to produce this resource – something Richard Lochhead was trying to encourage the food and drink industry to support… co-ops ahead of their time again!

Co-operative capitalism; Cultural Nationalism and Scraggie Aggie’s Co-op Baggie!

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I decided to take the advice of my peers and get out a bit more.  In the past few weeks I have been to a variety of events, some co-op and some general public policy.  However, it was in my more natural repose, on the couch with the remote control and a glass, that the inspiration for this blog arrived.  I was surfing and came upon “Val and Roger just Got In”.  It transpired that Roger had just got in from winning his job back at an Industrial Tribunal and Val suggested a holiday to recuperate but “….. not to the Scottish Islands.  I want to go somewhere where they have restaurants and not just a co-op”.  I regarded this as a nice little piece of observational humour and a pat on the back for the Community Retailing Network CRN in supporting isolated communities.   (I have subsequently been informed that Dawn French (Val) is a supporter of things co-operative and the mention of an off screen character called Pauline Green did make me wonder).   Many of the community co-op members of CRN have been operating for over 30 years and one of them featured in the BBC Series “An Island Parish” (Eriskay, if memory serves) along with local character Scraggie Aggie who has featured with her green Co-op Food “Bag for Life” scavenging for crustaceans at low tide and delivering a hand knitted pullover to the parish priest.  I have previously blogged about coops being referenced in contemporary literature and film but it is heartening to see it continue in the UN International Year of the Co-operative.  There is even a film being made about the Rochdale Pioneers (talk about history repeating itself, not only did Fenwick beat them to title of first ever co-op but also produced their own short drama piece on DVD last year!).  It appears that co-ops are becoming part of the message.

So if we are making some headway in raising awareness of co-operation amongst the general populace can we expect to make the leap to “Co-operative Capitalism”   I can see the general concept gaining credence as a response to “Big Society” (or “co-operation for slow learners” as suggested by Dave Scott) but it implies that we are part of the existing system rather than an alternative, an acceptable face of how to compete ethically within markets.  In terms of the co-operative business model that is fine but, in my limited reading on the subject so far, it doesn’t really get to grips with co-operation as a social movement, with co-operation as a value system or a different way of organising society.  As a trained economist my main concern would be that it doesn’t really tackle the neo-classical model of rational economic man.  There is a growing school of behavioural economics and others who are making the point that co-operation is just as, if not more, natural than competition.  I am delighted to confirm that we have Dr Matt Bell – the Meerkat Man – speaking on this very topic at two IYOC events this year (Aberdeen in may and New Lanark in June).

Finally, I was at a discussion on the need for a constitution for Scotland (in the event that there was a vote for independence?).  I made the point that the Co-operative movement has more constitutions, more discussions on constitutions and more experience in this field than anybody else.  I also argued that when you need to fall back on written constitutions it generally means the culture has broken down.  At their most basic co-operatives only work when there is mutual self interest, a common objective which is not achievable individually but is collectively – the Co-operative Donkeys.  So I have to confess the design of a constitution for an independent Scotland when there is no visible support for the latter does seem an inefficient use of our scarce time.  However, it did set me thinking that independence/devo max wouldn’t really change much in terms of business models in the Global economy.  MacDonalds, Vodafone, Shell, HSBC et al would still sell their services in an independent Scotland.  Most of the profit would still be exported.  So the UK wide co-operatives, mutuals and employee owned businesses would still continue with some minor restructuring in recognition of different tax regimes.  Who knows, it might even end up be beneficial for the Co-op Group to re-locate from Manchester to Fenwick for favourable tax treatment!

Fairly hypothetical, especially if one debates the independence issue solely from an economics perspective.  If one considers the concept of cultural nationalism however the party loyalties and economics tend to get lost and that does take us into the unknown.  The economists might deride this as emotional and irrational.  Maybe but that takes us back to simply accepting that we only make decisions based on perceived economic  outcomes.  I suspect there is a huge middle ground as yet undecided on independence or devo max or whether to make that decision on social, cultural or economic grounds or some combination thereof

The First Minister is known as a betting man but at this stage I would be as likely to correctly guess the contents of Scraggie Aggie’s Co-op Baggie in any future series of “An Island Parish” as the outcome of a referendum.  And I don’t see the First Minister putting his shirt on a runner he isn’t convinced will win.

Looking forward to 2012

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Well, we’re almost at the end of the year and it has been an exciting one from our perspective. We’ve developed a couple of new resources  and got accreditation for two qualifications (ASDAN and SQA) in Co-operative Studies. The fruits of our labour will be seen next year though, with a number of big events and resource launches to coincide with the UN 2012 Year of Co-operatives. Without wanting to spoil the surprise, keep an eye out for the following next year:

  • a dedicated virtual learning environment to support students and teachers  involved in our Co-operative Studies qualifications;
  • two new resources for use by primary and secondary pupils, covering areas such as the food chain, co-operative history and co-operatives in the 21st century;
  • a big event celebrating co-operative studies to be hosted in one of Scotland’s iconic co-operative locations (and world heritage site).

Next year is an important one for the global co-operative movement, offering an unparalleled opportunity to promote the co-operative model of enterprise. At CETS, we hope that our work in 2012 will contribute in some way to ensuring co-operatives are better understood and supported here in Scotland. Merry Christmas.

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