Updated Summer Update

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Author: Hugh

Traditionally it is a quiet time for us here at CETS but that hasn’t stopped me taking the easy option of combining my turn to blog with a newsletter for general consumption. 


Young Co-operative Enterprise

 There are two major strands of our efforts in this field which will take major strides forward when the Scottish schools return in August.

ASDAN Awards through Co-operative Studies 

Supported by the Co-operative Group Scottish Values and Principles Committee, we will be working with several secondary schools (Loudoun Academy, Alva Academy, Jedburgh Grammar, Broxburn Academy, Armadale Academy, Whitburn Academy and All Saints Secondary) to ensure that nearly 200 Scottish pupils will achieve ASDAN Enterprise and/or COPE accreditation through Co-operative Studies.  This will be a major advance in our primary objective of imbedding co-operative values and principles into the Scottish education system.

Young Co-operatives

We have often highlighted the excellent work done by longstanding Young Co-ops at Hillpark and Stonelaw and we are hoping to see a new wave as we engage with Govan High, Hillhead Secondary and Whitehills Primary (Forfar) to develop their co-operative business models.

We also had a highly successful 2 day Co-operative Enterprise Awareness Session at St Paul’s Dundee where 40 pupils investigated the potential for creating Young Co-ops.  This event was run in conjunction with Dynamix, the Bristol based worker co-op.

SQA Qualifications

As stated above, our main objective is to imbed co-operative values and principles and the co-operative model of enterprise into the Scottish education system.  The ongoing implementation of Curriculum for Excellence is starting to offer opportunities in this field.  We instigated discussions with the SQA over a year ago and it now seems that our message is getting through, that co-operatives as a context for learning are an effective way to achieve the outcomes laid down with Curriculum for Excellence. 

The SQA have themselves proposed the creation of an award in Fair Trade/Ethical trading which will sit nicely alongside our proposed award in Co-operative Studies, again supported by CG Scottish Membership V & P.  We are also awaiting a response from the Education Minister on his proposal for a new award in Scottish Studies and our suggestion that Co-operative Studies should be an integral part of any such award.

Hopscotch Theatre

Hopscotch has been involved in some excellent pieces of drama aimed at raising awareness amongst young people about the democratic system and trade justice.  We are currently working with them to take to our ASDAN schools (as above) a drama workshop which will introduce them to the concept of democratically owned and controlled businesses.

Summer Events

Working with CG Membership we have agreed to sponsor (through the Cammanachd Association) the supply of three “First Shinty” kits for use in primary and secondary schools throughout the City of Aberdeen.  The kits will be handed over at half time in the Aberdein Considine Sutherland Cup Final at Aberdeen University’s King’s Fields on Saturday 30th July 2011.

Again, we will be hosting a short workshop on co-ops at the Belladrum Festival, alongside the “Verb Garden” when the Co-operative Group Scotland & NI Board will be joining the festivities.

Scotmid are hosting an Enterprising Practitioners event in August at Hillwood House.  This group of schools enterprise development officers came together under Determined to Succeed but not have to look at those co-operative virtues of self help and self sufficiency if they are to continue functioning.  The Scotmid session will be used to explore a co-operative model as well as further progressing their knowledge and understanding of co-operative enterprise.

They will also be able to hear how co-operative business engagement is enabling pupils at Craigmount High to work towards Intermediate Retailing Awards with support from Stevenson College, Scotmid and CETS.

Learning and Teaching Resources   

In our 2009/11 funding application to CG Social Goals, we forecast we would get over 1500 of our various resource packs into 750 schools.  With over 6 months still to run, we have surpassed those targets by at least 10%.

We are now working on a new “Co-operative Food Chain” resource with financial and technical support from SAOS.  There are many existing resources out there and it has been noted that the majority of co-operative activity in the UK still centres on food in some shape or form.

 This will be an online option which highlights the co-operative option at every stage of the cycle – food production, food retail and distribution and through to food waste and re-cycling/renewable energy.  This resource will be launched early in the next school year.

Year of the Co-operative 2012

 The aforementioned support from CG Scottish Values & Principles is intended to culminate with the launch of the new SQA Awards and the graduation of the 200 ASDAN Young Co-operators.  It will obviously be our intention to showcase these at a major event in 2012.  Once we are clear of the overall Scottish programme of events we will announce more detail.  It would be our intention to aim for June 2012.

Some of you might have noticed that we are engaging with schools (Govan and Loudoun, including Fenwick Primary) which can lay claim to pre-Rochdale co-ops within their catchment areas.  We have also approached schools in Brechin (1832) and Lennoxtown (1812) to see if we can develop a co-operative co-op history project, highlighting the Scottish contribution to the global phenomenon that is the International Co-operative Economy being celebrated by the UN. (A point we made in our communication to the Scottish Education Minister).  Watch this space!

Higher Education

 We are now at the halfway point in our Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Aberdeen and the first learning and teaching resources should be available for the new university academic year.  This work has resulted in a grouping of co-operative academics working together and after an initial CETS presentation to the UK Society for Co-operative Studies Annual Conference 2010, there was a fringe meeting at Congress to progress the idea of a Co-operative University and Business School.

The Mondragon co-ops in the Basque Country already have their own university and CETS, with support from CDS, will be sending 3 students from the Scottish Agricultural College over on a study tour in early October.  The students won the CETS/CDS essay competition with a business plan for a farm forestry co-op.

The Education Market in Our Big Society

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I have just spotted an article in the Big Issue highlighting the new MSc in Social Enterprise offered by Glasgow Caledonian.  Delighted to see one of our higher education institutions offering teaching in alternative forms of enterprise and let’s hope more follow.  I suspect the author of the piece and/or headline writer would certainly benefit from some of that teaching.

I’ll skip my usual pedantic point about referring to “non-profit” organisations (the legal structure is non profit distributing) but I do have to question the statement “voluntary groups and charities seeking training  in how to generate more funding “  as a summary of what the MSc is trying to do to help social enterprises.  Learning how to generate new/more income streams whilst supplying a socially needed and ethical product or service would be how I would perceive a sustainable social enterprise heading.  Learning how to find more grants or donations is not what I understand social enterprise to be about.

If that comes across as a bit too semantic, I apologise, but we do need to remember the enterprise bit of social enterprise.  Just like co-ops (democratic social enterprises), they need to be viable businesses to continue to pursue their social objectives.  The enterprise issue does lead me into the main topic I wished to cover.  There was an article in the Guardian ( http://s.coop/14xa) which again raised this issue of how applicable enterprise models and market economics is to certain areas of society and social activity.


This article reminds us that Higher Education is not simply about undergraduates and highlights the importance of research.  It fits with my perception of our universities and colleges developing our knowledge base, the intellectual capital of UK PLc whilst also investing in our human assets.

I’m not clear if the author is arguing for no fees when he states “why not strip out all the sections relating to undergraduate fees and access”, if so, I am all for student equality across the UK.

However, there is a worrying undertone, a seeming blind acceptance that the market will provide the answer in education.

The article is peppered with business like references – “the universities are open for business”, “establish a market, putting students in the driving seat” and “higher education institutions are a substantial export service sector generating significant revenue”.  I am not aware of the author’s academic discipline but I assume the collapse of our financial sector has not passed him by.

The deregulation (and de-mutualisation) of this sector was supposed to increase competition and offer more choice to the benefit of the consumer which doesn’t quite fit with the recent report on the banking and financial sector.

I’m not against competition and as an active member of the Co-operative Movement I’m all for consumer (or worker) control of enterprise but those who advocate turning our higher education institutes into the supply side of a market in education awards should tread carefully.  If I am buying a degree at £27,000 (over 3 years) then you better make sure it is a First Class one because I am the consumer and I rule.  In fact, you better get your Marketing Department working on “Super Firsts” for those able and willing to pay more for their product.  It’s a market niche that can’t be ignored if you are going to drive up market share and revenues.  (Interestingly, a conversation with an F.E. lecturer indicated that this was an attitude he had encountered from some overseas students.  They were paying for their award and were slightly taken aback at the perceived rigour of some of the assessment they were required to undertake).

Meanwhile, back at the degree factory, for all this to work, you need the leadership and entrepreneurial skills to drive this business model forward.  To do that, this executive elite need to be incentivised which in turn will mean the pursuit of a listing to offer share options. 

If the disaster that was our financial services sector is a pointer to the future then we will end up with a higher education oligopoly offering little choice and little customer satisfaction but plenty of short term financial rewards for the senior executive teams and professionals who help them develop this unsustainable business model.  It might, however, produce a flow of multi-millionaires for future Westminster Cabinets.

If the Treasury have any foresight, they should be creating the bailout fund now.

The Co-operative Model in Practice

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Calling all co-operators; we are looking for contributions to add to our new educational resource – The Co-operative Model in Practice. This collection of articles/interviews is aimed at postgraduate students of co-operative studies/business courses. The collection aims to highlight the way the co-operative, mutual and employee-owned models of enterprise operate, with a view to answering two key questions:

1.      What is the greatest benefit or competitive advantage you derive from being a co-operative, mutual or employee-owned business? E.g. strong membership, values and principles etc.

2.      What is the biggest constraint to your business from being a co-operative, mutual or employee-owned business? E.g. slow decision making, disinterested membership etc.

Contributors are encouraged to write about their business or experience in these types of enterprise with passion and relevance to the issues facing them in the 21st century.

Full details oconcerning this collection can be found in this document: The Co-operative Model in Practice; or on our dedicated website: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/cets/resources/.