Young co-operators celebrate their Ethical Enterprise Challenge achievements
Finalists in the Co-operative College’s second Ethical Enterprise Challenge travelled from all over the country to celebrate their achievements at Blackwell Adventure Centre in Bromsgrove near Birmingham.
Members of Young Co-operatives and students from co-operative schools were challenged to set up their own co-operative enterprises in just three months earlier this year, with prizes including Greenest Enterprise, Most Successful Enterprise, Excellence in Co-operation, Community Impact and Best Overall Enterprise.
The three schools who reached the final set up businesses ranging from a coffee co-operative to recycling enterprises. Our Coffee Co-operative at Reddish Vale Technology College, a co-operative school in Stockport, has been selling Oromo coffee in school and to the local community, helping both Ethiopian refugees in the UK and the Oromo community in Ethiopia. Profits have been put towards exploring African culture in school and democratic working. Phil Arnold, Director of College Improvement at Reddish Vale, said: “Students directly engaged with promotion of social justice in the Reddish community through direct action. The alternative co-operative approach challenged the normal thinking and behaviours in the school and wider community, growing learners’ understanding and knowledge of the impact of their decisions in the real world not a simulated business environment.”
Students from Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne, Kent, set up a co-operative selling Floppy Easter Bunnies made from donated second hand clothes, with the profits going to the family of a year 7 student in the school who has Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma so they could enjoy a day out. Sarah Palmer, Community Cohesion Manager and Young Co-operatives Co-ordinator at Fulston Manor School, said: “I was extremely proud of the lads. They had worked so hard alongside the other members of the Young Co-operative and learnt so many new skills in the process. They enjoyed the experience immensely.”
Wish Upon A Tree, the enterprise at the Glasgow Academy, promoted the co-operative values and raised awareness of other cultures by decorating the school with tags made from recycled newspaper, on which fellow pupils could write their own messages. Profits were donated to the WWF. Students explain how they took the co-operative values into account when running their business: “We worked democratically, making sure that everyone had a say in the running of Wish Upon A Tree. We each took responsibility for different parts of the project to make sure that everything was done. No one dictated to the group what to do and we had equal shares in the decision making. We were open and tried to involve as many people across the school as possible, including nursery and kindergarten and eco-schools and Fairtrade groups. We put the value of ‘social responsibility’ at the heart of our business idea by encouraging people to improve the environment. And by giving the profits to charity we are showing that we care for the environment.”
They continued: “It was very successful and we have all bonded more because of this and got to know each other a lot better. We have learnt how to work in a team as well as independently. We have learnt how working together towards a common goal can give us all a great sense of achievement and a better understanding of co-operative values.”
Each enterprise was asked to evaluate the challenges they faced and how they were overcome co-operatively, and assess their achievements. Students set up trade stands for the event, as well as making presentations to a distinguished panel of judges comprising Beatrice Okeyo from the Swedish Co-operative Centre in Kenya, John Boot, Vice President, Midcounties Co-operative and Michelle Lockwood, National Projects Officer, the Co-operative Membership.
A fun-filled three days were enjoyed by everyone, as it wasn’t all hard work – students got to know each other better through co-operative games, and took part in activities including swimming, tree trekking and a zip wire.
Watch videos from the event, including interviews with the Young Co-operatives involved, on the Young Co-operatives YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/youngcooperatives.