Young Co-operatives Challenge, Co-operative Schools Conference
Students were challenged to form their own Young Co-operative in just an hour at the There is an Alternative for Schools conference which took place at Co-operatives 2010 in Plymouth from 25-27 June.
Small groups of students from seven co-operative schools across the country – Sutherland Business and Enterprise College and Wrockwardine Wood Arts College from Telford, Crosby High School from Liverpool, Upper Shirley High School from Southampton, Lipson Community College from Plymouth, Sir Thomas Boughey High School from Stoke on Trent and St Cleres School from Thurrock – got to know each other through team-building exercises such as playing human bingo and constructing the tallest newspaper tower.
Both students and staff took part in workshops and discussions across the weekend about how to embed the co-operative values into their school, from engaging members to incorporating co-operation into the curriculum. On the final day of the conference, students organised into small groups to come up with ideas for their own Young Co-operative – with a twist! Each team was given a Fair Trade banana and told to come up with a business plan – complete with a name, budget, ethical policy and ideas of how to reinvest the profits – based on the fruit.
The new Young Co-operatives came up with varied and imaginative ideas, from co-operatives selling banana sculptures to an artists’ co-operative using bananas to print onto different surfaces such as wallpaper and pencil cases, with products to suit every wallet, which would be sold at community events.
Bio nana’s business involved creating banana-based biofuel using waste fruit from supermarkets, with the fruit fermented into alcohol, and recycling the banana skins. All profits would be put back into Fair Trade companies.
The shoe shine co-operative Shine o Rama even began trading at the conference, with its first customers paying 20p each to have their shoes shined with a banana skin. Customers were also encouraged to eat the bananas whilst their shoes were being shined, to promote healthy eating.
The Young Co-operatives presented their ideas at the Annual Review of the Co-operative College in front of delegates and Co-operative College staff, including Chief Executive Mervyn Wilson, who said: “These are not just the co-operators of the future – they are also the co-operators of today.”