17 September 2009

Principle 5: Learning together to be a better co-op

A post from Adrian Ashton sharing his thoughts on training - Training...an idea that either fills you with enthusiasm, or fills you with dread (depending on your experience of previous trainers). Or, maybe something that your co-op regularly budgets for (in cash and time), or views as a luxury – to be undertaken only if someone else is paying and no-one's off sick or on holiday...

Whatever our feelings may be, training and learning are key aspects of any co-operative enterprise: remember, in the absence of a legal definition of what constitutes a co-operative business in the UK we rely on being identified by our values and principles which include:
  • Principle 5, A commitment to the education, training of members and workers.
So, we need to do be doing this, but what if we're facing some of the constraints listed above? It's not uncommon for co-ops to have had bad experiences with trainers who didn't 'get' what a co-op is, nor in this current training climate to be facing difficultly in justifying spend on training courses.

There is a solution which also neatly fits with another of our defining characteristics:
  • Principle 6 Co-operation between Co-operatives - We should work together at local, regional, national and international levels to achieve our aims.
As a movement, we've fundamentally changed the way business is done by showing that our alternative model can not only work, but also is also a very powerful tool to address all sorts of issues in our society and world. In doing so, we've created a lot of knowledge, expertise and skill.

So how do we look outside of ourselves to source training?
We've an internationally recognised College that specialises in co-operative learning, most relevant for small and medium co-operatives at the moment is a practical work-based learning scheme.

We have numerous networks (both local, regional and on-line). Many co-operatives informally support each other from phone calls, and visits to staff swaps. We now also have tools to allow us to measure our performance against our defining values and principles (CESPIs) so can even more easily identify who we might want to approach to ask for some ideas...

Above all – remember learning doesn't have to be a stuffy formal classroom affair: it can be done as a shared activity with other co-ops, be as simple as reading and article or listening to a podcast, or even spending time down the pub with other co-op members.

What's stopping you?
What is stopping us from learning together, post your challenges here, or on our facebook group and lets see what we can all do to suggest 'work-arounds' to them.

Comments from John Atherton
From talking with members I hear of lots ways members are or have learned together.

Daily Bread and Unicorn used to do staff exchanges, as did Brixton Cycles and Bicycle Doctor does anyone still do these, or would they like me to facilitate exchanges?

Becky of Who Made Your Pants recently visited Infinity to learn about engaging members in the Co-operative Culture. Both parties even got paid for this through a NCVO fund called Only Connect.

Members are always asking for example policies and procedures, and I share what I have on a resources page for worker co-operatives (I am always looking for new resources and links to add).

We are developing an online resources repository, wiki and the ability to discuss issues with other members on a new Business Networking Website (more information on this in November).

I agree with Adrian, there are lots of opportunties for co-operatives to learn from each other. What are your barriers to doing more?


MJ Ray said...

Is that resources page meant to be behind a login?

The problem I've had with Co-op College is that they seemed uninterested in producing distance-learning materials that work on cooperatively-developed computer systems. We'd have to buy from our competitors to access them, which is a non-starter.

In the co-op, we've done a few half-hour ad-hoc training sessions and may look to produce notes and training resources from them for others in the future.

John Atherton said...

thats great MJ, do please pass them to me and i'll be glad to make them available to other people.