CoopCamp: A new tool to teach youth about cooperatives in Europe

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CoopCamp: A new tool to teach youth about cooperatives in Europe

Guest Blog from our Members ConcertES

CoopCamp is a project to raise awareness of cooperative values among young people, but it is above all an online learning experience, fun and accessible to everyone.

In 2021, pilot classes were set up in five European countries to test a learning path based on the cooperative model. In the end, more than 200 students from technical or vocational secondary schools in Belgium, Spain, Italy, Poland and Sweden benefited from this pilot project. Behind this program of courses for students over 15 years old, lies the desire to promote the cooperative model as an alternative to traditional entrepreneurship. The interest of the CoopCamp learning path is to connect young people to alternative and sustainable business models through real-life situations. The objective is to provide youth with tools and scenarios that would enable them to develop their own cooperative later on.

The CoopCamp program is also an opportunity to meet people working in the field of social economy. For instance, the students from the Collège Saint-François-d’Assise in Belgium visited a restaurant (‘Le Perron de l’Ilon’ in Namur), which is also a Work Integration Social Enterprise (WISE) defending a sustainable vision of catering. During their internship, the pupils interviewed the person responsible for the Perron de l’Ilon about his motivations for working in the social economy. After the meeting, one student said he discovered that there are values other than those “that the others instilled in him” and that there are also cooperative values

 “such as surpassing oneself or ‘always wanting to go further’, without necessarily being put down because one does not succeed.” -Nicolas, 17 years old

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To reach its audience of young students, the CoopCamp project has developed an online learning path that is fun and accessible to all. The path is designed to be delivered face-to-face or online, with the possibility of adopting a mixed teaching mode. This has been thought to allow teachers to easily implement the program in their classrooms, especially in the Covid-19 context.

The gamified approach is innovative, and combines both practical and theoretical activities. It is based on a fictional approach about the creation of a cooperative by a group of pupils, embarking on an adventure that is strangely reminiscent of the fun teamwork adventures of of the “stranger things” series, that we currently see on our screens, where comradery and cooperation prevail. The course is also interspersed with situation-based activities during which the students are led, among other things, to build a model boat, with rules for collective use (to approach the principle of mutualism), or to create a Social Business Model Canvas on a project of their choice (to create a cooperative).

As a result of the CoopCamp training, the Belgian pupils decided for instance to create a zero-waste restaurant in their school. And the project will actually start at the beginning of the next school year, with the support of an organization specialized in the development of zero waste initiatives:

I really liked the CoopCamp project, because we did a kind of ‘problem and solution’ situation, and we all gave our ideas for the zero-waste restaurant project. We’re going to do everything to succeed. And well, I’m really interested in this project.” – Marie, 18 years old

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Moreover, the activities were carried out in groups and are subject to collective decisions, which allows for example to develop communication skills, such as collective negotiation or democratic decision making. Beyond the basic cooperative values, some young people were also led to ask themselves questions about their life project: 

I liked [the CoopCamp courses] because we were all together, we discussed a lot together, we worked in groups, and I like that a lot. And then, well, it gave me ideas for myself later on, in the sense that it made me want to help young people in difficulty, that’s what interests me later on.” – Kader, 20 years old

This opening of young people to a new world of possibilities, based on human values, solidarity and responsibility, is an undeniable added value of the CoopCamp program.

The CoopCamp project brings together fourteen organizations active in the social economy in the five partner countries, including mainly federations of cooperatives, as UCOERM (Union of Cooperative Schools of Murcia’s Region), as well as an Italian university and a representative platform of the social economy (ConcertES). The project is led by REVES Network (European Network of Cities and Regions for the Social Economy) and co-financed by the European Union through its COSME programme (Europe’s program for SMEs, Grant Agreement n° SI2.823561).

Project Website: www.coopcamp.eu

CoopCamp online tool: https://www.coopcamptool.eu/login/index.php

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