Where next for the Co-operative Women’s Challenge?

Delegates at the Co-operative Education Conference in Manchester in April put their heads together to help shape the next stage of the Co-operative Women’s Challenge.

The Women’s Challenge was initially launched by the Co-operative Group, Co-operative College and Co-operatives UK in 2011, in order to address three challenges in the co-operative movement relating to democracy and representation, employment and leadership, and reshaping society.

In 2016, the College was commissioned by Co-operatives UK to interview twenty women in co-operatives about their experiences in order to keep the conversation going, and discovered a real desire for further events, support and opportunities to get involved.

The project will be relaunched in the summer with a series of events, resources and activities aimed at and responding to the needs of women in the co-operative movement.

Led by the Co-operative College and the Co-operative News, the conference workshop was attended by men and women employees, board members and directors of co-operatives, as well as academics and others, from all over the UK and internationally. It was a chance to influence the future direction of the project, and brainstorm ideas. Discussions took place around learning and development needs, opportunities for women to meet, and useful resources.

The outcomes reflected the ideas and experiences shared at previous events, where opportunities to meet, network and share experiences, skills and expertise with other co-operative women were high priorities. Some of the main themes that came out of the session were:

  • A desire for mentoring – a formal system across co-ops
  • Networks
  • A need for staff to be given time for CPD and to participate in networks
  • Sharing what’s been done well – case studies
  • Looking outside the co-op movement for inspiration and good practice, as well as inside it
  • Including women in co-ops internationally
  • Including men in discussions too

Watch this space for the next steps, and get in touch if you’d like to be involved.

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