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Young Co-operator's Network (YCN) weekend

Younity blog | May 2024

Young Co-operator's Network (YCN) weekend group photo

A fantastic weekend at the gorgeous Bidston Observatory in Liverpool with the YCN.

Read on to hear all about the action-packed weekend Connie had with the YNC, or jump straight into the video. Watch the video through this link here! 

After a very smooth journey from Croydon to Birkenhead North, I arrived at 4pm on Friday. I was blown away at where I would be spending the next few days - Bidston Observatory Artistic Research Centre! After setting up my bed and settling it, I started to meet the other young co-operators from all over the UK. They were 18-30 year olds, either wanting to be part of the co-operative world, or already involved with a co-op.

Next, I mucked in and helped prepare our first night's dinner for around 30 of us - something I'd never done before. Luckily the tomato chickpea curry turned out well, and we had a relaxed evening getting to know each other and be introduced to the agenda for the weekend.

On Saturday morning, after a hearty breakfast, we had our first group activity. It was an ice-breaker, in which we all wandered round to music, and when the music stopped, we introduced ourselves to someone and shared what we thought a co-operative was. It was really interesting to hear so many different views!

Then we had our first big workshop in the basement, which started off with the history of the YCN. We learned that the YCN goes back to 2012 where a new co-op (AltGen), who’s founders Constance Laisné and Rhiannon Colvin dedicated themselves to challenging and addressing the structure and culture of work for young people in the post-crash economy through the creation of worker co-ops. In 2014 AltGen partnered with Co-operatives UK to launch the Young Co-operators’ Prize (YCP). The aim of the YCP was to inspire and support a new generation to set up worker co-operatives as a solution to youth unemployment. Five young co-ops would be selected to receive a £2,000 grant plus a training weekend away nested in the Worker Co-op Weekend in Oxfordshire.
After splitting into groups, we thought about how individuals might benefits from joining the YCN (e.g. experience & knowledge sharing, friendship, funding opportunities, jobs, link to alumni, find yourself in the movement.) We then discussed why an organisation would want to support the network (e.g. sponsorship, hope, wider network, spreading co-op concept/adopting principles, joined up voices.) Finally, it was "YCN vs. the world" and we had ideas for the future of the network, such as:

  • Working with the trade union movement
  • Having co-op ambassadors
  • Connecting with coops across the world
  • Having an online & offline network
  • Ensuring accessibility & inclusivity are top priorities
  • Be outwards facing
  • Lobbying as one voice
  • Being a safe space
  • Addressing racial imbalance in the co-operative world
  • Promoting young people's visions

After lunch, we then had a choice of workshops to attend. I went along to learn about creating videos to promote awareness of coops, led by Caleb Elliot from Ctrl Shift TV, where we were tasked with planning a video and storyboard. We had to consider our target audience, format, length, style and the call to action - this was a fantastic workshop!

Another break/dance session later and it was my turn to facilitate a workshop. I was using the Energy Citizen Empowerment kit to guide a discussion around the barriers to people getting involved with the community energy sector, focussing on variables of ethnicity, gender, socio-economic background and housing situation. It was a lively session and I will be feeding back the responses as part of the Government's 'Barriers to community energy' consultation.

The latter part of the day was filled with reflections, sunshine on the rooftop, a few glasses of wine and party games in the basement! I even dabbled with trying to DJ in the observatory's studio - but I won't quit my day job anytime soon... It was just a lovely way to round off a fulfilling day of learning, with other like-minded young people.

On Sunday morning, we gathered one last time to share hope for the future, and map out what would bring energy to, sustain energy in and drain energy from the YCN. We discussed opportunities for roles and made sure we all swapped contact details so we could stay in touch with our new found comrades!

It was a truly wonderful experience and I'm so lucky that I had the chance to go, especially as I'm only just under 30..!