In this article, we'll explore what is co-operative learning, what knowledge base materials exists for co-operatives and their members, subsequently we will propose how a co-operative learning methodology can make a difference.

For budding co-operative founders, finding resources on how to start a co-operative is widely available.  As Sanjay Verma agreed with us, there is almost too much information scattered all over the internet and the quality of the material varies tremendously.

“As the internet material is widely distributed, it is difficult to collect all the relevant training material at one place in accordance with the content of the training programme” Sanjay Verma, Dy Director, NCUI

Co-operative and collaborative approaches to  product development are well proven.  For example, open source software has become extremely popular and mainstream.  Contributions from many, with a structured guiding framework can yield truly amazing results.

Can the same be said about training?  It seems the development of training courses and associated knowledge-base materials happen in "passive mode".  It's a one-way street - fire-and-forget.  Surely in these testing times we can do better?  

Education, training and information is 1 of the 7 guiding ICA principles for co-operatives.

Being able to continue training and disseminating information becomes even more important during times of a global pandemic.  The global pandemic has challenged the way we think and do things.

How do we organise all this valuable content? How do we make it accessible to the people who need it the most? and how can we measure whether or not the training information has resulted in positive social impact for the co-operatives and their members?

"Co-operative learning aims to organise classroom activities into academic and social learning experiences. It has been widely studied in educational settings with students." – Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, Nelson, & Skon, 1981

Can the positive outcomes of co-operative learning and the collaborative success of open source software be applied to training? If so how? Are co-operatives using a collaborative approach to learning? As Principle 6 states, "Collaboration among Co-operatives" .

What knowledge base materials exists?

There is no shortage of knowledge base materials for co-operatives. We estimate there to be 2,000-3,000 knowledge artefacts centred around co-operatives.

Here are some of the ones we found:

ICA Online learning- There is a search function to find publications, reports and press releases.

Coopedia - a collaborative search engine listing resources (guides, articles, videos, books and more) on co-operative entrepreneurship. Giving co-operative experts the opportunity to reference their own resources and build a ‘one-stop shop’ for co-operative knowledge that may typically be scattered around different websites.

ILO Tools - The ILO provides capacity building and training services that enable co-operatives and other social and solidarity economy (SSE) enterprises to become more competitive and sustainable in the marketplace.

These are all fantastic resources, but where is the co-operation and collaboration? How can the quality of these resources be assessed?  Where is the feedback loop?

How can we maximise our collective efforts?

What if there was a system that can generate a personalised training programme based on your profile and needs in real time?  (i.e. size of coop/ sector based / type of user).  A truly personalised training programme for co-operatives and members. Where resources that exists can be pulled centrally and be recommended depending on needs.

Moreover, the community can collaborate with one another to come together.   Why not include a rating and reviews system?  So that the best training programmes "bubble up" to the top of the stack.

Measuring the results

As Peter Drucker famously stated, "If You Can't Measure It, You Can't Improve It.".  Measuring performance requires reliable data.  

Member feedback is key to measuring the success of training programmes.  This qualitative data can be combined with quantitate data collected through activities like knowledge sharing, education, volunteer and event participation.

This can't be done if your information is all over the internet in formats that you can't use or access. So, it makes sense to have your information in one place and available on a continuous basis.  In this way, progress can be tracked against predefined goals and objectives in real-time.  See our companion article on measuring co-operative performance for more information.

Anycoop's co-operative learning system

Anycoop has developed a service for co-operatives. We understand that education, training and learning is one of the important guiding principles that co-operatives follow.

We are building a community where co-operatives can discover, engage and trade with one another.

We found that a "community approach to co-operative learning" was missing. We have set out to change this by empowering co-operatives with a service which can be accessible to everyone.

Have we missed something?  We would love to know what you think. Please help contribute by participating in the survey below.