I'm sure we're all familiar with the Co-op, right? The name has been a fixture on our High Streets for years, but I have only recently read about the origins of the Co-op which date back to 1844.
The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was a group of artisans and weavers who laid down early guidelines and principles as to how consumer co-operatives should work, a framework which is still used by co-operatives worldwide today. These early pioneers were being forced into poverty with increased mechanisation in their industries, so they decided to club together to open a store selling food and other goods which they and their colleagues were otherwise unable to afford. This started a boom in co-operatives and only ten years later the British Co-operative Movement had grown to nearly 1000 members.
This ethos of these early pioneers continues within the Co-operative to this day; the Co-op stock an extensive range of Fair Trade products both in branded goods and in their own range and their community fund, which helps to finance many local organisations and community schemes.
The Co-op is a great example of a 'caring corporate' and this is the focus of their latest TV ad campaign, launching this month. The campaign highlights the work of the early pioneers whose legacy is still found in The Co-operative Group, but can also be found in thousands of other co-operatives across the globe.
I've read with interest about many worthwhile schemes supported by the Co-operative Community Fund, but the one that appealed to me the most was The Co-operative British Youth Film Academy, which gives 14-25 year olds from all backgrounds an opportunity to attend Summer Camps and build their practical skills by working with industry professionals on their own feature-length films, but also helps to develop their personal skills and confidence.
One of the academy's success stories is John Montegrande, for whom the BYFA provided a much-needed opportunity to overcome personal problems and realise his dream of a career in film.
Starting in a junior role, John worked his way up to become Head of Acting in 2008. Along the way he developed invaluable life skills, as well as greater technical expertise. He is now studying acting, developing personal theatre projects and is even co-founder of a production company.
Although this case study appealed to my interests, there are dozens of schemes to get involved with, including Toy Libraries, Urban Beekeeping projects and even a community-owned wind farm, all of which are mentioned in the new ads.
I was also interested to discover that a Dorset group for parents with special needs children, Coping with CHAOS is in receipt of a grant from the community fund. I'm aware of this group as some people I know from Mother and Toddler groups regularly attend, so I was pleased to be able to relate what I've been reading back to a group that I know.
Reading about the fund has actually got me quite interested in looking further at it, as I belong to a community theatre group in Wimborne which would benefit from the support the fund provides. One way in which the fund could help is in allowing the group to provide more education and outreach work in the local community. We are currently in residence at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne, but I know the group is keen to expand the current programme of concerts which take place in local retirement and care homes. There would also be the scope to provide practical training to young people in aspects of staging a theatrical production, from taking part through to financing and stagecraft. These are all things that would be great to do with funds permitting, but are just not possible in the current economic climate.
There is a wealth of information on the Co-operative Group and their community work on their Facebook page and on their main site, including information on how to apply to the community fund on behalf of your local community groups and organisations.
If you know of any local groups that could benefit from an application to the community fund, then please pass the link to this piece along to them, or direct them to the Co-operative website.
This is a Sponsored Post but all opinions in it are my own, and I really do tread the boards from time to time, children permitting!