Cooperative entrepreneurship and education: dialogue started with the EU Commission

On 11th October, the second meeting of the permanent working group on cooperatives set up by EU Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani took place in Brussels. A group of field experts from national cooperative organisations, some European sectoral organisations and representatives from the EU Commission attended the meeting.

The meeting focused on cooperative entrepreneurship and education. Participants in the meeting discussed how to promote the cooperative business model among young people through the education curricula and foster cooperative entrepreneurship.

Field experts and cooperative organisations shared their experiences around Europe. From discussions it emerged that young people are experiencing a growing interest for an education in business management linked to ethics, and it is necessary to focus this interest on cooperative management education. They all agreed that different ways of doing business exist, which should equally deserve attention and included into school curricula.

Education on cooperatives should start as soon as possible, at the primary school, and should be recognised by the educational system of each country in order to be effective. Likewise, education on cooperatives should be related to the real world of cooperative enterprise, providing students with the possibility of doing an internship in a cooperative, for instance. Finally, the discussion addressed as well the issue of training within enterprises cooperatives on cooperative management.

The EU Commission presented a number of on-going European programmes regarding education. DG Education of the European Commission is currently focusing on education and entrepreneurship. Experts discussed how to include cooperatives and their specificities in these programmes, which are currently designed according to the ‘traditional’ business form.

The EU Commission proposed to continue working in this direction in small groups of 3 or 4 field experts from national organisations.

Agnès Mathis, Deputy Director at Cooperatives Europe commented: “During this second meeting of the working group cooperative organisations shared very interesting national experiences. However, the potential of cooperative initiatives regarding education and training is underestimated and would deserve greater attention both at national and European level. The working group, reinforcing the roadmap on this specific issue, will work exactly in this direction”.

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