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10 Sep 2018

Representatives from ten community development organisations from Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone joined Irish language cooperative CAIRDE Teo for a free, half day introductory course for aspiring community leaders and volunteers in Armagh City Hotel last weekend. The introductory course entitled ‘Community Empowerment and Cooperative Development’ was delivered by Dr Stiofán Ó Nualláin and Alice Mc Larnon MEd from specialised training agency Trademark.

Belfast-based Trademark assists in the development of worker co-operatives. In developing successful business ventures they can contribute to economic security and community regeneration leaving a genuine legacy of sustainability and social justice. Trademark is a member of the Worker Cooperative Network which brings together worker cooperatives from across the island of Ireland to promote worker cooperatives  and inter-cooperation.

Delegates at the training course in Armagh also heard a presentation from the pioneering Belfast Cleaning Society. The Belfast Cleaning Society is a worker cooperative who have tended to the needs of the stars at the MTV Awards and also cleaned up after 65,000 customers during the Tennents Vital music festival.

Those participating on the course were presented with the opportunity to attend a further series of workshops, advice clinics and bespoke support meetings, culminating in the production of business plans and the procurement of additional supports towards the establishment of new community and workers’ cooperatives. The course was of particular benefit to existing and emerging community leaders who will be supported in rolling out cooperative development programmes. Participants will also receive further mentoring and support to ensure that prospective enterprises are developed on a sustainable footing.

Trademark are an ICTU affiliate based in Belfast and offer a range of education and training courses, accredited and unaccredited. Co-operatives can offer  practical alternative means to create employment, tackle poverty and also resist and challenge sectarianism by bringing workers together daily to work democratically for joint benefit in which values of trust and democracy replace the dynamics of suspicion and mistrust, building permanent structures with real relationships.

Both Trademark and CAIRDE Teo possess unique experience and expertise in bringing together local community interests to work together for mutual benefit. CAIRDE Teo established Aonach Mhacha as a community cooperative that is currently erecting a new £2 million cultural enterprise hub in Armagh City that will open to the public in 2019 providing employment and incubation space for the emerging social economy.

This project is being delivered with financial support from the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All Programme.