A chronic lack of awareness is damaging the ability of co‑operatives to provide answers to social issues faced by younger people.
Offering Hope to Future Generations, a new report from trade body Co-operatives UK, finds that mental health, job security, career prospects, a lack of control over working lives and climate change are major causes of stress in young people.
The report, which outlines key findings from a YouGov survey of 16 to 25 year olds,* also shares inspiring examples of young people working and living co-operatively across the UK. However, a desperate lack of awareness is stifling the ability of co-operatives to provide answers to social issues faced by younger people.
Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operatives UK, said: “This is one of the most challenging times to be a young person in the UK. This report highlights the many challenges: mental health issues; poor job prospects, the climate emergency.”
This is one of the most challenging times to be a young person in the UK. But there’s hope. Ownership and control aids mental health and wellbeing significantly. The co-operative movement is a beacon of hope for those who want more control of their future.
– Rose Marley, CEO, Co-operatives UK
“But there’s hope. Ownership and control aids mental health and wellbeing significantly. The co-operative movement is a beacon of hope for those who want more control of their future.”
“Co-operatives allow young people to thrive in an environment that provides fair wages and secure jobs, tackles climate change and provides both educational and personal development alongside a sense of belonging.”
However, poor awareness is hampering the ability of co-operatives to provide solutions to social issues and concerns. Rose added: “Many younger people are looking for an ethical employer that treats customers and staff fairly. It’s time to do more to introduce them to the concept of joining co-operatives as a way of having a say in where they work, live and consume.”
The report reveals that more than two-thirds (68%) of 16 to 25-year-olds have experienced mental health problems or know someone who has. Two out of three (66%) feel there are not enough good jobs for young people while 61% believe that the gig economy treats them unfairly.
Offering Hope to Future Generations also provides recommendations so more young people can be empowered through co-operatives and co-operation. The report recommends that:
- Information on co-operatives should be included in careers guidance and educational curricula across a range of topics, including business and economics
- Government employment schemes should be made more accessible to co-operative employers
- Co-operative options should be explored in activities that support young people to:
- Become entrepreneurs
- Develop their skills, experience, and aspirations in work, living and social action
- Seek and find employment
Those younger workers who have discovered co-operatives are reaping the rewards. Fabio Cawley, aged 25, joined Chapel Street Studio, a co-op of freelance creatives based in Bradford.
Fabio Cawley, Chapel Street Studios, discovered his talent for teaching risographic printing thanks to his involvement with two Bradford co-ops.
Fabio said: “Thanks to being part of this co-op I feel part of a team now. I never really had that with my other jobs. I’ve had some bad experiences. It’s a nice atmosphere at Chapel Street. That’s one of the main things compared to other jobs. I’ve heard my friends talk about their experiences and I think, ‘I’m happy with this.’”
Steph Rutherford found purpose and peace of mind working at Village Greens, a worker co-op in Prestwich, Greater Manchester. The 29-year-old said: “I’ve had struggles with my mental health, so as much as it was to help out the store, it was also knowing that I would struggle living by myself at that time as well.”
At Village Greens co-op, Stephanie found purpose, fun and flexibility around her performing arts career
“There’s always a positive energy in here. It still helps now, if I’m feeling low or whatever. The world’s a complex place and some days you don’t feel great. I’ve had a long struggle with my mental health. And every day I go into work I come out feeling better, which I know is incredibly rare; knowing you’ve got a support network around you.”
Joe Friel is a founder member of Yalla Cooperative, a web design and development agency. The team of young tech experts are based in the UK, Palestine, Turkey and Germany where international co-operation is key.
Joe said: “Countless times I’ve spoken to friends who say they’re in a toxic work culture and because they’re just starting out, they have to do their dues there for three years. I’ve personally seen that isn’t the way that co-ops work.”
Joe Friel (centre), Yalla Cooperative “Co‑operatives have a greater commitment to helping and sharing knowledge.”
“You are given a voice and allowed to bring fresh ideas – and the business benefits from that. It’s a symbiotic thing. In turn, if you feel like you’re shaping the organisation you are part of, then you are likely to achieve more as a person than in other structures.”
“For young people, if you can find the right support and community, there’s no end to what you can achieve.”
- Read Offering Hope to Future Generations in full