Made in Europe: CoopTic in Catalonia

Card's author : Jordi Picart i Barrot - Aposta sccl
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Testimonies :

Once upon a time

The CoopTic project arrived at our door in a rather informal way, as is often the case with these types of ideas, and provided an indication of an approach that places less emphasis on formal structures than on people networks: someone who knew someone had spoken about us and had proposed us getting involved. It was an opportunity, they told us, to explore new ways to design training and training tools.
Our school has always been characterised by its desire to ensure all training fits in with the principles of the cooperative movement that defines our own raison d'ĂȘtre, and this has traditionally obliged it to be very innovative in terms of its methodologies. Consequently, any opportunity to incorporate new perspectives is welcome and so at the time we hesitated very little over our participation in the project.
The initial working meetings, which alternated between telephone conferences between various parties, videoconferences, and a face to face meeting, immediately led us to understand that we were dealing with a much more ambitious idea than a simple exchange of methodologies; even so, this continued to be the interest of our organisation in the project.

The real meaning of the project

Regarding the direction the project took once up and running, there is little we need to add to all the information contained in the book you have in your hands; a quick glance at the index, however, can confirm various important concepts for you:

A proposal for a personal development journey

The project is based on a solid amount of intellectual material. In proposing that people obtain a ticket for CoopTic, we are suggesting to them a journey of personal development directed towards concepts linked with the common good, with sharing, with collective production. This goes beyond the simple strategy of exploring new tools to improve the projects that each is working on: it consists of exploring new attitudes and alternative states of mind. Not in an explicit way but undoubtedly involving epistemological change.

A truly meaningful learning process

The value of a meaningful learning process applies to everyone: offering the student an environment that allows him to experience what he has learnt and immediately incorporate it based on this experience. It's common to offer this type of environment; CoopTic however, doesn't build simulations but fills with meaning the use of the tools with a concrete goal, which reinforces the acquired concepts and adds more meaning to the methodologies, so they feed into each other in a really powerful, efficient way.

A network that creates networks

It is set out in the objectives of the project, and is therefore no secret to anyone: CoopTic is pursuing the creation of a European network of network facilitators; a suite of levels that contains within it a knowledge transfer process designed to act like an oil stain: from the promoting organisations to the members, and from these to their target public…and from here to the wider geographic environment.
And this, in a much closer working environment with closer relationships than would be the case with organisations that are not formal and associated, but is not the case with a project like the European Leonardo da Vinci project that is laid out to the millimetre. The CoopTic network manages to achieve involvement, co-participation, collective construction, inter-cooperation…

The fundamental challenge

All the training process that took place in 2012 was undertaken in French, even though it was geographically spread out, with the inspiration of the promoting organisations. Transmitting such complex (intangible) elements to a different reality, in a different language, became the major challenge.
It wasn't about translating materials and content; on the other hand, it wasn't possible to count on the direct expertise of the principal creators of the course. It would have been surreal to provide an important number of training hours with simultaneous translation, and a simple conference of one of two hours didn't justify the movement of the experts from neighbouring France.
On the other hand, our school has a well-defined target group and it was necessary to make an effort to adapt and include the whole group: the explicit and implicit objectives, the content and its orientation, and the methodologies. Even scheduling the calendar was unviable: if three three-day meetings had taken place in isolated locations to foster creativity and the cohesion of a strong group dynamic, with the possible Catalan users it was illusory to replicate such a scheme.

The options for adaptation involved:

Revisiting the contents in light of the social economy

The Catalan participants in the training programme came from organisations providing support to people, from cooperatives, from civic collectives…. Their needs are in keeping with a reality noticeably different from the original. This factor was the simplest to resolve, although though most arduous: a thorough analysis of the content of the training programme, a rethinking of the weight that each and every person had in the programme as a whole and the inclusion of specific modules to connect the original content with that of social economy.

Looking within the participants

The formulation of the title can seem pretentious, however the work on the core topics, linked with the personal attitudes in relation to the collaborative work and the common good, was the main victim of the fact that the people who inspired the core of the training proposal were not able to travel.
Yes, their texts were available; and someone translated them. However, what was effective was providing many opportunities for group reflection and exchanges; in other words, proposing to the participants that, based on the available texts and following a structured work schedule, they produce this knowledge autonomously.

Putting forward methodologies to strengthen the group and facilitate the creation of networks

It was necessary to compensate for the loss of opportunities to do things together (the course in Catalonia consisted of three days separated by a month in between each, with distance learning modules in between) with an extra focus on the collaborative activities, on opportunities for informal interaction, on getting to know each other.
Wherever possible, the analysis component of the work projects was undertaken taking into account the realities and basic difficulties of each of the participants.
Everyone was encouraged to contribute imaginative solutions to the difficulties of others.
Everyone was encouraged to be receptive, to listen to what others proposed regarding his or her problem.
Essentially, the aim was for the bonds of familiarity to strengthen at a rapid rate so that relationships would remain after the end of the course.

The participants evaluate the training

Once the course is finished, and at the time when a second course is being planned, various reviews are done in light of their personal evaluations:
  • The majority explicitly mention the adaptation components that we have just listed; consequently, these components have been present and noticeable in the course. And, it's important to say, the evaluation that is made of them is also very favourable.
  • Participation in a course with these characteristics represents an effort and dedication, however they state overwhelmingly that they would like even more sessions or, as a minimum, the realisation of some short one-off event that complements and widens the concepts.
  • The opportunities to maintain the links of collaboration between the participants have already occurred and, therefore, the participant from one entity has invited that of another to deliver a training session for his colleagues.
Last but not least, there is an intangible benefit that also gives an idea of the extent of the impact: Aposta is receiving requests, isolated but sufficient in number, to believe that there exists an interest in becoming familiar with the proposed training scheme and testing out ways to implement it with the cooperatives and entities within the Catalan social economy and tertiary sector.
And this cannot be considered a success; it is, simply, the clearest proof that we have a good idea on our hands, structured in a coherent way and oriented towards offering new and little used ways to those organisations that, seeking social change, need appropriate models.