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Co-opville: a role-play game for young people

Co-opville logo

Young people at a co-operative youth camp were the first to play a new, hands-on role-play game which simulates the experience of what it’s like to be part of the co-operative business world.

The developed world farmers made, then traded, origami cows for 'milk' during Co-opville

Co-opville, which was devised by the Co-operative College for CoCamp, the annual international co-operative camp for young people, is ideal for giving 10-16 year olds an insight into the co-operative values and principles in business situations. Participants are grouped into seven teams, each of which takes on the functions of a co-operative: a co-operative bank; a farmers’ co-operative in the developing world; a farmers’ co-operative in the developed world; a co-operative retailer; a co-operative cafe; a media co-operative and a recycling co-operative. Depending on their skills and interests, each player is allocated a role within their co-operative, from cashier to social goals officer, waiter to sales person, pot washer to manager.

Co-opville trading in full swing.

In just two and a half hours, each co-operative has to secure the necessary start-up capital from the co-operative bank to get their co-operative off the ground and come with a name, vision statement and workplan, before actively producing a product – players follow instructions to make representative objects such as origami cows and recycled paper bags – which are then marketed and sold to the other co-operatives. Players must co-operate within their teams to ensure the success of their co-operative – but also realise the importance of trading with other co-operatives and the interrelationships between different businesses in the co-operative enterprise chain. The use of a physical currency to trade – ‘Co-llar’ notes and cheques, specially produced for the game – adds an extra element of realism.

Of course, co-operatives are about more than buying and selling. To be successful in the game, teams must not just accrue ‘Co-llars’, but demonstrate they have made a difference to their communities by undertaking community and environmental challenges. These challenges help the co-operatives think about how the co-operative values and principles are relevant in business situations, and consider issues like Fairtrade. Teams are given awards recognising qualities in their co-operatives such as democracy, creativity and being environmentally friendly.

The media company create advertising for other co-operatives during Co-opville.

Michael Fairclough, Head of Community and Campaigns at the Co-operative Group, visited CoCamp and was a guest judge for Co-opville. He said: “I was very impressed with the game. It introduces students to co-operative enterprise and the co-operative values and principles in business situations in a fun, interactive way.”

Eleanor Thomason, a Year 12 student from All Hallows Catholic High School, a co-operative Business and Enterprise College, in Macclesfield, helped develop Co-opville during a summer work placement at the Co-operative College. She attended CoCamp to see the game in action. She said: “There were so many other fun activities going on but Co-opville was different to anything else. Everyone enjoyed it and had fun. The players all got into character and took it really seriously. It made them feel quite grown up having different tasks to do they wouldn’t usually do. It was also a way for them to interact with each other and meet different people.”

The developing world farmers get into characted by wearing straw hats for Co-opville.

Eleanor worked alongside Tiziana Cucaro who is spending thirteen weeks at the College on a work placement with the Leonardo da Vinci programme for Italian graduates. Tiziana hopes to embark on a career in Events Management. She said: “It was great to see all our hard work for Co-opville pay off and I am proud to have contributed to its success! The players really made the most of their experience. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and the atmosphere was great! I was impressed by the way the players understood the links between the different businesses and the co-operative values and principles.”

Michael Fairclough, Head of Community and Campaigns at the Co-operative Group, gives out prizes.

CoCamp 2011 was held over ten days at Walesby Forest Activity Centre in Newark-on-Trent at the start of August, and attended by thousands of young co-operators from all over the world. Julie Thorpe, Head of School and Youth Programmes at the Co-operative College, said: “Co-opville parodies a popular internet trading game and brings the idea of co-operative enterprise to life. Participants are introduced to a range of different aspects of co-operative values and principles – membership, self-responsibility, governance, multiple bottom lines, co-operation between co-operatives, and so on, through the tasks they have to complete.

“The young people have to work together in small groups running a ‘virtual’ co-operative business – the dairy farmers must produce origami cows so that they can sell milk to the retailers. The café group buy milk, fruit and coffee beans from the retailers, the media company offer marketing services to the other co-operatives and the bank make loans and look after everyone’s money. At the end the International Co-operative Alliance presents a series of awards.

“The young people who played Co-opville at CoCamp really enjoyed it and gave us very positive feedback. They all said they’d learnt a great deal from the game about the world of co-operative business and about team work. Whilst the game was designed specifically for the camp programme we are now thinking about how we can roll it out to co-operative schools as an innovative learning tool.”

The co-operative retailers are 'here to help' during the Co-opville game.

Co-opville will also be offered to co-operative schools. For more information, or if you are interested in running Co-opville in your school, contact Julie@co-op.ac.uk.