Tackling Unemployment Through Fair Trade Community Enterprise


Participants in the LYF Not Just A community enterprise workshops at their stall in Manchester

Right now we are all a mixture of sadness AND excitement! How is this possible? Well, our very first short-term ‘Ethical Enterprise Course’ has come to an end.  But the positive bit for us has been seeing the incredible changes in the lives, aspirations and the new social enterprise drives of all of those who have attended the course.

Supported by an ESF Community grant through the WEA, we delivered a 10-workshop course, using our successful ‘Not Just a Community Enterprise’ learning model. We wanted to help create some new ideas for The Oromo Coffee Co social enterprise – as well as helping local people back into work. We named our course ‘Equality and Unity’ and designed a bite-size course for people who are unemployed in the Tameside (east Manchester) area.

Over 10 sessions – and 5 ‘practice sales/work experience’ opportunities, the group learned how to set up and run a community-based social enterprise with a ‘fair trade focus’ – and one which used The Oromo Coffee Company as a great hook on which to hang this very practical series of workshops.

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One of the LYF Community Enterprise participants running the stall at Chorlton Coffee Festival

We deliberately created a course where the content and pace was set by the learners themselves, where it was tailored to their own interests and learning needs and where we had the minimum amount of stuffy classroom-based sitting and listening to the likes of us drone on!

As well as learning about the basic components of running a fair trade community enterprise, some of the fantastic learning events which the participants were involved with included:

  • Visits to Unicorn Wholefoods in Chorlton cum Hardy and a crafts co-operative in Saddleworth

  • Running a Coffee/Cake and Crafts stall at the Chorlton coffee festival

  • Running a stall at Saddleworth ‘Yanks’ weekend

  • Running a stall at New Charter Housing Association community fair

For the LYF, one of the key aims of this course was to bring different communities in Tameside together in the name of ethical enterprise and supporting each other in employment opportunities.  Being unemployed can crush the soul – and our work at the LYF has always proven to us that people who are marginalised in this way are eager to be able to support those who are also struggling in poverty – those in developing countries and whose lives are blighted by exploitation within the trading system.

We certainly feel that we have succeeded in our new venture and we were over the moon to receive some of the comments back from course participants – such as:

“It’s really helped me – more than anyone I have received advice from – to truly set up a business. I’ve learned how to price things properly – and fairly. Before I was too shy about it and wouldn’t ask for enough for all of the work that I put into my crafts.”

“I came to this course knowing nothing about social or ethical enterprise. But now I know how to begin one. And I understand my own drives in terms of the kind of causes I want to help in setting up a social enterprise. Of course I need to be able to support my own family too  – but I’ve now got some solid plans…”

“English is my second language and I was so worried I wouldn’t understand it all. But I have loved having this learning for free. I just thought that this course would help me make my CV look nicer and maybe get another cleaning job – but I am flying now. I truly appreciate it. I cannot believe the support and help I have had from all group members in setting up my own little business and the other day when we held a stall together – I sold out of all of my products and had to ask for more to be brought in. Yes I am so very positive for my future now.”

We would like to finish by thanking the Workers Education Association (North West) who administered the ESF grant which helped us to run this course and also to give a huge clap on the back to Chandan Mistry and Nic Carter from the Health & Wellbeing team at Tameside Council who provided some fantastic support. To New Charter Housing Association too  – who are seeing the huge potential in working with The Oromo Coffee Company and who are clearly proud of the commitment of their Oromo and non-Oromo residents!

So, if anyone else would like one of these bite-sized courses running with a community group – get in touch.

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