Welsh Government and Cwmpas Launch Groundbreaking ‘Robert Owen Project’ to inspire young learners across Wales

16 May 2024

Welsh Government, in partnership with co-operative development agency Cwmpas,  launches the Robert Owen Project on 14 May, Robert Owen Day. The educational resources will enhance awareness and understanding of co-operatives and social business in primary and secondary schools across Wales. The resources link to one of the founders of the movement known all around the world, Robert Owen, from Wales.

This innovative initiative will support ‘Careers and Work-Related Experience’ (CWRE), a cross-curricular element of the Curriculum for Wales, and help learners develop their enterprise skills.

The Robert Owen Project will be available on Hwb, the Welsh Government education platform, and so open to all schools and learners in Wales. The resources can be used to help children understand how co-operatives and social businesses can support the economy and their local community, through themes such as well-being and the environment.

The goal? To get young learners thinking about co-operative values and how they could play a part in a social business.

Named after Welsh social reformer Robert Owen, whose ideas and advocacy for workers’ rights laid the groundwork for the co-operative movement, The Robert Owen Project will introduce co-operatives and social business  as a viable and impactful business model, challenging the idea that success is just about making a profit.

Teachers and students were invited to help Cwmpas develop materials for the project and to connect with local social businesses and co-operatives.

Ceri Metcalf Day, a teacher at Penyrheol Comprehensive School expressed enthusiasm for being part of the development of materials for the Robert Owen Project, stating,

The pupils from Penyrheol Comprehensive School who took part in preparing and filming for interviews for the Community Co-op business have a wonderful experience with Cwmpas.  They developed their skills in communicating, both written and verbal, and to ensure that audience was considered. They learned a lot about different types of businesses and how we can give back to our communities in Wales. They found learning about Robert Owen inspiring and are already coming up with ideas on how to support the local community through business. They really enjoyed the interview process and it has opened up new ideas for careers in the future.”

The  Co-operative Economy Report by Co-operatives UK, national trade association and network that promotes and supports co-operative businesses, found that co-operative businesses reinvest in local communities through the creation of jobs, support for local suppliers and producers, and the funding of community initiatives and projects.

Further, The Plunkett Foundation, an organisation that support the development of community-owned businesses in rural areas, emphasises that co-operatives play a crucial role in addressing local needs and strengthening community resilience, highlighting how co-operatives provide local people with ownership and control over essential services, such as grocery stores, pubs, or energy providers.

Project developer  at Cwmpas Elizabeth Hudson, said “We’re thrilled to embark on this transformative journey and grateful to all the organisations who have contributed towards its development. We are eager to inspire a new generation of students across Wales, encouraging them to learn about the co-operative and social business models and how they could contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future. This supports our vision of fostering collaboration and empowering young minds to shape a brighter tomorrow.”

Lynne Neagle, Cabinet Secretary for Education said: “I am proud that by working together, with the help of teachers and learners, the Welsh Government and Cwmpas have created the Robert Owen project. This is a brilliant way for children and young people to learn about the values of co-operatives and social businesses and the positive impact these can have on their communities.

This work will support schools implementing ‘Careers and Work-Related Experiences’ in the Curriculum for Wales – helping children and young people build their knowledge of the breadth of options available to them. Learning about career opportunities is vital in supporting learners to make informed choices about their future careers.”