In January 2021, NCBA CLUSA’s Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE) project, funded by USAID’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP), launched a virtual Co-op Business School (formerly Coop Marketing School) platform to provide cacao and coffee cooperatives with trainings on how to market their products online and unlock the power of digital tools and social networks. Originally, the goal of the platform was to strengthen cooperatives during the pandemic. Several courses on a variety of marketing and branding topics were developed and included follow-up group tutorials for students to discuss these topics in more depth and put new knowledge and skills into practice. These online courses proved to be a great way for engaging younger members of cooperatives, children of cooperative members, and other young entrepreneurs.
For example, Silvia Herrera of Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Jose Olaya Ltda said that participating in the Co-op Business School and its “digital marketing marathons” has helped her better position the cooperative’s online presence through social network platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp Business. “We are dedicated to the production of organic coffee and cocoa,” Herrera explained in an Instagram post. “This will help us and the brand of the cooperative be more recognized and provide more information about the products we offer.”
Since its launch, the Co-op Business School (CBS) has expanded beyond marketing and branding themes, and cooperatives and other enterprises from many different sectors and countries are participating. In just two years, NCBA CLUSA’s CDP project has completed 30 courses in marketing and branding, taxation, accounting and finance, and other topics.
The CBS has seen over 10,000 participants and accumulated more than 36,000 views through various social media platforms. In FY22, the CBS hosted an additional 98 public webinars.
NCBA CLUSA’s CDP team in Peru has also participated in many in-person fairs and expos, sharing information about the CBS and providing mini-trainings and guidance in digital marketing to managers, workers, producers, and students attending from different cooperatives. The CDP Peru team has attended 15 events so far in 2022 focused on the coffee and cacao sectors and other fairs focused on supporting women. Networking at these events has proven critical as the success of the CBS is largely due to collaboration with cooperative sector stakeholders and allies.
For example, Peru’s Ministry of Production (PRODUCE) has been instrumental in advertising CBS courses and getting technicians involved as speakers and facilitators. NCBA CLUSA has partnered with cooperative development organizations like Agriterra and Rikolto and with social enterprises like Peruvian market Thika Thani and Producer’s Trust, a U.S.-based global company dedicated to producers’ wellbeing by linking farmers with supply chain stakeholders through innovative platforms to drive sustainable transformation at the source. Producer’s Trust staff have helped teach CBS courses, facilitate tutorial groups, and helped register many CDP-supported cooperatives on their Producers Market platform.
Given continued demand, NCBA CLUSA is excited to have the opportunity to expand the CBS to Guatemala with support from a one-year, $64,000 grant from the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF). Thanks to CDF’s grant, NCBA CLUSA’s CDP teams in Peru and Guatemala are collaborating with key Guatemalan cooperative stakeholders like the National Institute of Cooperatives (INACOP) and the General Inspection of Cooperatives (INGECOP) to replicate, adapt, and design new courses based on needs identified by the Guatemalan cooperative sector.
To kickstart activities in Guatemala, the CDP project hosted a series of eight virtual talks on the migration crisis. In partnership with the National Observatory of Indigenous Peoples and the Association of Guatemalans without Borders, these online roundtables brought together migrants, academics, politicians, cooperative leaders, and representatives from various other organizations to discuss challenges, trends, and solutions. Additionally, Guatemalan cooperative members have already participated in webinars related to marketing and social media topics.
After several months of preparatory work, the inaugural course of the Co-op Business School in Guatemala launched this week. Titled “Anatomy of Social Media,” the course runs from December 5-9, 2022. As of December 2nd, 70 people had already registered.
NCBA CLUSA is thrilled that the CDP project’s Co-op Business School has brought together so many cooperative stakeholders and supporters in Peru, Guatemala, the U.S., and beyond. As a truly collaborative effort, the CBS is harnessing the spirit of cooperation.
For more information on the Co-op Business School, please check out the new site at businessschool.coop.