If you are thinking about forming a co-operative, you can now take an online course ─ an Australian-first ─ developed by the successful Farming Together program.

The Australian Government-backed program has developed the animated guide to help groups understand collaborative business structures.

The course compares co-ops with companies and incorporated associations. It includes information on governance, financing and member engagement.

The course comprises six, 10-minute video lessons with quizzes. While it is designed for agricultural groups, it is relevant for other potential co-ops ─ such as housing or energy co-ops ─ anywhere in Australia.

Complete the entire course and pass the tests and participants will receive certification from Farming Together.

The site www.farmingtogether.com.au>Learn>Online offers two versions: a simpler ‘how-to’ course preview and the full certification course. Both are currently at no cost. The video lessons are self-paced, you can begin and stop them at any time and each lesson provides access to support resources.

Farming Together program director Lorraine Gordon said: “If you’re thinking about forming a co-op, becoming a co-op director, or if you’re just curious about co-ops … this course provides a broad and deep understanding of what co-ops require and what they deliver.

“Maybe you’ll discover that a co-op is not the best platform for your group, and that you’d rather use a different form of collaboration. Or maybe you’ll discover the community-good potential of a co-op beyond its immediate membership. You could learn about how profits get shared, how to develop your co-op’s business plan or why different business structures suit different collaboration purposes. There is much to learn from this information-rich resource,” she said.

A second course, for groups already registered as co-operatives and wanting to understand how to operate successfully, will be launched later this month (February).

The video course was produced by Farming Together’s Systems and Knowledge Portal Manager Dr Cathy Byrne, assisted by Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals consultants and Australia’s foremost co-operative law experts, Robyn Donnelly and Elizabeth Makin.

Robyn, an adjunct senior lecturer at the Centre for Law and Justice, Charles Sturt University, was a legal manager with the NSW Registry of Co-operatives & Associations and a team leader on the Inter-State Working Group for Australia’s Co-operatives National Law.

Elizabeth Makin is a lawyer with 10 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector and grassroots-led social change.

The Farm Co-operative and Collaboration Program (known as Farming Together) is a two-year, $13.8m initiative from the Australian Government designed to help agricultural groups value-add, secure premium pricing, scale-up production, attract capital investment, earn new markets or secure lower input costs.

The Farm Co-operative and Collaboration Program is being delivered by Southern Cross University on behalf of the Australian Government. It comprises a highly experienced senior team drawn from a wide range of commodity groups from across Australia and is backed by an industry advisory group representing experts from Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and NSW.  Visit Farming Together’s online training

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