Generating consensus to scale up from savings groups to cooperative

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SG leaders actively participating during the workshop

An opportunity to erase misconceptions about cooperatives. This was the mood that prevailed during the Savings Group Leaders’ Workshop on Cooperative Formation held last October 14-15. The workshop was the first occasion to introduce cooperative formation to the leaders of savings groups taking part in the Project. Thirty three leaders, one from each village were selected during the last consolidation meeting to attend and participate in the workshop. The consolidation sessions held for the past several months allowed the leaders to learn about other savings groups, bond with leaders and feel the prospect for a bigger organization to address needs beyond the capacity of savings groups.

Unpleasant experiences with cooperatives in the past inhibited leaders to agree on transforming the consolidated savings groups into one big cooperative. The image of existing cooperatives in the township does not help because most small with limited activities. Considering these perceptions, the workshop was designed for leaders to have a different view on cooperatives.

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Expressing their views and opinions on the issues discussed

The first module was about the concept of the cooperative, with emphasis on its nature as an ENTERPRISE and not only as a SOCIAL SERVICE. Helping the poor is a good mission, but it has to be done in an efficient manner to be sustainable. Cooperative is not a charity institution that provides dole-outs but assist people with entrepreneurial spirit to generate income to improve their economic condition.

Facilitators discussed responsibilities and benefits of the members on the second module. The discussion on the share capital was met with questions as the subject was new to the participants. Participants raised questions on the concept of co-ownership as they grasp the idea of both the cooperative and the member as ‘owners’ of the share capital. One contentious issue was, members cannot just ask for the return of his share capital. If a member wants to leave, he should sell his share capital to other members. This is different with savings, which is a liability of the cooperative and can be withdrawn the moment the member need them.

The organizational structure was also exhaustively discussed, going deeply on the difference between the decision-making and the implementing functions.

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CDA team addressing questions from the participants

The last two modules were focused on the financial services – savings and lending. Module three was centered on the features of savings products. More explanation was made to differentiate savings from share capital. The final module was on the features of loan products addressing various needs, from agricultural production and rural enterprises to emergency needs and other needs of the members.

The two-day workshop has so far clarified many issues on the minds of the leaders who attended the workshop. The leaders will assist the PF-CDA team to explain the concept of cooperative formation during the consolidation meeting on October 23. If the leaders will concur, the process of formal registration will start.

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Class picture for posterity

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TOT on Cooperative Formation

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Schedule of topics and sessions during the training

A total of 16 participants attended the Training of Trainors (TOT) on Cooperative Formation last October 5-8 at the PF office in Hpa-an, Kayin State. The main subjects covered in the training included leadership and governance, operations management (savings and lending), accounting and auditing and membership education. The staff of Community Development Association (CDA) needed to appreciate and familiarize the subjects for them to be effective in assisting the institutional development of the cooperative. It is envisioned that the cooperative will be a model in terms of its structure, efficient operations and services relevant to its members.

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Connie Hina, Project Technical Advisor distributing certificates of participation

Cooperative registration is the third stage in the development framework used by PF in the Project. The first stage is savings group formation which started in April. In July, three months after the first savings groups were formed, the consolidation stage was started to acquaint the groups with those coming from other villages. By the end of September, there were now 99 savings groups with total members of 1,077 and $34,000 savings. There is enough critical mass to move towards the third stage – cooperative formation and registration.

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Class picture

The training emphasized the various principles and elements of cooperatives and the policies of the Ministry of Cooperatives in particular. An audio-visual presentation showing the development of the Paglaum Multi-Purpose Cooperative in the Philippines generated interest from the participants as it relates with the situation in Hlaing-bwe Township. Poverty in the midst of rich natural resources and the efforts of the people in uplifting their economic condition.