Villages Connected Blog


Building the co-op through dialogue by Caroline Spira

One might think that building a media co-op would be all fun and games – an exercise in creativity and visual experiments. All of the photography and video taking of community assets, curiosities and getting that “awesome shot”.

Not.

There is a whole other side to the inception of the Fort Portal media co-op and it’s not creative in the least! In order to have a successful media co-op, not only will there need to be breathtaking media, but there will also need to be a sound foundation to work from. And that’s where the co-op members, and additional assistance from a select few members (which we lovingly call “the microfinance core group”), have come in.

co-op members Prisca, Margaret and Best working on ways to make the co-op sustainable

Since the very first week, together we have been working towards developing the co-op’s constitution and bylaws, as well as the terms and conditions of the microfinance fund. There is a lot of cross-over between the two, and much, much discussion on the best ways to move forward.

In general, the discussions have focused on structure and future growth. It took no time at all – days, really – for the co-op members to not only “buy-in” to the Villages Connected vision, but also to begin to define ways to make it a reality.

But whether or not the co-op members would make sure their organization would function lay in the details.

The “proof” lay in the “pudding” they mixed up during a marathon set of discussion groups talking about such intriguing subjects as co-op structure, criteria for loan recipients, interest rates and repayment terms, and sustainability of the co-op.

The going wasn’t always easy. Most of the co-op’s members had never taken out a loan or even visited a microfinance institution. Fewer even had established an association or co-op – never mind the two at once!

co-op member Jamiah

But the members of the microfinance core group kept things rolling and made sure everyone contributed to the way things would work. The members were lucky enough that among their numbers they had a president of a women’s community lending circle, a community mobilizer, a lecturer and a student in microfinance, and a single mother with a keen eye for business potential.

So the group of 21 founding co-op members rotated from station to station, discussing exactly how their co-op would work. The Villages Connected team offered advice when it was asked for, but ultimately the end product was theirs.

co-op members in deep discussion on interest rates and loan conditions with some clarifications from crew member Caroline

They answered the question not only of how they would give loans, but also how they would keep their momentum going for the long run.

Of course, while answers abounded, we all know that many more questions come up any time you have twenty people working together on a dynamic subject.

So that’s what the core microfinance group is working on now – going forward with the essential task of figuring out the minute details that their colleagues asked about. These, of course, need to be nailed down before they approve any microfinance loans!

Microfinance Core Group participant Margaret leading more discussions with fellow co-op members George William and Joyce

This part of the work may not be fun and games. But it is essential!

Their work is almost ready and the business of supporting business well underway!

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