Rhiannon Colvin is a Hubber, recent graduate, founder of AltGen: Generation for an Alternative Future, and Impact Hub Islington Member Host on Mondays supporting the Hub Youth Academy programme.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, she’s recently started a new monthly series “Diary of a young co-operative startup” at The Guardian, sharing her journey so far and explaining why she decided to start a co-op social enterprise.
Here’s an excerpt from the first installment, read the full article here.
Last year I graduated from university and found myself in a reality that I was totally unprepared for. I had what I considered a strong CV with a first class degree and a range of part-time jobs and volunteer projects, I was ready to get a good job and start living the London dream. However, as I competed against other graduates for unpaid internships and volunteer placements, and took up a part-time job waitressing, I felt my confidence plummet. I looked around me and saw that nobody I knew was getting paid to do a job they loved: friends were running abroad to teach English, settling for jobs they hated or taking up low-paid, part-time jobs to support them whilst they followed their real passions.
One afternoon after an interview for an unpaid internship that 150 others had applied for, I had a moment of clarity; as long as we all fight for the scraps of work at the bottom of the economy, that is all we will get – we will remain powerless and without influence. We will remain the generation without a future. And guess what? We are not the problem, we have ideas, skills, energy and talent but the economy we are entering into is no longer able to utilise these effectively.
Our role as the next generation should be to make something better, to create an economy that allows us to earn a living, do what we love, and contribute towards nurturing people and our environment rather than destroying it. “OK, yes, in an ideal world” I thought, but how, in reality, are we going to make it happen?
First, I decided to gain a better understanding of the context and learn from what’s already happening across Europe. So I embarked upon a three-month research project across Portugal and Spain, where youth unemployment is as high as 50%, with the question: what new ways of living and working are young people creating in response to this crisis?
Youth in Lisbon were campaigning for a universal basic income; in Granada they were developing creative hubs to support youth in the arts; and in Barcelona young people had gone back to the land, reclaimed old buildings, begun to grow their own food and sell bread and furniture. All across the Iberian peninsula they were creating new ways of working and living. The alternative that most inspired me was worker co-operatives. I found food co-ops, bike co-ops, co-operative bookshops, co-operative schools and in one example a “co-operative integral” to provide for all basic needs such as housing, transport, education, health and childcare.
Now it’s true that co-ops aren’t particularly new, emerging in the UK with the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844. However, as people are increasingly struggling to meet their basic needs, co-ops seem to be having a resurgence and to offer solutions to many of the problems my generation faces.