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(Apparently I’m all about pop–or un-pop–culture references in my titles now.)

The day is winding down, my list of tasks to frantically finish is dwindling, and after a quick clean-up my desk is looking fairly sparse. It’s the final two hours of my internship.

The last thing I want to say from this particular soapbox is thanks. Thanks to On Co-op for the opportunity and for the skills I’m walking away with. Thanks to co-ops for working to include ethics and sustainability in their business goals alongside profit. And thanks to the readership who has followed me through twenty-six weeks of blogging, fifty-eight posts, and a whole lot of rambling interspersed with inanity (and a few verbal hijinks, of course). It’s been fun, challenging, and educational in equal measure.

Good night, god bless, and may time bring us all our fondest hopes.

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It’s time for a little retrospect. I promise I won’t go all maudlin on you, but this being the last week of my internship it seems unavoidable to write about lessons learned, skills developed, co-operations co-operated.

In the early stages of my internship, I often had trouble saying what I did in a day, because it was all variations on a theme: I updated the website. (That entailed a huge variety of activities in itself, of course, but I hate to bog people down with details.) Now, though, I find that I have quite a list to walk away with. I oversaw the launch of a new website; I edited and created hundreds of pages of online content; I created a holiday guide (using graphic design skills I didn’t know I had); I developed a promotional video; I created newsletters, brochures, guidebooks, images, and the occasional tweet; and I blogged until my metaphorical fingers bled. (Also, there was a heck of a lot of data entry–but, for the sake of my sanity, I’m not going to dwell on that.) I got a good long look into what goes into corporate communications, and learned that I can do it.

Whether I will continue to do it is still up in the air. But I’m excited about where these skills can take me; I’ve begun exploring possibilities of starting up something independent with my creative work, and everything I’ve learned here can help me get that ball rolling. I have a great love and respect of the arts–which are, like co-ops, underfunded and under-respected in Canada at the moment–and am eager to see what my new copywriting and communicating prowess can do to help.

And that, I think, is high praise for this program: after my six months with On Co-op, I feel better able to do the work I want to do in the world. I don’t ask for any more than that.

I only have three posts left before I leave the On Co-op bloggership, and I’ve started to think about how I might best use my remaining time. I’ve certainly learned a lot here, and that will show up in my blogging next week, but this position is about me influencing the co-op sector as much as it’s about the co-op sector influencing me. I’d like to leave an interesting thought or two to bounce around co-operative heads once I’m gone.

The first thought, though, isn’t mine. It belongs to Tom Klein Beernink of the Guelph Campus Co-op who, in a meeting on marketing possibilities for IYC, pleaded, “Make it funny.” This plea has stuck with me, recurring to me in a variety of circumstances. I’ve seen a lot of sincere, thoughtful, concerned and even touching marketing from co-ops, but very little that tickles the ribcage. I think Tom was right–it’s time for co-op comedy.

I’d go further too: don’t just make it funny, make it downright silly. Whimsical, off-the-cuff, snappy, brilliant. A lot of co-ops seem to be very traditional in their public persona, striving for a professional image. But co-ops are an alternative to the prevalent business model, bucking trends and upsetting norms. You need a little irreverence to start a revolution. Besides, I’ve never subscribed to the notion that seriousness equals better work; most of the things that I’m genuinely passionate about in my life are also the things that make me laugh the most.

When not aiming for a shiny, polished image, co-ops often try to market themselves with reference to their ethical natures–and they should continue to do so, since that’s their best feature. But private businesses, ethical and otherwise, have been riding the wave of ethical concern for a while now, and that doesn’t always make co-ops stand out. As more and more companies lie or spin stories about their morals, more and more people grow sceptical of these claims.

I say cracking a smile now and then wouldn’t hurt. It might make co-ops look ridiculous from time to time–but let’s face it, we actually are ridiculous a great deal of the time. I say it’s time to celebrate that.

Make it funny. Ironically, it might make people take us more seriously as an alternative.

You’ll get a break from my long rambling blog entries today, necessitated by the schedule here at On Co-op. With multiple projects underway here (video work and a large mailout coming up), coinciding with a couple of well-deserved vacations for On Co-op staff, my cup of work runneth over. I’ve heard the same from one of my blog colleagues (blolleagues?) from Co-blogeration recently too; perhaps the early part of the year is some kind of co-op crunch that I wasn’t aware of.

Regardless, you can think of this truncated blog as the calm before the storm. Soon you’ll be hearing plenty from On Co-op, and I’ll have my fingerprints on the finished result.

Have a great week, internet!

I’ve spent a fair portion of today reading and writing about the upcoming plans for 2012, the International Year of Co-operatives. Needless to say, people around here are pretty excited about this UN declaration and they’re already gearing up for a year-long co-op jamboree. (At least, in my imagination it takes the form of a massive jamboree, complete with a 96-piece jug band. Reality and my imagination will likely diverge, as they often do.)

It really is very exciting–the possibilities presented by an event of this magnitude are phenomenal. In particular, I look forward to seeing what will happen with the official international logo and theme handed down from the UN and ICA. Since they’ll be used worldwide, they’ll likely be interpreted, altered or mixed in new and creative ways to fit into very different contexts, (glocality in action) creating a mass of variations on a theme. It could be quite interesting.

At the same time, this is rather anticlimactic for me; 2012 is close enough to loom large on the On Co-op horizon, but the view for me is obscured by the much closer end of my internship. I only get to work on the germination of IYC ideas. By the time they sprout, I won’t be here.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t get to take part, of course–if nothing else, I’ll be cheering on the jug band from the audience–but it’s somewhat disconcerting to begin a task that continues past my contract.

My apologies for the lack of my regular posting yesterday. I was home for the day, trying simultaneously to soothe an unhappy baby and to cough my lungs out without covering said baby in germs. This was, needless to say, a very difficult task.

(To make sure I’m not misrepresenting things for the blog readers, I should point out that I’ve been blessed with a very easy baby to take care off–there are rough moments, as there were yesterday, but in general I really can’t complain.)

I’ve recovered somewhat–now, I’m told, I sound like a chain-smoker instead of a plague victim–and thus am back at work. With the annual Marketing Committee meeting taking place in Toronto today, this is the first moment I’ve had at my desk, though, to get caught up on the blog.

This was my first committee meeting since starting at On Co-op, and it was a great opportunity to meet some of the other communicators out there in the co-op world. It was also a good opportunity to see the democratic co-op principle in action; here, people were genuinely listening to each others’ ideas, and even the lowly intern felt welcome to contribute a comment or two. It’s great to see an organization determine its aims based on conversation, rather than individual agendas.

Some great ideas were bandied around the table; some will not be firmly in place until after I’ve left On Co-op, but I’m excited to see what comes out of them. I suspect 2012 will really liven up the marketing in the co-op sector.

To counterbalance the long post on Friday, this post will be quite short. It’s been a busy day for me. My fellow CIEP intern Nicole Ives-Allison and the Canadian Co-operative Association are putting on a series of webinars about social media and how co-operatives can get more involved. It’s been quite a learning experience.

Before starting work at On Co-op, I would have categorized myself as a dabbler in social media; as I begin working in communications I’m having to increase my knowledge and skills fast. For the most part, it’s been quite a fun process (I suspect that my blogging will not end with this internship) but the sheer amount that can be learned is a little overwhelming. Nicole, with her wealth of knowledge, is making it all much more accessible.

Thanks to Nicole, and to the CCA for hosting the webinars!


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