“The pandemic gave me the opportunity to spend time with you all by participating in Explora and I think it is more important than ever to work collectively to create a more just world for all.
Another world is possible and we are going to be part of it!” –
What’s the importance of exploration? For those of us who are naturally adventurous people, we know that exploring is an essential attitude of life, a way of learning about the world and better understanding our options when faced with a big decision. Explore your Cooperative offers women in the community the opportunity to explore the many possibilities of launching a business with a cooperative foundation. I’m Clauda Arroyo, Co-Executive Director at Prospera, and even though I have facilitated it many times, the emotion of experiencing this course from beginning to end never runs out. Every session of Explora has its own personality comprised of the unique dreams and vision of each of the women who participate in it. I walk away from each one with distinct and meaningful memories…
On March 12 we celebrated our last in-person event before COVID-19 hit and since then our gatherings have been online or on the phone. Faced with the new reality of working from home we found ourselves with the opportunity to gather in a new way, through a screen. There were certainly some challenges along the way—like access to technology—so we immediately set up an orientation to offer tech support before the first Explore session. The women responded excellently, some with more or less experience in the use of technology, they adapted and got ready to connect via computer, tablet or even their smartphones! I remember that we met as a team when we were faced with the decision to offer our courses online and we all agreed: “We want to maintain the magic and presence of each of our participants, let’s adapt the training so that it is participative and warm even through a screen,” and that’s exactly what we did in less than a month! This is how we began the adventure of embodying the intimacy of the popular education method despite the coldness of the screen that separated us all. And the magic happened! We virtually “touched” one another, drew, chatted, sang, danced, played interactive games, worked in groups, and more.
Our hearts were all present! In this Explora Online we were fortunate to debut the Prospera Facilitation Team, made up of Ana Castaño, Daniella Preisler, Guadalupe Gómez, and Herlinda Lazo, all cooperative entrepreneurs, community leaders and excellent trainers who have graduated from Explora, with training in facilitation techniques, popular education and coaching. With their leadership, theory and practice came together! As women who have actively participated in the world of cooperative entrepreneurship, they enrich and deepen each of the sessions with their lived experiences.
After 36 hours of intense collaboration and learning in both directions, we look back at what we achieved. Explora Online exceeded our expectations:
- We had 30 participants!
- For the first time, 4 states were represented: Arizona, New Mexico, Florida and various parts of California
- It was a group with a strong cooperative spirit! 81% wants to launch or join a cooperative and 68% consider themselves “cooperativista.”
Although the pandemic has highlighted inequities in access to basic resources such as health, education, and technology, it has also brought us together as a community and has allowed us to see and hear one another beyond geographic borders. Explora Online is here to stay! We look forward to hugging and shaking hands, but we are also excited for Explora Online to contribute to the strengthening of our communities through the creation of fairer and more supportive economies. Explora is a course that takes your community leadership to another level: cooperative entrepreneurship. This new reality we live in is an opportunity for joint creation! We’ll get further if we stay together!