Bright curtains and handmade tables repurpose an old classroom in Sydney’s North End and easily lend a relaxed atmosphere to CBU’s Cooperative Study Club (CSC). It’s tricky to define a typical gathering at the CSC, but they all share a genuine enthusiasm for learning and sharing in common.
Discussions about food security, philosophy, theatre, popular culture and feminism all take place around these tables. On any night, the CSC might host repair cafes, public lectures, information sessions or story-telling. No matter what the event, attendees from the University and community gather to learn and share knowledge in an environment that benefits from the rigour of academic researchers but grows out of a learning initiative that began nearly a century ago.
The Cooperative Study Club’s name is influenced by the work of Rev. Jimmy Tompkins. He famously championed the Antigonish Movement and encouraged empowerment through knowledge, and he was also the Chair of many Study Clubs. These Clubs would meet in homes on an ongoing basis, and each member would read and research, sharing their knowledge with the group. It was in this way that cooperative housing was successfully built in Glace Bay, NS, through researching Credit Unions and other housing initiatives as a community.
The CSC is also influenced by international community-university initiatives which are connected to a specific communal space and located proximate to community members. Primarily called hives, these spaces create a place for shared learning and joint research and take a good deal of their directions from the communities in which they are located.
The Cooperative Study Club was initiated by CBU’s Major Research Projects Officer, Dr. Jodi McDavid. Supported by funding from the SSHRC and CBU, the CSC’s mandate is particularly focused on creating a bridge between researchers and the community where mutual learning can occur. At the CSC, part-time student assistant, Carly Turnbull, connects academic researchers with valuable data and resources of community groups that frequently elude them.