Archive for the ‘social enterprise’ Category
Earlier in the week, Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, started to look back on the last financial year and the work we had been involved with. We continue Derek’s review, by looking at how the Centre supports some of the most disadvantaged people and communities…
The work of the Centre is closely aligned with the wider tackling poverty agenda. In October we instigated an online campaign ‘Tackling Poverty Fortnight’ that not only received recognition in the Senedd, but demonstrated ways in which social enterprises and co-operative ways of working are supporting people in Wales’ most disadvantaged areas.
Our financial inclusion work continues to have an influence and impact in this area, particularly through our Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion project. That team has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and increase the uptake of Credit Union Rent Accounts, which can help housing tenants, across private, social and council housing, to maintain their tenancies in the face of sweeping Welfare Reforms. This work benefits from close work relationships with housing providers and other partners. More recently, I did my own bit to raise awareness of the issues facing homeless people, in the inaugural Cardiff CEO Sleepout. That event reminded me of the value of our work, with those that need the greatest support.
The latest evaluation of our Social Enterprise Support Project was positive, including lines such as “satisfaction levels with Development Officers support is very high – ‘extremely’ or ‘very satisfied’ at 87%”. In this area of work, we also delivered another successful Social Enterprise Wales Conference and Awards and the new ‘Go Full Circle’ campaign that increased awareness raising of Welsh social enterprises among the general public. Last summer, Cardiff played host to the annual Co-operatives UK Congress that saw more than 300 co-operators come together, to debate issues that matter most to those in the sector.
Our Corporate Services have continued to strengthen the Centre’s corporate governance, financial processes, HR and ICT infrastructure – all vital work, while the Marketing team re-structure is providing a more effective approach to the way we promote our services and raising awareness of our work, that of our clients and the wider sector.
The last financial year also saw us intensify international links, with staff making trips to Africa, to support community enterprises, and participating in an exchange with representatives of the social enterprise sector in the Czech Republic. It is important to be involved with such activities, so we can promote the best of what Wales has to offer in terms of co-operative and social enterprise development, on the world stage, and so we can learn from best practice approaches in other countries.
While there is a rich diversity to our work, with many seemingly independent activities, one thing binds it together – a co-operative ethos that sees projects, initiatives, organisations, businesses and individuals getting more from working together. It’s at the heart of everything we do.
When you think about it, that’s some year…..and we haven’t covered everything in this blog post!
As we look ahead to the next twelve months, we know there are challenges ahead but we can meet them head on, with confidence. That confidence comes from the knowledge that we are a strong organisation, with experienced and innovative staff, that make a difference in communities around Wales every day of the week.
With the new financial year barely a week old, Derek Walker, our Chief Executive, has taken the opportunity to look back on the last twelve months at the Wales Co-operative Centre….
I was recently looking through the posts on our blog site from the last twelve months. I was struck by the realisation that we have covered an awful lot of ground as an organisation. In addition, the scale of our output is matched by the quality and impact of our work.
It’s a healthy thing to look back at what has gone before, as you can learn from experience and take confidence from what has gone well. Another thing that occurred to me was the rich diversity of our work.
Since the start of the last financial year, some new clients have emerged. To highlight just a few – AFS in Swansea, where former Remploy staff came together to form a worker co-operative that has already proven successful. The Cambrian Village Trust social enterprise, in Clydach Vale, was supported to open a new, world class, all-weather football pitch. PS Services, a social business run by mental health charity Gofal, won the ‘One to Watch’ category at the UK Social Enterprise Awards. Many other businesses that we’ve supported have gone from strength to strength, showing that co-operatives and social enterprises are models for growth, as well as sustainability.
Elsewhere in the Centre, we’ve received additional funding from Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund to expand the area covered by Communities 2.0, to now help people in the most deprived parts of Cardiff, Newport, Vale of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire make the most of computers and the Internet. Communities 2.0 has also seen a number of county-wide initiatives launch in the last year, heavily based on strong partnership work – bringing the people and organisations together than can make a real difference.
Our co-operative housing project has been extended for another two years. More groups around Wales are talking to us, and our partners, about the potential to develop co-operative housing schemes in their community, giving people more direct control over their living arrangements.
The year’s watershed moment came with the publication of the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission report. Led by Professor Andrew Davies, the Commission has concluded that “conventional approaches to economic growth and development are not sufficient alone to achieve the improvement in the social and economic wellbeing of people in Wales”, adding “co-operatives and mutuals offer significant economic, social and environmental benefits compared with ordinary businesses. Their development must be central to transforming Wales’ economic fortunes”. These words come as a clarion call to those involved in the co-operatives and mutuals sector, as well as those on the fringes who have yet to realise the full potential of co-operative approaches to economic development. The report’s recommendations are currently being discussed at a series of consultation events and it will be interesting to hear how others think they should be taken forward. The report’s recommendations have the Centre’s full support.
Join us for the second part of this blog post, later in the week…
Today the Wales Co-operative Centre supported the WCVA in hosting a mini-conference for the third sector on How to Win Tenders. Here, Rhian Edwards, Project Manager for Business Succession and Consortia, looks at the importance of public sector contracts for the Third Sector.
“The public sector in Wales spends around £4.3bn each year through procurement, and winning business with the public sector is crucial for the financial sustainability of many third sector organisations in Wales. Many actually have long standing relationships with these public sector bodies, and have been delivering valued services under grant arrangements, service level agreements, and spot contracts for many years.
“The shift now however to a more competitive tendering environment has been a hard transition for many of these organisations. Contracts are being wrapped up into bigger, more complex lots, and the move towards move collaborative and regionalised tendering is making access to opportunities even harder. Smaller third sector organisations particularly are feeling the strain, feeling very alienated from these opportunities.
“The event today offered practical advice and guidance on how best to win work with public sector bodies. Attendees heard what public sector buyers look for in tenders, had a procurement policy update from Value Wales, and heard the experiences of third sector organisations that have been successful and unsuccessful in winning public sector work. There was also a range of workshops available looking at key issues such as collaborating to win work, effective pitch presentation and contract management.
“Public sector bodies are increasingly looking to engage with the third sector in the delivery of innovative, citizen centred services. However, many third sector organisations feel the procurement processes used by these bodies is a major barrier to them winning this work. The Wales Co-operative Centre and WCVA are working closely with both the supply and the buy side to help overcome these challenges. In October 2013, we jointly launched the Joint Bidding Guide, in partnership with the Welsh Government. The Guide, endorsed by the Minister for Finance, is a toolkit designed to help anyone involved in the bidding cycle for public contracts, whether as a buyer or a potential supplier. The Guide supports the work of the Centre’s Consortia Development Team, who work directly with organisations to help form consortia to bid for work.
“Together with WCVA, we feel this on-going work, supported by events like today’s, will go some way to strengthening the tendering skills and capacity of the third sector and improve their win rate.”
Project Manager, Business Succession and Consortia
This morning I was involved in a conversation….a conversation about leadership.
That might not seem that exciting or unusual, or is it? How often do we, in Wales, have open conversations about leadership – especially in business?
The conversation, that I was a part of, was in one of the Leadership Cafes that have been hosted during the nomination period of this year’s Leading Wales Awards. The Wales Co-operative Centre is co-sponsoring this year’s ‘Leadership in Social Enterprise’ category, with Social Firms Wales, so it was fitting that today’s event was held at Monwel Signs & Services, a social enterprise, based in Ebbw Vale, that’s been going for 45 years.
Barbara Chidgey, of Leading Wales Awards, facilitated the discussion that was lively, honest and open. The conversation ebbed and flowed, on one hand agreeing that leadership was the key driver of business success and financial growth, while also hearing that people don’t necessarily recognise their leadership skills and that there are others who simply enjoy the limelight, and are not ‘real’ leaders.
While we talked about the leaders that inspire us, whether a parent or an ex-President or Prime Minister, it was clear that more work needed to be done to promote the work of women in leadership positions. Barbara said this was something she was keen to achieve, through the ‘Women in Leadership’ category in the awards.
Do we recognise the true importance of leadership in Wales? Many of those who attended this morning’s event thought not. It was suggested that some people are scared or reluctant to come to the fore, as leaders, and pose important, relevant and, at times, difficult questions, especially to decision makers. Some said that could be down to a lack of confidence, people concerned for their future, or even a ‘bullying’ culture that might lead people to not say what they’re thinking and feeling. The group felt it was a leader’s job to take risks and to generate courage among whoever they’re leading. There was also some discussion about leaders developing people then being able to let them go. This again could be relevant in families, when children leave the nest, or in work when a colleague is looking to further their career.
We were reminded of the ‘Leadership Zoo’ that had been the subject of conversation at other Leadership Cafes. This looks at different leadership styles and characteristics and how our behaviours relate to those of certain animals. This was also important to help leaders recognise whether they have the right mix of ‘animals’ in their ‘zoo’ (skills in their team) or if some of their team members are forced to be something they’re not. Personally, I think I’m part monkey and part lion!
What was clear at today’s meeting, was that leaders are not necessarily ‘the big boss’, it could almost be anybody. By the same token, being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you do everything. The group felt a good leader was inclusive, a part of the team, which is important when dealing with a crisis, for example.
Towards the end of the discussion, we looked at succession. A good leader also needs to help plan for the future and when to bring someone into their position. Supporting continuity for the future, the group felt, was just as important as being a constant source of inspiration here and now.
I enjoyed today’s event. It helped me to see things from a different perspective, which is always healthy. Where would we be without good leaders? As a rugby fan, I always like to see the captain being helped by other team members, so there are several leaders on the pitch.
So, strike up a conversation about leadership. You might be surprised where it takes you. Also, there’s not long left to nominate your favourite leader(s) in Wales, for this year’s awards. The nomination deadline is Friday 14th March. I’m sure most of us know someone in our communities that are leaders who are deserving of at least a nomination – they can often be the unsung heroes of a community; the people who have an idea, a vision, and inspire others to help realise that vision. While we were talking about social enterprises today, the leaders you may think of may work in a local school, a different type of business, a community project or voluntary organisation. They’re all valid.
Written by MarkWalesCooperative
March 3, 2014 at 4:56 pm
Posted in social enterprise
December saw the production of the latest Social Enterprise Support Project evaluation reports, the fourth for the Convergence project and first for the Competitiveness project. The reports detail how the projects were planned and set up; they detail the major stakeholders; the funders; they critique the management and delivery processes, the administration protocols and targets; and, of course, they describe the actual delivery.
A large portion of the reports cover the findings of a longitudinal survey conducted with clients – some are new clients, some are clients who have been interviewed, by the evaluators, a number of times throughout the projects. Much of this survey’s results show the progress clients are making as a result of the on going work of the Social Enterprise Support Projects. The report highlights evidence of progression against eleven organisational areas including: an ability to respond to new opportunities, an ability to market ourselves, an ability to competitively tender, an ability to generate profit, an ability to generate income, quality of service/ product, confidence, willingness to embrace risk, leadership and management skills, networking skills and finally overall business acumen.
Here are some quotes from the reports:
Firstly from clients:
Talking about the support the project has given -
- “This has been absolutely fantastic. Manna from heaven for us”
- “This support continues to give us the confidence to seek to grow the enterprise in appropriate ways.”
- “We’re incredibly grateful for the help we’ve had. Sitting and thinking about it now, it’s been a huge help to us as a social enterprise and as a team”
- “Could not have gone through the process without the help from the DO – she made it all happen”
- “It was great having an individual to contact who had the expertise and who we could go to if we had questions to ask, knowing they would be answered well.”
In relation to the Bespoke training -
- “I don’t know if everyone uses it but they should- it’s excellent.”
- “They’ve been awesome”
- “The help has been excellent, really useful.”
And from the Evaluators themselves:
- “….interventions made to date have been of real quality and have made a difference to the clients engaged.”
- “Satisfaction levels with Development Officers support is very high – extremely or very satisfied at 87%,
- “92% satisfaction rates for training”
- “All respondents who had received subsequent support from their DO were either extremely or very satisfied with the support received”
- “Over two thirds (68%) of respondents were extremely or very satisfied with the type of support they had received”
Written by Social Enterprise Support Project Managers – Nicola Mehegan and Paul Ashman.
Wales Co-operative Centre
The Wales Co-operative Centre was set up thirty years ago and ever since has been helping businesses grow, people to find work and communities to tackle the issues that matter to them. Its advisors work co-operatively across Wales, providing expert, flexible and reliable support to develop sustainable businesses and strong, inclusive communities.
Last week, Katija Dew, our Financial Inclusion Programme Director and Financial Inclusion Champion for Wales, attended and spoke at a high-level event that looked into the issue of Poverty and Welfare Reform in Wales. Here’s her account of the Policy Forum for Wales conference that took place in Cardiff:
“The discussions were interesting and ‘lively’ I would say.
We heard from a range of speakers from the education, voluntary and support sectors, along with the Taxpayers Alliance and Stephen Crabb, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Wales, about Welfare Reform and Poverty. This subject is so big, so complex and so…emotive, hence the lively debate.
On a policy level, Wales is forward thinking. Dr Jim McCormick of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reflected that Wales has the most focussed plans for Tackling Poverty of the UK nations. Health, education, employment, housing; it seems it’s all there. So what was Dr McCormick’s parting message? It was that whilst devolved nations have little control over the welfare system, the primary source of tackling poverty is within their gift. That is the building of a strong economy that provides jobs and the building of a skilled and knowledgeable workforce that can take those jobs.
On a practical level, I spent my precious five speaking minutes on more immediate concerns; the use of payday lending services and use of credit unions as an alternative. Yes, credit unions are a responsible alternative lending vehicle, but we need to be fair. There is a reason that other financial institutions don’t provide these services. Sending vulnerable, and frankly expensive to serve, customers to them produces an imbalance in their membership. As a social enterprise they are keen to support financially excluded members but can only do so if all of us invest in and use them. That’s you and I.
A question was asked about illegal money lending and what needs to be done to prevent its exponential spread in the new benefits environment. Of course, we need a strong and well supported Illegal Money Lending team to help tackle the problem but for me, the answer starts with financial inclusion. People have to have an accessible account in which they can receive their income. That account must have the transactional facilities needed to keep their money safe. Beyond that, they need to have the knowledge and capability to use that account to make the most of their money. If, for any reason, that is not possible the Government’s ‘alternative payment arrangement’ safety net should cut in for all that need it.
Financial inclusion is the not the answer to tackling poverty, but it gives people control over the money they have.”
You can find more information about our financial inclusion work on the Wales Co-operative Centre website.
Today’s Williams Commission report into the structure of local government recommends large-scale council mergers, with the number of local authorities in Wales set to halve. The way the report has been received gives a real sense that things are going to happen, and happen (relatively) soon.
it’s also about citizen participation and community ownership of services. The report touches on this:
“This approach starts with what people receiving services would find most helpful to secure the real outcomes they want. It means re-shaping services based on better community or service user insight. It embraces co-production of service design, commissioning and delivery and a strong emphasis on shifting to prevention and making the most of community capacity and assets. These are all, to varying degrees, underpinned by the principle of establishing a different relationship between public sector organisations and the people and organisations they serve.”
You could be forgiven for thinking that Sir Paul Williams was writing about the benefits of some local services being delivered as social businesses. Services may perhaps be commissioned by the council but could be provided by community owned social enterprises, accountable to users in a more direct and meaningful way than through occasional trips to the ballot box.
Councils are already exploring social enterprise structures to deliver services from leisure centres to youth work. Wales would be missing a trick if our response to the Williams Commission report focused on which town County Hall should be based in. Instead, we have the chance to review not only local democratic structures but the very relationship between citizens and services.
Social enterprise is the solution that does not just reorganise, it reinvents.
Dave Brown is Director of Strategic Development and Performance at the Wales Co-operative Centre.
Written by Dave Brown
January 20, 2014 at 2:53 pm
Posted in social enterprise
Christmas is the busiest time of the year at Menter Fachwen. It all begins as soon as the blackberries are ripe enough to pick, we need to pick pounds and pounds to make jam for the Christmas hampers, and this season there was a bumper crop so that gave us a good start. This year we have focused on the quality and presentation of our Christmas products; we wanted to get the look just right. The theme for 2013 was re-cycle, re-use and up-cycle whatever we could. Christmas 2012 was a bit of a disaster, on November 22nd three of our businesses were flooded, this put a stop to a lot of the planned festivities, but we are not the kind of organisation to cry over spilt milk, or even six inches of mud as it was in our case. We rescued whatever we could from the floods, which included the old pine floorboards that ran throughout the ground floor of our shop in Llanberis.
The floor at Caxton House was damaged beyond repair and had to be ripped out. The joinery business, Craig y s usually 101 things you can make This year they have made beautiful bird and bug houses from wood that would have otherwise been destined for landfill. Ty Gwydr, our horticulture business, has been collecting all sorts of strange objects including empty catering size tins from a local hotel, after a bit of imagination and decoration they look gorgeous filled with bulbs that were planted up in the autumn. We rescued some old tea cups from the skip at a disused community centre they are now home to small plants hanging from homemade macramé hangers, how’s that for a bit of retro up-cycling? Everyone was included in the preparations; we grow a lot of our own fruit and vegetables. We have an allotment, a large poly-tunnel and small garden.
We grow blackcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries and rhubarb, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and garlic. It’s a real community effort, we have great contacts in the villages, every year we are invited to pick perfectly good fruit that would otherwise just fall from the trees. We were asked to pick apples, pears, plums and quinces from our neighbour’s gardens. These were turned into the jams, chutney and pickles that fill the hampers we sell at local Christmas Fairs. It’s not all jams and chutneys; at Cafe Padarn in Fachwen they have been making luxury Christmas puddings. These sell well in the cafe and at the Christmas Fairs; Sally has made over 100 this year. Caban y Cwm Cafe in Cwm y Glo will have made 1,200 mince pies by the time Christmas comes . . . . . . . . They won’t just be just any old mince pies though; they will be Menter Fachwen mince pies, filled to the top with mincemeat. Some will be topped with cranberries or marzipan, orange crumble, almonds, lemon icing or a mouth watering mix of the above.
On the 10th of December, at E.B’s cafe in Deiniolen, they will be hosting a Christmas dinner for 25 regular customers. I know they are looking forward to a slap up feast. It’s all go at Christmas, and this is just a tiny snapshot of what’s going on at Menter Fachwen this year. Details of ‘what’s on’ at Menter Fachwen and how to join in the fun or buy any of our products can be found on our website www.menterfachwen.org.uk. You can also call us on 01286 872 014.
The organisation featured in this blog post is just one of many that you can support. Many more can be found on our Go Full Circle directory. Happy Christmas and ‘buy social’ J
Jeff Cuthbert AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, laid out a clear challenge to the Third Sector in his keynote address to the WCVA Conference in Llandudno today.
Explaining the context of severe financial pressures and an increasing demand for service, the Minister said that the challenges facing us are very real. This means that every pound spent on Third Sector organisations has to count. There is a clear need to demonstrate more clearly the impact of Third Sector spending, looking explicitly at outcomes in terms of policy, particularly tackling poverty.
The Minister also set out expectations about a regional dimension to Third Sector collaboration, encouraging work across local authority boundaries from next year. But this is not in itself going to produce the shift towards a results-based service delivery model for the sector. The issue here is governance. The challenge is how the boards and executives of Third Sector organisations can ensure their survival by demonstrating the value of their work in terms that the government will understand. Partly this is about describing what we do in new terms but part is also about fundamental change.
The Wales Co-operative Centre provides support to social businesses to help them survive, thrive and grow, benefiting the sector, the economy and the communities of Wales. A key part of this support is for governance, which is the glue that sets the social purpose of the organisations we work with. The need for this sort of support will increase as the impact of public sector austerity becomes more pronounced.
As we near the end of our Tackling Poverty Fortnight campaign, we’ve received a guest blog post from Ellen Petts, MD of Greenstream Flooring CIC. Ellen’s post provides an insight into how her business, based in Porth, has a positive impact on poverty:
Although I am no expert on the complex issues of why we in Wales have even one person ‘living in poverty’, I’m pretty opinionated and do know what we at Greenstream Flooring CIC do, in our small way, to try and alleviate some of the harshness of actually living in poverty.
The story of Greenstream Flooring CIC, is a story which really shouldn’t exist. Why is it that an ‘intelligent’ species has got itself in a position where it accepts that on one hand it wastes vast amounts of valuable materials, including food, and on the other hand large numbers of people are living in poverty, don’t want or can’t access this abundance of ‘waste’ material, including the humble carpet tile – our bag?
Only this week Tesco announced it wasted 30,000 tonnes of food in the first six months of this year. Just because some ‘Eurocrat’ somewhere has decreed so called ‘sell-by / use by’ dates, you’re not telling me that no less than 50% of that food wasn’t edible? In the humble world of the carpet tile, enormous amounts of carbon and energy is put into making a product that is indestructible and yet, a few years later, vast energy is also put into trying to destroy it, either via reprocessing, burning or burying it!
In my experience, simply getting hold of an otherwise wasted material (carpet tiles in our case) re-cleaning and re-grading it and then selling it, at a fraction of the cost of new, is not only creating employment but it’s also creating the basic warmth, sound–proofing, insulation and dignity that everyone should have in a so called ‘developed society’. When food’s hard enough to buy then the warmth and comfort provided by carpet is simply too much of a luxury for lots of people!
I’m sure I’m over simplifying the situation but giving materials a second life is, as far as my experience, a real opportunity for community regeneration through ‘repair, re-distribution and re-sale’. Be it food, washing machines, curtains or our stuff – the humble carpet tiles, what we need is two things to happen.
Firstly I would like to see a concerted effort in Wales to help develop the re-use sector, to help the sector develop more material streams and more facilities. A ‘waste to wealth’ campaign, that identifies a number of key materials which are and have the potential for local ‘wealth creation’ and then supports communities to develop the potential of those materials, is what’s called for first. Real local regeneration outputs of creating training and employment are possible, however small, in the job of helping to alleviate the symptoms of poverty. We and other re-use groups in Wales are sustainable businesses, via the valid re-use of otherwise wasted materials for local benefit, be it food, furniture or even carpet tiles.
Secondly, in a world where charity shops, eBay and the like are abundant, do low income people have the will or the tools to find cheaper second hand goods? If you haven’t got transport and you don’t have the internet your options are limited to your local convenience store and whichever hawk comes knocking on your door. In our case, people can buy three grades of re-used carpet tile, A to C, with the prices as low as 30p per tile, £1.20 per m2, we are even happy to donate carpets (www.homeliferange.co.uk) . However I’m not convinced we are reaching more than a fraction of the people that really need us. So how do we reach those people before the door-stop hawk? Maybe another campaign is the answer along the lines of ‘second is not second best’, would help. Signposting people to their good quality local second hand store before going to the lengths of getting a door-step loan to buy new would surely have some impact.
Anyway, we at Greenstream try and provide some of the warmth, comfort and basic dignity that carpets provides. Regardless of people’s income, everyone deserves to keep warm and insulated where they live especially when the carpet in question would otherwise be thrown out!