Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

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Wrexham’s community pub to thrive this Christmas #gofullcircle

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Wrexham’s community pub to thrive this Christmas #gofullcircle

This blog post is the latest part of our Winter ‘Go Full Circle’ campaign, which is promoting the role of – and encouraging consumers to support – Welsh social enterprises, co-operatives and other community organisations in the run-up to Christmas.

Many thanks to Marc Jones of the Saith Seren community pub in Wrexham, for providing us with a contribution to the Winter 2013 Go Full Circle campaign:

Christmas is Saith Seren’s busiest time of the year as we approach our second birthday as a community cooperative pub and Welsh Centre for the Wrecsam area.

As a well-known venue for live music in the town centre, our weekends are always busy but the Christmas season also means our festive menu will be in demand – we already have more than 180 Christmas dinners booked.

The Centre’s offices and rooms for hire are now becoming very popular with community groups and voluntary organisations wishing to meet in a convenient, refurbished town-centre location and we host a series of Welsh-language classes for all levels of learners. We’re also home to the Cylch Ti a Fi toddlers’ groups and the local Menter Iaith Maelor.

The building we took over has now been transformed from a disused pub that had lain idle for a year into a thriving hub of community activity and entertainment.

For more details, please visit the Saith Seren website http://www.saithseren.org.uk/

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’

Written by davemadgecoop

December 13, 2013 at 8:50 am

Tafarn y Fic – the heart of the community! #GoFullCircle

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Tafarn y Fic – the heart of the community! #GoFullCircle

This blog post is the latest part of our Winter ‘Go Full Circle’ campaign, which is promoting the role of – and encouraging consumers to support – Welsh social enterprises, co-operatives and other community organisations in the run-up to Christmas.

Thanks to Osian Gwyn Elis of Tafarn y Fic, which is situated on the Llyn Peninsula in Gwynedd. It sounds as though there’s a jam-packed programme of activities in store for the patrons of this community-run pub:

Tafarn y Fic, Llithfaen this year celebrates a quarter of a century of existence as a cooperative community pub, becoming the oldest in Europe – some feat for a country pub in Pen Llyn.

The Fic of course works hard to offer more than just a pub service. The aim this year is to use the back room for the first time to hold a Christmas party for the children in the village. However, the idea to hold a village children’s party in Llithfaen is not a new one. Indeed, a village children’s party has been an annual tradition since the 50s. There has been no party in recent years therefore the Fic intends to re-establish the custom. This is an example of how the Fic is willing to diversify and give the community a boost.

One of the main advantages of the Fic is that it provides free entertainment and social activities for the whole community.

The Fic Christmas Quiz will take place on 12 December this Christmas – come along and rack your brains while looking back at 2013. There will be a carol evening for the whole family on 23 December led by Seimon Menai and Anne Hafod. Boxing Day afternoon the Moniars will be ready to entertain with lively music! We will be joined by Geraint Lovegreen a’r Enw Da on Saturday 28 – an old favourite! Of course, in order to draw the year to a close in style the Fic’s house band – Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog – will present songs from the 80s on New Year’s Eve – come along in your 80s fancy dress!

Tafarn y Fic – the heart of the community!

(For more information go to http://www.tafarnyfic.com or contact swyddfa@tafarnyfic.com)

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’.

Written by davemadgecoop

December 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

New worker co-operative @Barod_CIC is an inspirational example of people with a learning disability setting up a social enterprise

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Joe Powell at the launch of Baroda

Today saw the launch of new worker co-operative Barod at the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff.  The organisation was helped by Enterprise Mentoring, All Wales People First and the Wales Co-operative Centre amongst others. Barod has four employee directors, two with learning disabilities and two without. At the launch, Joe Powell, Director of All Wales People First, explained why more needs to be done to support people with learning disabilities to run their own enterprises…

“Hello, my name is Joe Powell and I’ve been the National Director of the self-advocacy organisation, All Wales People First for just over a year now, following a nationwide campaign to appoint a person with a Learning Disability to head the organisation.  This was to ensure we are truly member led and are true to our People First principles.

I personally have a social disability, which has caused me a life time of social isolation, depression and at times despair.  Yes ladies and gentleman, I am a supporter of Sunderland football club.

My other disability, Asperger Syndrome, does not cause me nearly as much difficulty.  When managed and the right support is available there is no reason why I and others who come under the Learning Disability label cannot live as full and as meaningful lives as anyone else in the community.  The most disabling aspect (in my own personal opinion) of having a learning disability is the society we live in, the way people with learning disabilities are stereotyped and the prejudices showed towards us because of generations of ignorance which have often remained unchallenged.  But what has any of this got to do with Barod workers co-operative you may ask.

In my opinion self-advocacy is not just about giving people with Learning Disabilities the skills and opportunities to voice their political and personal life interests – it is also in taking an active part in our communities and showing people in society, not only our worth but the fact our communities need us.  We bring valuable skills and abilities to society.  Helping people with Learning Disabilities to access employment, isn’t a tokenistic or politically correct thing to do, it is essential for both the quality of life of the people with Learning Disabilities and their feelings of self-worth, but for society as a whole.

Even before the current austerity measures, we had a ridiculous situation in which people like myself and Barod directors Jonathan and Alan, were effectively retired at the age of eighteen, a situation which neither suited ourselves or an already burdened benefits system.  But unfortunately we have all grown up during a time in which there was little other choice.  We could either not work and have full benefits and full support, or we could work with no guarantee we would get the correct workplace support or emotional support and risk being left isolated and in crisis should the right support not be in place.  Finding out what you are entitled to could be complicated and at times impossible.  It felt to me like it was Hobson’s choice.  I personally always felt a sense of inadequacy, not really fulfilling a role in society.  My ambition was always to pay tax, something which made many people laugh.  But what many people who work take for granted is the fact that paying tax offers a person dignity and a sense of making a contribution to the world we live in.  People like me don’t want hand outs, we want equality.  Part of equality is in both taking responsibility for our own lives as well as reaping the rewards as contributing citizens.  Working for a living offers people with Learning Disabilities an amazing opportunity to achieve this.  And indeed for equality to work people with learning disabilities themselves have to take responsibility and take the opportunities that are offered to them.

Long before I was in post, the board of All Wales People first discussed the lack of opportunities for people with Learning Disabilities to access employment.  Traditionally the only real opportunities for employment for people with learning disabilities were in catering or cleaning.  There were (and still are) plenty of social enterprises about but we didn’t feel they were necessarily allowing people with Learning Disabilities to play a key role in the management as we’d like.  The problems with many social enterprises were that they offered people with Learning Disabilities menial tasks with little responsibility or work place equality and were often dependent on grant aid to sustain them.  We thought Barod should be different.   Those who were part of the initial discussions about the shape that Barod would take, wanted to ensure that people with learning disabilities were involved in setting up the social enterprise as directors, rather than just as beneficiaries.  Indeed the four directors of Barod are made up of two members of People First groups, who have Learning Disabilities and two who don’t.  All of whom bring very different, but very relevant, experience to the organisation.

Having established the nature of Barod and its commercial identity, we then had lots of discussions about how closely it should be linked to All Wales People First. Lots of working models were presented to the Board who eventually agreed on the Workers’ Co-op model and that it should be separate to All Wales People First so that it could remain self-sufficient and keep its own independent identity and autonomy.  And indeed this is where Barod stands today.

The involvement of Jonathan Richards and Alan Armstrong as People First members was a natural extension of their National Council roles, as pioneers of the great new world and as people who could give real member experience to the working model. Mal Cansdale has worked in the past with the Shaw Trust – a supported employment organisation – as a job coach as well as being an experienced member of staff within various People First organisations.  Anne Collis has an extensive experience and reputation for the work she has done on research and accessibility, most notably with Easy Read, and played a key role in the development of important Easy Read documents such as the recently launched ‘Clear and Easy’ packs launched in the Summer. Each of the four directors have equal status and equal responsibility within Barod and each are to be commended for realising today’s milestone, in being in a position to launch Barod as a workers co-operative – one which hopefully will lead the way as a good model for others to follow and to give hope for many people with Learning Disabilities to feel they have something to strive for in the future, and not live a life spent in their bedrooms, meaningless day services or tokenistic employment.  Barod offers people real hope and hope in this day and age, is worth its weight in gold for people with Learning Disabilities.

Barod workers co-operative has succeeded purely because of the hard work and endeavour of the four directors.  All Wales People First can take no (and would never try to claim) credit for the enormous progress they have made.  But we do share the enormous pride in their achievement.  As National Director of All Wales People First I would like to reiterate our commitment to the Directors of Barod, as set out in our Business Plan to support Barod workers co-operative in any way we can to help them to continue raising their profile and to gain opportunities to enhance their already blossoming reputation.  I would like to end my speech by offering our enormous congratulations to the directors of Barod for all of their hard work and for taking Barod to where it is today.

Written by cathewalescoop

November 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Swansea co-operative consortium wins Innovation in Business Award

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Natalie Reynolds, That Useful Company, recieves her Innovation in Business Award

Natalie Reynolds recieves her Innovation in Business Award

Social media and marketing expert Natalie Reynolds has won an award for innovation at today’s South Wales Evening Post Women in Business Awards 2013.

Natalie is a founding member of the marketing co-operative consortium That Useful Company which was set up last year with assistance from the Wales Co-operative Centre.

The new company allowed the co-operative’s members to work together on marketing projects and contracts under the umbrella company whilst still remaining specialists in their own fields.

It was Natalie’s idea to find a way of formalising several informal collaboration relationships into a consortium to be able to bid for larger contracts than they could attract as sole traders or as small businesses.

Since its launch in 2012 the co-operative has expanded rapidly, necessitating two office moves and the creation of several jobs.

The co-operative consortium has won a number of marketing contracts where businesses get the benefit of working with specialists across a number of marketing areas including social media, web, design and strategy.

Natalie said, “ I am hoping that even more people will start thinking of working in a similar way as I believe it will help support micro-businesses in the Welsh economy”.

Sarah Owens who helped Natalie and the other members of the co-operative to set up the new business was delighted with the news, “This is such a well deserved award. Natalie and her colleagues have worked so hard to make this co-operative consortium a success and it is great to see them as they reap the benefits. Working together in a formal co-operative consortium is a great way of small enterprises accessing work they couldn’t access by themselves and is an approach that can work across any sector in Wales”.

To find out more about That Useful Company, visit www.thatusefulcompany.co.uk

To find out more about working together in a co-operative consortium, visit http://www.walescooperative.org/working-with-other-businesses

Natalie Reynolds, co-founder of That Useful Company with her Innovation in Business Award

Natalie Reynolds, co-founder of That Useful Company with her Innovation in Business Award

New housing bond is great news for development of affordable housing in Wales.

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The Welsh Government today launched an innovative new financing scheme which will support the development of over 1000 new affordable homes in Wales. The Welsh Housing Finance Grant Scheme will allow housing associations to use rental income from the new housing stock to service the debt.

Twenty Housing Associations are taking part in the scheme, with coverage across all 22 local authority areas in Wales. Construction work on the first projects will commence in 2013.

As part of the scheme, M&G Investments are providing the main new source of finance for Wales’s Registered Social Landlords, in light of the lack of long term funding currently available from banks.

Dave Palmer is the Co-operative Housing Project Manager at the Wales Co-operative Centre, “We welcome this long term innovative funding for Affordable Housing where the Welsh Government guarantee the interest payments for 30 years. This will help our Housing Association partners and may enable other development finance to be used for Co-operative Housing where the need exists.

We hope that this will pave the way for a co-operative housing bond for England and Wales in the next few years”.

Digital Inclusion is one of our most effective weapons in the fight against poverty

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Get Merthyr Tydfil Online launch

Get Merthyr Tydfil Online Launch: (Left to Right) Angela Jones – Communities 2.0, Derek Walker, Chief Executive Wales Co-operative Centre, Mike Owen, Chief Executive Merthyr Valleys Homes, Eleanor Marks, Welsh Government, Ian Benbow, Head of Service, Social Regeneration, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.

Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, looks at how digital inclusion, financial inclusion and social enterprise support work together to protect people from poverty and to mitigate against its impact.

Today is the launch of Get Swansea Online, a local initiative that aims to help Swansea’s estimated 45,000 digitally excluded residents to use the internet. This is the latest in a series of initiatives brokered by Communities 2.0, the Welsh Government digital inclusion project.

At yesterday’s launch of another initiative, Get Merthyr Tydfil Online, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty Jeff Cuthbert congratulated Communities 2.0 on its collaborative and partnership led approach. He emphasised the importance of helping people to get online and use the internet to save money and to find jobs. He stated that “digital exclusion compounds isolation” and said that Get Merthyr Tydfil Online has the potential to “reach the most digitally and financially excluded citizens” in the county. Last week the Minister visited a similar initiative in the Caia Park area of Wrexham. The political will is certainly there to ensure that everyone in Wales has access to the internet and the skills to use it effectively in the fight against poverty – but there is still more to be done.

We are very lucky here in the Wales Co-operative Centre. Through our work as lead partner of Communities 2.0, and through our own projects on financial inclusion and social enterprise development, we see the positive improvements our interventions can bring to the lives of people in real danger of falling below the bread line. Across Wales we see people, helped by Communities 2.0 and our financial inclusion initiatives, gain IT skills and use those skills to get jobs and get out of debt.  Communities 2.0 recently supported Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent MIND’s social enterprise arm ‘Training in MIND’ with an investment of nearly £5,000. The support will help pay for new laptop and desktop computers in their IT suite. The IT suite is manned by volunteers running drop-in sessions for people to update their IT skills and search for jobs. The organisation is currently setting up a work club for people who attend the centre. This is an excellent example of a social enterprise integrating digital inclusion and anti-poverty measures into its social aims and on the ground delivery.

At the Wales Co-operative Centre we also see the difference in our communities when they are engaged and enabled and can build social enterprises that reinvest their surpluses back into training and job creation. Galeri Caernarfon Cyf is a social enterprise that is focussed on regenerating the town of Caernarfon. Over the years it has regenerated properties and spaces in the town and opened up a highly successful arts centre. It now employs 36 full time equivalent jobs directly and supports over 40 in its tenant businesses. It is estimated that this one social enterprise has an economic impact of almost £1.3m to the economies of Gwynedd and Ynys Môn. In fact, Galeri is among just 6% of firms in Gwynedd that employ more than 25 people.

The Wales Co-operative Centre receives funding from a number of different sources to allow us to deliver our support work to communities across Wales. Our funders include the European Regional Development Fund, Welsh Government and the Oak Foundation.

This year, we have also led on a project which encourages individuals to use the services of local credit unions to help them ensure that their rent payment gets to their landlords – meaning that they can keep a roof over their own and their family’s heads. In Caerphilly, development staff are working directly with individuals to suggest ways in which they can use existing support and advice to make the money they have last longer.

We are also managing and promoting www.moneymadeclearwales.org  which offers signposting to advice on saving and loans, debt and benefits. Access to digital resources is now intrinsically linked to good money management and to allowing individuals to take control of their own lives.

Financial and digital inclusion doesn’t just reduce isolation, but it allows freedom, liberty and empowerment. It allows individuals and groups to take their next steps forward – individually in the jobs market or as entrepreneurs, and collectively as empowered communities and social enterprises.

We believe that by integrating financial and digital inclusion with community engagement and real support for social enterprises and charities, it is possible to alleviate some of the poverty that currently exists in Wales. But, just as importantly, we believe that this sort of support is empowering. It allows people to make decisions about their own futures. It allows them to build their skills and their confidence and it empowers individuals to lift themselves out of poverty and stay out of it.

Read all about it – new co-operative newspaper hits the streets!

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A new newspaper for Port Talbot, The Magnet, has hit the streets being distributed free to 20,000 households in Port Talbot over the coming days.

Packed with news, sport and even a crossword, the newspaper, produced by a journalists’ cooperative (Local News South Wales Ltd), is the fulfilment of years of hard work and planning by the dedicated social enterprise team.

Their aim has to be to ensure that a news vacuum, left in Port Talbot when its former weekly newspaper closed down in 2009, can be filled, and that local people can have a news service they can engage with, contribute to and be proud of.

Port Talbot Magnet director Ken Smith said: “This is a great achievement from a small group of people, and one which we aim to build on. We have had a website for a three years, but getting the newspaper out was really important to ensure more people in Port Talbot got the news they were otherwise missing, and to begin the process of building a sustainable business.

“One of our directors Rachel Howells has written a guide to who we are, what we’ve done and where hope to be going. You can read it at http://www.lnpt.org/2013/09/03/magnets-in-print-but-what-now/ . For us to build on this success we now hope to take it to the next stage, and for that we are really needing the help of people who understand social enterprises and can help us realise the advertising potential for the newspaper.

“We set up our business and got our first issue out with excellent support from the Wales Co-operative Centre and the Carnegie Trust and others, but for us to progress now with our vision of maintaining a regular, mass circulation newspaper for Port Talbot and surrounding areas, then we’re looking for of experienced advertising sales reps or agencies that work with and understand social enterprises.”

Port Talbot Magnet can be contacted at porttalbotmagnet@gmail.com or at http://www.lnpt.org/contact-us/  or by phoning 07840 168071.

Written by davemadgecoop

September 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Congress to open doors to co-operative housing success

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Co-operative Congress 2013 opens in Cardiff next week. One of the main themes that will be debated at the event is co-operative housing. The Wales Co-operative Centre is hosting a seminar on this topical issue, on Saturday 29th June. To give you a flavour of what to expect, we’ve spoken to Dave Palmer who manages the Co-operative Housing Project, here at the Centre.

Dave, in brief, how can co-operative housing projects help to increase the supply of affordable housing in Wales?

Developing and promoting new ways of providing land and funding for housing, such as community land trusts, mutual home ownership and co-operatives, sits alongside Welsh Government commitments to release public land for affordable housing, to help people find homes to suit their circumstances, to introduce flexible tenure arrangements, and to support social housing tenants to participate in the running of their homes and services. housing 1

Co-operatives could make a significant contribution to new, affordable, housing options that can help people’s needs at different stages of their lives, by consideration of establishing a new tenure relationship that has “commonality of interest at its heart”, heralding a desire to consider a co-operative housing tenure.

 Is this something that could prove particularly beneficial to first time buyers? 

There is strong evidence that there is an appetite for an increased supply of co-operative housing in Wales based on the responses of research participants, who responded overwhelmingly positively to the principles and housing models demonstrated. This is particularly the case for households who are currently priced out of the owner-occupied sector and whose needs are not so great that they are unable to, or choose not to access social housing. They may also find themselves somewhat reluctantly living in the Private Rented Sector (PRS). Therefore, the major area for agencies to focus on if co-operative housing is to meet housing needs, are these reluctant renters who want more security.

Since the credit crunch and the increasing difficulty such households face in accessing mortgages, this group is one which is growing year on year in the Welsh housing market, facing a ‘quadruple whammy  of increasing PRS rents, substantial mortgage deposit requirements, increasingly strict lending criteria and higher interest fees than existing mortgage customers

The research also showed that there exists demand for co-housing with no public subsidy required, but practical support assist in the development of schemes, which, when developed, will in turn free up properties for first time buyers.

The concept of co-operative housing is relatively new in Wales, so are there any success stories from other parts of the UK that show how it’s already working?

From the 1970s onwards, a number of small housing co-ops (often single shared houses) have been established using exclusively private sector funding such as ethical bank loans and “loanstock” arrangements.  Some of these are located in Wales, including the Golem housing co-operative in Swansea and Dol Llys Hall in Powys.

There has been a significant growth of Community Land Trusts (CLT), co-operative housing organisations based on local community memberships who own and steward land and other assets for community use. CLT membership will usually be open to people living in the homes built, but it will also be available to a wider community membership.  CLT examples include Lyvennet Community Trust in Cumbria, High Bickington Community Property Trust in North Devon, and East London CLT in London, to name a few of the 130 CLTs across the country.  West Rhyl Community Land Trust, supported by Denbighshire County Council, is the first example of a CLT in Wales.

Currently the only example of a Mutual Home Ownership society is the recently developed Lilac scheme in Leeds.  Also describing themselves as a “cohousing” scheme in that they are an intentional community with a communal house, Lilac’s members will each pay about 35% of their income for a lease of their homes, to cover the costs of Lilac’s group mortgage, management and maintenance costs and to buy equity in the project.  Lilac received funding and other support from the English Homes & Communities Agency, the Department of Energy & Climate Change and Leeds City Council, and has secured loan funding from ethical banks.

housing 2Cohousing organisations, based on American and Danish models, enable people to buy and sell homes in “intentional” communities built around communal facilities, in some cases, alongside other members who rent their homes, such as at the Threshold Centre in Dorset.  This approach, particularly popular for elderly people, but potentially relevant for all ages, has been adopted in 15 communities in the UK, with a further 40 currently exploring cohousing options.

The UK housing construction industry has been hit hard by the recession and other economic challenges of recent years. How much of a role can co-operative housing schemes play in boosting the industry?

Co-operative housing is a successful and attractive model of renting that can deliver what people want. Co-operative forms of home ownership could provide collective protection for an intermediate market from individual risk and market fluctuations, whilst capturing investment gains collectively.  At a time when extreme housing market vagaries have left many housing consumers insecure and unsure about the future, co-operative housing might be an alternative attractive option, not just to state provision of housing, but also to market provision.

Therefore, it could boost not only the smaller local builder, larger developer and the self-build elements across the whole of the industry, and address some of the training issues, as well as providing affordable, high quality homes and local communities.

The Wales Co-operative Centre and its partners are already working on potential co-operative housing developments. How far are we from the first co-operative housing tenants moving in, in Wales?

It is early days, but the pioneer projects that we are working on, are ready to deliver a range of rented, limited equity and market co-operative homes. The Wales Co-operative Centre and Welsh Government are keen to continue supporting and encouraging this positive start, by empowering the pioneers to deliver much needed homes.

The aim of the project is to have two ’Shovel Ready’ schemes, i.e. with Planning and Building Regs, ready to start on site by March 2014. We are ahead of this timescale with some partners.

What are the main things that need to happen between now and then?

It is vital that housing organisations, facilitating the development of a co-operative housing scheme invest time in a local awareness raising campaign. This will help to maximise consumer interest in membership and provide the opportunity to participate in a scheme, to as wide a population as possible.

Any promotional campaign run at a local level, by a housing organisation should consider very carefully how it ensures that it is effective in contacting harder-to-reach and minority groups, to ensure that co-operative housing schemes are inclusive.

That work is undertaken at both a national and local level to raise awareness of, and promote co-operative housing. The promotional/publicity material should target ‘reluctant private renters’ and should focus specifically on the:

  • affordability of co-operative housing
  • increased security offered by co-operative housing
  • benefits of living in an ‘intentional community’

That the Welsh Government and the housing sector consider what sort of mechanisms they could put in place to provide advice, support and assistance to co-housing groups in Wales, to assist them to move proposed developments forward. This support should not provide any form of subsidy for such groups, however the setting up of a national bridging loan mechanism, could be considered to help facilitate the developments, particularly for those who are ‘equity rich and cash poor’.

That the Welsh Government considers how it continues to support groups of co-operators and housing organisations, to continue to access expert financial and modelling advice beyond the conclusion of the Co-operative Housing Project based at the Wales Co-operative Centre.

To book a place on the Co-operative Housing seminar, at Co-operative Congress, please visit the official event website.

Written by MarkWalesCooperative

June 18, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Czech delegation learn about Welsh social enterprises

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Jakub Plojhar from the Czech delegation discusses social enterprise with Wales Co-operative Cente Board Member Wynne Evans

Jakub Plojhar from the Czech delegation discusses social enterprise with Wales Co-operative Centre Board Member Wynne Evans

Earlier today, Catherine Evans, Wales Co-operative Centre Marketing Manager, accompanied a delegation from the Czech Republic on a visit to Cardiff social enterprise Vision 21. Here’s her story…

I’m just back from spending the morning with a group of visitors from the Czech Republic. They’ve spent the week in Wales to find out about social enterprise. I went with them to Vision 21 in Cardiff, a social enterprise which provides training and work to people with disabilities.

The Czech Republic has a well developed tradition of
co-operatives, stemming back 160 years. Agriculture and housing are two sectors which are largely based on
co-operative models. However, the concept of social enterprise is much less well known, and the group (which included people from the South Bohemian Chamber of Commerce, a university economics department, local government and civic bodies) had come to Wales to find out more about how social enterprises can provide employment for people who are furthest from the main-stream labour market.Vision 21 was founded in 1987 and currently provides over 350 student placements each week. It has 16 different social enterprises to support training into the world of work and further learning for people with differing needs and styles. Its projects provide the students with the opportunity to broaden their life skills in real work settings.The building which I visited with the delegation from the Czech Republic was the Sbectrwm Centre in Fairwater, Cardiff.

The morning began with a tour of Sbectrwm led by Diana O’Keefe, manager of Vision 21’s ICT training project. Delegates were shown the pottery workshop, the community garden and the café, and had a chance to talk to some of the students based at the Centre.They then heard from Diana about the way in which Vision 21 works with people who have a wide variety of physical, emotional and social needs. It was interesting to learn how the organisation teaches soft skills – such as time management, self confidence and working independently – as well as basic literacy, numeracy and IT skills, and vocational skills.

Rhian Edwards from the Wales Co-operative Centre spoke about the co-operative and social enterprise sector in Wales, and explained how the economic challenges facing Wales are often best tackled by social enterprise and co-operative solutions. She highlighted the huge variety of sectors where co-operatives and social enterprises are thriving.

Simon Harris, Wales Director of Business in the Community, discussed the way in which the private sector can play a role in society by adopting responsible business practices. He outlined four pillars of responsible business – care for employees, care for the community, care for the environment, and responsible supply chains.

The Czech delegates asked plenty of questions about how social enterprise is supported and its relationship to government bodies. They were also curious about Wales’s relationship with the European Union, and the level of EU support for social enterprise.

It was a fascinating morning and great to showcase one of Wales’s best known social enterprises to an international audience.

Written by davemadgecoop

May 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Newport residents invited to participate in Co-operative Housing survey

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The Seren Group, which includes Charter Housing, is considering developing co-operative housing on part of the old Pirelli Factory site, just off Corporation Road in Maindee. Before the group moves forward with this idea, it housing photoneeds to find out whether Newport residents would be interested in living in co-operative housing. Seren is working with the Wales Co-operative Centre and the Chartered Institute of Housing to identify whether there is any demand for this form of housing in the City.

What is co-operative housing?

Co-operative housing is a form of housing where members (either tenants or owners) democratically control and manage their homes and play an active role in the life of the communities they live in. Co-operative housing is very common in other parts of Europe. There are a number of different types of co-operative housing, either for rent or for sale but they have one fundamental thing in common: they put democracy and community ownership at the heart of housing.

Some of the advantages of co-operative housing are:-

• An affordable form of home ownership

• A democratic and safe community

• Long term financing and security

• Flexible to meet occupiers needs

• Potential of shared benefits of communal energy

What is the plan for co-operative housing in Newport?

Seren’s plan for the old Pirelli site is to create a community of around 200 homes which will be a mix of homes for rent and to buy. The vision is of an ‘urban village’; bringing the community benefits of village life to the heart of the City. Seren would like to include an area of co-operative housing in this development, if there are enough people interested.

Why are we reaching out to you and what should you do next?

We are trying to find out whether you are interested in knowing more about the development of the Pirelli site and whether you are interested in being a part of the co-operative Seren wants to support on the site.

If you are interested in finding out more, please go online using this web address

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/co-operativehousinginnewport.

You’ll be asked to answer a few questions about yourself, your family, your current housing situation and to provide your contact details.

We will then write to you with more information about co-operative housing and an invitation to attend an event to tell you more about Seren’s plan and the types of co-operative housing that may be possible.

If you have any questions about this matter, please contact Dave Palmer from the Wales Co-operative Centre on 029 2055 6169.

Thank you.

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