Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

Posts Tagged ‘co-operative

Arloeswyr Modern – Y Fonesig Pauline Green, International Co-operative Alliance

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Dros y pythefnos diwethaf, rydym wedi bod yn cynnal yr ymgyrch ‘Arloeswyr Modern’ ar gyfer Pythefnos Gydweithredol. Ysbrydolwyd yr ymgyrch gan y Rochdale Pioneers, sydd ymhlith cyndeidiau’r mudiad cydweithredol, gan hyrwyddo cadernid ac amrywiaeth y sector cydweithredol yng Nghymru.

I gloi’r ymgyrch, rydym yn falch iawn o gyflwyno post blog gan westai arbennig, y Fonesig Pauline Green, Llywydd Cynghrair Rhyngwladol y Mentrau Cydweithredol. Mae heddiw hefyd yn Ddiwrnod Rhyngwladol y Mentrau Cymdeithasol:

Dame Pauline Green

Fonesig Pauline Green

“Rydw i wrth fy modd gyda ffotograff yr Arloeswyr Modern! Am ffordd wych o gyfuno traddodiad a heddiw. Mae’r mudiad cydweithredol yn symud yn ei flaen, fel sy’n amlwg o bresenoldeb y tair menyw wrth ail-greu ffotograff gwreiddiol yr Arloeswyr. Gallaf hefyd weld amrediad ac amrywiaeth y mentrau cydweithredol sy’n cael eu cynrychioli – rhai mawr a bach, o ynni i siopau cymunedol, mentrau cydweithredol y gweithwyr, a chonsortia cydweithredol – gwaith da iawn.

Mae mor wych bod hyn wedi cael ei wneud yng Nghymru. Rwy’n teimlo cyswllt cryf â Chymru a’i mentrau cydweithredol ar ôl gwasanaethu ar Gomisiwn Llywodraeth Cymru ar Gwmnïau Cydweithredol a Chydfuddiannol yn 2013. Rwy’n gobeithio’n fawr y bydd y mudiad cydweithredol yng Nghymru yn tyfu. Mae traddodiad cryf o weithgaredd cydweithredol yng Nghymru, a’r ysbryd cymunedol sydd wrth wraidd pobl yng nghymoedd Cymru a’r mudiad cydweithredol byd-eang sy’n darparu’r ysbrydoliaeth i’r cyfan lwyddo. Dylai’r Arloeswyr Modern sy’n cynrychioli arweinyddiaeth mentrau cydweithredol yng Nghymru ysbrydoli eraill i adeiladu presenoldeb cydweithredol cryfach yng Nghymru, a helpu i greu swyddi y mae gwir angen amdanynt a chryfhau cydlyniant cymunedol. Dyma’r adeg briodol ar gyfer y gwaith hwn. Yn Sbaen, crëwyd 10,000 o swyddi gan fentrau cydweithredol y gweithiwyr yn ystod pedwar mis cyntaf eleni, ac mae’r sector cyfan wedi tyfu 37% dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf – a hyn oll yn ystod cyfnod o argyfwng economaidd dwfn a gwirioneddol o fewn sectorau traddodiadol yr economi Sbaenaidd.

Arloeswyr Modern

Arloeswyr Modern

Fe wyddoch fod dod o hyd i swyddi yn hanfodol i gymaint o bobl, yn enwedig pobl ifanc mewn cymaint o wledydd ar hyn o bryd. Chwilio am swydd a’m harweiniodd i’r mudiad cydweithredol o ddifrif yn y lle cyntaf. Roeddwn yn gwybod am y Rochdale Pioneers er dyddiau cynnar yn yr ysgol, ac roeddwn wedi mynd â’m plant i Werin y Coed er pan oeddent yn fach ac roeddwn hyd yn oed wedi bod yn arweinydd Gwerin fy hun am gyfnod byr. Ond dechreuais ymwneud ymhellach pan oeddwn yn ddigon ffodus i gael fy CV wedi’i gymryd o ddifrif gan Swyddfa Seneddol Co-operative Union pan oeddwn yn edrych ar ddychwelyd i’r gwaith ar ôl cael plant. Ymgeisiais am nifer o swyddi cyn i’r rôl fel Swyddog Ymchwil ar gyfer Co-op Union ddod i’r amlwg; cefais fy nghyfweld a chefais y swydd. Felly teimlais lawer o gydymdeimlad pan gwrddais â merch ifanc yn y Gyngres Gydweithredol ar 26 Mehefin. Roedd Rhiannon Colvin a grŵp o ffrindiau di-waith wedi dod at ei gilydd a dechrau menter gydweithredol o’r enw Altgen. Ei nod yw dod o hyd i waith i bobl ifanc di-waith, ac mae’n gwneud gwaith gwych. Yn ystod yr un penwythnos, bûm yn helpu i lansio’r gymdeithas dai gydweithredol gyntaf i fyfyrwyr yn Birmingham – grŵp arall gwych o gydweithredwyr ifanc ymroddedig a llawn cymhelliant nad ydynt yn anelu at fod yn arweinwyr y dyfodol, gan eu bod nhw eisoes yn arwain – ac mae hynny mor amheuthun i’w weld.

Rochdale Pioneers

Rochdale Pioneers

Mae Cynghrair Rhyngwladol y Mentrau Cydweithredol yn benderfynol o wneud y gorau o’r blynyddoedd sydd i ddod, yn enwedig peidio â gadael i’r llwch gasglu o dan ein traed ers Blwyddyn Ryngwladol y Mentrau Cydweithredol. Rydym wedi bod yn ysgogi cynnydd ar y ‘Glasbrint ar gyfer Degawd Cydweithredol’, sy’n sefydlu uchelgais y mudiad i fod y model busnes mwyaf cynaliadwy, yr un sy’n cael ei ffafrio gan bobl, ac felly’r un sy’n tyfu gyflymaf erbyn 2020. Mae hwn yn agenda uchelgeisiol ond cyffrous, ac mae llawer o gynnydd wedi bod arno. Ymhlith y mwyaf amlwg yw lansiad y marque cydweithredol newydd. Dynodydd byd-eang a fydd yn rhwymo mentrau cydweithredol ledled y byd, ac a fydd yn adeiladu ein hunaniaeth a’n gwelededd. Pan lansiwyd y marque ym mis Tachwedd 2013, roeddem wedi gobeithio y byddai mentrau cydweithredol yn ei ddefnyddio mewn 100 o wledydd erbyn 2020. Erbyn 30 Mehefin eleni, roedd ceisiadau llwyddiannus wedi’u gwneud gan 68 o wledydd yn barod – Swaziland yw’r ddiweddaraf – gobeithio bod gennyt ti dy un dithau, Cymru? Mae ar gael i bawb ar www.identity.coop. Tra byddwch yn llenwi ffurflen gais ar gyfer y marque, gallwch hefyd ymgeisio am eich enw parth .coop – sydd am ddim am y flwyddyn gyntaf. Drwy hynny byddwch yn rhan o ymgyrch hunaniaeth weithredol – y marque i ddangos eich bod yn rhan o’r mudiad cydweithredol byd-eang, ac enw parth .coop er mwyn gwneud eich hunaniaeth yn weladwy ar-lein.

Mae hi’n gyfnod da i fod yn gydweithredwr. Mae’r mudiad yn tyfu ledled y byd, mae galw cynyddol am system economaidd decach, fwy cyfiawn. Gall mentrau cydweithredol gael effaith sylweddol ar rai o’r problemau mwyaf anhydrin i wynebu’r byd; o ymgorffori democratiaeth llawr gwlad, trwy gyfrwng mentrau a reolir ac a berchnogir yn ddemocrataidd, i eiriolaeth o’n model busnes sy’n rhoi pobl wrth wraidd y broses o wneud penderfyniadau ac nid y rhuthr gwyllt i wneud yr elw mwyaf, i ymwneud â mentrau newid hinsawdd, dod ag arferion cynaliadwy i mewn i’n holl waith, a defnyddio technolegau newydd i ddod â’n strwythurau ariannol a chyfreithiol unigryw i gynulleidfa ehangach.

Diolch i Ganolfan Cydweithredol Cymru am fod mor wych, a gobeithio cewch chi Ddiwrnod Rhyngwladol y Mentrau Cydweithredol 2014 da.

Written by ieuannash

July 11, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Rural Development Plan – Co-operation

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The Welsh Government’s Rural Development Plan proposals on promoting and facilitating co-operation are welcomed. We welcome the focus on enabling collective approaches to environmental projects and sustainable production alongside the support for community-based renewable energy schemes outlined in the proposed Rural Community Development Fund. Combined, these measures should support renewable energy co-operatives in rural areas. The benefits of renewable energy schemes led by community co-operatives and social enterprises are evident from projects such as Awel Aman Tawe. The benefits of projects like Awel Aman Tawe include:

  1. Improved community buy-in for the renewable energy project as the community has a stake and voice in how the project is run
  2. Sale of electricity to fund local projects
  3. Care for the environment through the production of clean electricity and a commitment to preserving local natural environment
  4. Increase in awareness of clean energy and climate change

We also welcome the proposals for co-operation among operators to aid short supply chains, improve business competitiveness and grow local markets. At the Wales Co-operative Centre, we support businesses to form co-operative consortia. This approach has particular advantages for rural businesses that may not otherwise be able to benefit from economies of scale or population density in the same way as urban businesses can. It allows businesses to work together to bid for bigger contracts in addition to having cost savings through marketing efficiencies and sharing IT and infrastructure costs.

There are good examples of where this is already happening with food and drink producers in Wales. Calon Wen brings together Welsh organic dairy farmers to supply organic milk products throughout Wales and the UK. The co-operative was born out of a desire to ensure that as much Welsh organic milk is processed in Wales as possible. Since its formation, it has developed innovative partnerships with suppliers and customers. It has a close supplier relationship with Rachel’s Dairy, and supplies products to Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury and Waitrose as well as other key customers across the UK.

Written by ieuannash

May 23, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Posted in co-operatives, Consortia

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Co-operative education in Wales

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The Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission made several important recommendations that relate to education. For instance, recommendation one proposes that a co-operative ethos should be the central organising principle of the education system and that co-operation should be integrated into all aspects of school life. Recommendation two proposes that learning about co-operation should be embedded in the curriculum.

These proposals could play a key role in achieving a step-change in the co-operative economy in Wales. As the Commission noted, learning about co-operatives and learning how to co-operate are not part of the formal curriculum in Wales. Embedding co-operative values in education is critical to the creation of future generations of co-operators.

Integrating co-operative values into school life will bring many benefits. Schools that adopt co-operative values as part of their culture and ethos will be more democratic, inclusive and collaborative. Co-operative values foster good relationships with learners and parents, with stakeholders encouraged to have their say in the running of the school.

At the Wales Co-operative Centre, we are working with partners such as the Co-operative College to explore practical steps to strengthen co-operative education in Wales. We will be responding to the recently announced Curriculum Review for Wales and supporting Welsh Government as well as organisations across the education sector to take the agenda forward.

Written by ieuannash

May 16, 2014 at 12:56 pm

The Myners’ Report on the Co-operative Group

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The Myners’ Report on the Co-operative Group

The keenly anticipated Myners’ report into issues at the troubled Co-operative Group was published yesterday. Myners doesn’t pull any punches. He talks about a ‘manifestly dysfunctional board’ and comes to a view that there is a limited shared purpose among Group board directors. He goes on to propose a slimmed down board made up of independent directors and executives of the Group.

Everyone agrees that there is a need for radical reforms at the Co-operative Group and in her initial response the Chair, Ursula Lidbetter, has already indicated that the report will be taken seriously. Ed Mayo of Co-operatives UK has stated that there are welcome signs of emerging consensus over the need for change and renewal, which is positive.

It is absolutely right that the Co-operative Board needs to contain people with the appropriate skills to run the business. All businesses need to keep on top of this and the Co-operative Group is no exception.

There is concern amongst some Co-operative Group members about the potential for a weaker link between the membership and the Group. The report proposes a National Members Council, with significant representation from staff, but suggests reducing or removing representation on the Board itself.

The whole point of a co-operative is that it operates on behalf of its members. That connection is vital to a co-operative’s competitive advantage and its ability to respond to the needs of its members. One of the main reasons many of us shop at Co-operative supermarkets and pharmacies is because we know we are buying quality products, procured on ethical grounds with profits returning to people in our own communities, not distant shareholders.

The co-operative sector is much broader than just the Co-operative Group of course. There are hundreds of independent co-operative businesses across Wales, operating in a wide range of areas from food to furniture-making and from health to housing. Many of these have benefited in the past from support funded by the Group as part of its commitment to support other co-operatives. Research shows that the sector has done better than other mainstream businesses during the downturn. The co-operative model is a tried and tested one.

The Co-operative Group has faced difficult times before and has come through them. With thousands of people employed in its businesses across Wales, the future success of the organisation is crucially important to the Welsh economy. We wish it well as it implements the necessary reforms over the months and years ahead.

Read the full Myners’ report here 

Derek Walker, Chief Executive, Wales Co-operative Centre

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.

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