Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

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Closing the Jaws of Doom: co-operative approaches to public service delivery

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The “Jaws of Doom” describes the shape you see if you plot a graph showing increasing demand for public services (driven by an ageing population) and reducing public sector resources to meet that need.  It’s this tension that is driving severe cuts in some areas and market commercialisation in other parts of the UK.

That was the background to today’s “Reshaping Services with the Public” conference held by the Wales Audit Office in collaboration with partners including the Wales Co-operative Centre.  The conference was about changing the relationship between those who deliver and people who use services.

The premise is that too many public services are still delivered from the perspective of single service deliverers. The leads to citizens experiencing multiple, fragmented approaches that can result in contradictory and conflicting interventions, poor outcomes for the service user, waste of valuable resources and poor value for money.

An example of a 'jaws of doom' graph

An example of a ‘jaws of doom’ graph

Keynote speaker Professor Tony Bovaird from Birmingham University argued for a radical change in the way we co-commission, co-design, co-deliver and co-assess public services.  We need to centre services on the user, gain their consent and harness their time and the time of others in the community to complement resources paid for from public money.

This sounds a lot like a co-operative model to us.  The Wales Co-operative Centre supports co-operatives and social businesses, and that includes assisting local councils who are considering externalising services to new social businesses.  We help ensure that the perspectives of service users and staff are hard-wired into the governance structures of new enterprises.  We support business plans that stack up financially but are driven by the needs of service users and by broader social good.  This is in sharp contrast to privatisation approaches, where service users can be objectified, and ineffective delivery models can be contractually perpetuated.

And at the Wales Co-operative Centre we try to practice what we preach.  We deliver the Wales Government’s Communities 2.0 digital inclusion programme, and the volunteering model used is a lovely model of co-delivery.  The people the programme helps can themselves become volunteers and influence what the programme delivers.  Not only does this mean value for money but it ensures that the programme stays fresh and relevant to the needs of people who are digitally excluded.

Today’s conference marks the beginning of a long journey for public services in Wales.  If we keep with us co-operative values and explore co-operative models of service delivery, we would be well on our way.

Written by Dave Brown

July 17, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Congratulations to Siop Y Bobl on the launch of their new shop premises

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Today, one of the co-operatives the Wales Co-operative Centre helped set up in Gower is launching its new village shop premises.

Siop Y Bobl in Llanmadoc was formed by a group of volunteers from the village after the shop and post office that serviced the village closed down. The Wales Co-operative Centre helped the group to set up as a co-operative (registered as an Industrial and Provident Society) and helped develop their business plan.

The shop now provides a wide range of products from fresh goods, home baking, frozen and chilled foods, an off-license, post office and coffee shop. It buys its produce and goods from local producers or suppliers, helping to keep them in business and retaining income in the area.

Siop y Bobl has won numerous awards including the Welsh Volunteers Award, the Best New Business Award, Best Village in South Wales and Best Community in Wales. The members attribute part of their success to the advice they have received from the co-operative movement. Membership is open to anyone in the area who wants to join – without them Siop y Bobl would not exist.

One of the most significant benefits of the co-operative comes from its 50 plus volunteers, many of whom are local people who have retired. The shop is a “social hub” where people can meet and get together on a daily basis, especially people who live on their own and would not see other people.

Siop y Bobl firmly believes that having co-operative principles has meant that a “dying rural community” has been able to thrive. They purchase from 37 local or very local businesses which also helps the wider Welsh economy. Siop y Bobl has faced a number of challenges along the way, especially relating to its premises. After a long period of planning and construction the business has now moved into new premises on the main road through the village.

At the Wales Co-operative Centre we have been proud to support this community enterprise and wish them well in their new premises and for a long future as the hub of the community of Llanmadoc.

Branwen Ellis is a Business Consultant at the Wales Co-operative Centre. She is an expert on co-operatives, social enterprises and governance.

Written by davemadgecoop

May 23, 2014 at 10:33 am

Financial education…..it’s complicated, but not impossible

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Martin Lewis says ‘The modern UK has a nasty debt habit’ and he is right. I don’t say this from a judgmental perspective (and I am sure he doesn’t either). But, if you take a step back and look objectively at how we manage our personal money lives I don’t think many people would disagree.

The alarming rise of pay day lenders, their use, and attempts to curb their use, is only one symptom of the problem. So is legislation and regulation the answer? Should financial literacy be a compulsory part of the curriculum and local authorities have a duty to promote financial inclusion?

As anyone that reads my blogs regularly might predict, my answer to that is …it’s complicated.

Research from a plethora of sources, including the Money Advice Service, shows that young people learn about money primarily from their parents. The financial environment that they, as families, live in is demanding and complicated. Input at school would help, but these messages need to be echoed at home. This means that some parents need to learn to manage their money better, first.

Then there is the matter of financial services. It’s all very well to tell people to be ‘prudent’. Life’s ups and downs are often partnered with money ups and downs. If someone needs to borrow a small amount and the bank won’t lend it to them, where do they go? Sadly more and more people are turning to pay day lenders instead of responsible lenders like credit unions.

Interestingly, for some, the introduction of much more stringent ‘money behaviour’ checks for mortgage applications may be surprisingly effective at changing attitudes to money. No longer will the use of pay day loans (whether paid off, or not) be acceptable – and I am not surprised. It may only be a matter of time before other kinds of lending follow suit. Indeed many credit unions already have these conversations with borrowers.

The National Assembly for Wales is currently considering a proposal for a Financial Education and Inclusion Bill. Take a look at our response to the consultation related to this Bill. It’s complicated, but not impossible.

Reflecting on the last 12 months – part 1

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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….

Derek Walker

Derek Walker

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.

Accommodation Furniture Solutions Ltd

Accommodation Furniture Solutions Ltd

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…

Tackling Poverty: “We ALL need to use and invest in credit unions”

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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:

Picture of Katija Dew

Katija Dew

“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.

Written by MarkWalesCooperative

February 18, 2014 at 11:48 am

#LeadingWalesAwards launch discussion ‘relevant to social enterprise aims’

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This year, the Wales Co-operative Centre is co-sponsoring the Leadership in Social Enterprise category of the Leading Wales Awards, with Social Firms Wales. Jayne Mills, one of our Social Enterprise Development Officers, attended the first launch event for the 2014 awards, last Thursday, at Moneypenny, in Wrexham. Here’s her account of the event:

I arrived in time to hear Rachel Clacher, Co-Founder and Director at Moneypenny, talk about how leadership contributes to business success and sustainability, followed by remarks by Barbara Chidgey, Chair of the Leading Wales Consortium, summing up some of the conclusions from the discussion.

As they were speaking, I was struck by how much of what they were saying applied to social enterprise and to the way we work at the Wales Co-operative Centre. In particular, they said one of the keys to successful business was to be driven by values and a passion for what we do. Other points which struck a chord with me were that successful leaders and businesses:-

  • Are in control, but are not controlling – they are in control of their own role, and trust others to do theirs. They unleash others’ potential
  • Focus on what staff are doing well and make more of it 
  • Take time to think, listen to others, have conversations and enable communication through fun 
  • Demonstrate they are part of a team and have a commitment to the team 
  • Enable others to grow and focus on what they are jointly trying to achieve – not on themselves – it is not about them 
  • Recognise and thank others for their contribution 
  • Are clear about what they want and foster a team approach to achieve it

They said that a leader can be defined as someone with the ability and willingness to make decisions and the sense of purpose and confidence to see them through, and leadership is about attitude – ‘I have this idea and I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen’. But they also said that in Wales people don’t often recognise themselves as having leadership skills. So, if you know someone who is leading a successful social enterprise well, now is the time to nominate them for an award for the recognition they deserve and as a way of inspiring others.

More details can be found on the Leading Wales Awards website www.leadingwalesawards.com

Written by davemadgecoop

January 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm

The search for Wales’s top social enterprise leader begins here!

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The search for Wales’s top social enterprise leader begins here!

Today, nominations open for the 2014 Leading Wales Awards. The Wales Co-operative Centre is co-sponsor of the Social Enterprise category, alongside Social Firms Wales.

This year, the awards scheme is celebrating 10 years as the only established, prestigious, pan-Wales awards that recognise, identify and celebrate individual people in Wales whose leadership is having a real impact in business, Public Services, not for profit organisations and communities across Wales.

The focus for the 2014 Leading Wales Awards is to identify and celebrate ‘Individual Leaders in Wales whose leadership is making a real difference and has had positive impact’.

The awards categories are designed to attract entries from all sectors and from all levels of leadership in Wales. There are 8 proposed categories in the 2014 Awards to celebrate individual leadership.

4 generic categories for individual leadership in:

Public Sector 

Voluntary / Not for Profit sector 

Leadership in the Private Sector 

Leadership in Social Enterprise

Categories for individual leadership (for which nominations can come from any sector):

Young Leader (14 – 25 years) 

Team Leader 

Women in Leadership 

Leadership for the Future

The Leadership in Social Enterprise category is open to individuals working within a social enterprise that have a leadership role at whatever level of responsibility. Social enterprises are businesses trading for social and environmental purposes. Social enterprises are distinctive because their social and / or environmental purpose is absolutely central to what they do – their profits are re-invested to sustain and further their mission for positive change.

Last year, the Leadership in Social Enterprise award was won by Menna Jones, who is the CEO of Antur Waunfawr, a social enterprise in North Wales which has developed a range of sustainable projects that create training and employment for people with learning disabilities and other disadvantaged people.

Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre thinks the awards play an important role: “The Wales Co-operative Centre is once again delighted to be co-sponsoring the Leadership in Social Enterprise category. Strong, visionary leadership is a key driver in the growth and sustainability of social enterprises and has a major impact on their contribution to the Welsh economy. These awards provide valuable recognition for inspirational social enterprise leaders who can be role models for the sector.”

This week, there are launch events for the awards in North Wales (Wrexham, 16th January) and South Wales (Cardiff, 17th January). These will be followed by ‘Leadership Café’ events in Ebbw Vale (23rd January) and Llandudno (19th February), at Monwel Ltd and Crest Co-operative respectively.

You have two months to submit your nominations for this year’s Leading Wales Awards, with the closing date being Friday 14th March. More information is available on the Leading Wales Awards website.

Written by davemadgecoop

January 13, 2014 at 8:30 am

Leading Wales Awards go ‘live’

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We’re publishing the following information on behalf of the Leading Wales Awards. The Wales Co-operative Centre is delighted to be sponsoring the social enterprise category in this year’s awards, in partnership with Social Firms Wales:

The 10th Leading Wales Awards go “live” in association with Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Next week we have our 10th year launch events in North Wales on 16th January and in South Wales on 17th January and we are focusing on the clear message that “leadership is a key driver of economic growth” and therefore essential to our success in Wales.

Each event is show-casing a highly successful Welsh Business (Admiral is our case study on 17th at Cardiff Met and Moneypenny our case study at Wrexham on 16th January). Both events begin at 08:30 and conclude by 10:15. All details are here.

If you would like to attend either event please book here and state which event you would like to attend.

This is our celebratory 10th year of the Leading Wales awards and once again the Leading Wales Awards Consortium urges you to tell us about that special person you know whose leadership is making a real difference in Wales by nominating them for an Award. You can nominate by downloading an application form from www.leadingwalesawards.co.uk. Nominations open on Monday 13th January and close Friday 14th March 2014.

Lansio Gwobrau Arwain Cymru yn 10 oed, mewn cydweithrediad â Phrifysgol Fetropolitan Caerdydd.

Yr wythnos nesaf, rydym yn cynnal ein digwyddiadau lansio deng mlynedd o Wobrau Arwain Cymru, yng Ngogledd Cymru ar 16 Ionawr ac yn Ne Cymru ar 17 Ionawr. Rydym yn canolbwyntio ar y neges glir bod “arweinyddiaeth yn ffactor allweddol o dwf economaidd” ac felly’n hanfodol i’n llwyddiant yng Nghymru.

Mae pob digwyddiad yn arddangos busnes Cymreig hynod lwyddiannus (Admiral yw ein hastudiaeth achos ar 17 Ionawr ym Met Caerdydd a Moneypenny yw ein hastudiaeth achos yn Wrecsam ar 16 Ionawr). Bydd y ddau ddigwyddiad yn dechrau am 8:30 ac yn gorffen erbyn 10:15. Mae’r holl fanylion ar gael yn www.leadingwalesawards.co.uk

Os hoffech chi fynychu un neu ddau o’r digwyddiadau, archebwch yma a nodwch pa ddigwyddiad yr hoffech ei fynychu.

Eleni rydym yn dathlu pen-blwydd Gwobrau Arwain Cymru yn 10 oed, ac unwaith eto mae’r Consortiwm Gwobrau Arwain Cymru yn eich annog chi i ddweud wrthym am y person arbennig sy’n gwneud gwahaniaeth go iawn yng Nghymru drwy ei arweinyddiaeth, ac i’w henwebu am wobr. Gallwch enwebu trwy lawrlwytho ffurflen gais o www.leadingwalesawards.co.uk. Bydd enwebiadau ar agor o ddydd Llun 13 Ionawr tan ddydd Gwener 14 Mawrth, 2014.

Written by davemadgecoop

January 9, 2014 at 10:14 am

A ‘Commons Sense’ approach to housing

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A ‘Commons Sense’ approach to housing

The Wales Co-operative Centre champions co-operative working as a way of helping people to do things for themselves. For just over a year the Centre has been working successfully to support the development of a number of new co-operative housing schemes across Wales.

Two years ago, a conference was held in Letchworth – the first Garden City – about the potential to develop urban community land trusts and new ‘Garden Cities’ across the UK.

A ‘Garden City’ is, “…a town designed for healthy living and industry of a size that makes possible a full measure of social life but not larger, surrounded by a rural belt; the whole of the land being in public ownership, or held in trust for the community.”

Rhiwbina in Cardiff was developed as a garden village a century ago.

New garden cities are needed to tackle the UK’s housing crisis, create sustainable communities and help young people get on the housing ladder. With 1.7m people in the UK waiting for social housing and half a million overcrowded households, radical housing solutions are required. Support for a new generation of garden cities is growing with the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition all making supportive statements in the last two years.

Co-operatives UK has just published, ‘Commons Sense – Co-operative place making and the capturing of land value for 21st century Garden Cities’, a report from the Letchworth conference that compellingly captures the speeches and workshops. There are fascinating contributions on The Garden City Movement. From Wales, there is a section on Co-operatives and Mutual Home Ownership from David A Rodgers, recent Housing President of the International Co-operatives Alliance, and on Co-operative Housing from Rhidian Jones, Head of Affordable Housing, Department for Housing and Regeneration, The Welsh Government. There is also a section on the challenges to developing Community Land Trusts for urban land stewardship by Catherine Harrington, National Co-ordinator, of the National Community Land Trust Network.

The report highlights the inequalities in land ownership in the UK –


‘Few people are aware of the intensive concentration of landownership in Britain with 36,000 people (0.06% of the population) owning about half the land’….and 0.6% of the UK housing stock being in Co-operative ownership!

It goes on to make 10 recommendations which will help in shaping the innovative co-operative economic policy frameworks for Wales, and to continue to advance the work that the Wales Co-operative Centre is delivering across the country.

There are 2 recommendations with particular relevance to Wales:-


Multi-stakeholder co-operatives for the Common Good:

Forging a coalition to unleash the untapped potential to join up Community-led housing solutions including Community Land Trusts, co-operative housing of all tenures (rental and shared equity), Community Self-build and Co-housing. The Welsh Government has acted upon this and the Wales Co-operative Centre is a key partner. This network of multi-stakeholder co-operatives has been developed to link the community land solutions for housing that require access to sites.

Social-Public Partnerships:

Dynamic social-public partnerships are vital. The enabling strategy currently being developed for mutual housing in Wales and supported by government and the Wales Co-operative Centre should become commonplace across the UK.

Since the inception of the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Co-operative Housing project in 2012, the Centre has worked hard with Welsh Government and other stakeholders, to promote the co-operative model as one way of addressing the need for affordable homes.

Some key achievements of the project include: –

  • Co-operative housing specialists from across the UK have been procured under a framework agreement with the Centre. This specialist knowledge has brought new skills in to Wales with specialist providers helping eight potential co-operative housing schemes.
  • Commissioned research in to the demand for co-operative housing within Wales with a particular emphasis on Cardiff, Newport and Carmarthen. The report also looked at the perception of co-operative housing, barriers to setting them up and the factors that would attract people to want to join a co-operative housing scheme. A set of practical recommendations for those involved in developing and marketing co-operative housing schemes in Wales were also developed as part of this research.
  • Over a hundred individual beneficiaries been given information and advice around co-operative housing.
  • Support provided to sixteen pioneer projects.
  • Support provided to 2 advanced pioneer projects to allow them to become ‘shovel’ ready before the end of March 2014.- Support will be required beyond this date.
  • Welsh Government offered £1.9M in Social Housing Grant’s to 3 advanced pioneer schemes and three Registered Social Landlord’s ready to take up this allocation and build 89 co-operative homes.
  • In addition to the above, over several hundred potential co-operative homes identified in ‘the pipeline’, together with numerous emerging pioneer projects.

It has been an exciting time for co-operative housing within Wales over the last two years. We have three advanced pioneer projects which will soon start work with Registered Social Landlord partners to build co-operatively owned homes in Wales. As a result of the support of the Centre’s project there are groups of people across Wales looking at innovative ways of using co-operative models to provide access to affordable housing.

If all of these schemes progress as envisaged then Wales will be seen as an emerging leader in innovative co-operative housing solutions.

This excellent report builds on the conference and re-enforces the support given to the 8-12 pioneering co-operative housing projects by the Wales Co-operative Centre, and will assist them all moving forward on the ground this year.

Dave Palmer is Co-operative Housing Project Manager at the Wales Co-operative Centre

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