Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

It’s a fond farewell from walescooperative.wordpress.com

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A New Year means a time for change in the way we blog at the Wales Co-operative Centre.

From today (January 1st) this site will only remain online as a live archive, until its subscription expires later in the year.

We are launching a new blog site at everyonesbusiness.coop. If you have something to say on co-operatives and social enterprises or co-operative solutions to tackling poverty in Wales, financial inclusion or digital inclusion, we want to hear from you. We are looking to work with people from across Wales, who have an interest in the issues we will be discussing on the site, to become regular bloggers.

Why not make it your New Year’s Resolution to visit everyonesbusiness.coop regularly, subscribe to our updates, talk about the site on social media or become a contributor?

If you’ve been a subscriber of this site, you will need to become a subscriber on the new site to continue receiving updates by e-mail. There are many more subscription options on the new site, helping to tailor content to your specific interests.

In the meantime, we would like to thank you for supporting this blog site over the last few years and we hope you will join us, and many others, in bringing the new site to life!

Written by Mark Smith

January 1, 2015 at 10:00 am

Posted in co-operatives

Hwyl fawr i walescooperative.wordpress.com

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Mae Blwyddyn Newydd yn golygu amser am newid yn y ffordd rydym ni’n defnyddio safle blog Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru.

O heddiw (1 Ionawr), bydd y safle hwn yn parhau ar-lein fel archif byw yn unig, hyd nes i’w danysgrifiad ddod i ben yn hwyrach yn y flwyddyn.

Byddwn yn lansio safle blog newydd ar busnesibawb.coop. Os oes gennych chi rywbeth i’w ddweud am gwmnïau cydweithredol a mentrau cymdeithasol, neu atebion cydweithredol i fynd i’r afael â thlodi yng Nghymru, cynhwysiant ariannol neu gynhwysiant digidol, hoffem glywed oddi wrthych. Rydym ni eisiau gweithio gyda phobl o bob cwr o Gymru, sydd â diddordeb yn y materion y byddwn yn eu trafod ar y safle, i ddod yn flogwyr rheolaidd.

Beth am wneud Adduned Blwyddyn Newydd i ymweld â busnesibawb.coop yn rheolaidd, tanysgrifio i’n diweddariadau, siarad am y safle ar gyfryngau cymdeithasol neu ddod yn gyfrannwr?

Os ydych chi wedi bod yn danysgrifiwr i’r safle hwn, bydd angen i chi ddod yn danysgrifiwr i’r safle newydd i barhau i dderbyn diweddariadau mewn negeseuon e-bost. Mae llawer mwy o opsiynau tanysgrifio ar y safle newydd, sy’n helpu i deilwra’r cynnwys i’ch diddordebau penodol chi.

Yn y cyfamser, hoffem ddiolch i chi am gefnogi’r safle blog hwn dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf a gobeithiwn y byddwch yn ymuno â ni, a llawer o bobl eraill, i ddod â’r safle newydd yn fyw!

Written by Mark Smith

January 1, 2015 at 10:00 am

Posted in co-operatives

Life’s surprises mean saving is more important now, than ever before

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It’s just before Christmas. Whilst many people are putting their ‘out of office’ messages on and joining the supermarket frenzy, I am spending a little time this afternoon thinking back on my year.

Anyone that knows me might suggest that I am thinking ‘good riddance to 2014’ but that’s not the case. I am just reflecting.

I have worked in ‘money’ over a number of years; financial advice, debt advice, financial inclusion and tackling poverty. In January 2014, Citizens Advice reported that there was a 39% increase in the number of people seeking online help with debt problems in the previous year. With their latest statistics due to be reported shortly, there are few that would expect that trend to reverse. Rising prices for energy, food and housing is putting extra pressure on people’s finances. Bureaux are finding that payday loans, credit cards and overdrafts are being used to top up people’s income as wages remain static. savings

Problematic debt occurs most often when personal finances are pushed to the limit…..and then something happens. Losing a job (or indeed a drop in working hours available), an addition to the family, ill health or suddenly having caring responsibilities can all be a catalyst. They all affect income and if there is no savings as a buffer, well, it’s not going to go well is it?

This summer Legal and General published data from their survey of almost 5,000 people. The Deadline to the Breadline is the number of days the average UK household could survive financially if the main breadwinner’s income is lost through long-term sickness, critical illness or death before being totally reliant on state benefits, friends or family. The average Deadline to Breadline period in the UK is 29 days. In Wales it’s 7 days. That’s because here in Wales fewer people have a back-up plan to deal with an unforeseen shock to our income.

So why at this cheery, festive time of the year is my blog post apparently full of doom and gloom? Well it’s not. From a personal perspective it’s not so much a ‘cup’s half empty’ as ‘cup’s half full’ view. It could have been me that was facing that breadline this year. Let’s just say that all plans for a normal year changed suddenly in the Spring and 6 months’ sick leave later I am back to work and acknowledging how lucky I am to be able to do so. I also appreciate working for an organisation that is so supportive of its staff when things go wrong and I am well aware that employees of many other companies are not as fortunate.

This is not something that happens to other people, it’s something that happens to us, any of us. My message is simple. Let’s make 2015 the year that we (all of us) do a bit better with our back-up plans. Yes, money is tight but it’s worth thinking about and making any adjustments to spending to save at least a little. An online savings calculator, on the Money Made Clear Wales website, can help

Credit unions are a great place to put money aside for the unexpected. A little bit, put away regularly can really mount up. Safe, ethically sound and instant access, they offer an ideal place to keep your savings far enough away from temptation but near enough to access when needed. Hopefully you won’t need it to fall back on it, but it’s there if you do.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2015.

Katija Dew is the Financial Inclusion Programme Director at the Wales Co-operative Centre

 

If you’re a subscriber of this site, please note that blog posts will no longer be published here after January 1st 2015.

A new blog site will be launched on the same day, to help replace this site, details of which will be made available at the time.

If you wish to receive updates from the new blog site, you will need to select from a menu of subscription options. We hope this will improve your experience as a subscriber to our blog posts.

We will be publishing a final post on this site on January 1st, which will include links to the new site and how to subscribe to it. Thank you for your co-operation.

Written by Katija Dew

December 23, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Welsh social businesses make ‘Top 300’ list

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Would you be surprised to know that the latest edition of a list, charting Wales’ top 300 firms, contains a number of companies that are, in some way, social businesses?

Well, that’s the case in this year’s Top 300 list, published by The Western Mail in association with the University of South Wales.

At least eight businesses on the list work to social objectives, in different ways, with one in the top five. On turnover alone (£736.5m), Dŵr Cymru Cyfyngedig is the leading operating social enterprise in Wales.

There are two mutuals on the list – Principality (18th) and Monmouthshire Building Society (106th). Other social enterprises in the top 300 include the Wales Millennium Centre (267) and Cartrefi Cymru, which supports adults with learning disabilities and autism (290).

Shaw Healthcare

Shaw Healthcare

Shaw Healthcare is the leading co-operative on the list, at 64th. Dulas, which is a worker co-op in the renewable energy sector, comes in at 299.

You’d be forgiven for overlooking Swansea City AFC, which occupies 92nd place in this particular table. The Premier League football club is part-owned by Swansea City Supporters’ Trust, which is a form of co-operative.

It’s also encouraging to see the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) in the top 300, at 281, as the umbrella organisation for the voluntary sector in Wales.

To make the list is no mean feat. To quote David Pickernell, professor of economic development policy and director of the Centre for Enterprise, University of Wales School of Business, “To be included in the Top 300, companies have to have a significant and identifiable management and trading presence in Wales. The order of the list is determined by the last recorded turnover”. While highlighting that five of the top ten in the list are ‘home-grown’ companies – including Glas Cymru Cyfyngedig (the parent company of Dŵr Cymru Cyfyngedig) – Professor Pickernell goes on to make another important point that is relevant to the social business sector: “Many of the companies in this year’s Top 300 would have started out as small businesses. We therefore also need to focus on developing entrepreneurial mindsets, behaviours and skills in our young people so that they can meet and overcome the challenges that lie before us all, and more importantly help Wales retain the talent which will put us at the forefront of the coveted knowledge-based, creative, growing economy that we all wish to see”.

Dulas

Dulas

This point was perfectly complemented by a special feature in the Top 300 supplement, published by the Western Mail last week, which highlights the winners of this year’s Social Enterprise Awards Wales. That particular list of winners includes Monwel Signs Ltd, which took the ‘One to Watch’ prize at the recent UK Social Enterprise Awards.

It is essential that social businesses are seen as part of a mixed economy in Wales, offering opportunities for growth and sustainability just like any other form of business. Let’s hope those that have made this year’s Top 300 help to inspire more social businesses to make the list in 2015.

If you’re a subscriber of this site, please note that blog posts will no longer be published here after January 1st 2015.

A new blog site will be launched on the same day, to help replace this site, details of which will be made available at the time.

If you wish to receive updates from the new blog site, you will need to select from a menu of subscription options. We hope this will improve your experience as a subscriber to our blog posts.

We will be publishing a final post on this site on January 1st, which will include links to the new site and how to subscribe to it. Thank you for your co-operation.

Written by Mark Smith

December 16, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Happy birthday to Gwynfi Community Co-operative

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Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to visit Gwynfi Community Co-operative, an independent co-op that has

been serving the valleys village of Blaengwynfi for 30 years and was celebrating an important anniversary.

View of outside of Gwynfi Community Co-operative

Gwynfi Community Co-operative

The shop was set up during the Miners Strike in 1984 and its ethic of providing an essential service to the community is still very much in place now. When it was set up, the intention was to ensure that it was sustainable and offered paying jobs in the community it served. Today they employ eight people.

Two things struck me about the celebratory event. First was that the shop is run by an extremely enthusiastic group of people, both staff and board members. Their commitment to the co-operative went well beyond the shop and deep into the community of Blaengwynfi.  They are constantly looking at the services the community needs and how the co-operative infrastructure can serve them. The shop offers a meeting place for teenagers and the co-operative are looking to take on other services in the community and base them from the shop.

Gwynfi Community Co-operative celebrations

Gwynfi Community Co-operative celebrations

This year the co-operative is offering a community fund to help groups and individuals in the community. It’s a relatively small amount but it will help people in the community who need it directly. In 2015, they are embarking on a drive to update and recruit new members – I wish them luck with that but I have a feeling they won’t need it!

The other thing that struck me was the interest from other communities in investing in setting up community shops and pubs in their own villages. I met a group of people looking to set up a community shop near the Welsh border and, if that worked, to take over a pub in their village at some time in the future too. Another group were looking at starting up a small community shop, while a third group also wanted to take over their village pub. They have realised that the pub is just an element of what is needed for their community hub, and they have started to look at what else could be offered to their community from that base. Things like a small shop, pop up libraries and rooms for health care and beauty services were discussed.

Many communities have the ability to run their own community hubs, be they pubs, shops, community centres or even leisure centres. Many of these can provide sustainable employment. All of them can provide services to a community as well as acting as a strong glue that can keep the community together and ensure that it is able to look after the individual needs of its members.

Congratulations to Gwynfi Community Co-operative, which is an outstanding example of this.

Written by David Madge

December 12, 2014 at 3:02 pm

“Young People Helping Young People” – A co-operative approach to managing accommodation provision

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Duncan Forbes is Chief Executive of Bron Afon Community Housing. Bron Afon is a social enterprise and registered social landlord.

In this blog post he talks about an innovative project to develop co-operatively managed accommodation for young people who would otherwise be at risk of homelessness.

When Dr Peter Mackie, from Cardiff University told our youth forum that by 2020 there would be a housing crisis for young people it spurred them into action.

Bron Afon owned a derelict community centre and we were looking at demolishing it. But, thanks to the young people involved with the youth forum’s ideas and research, eight new starter homes with support have just opened.

 innovative accommodation for young people

Ty Cyfle is the first completed project by Bron Afon’s Own 2 Feet Living service which provides innovative accommodation for young people

The project created a chance to put the young people’s innovative and creative ideas into action.

Bron Afon Community Housing staff and internal trade teams refurbished the block that is for 16-24 year-olds, who are in, or aspire to be in, education, employment, training or volunteering.

Ty Cyfle is the first completed project by Bron Afon’s Own 2 Feet Living service which provides innovative accommodation for young people.

Young people have taken the lead with this initiative and provided each other with mutual support, helped by our skilled youth team and our volunteers. Working in this way the group has dramatically changed the lives and life chances of many of its members for the better, including young people who have previously fallen down the gaps between other support and care services.

The project created a chance to put the young people’s innovative and creative ideas into action

The project created a chance to put the young people’s innovative and creative ideas into action

This service is unique, as it is led by young people who know the combination of accommodation and tailored support will help their peers succeed.

Our team help the tenants to stand on their own two feet and move on into their next tenancy within two years. During that time they get help with budgeting, cooking cheap meals and being a good neighbour.

Our Own 2 Feet support package has been running for a few years and not a single tenant who has been through it has failed in their tenancy.

Afon Youth has set up a management committee for Ty Cyfle with the tenants. It has set some simple ‘house rules’ and self-manages any low-level issues.

Ty Cyfle is a fantastic example of how co-operative working leads to outcomes that you can never imagine, by not following a traditional ‘we know best’ or ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ approach.

An Afon Youth member

Suzy Sorby, has been a member of Afon Youth since the start and now works for Bron Afon. She said:

“We are passionate about the problems that young people face when getting housing and this includes the perceptions of homeless young people. Over the course of three years we filled up two large folders with our research. We all knew that what we were doing was something unique, something that no one else was doing, and we, the young people were given the opportunities to do it for ourselves. This was young people helping young people.

“Afon Youth is made up of a diverse group of young people, including some who had experience of being homeless.

a fantastic example of how co-operative working leads to outcomes that you can never imagine

“a fantastic example of how co-operative working leads to outcomes that you can never imagine”

“It was identified that there was a big gap from living in 24 hour support to floating support once a young person was successful in managing their own home and finances. It was highlighted by the young people who had gone through Own 2 Feet that there was something extra needed for young people to be ready for independent living. This is how we got our idea for Ty Cyfle.”

Ty Cyfle and the local community

Ty Cyfle has two community rooms where residents in the local area will be able to access services like computer training and job hunting. We will also run our various work programmes under the ‘That Works’ banner, which has already helped many people into training and work.

You can contact Bron Afon Community Housing on 01633 620111 and follow Duncan Forbes on Twitter @forbes_duncan

 

Written by David Madge

December 9, 2014 at 11:17 am

Posted in co-operatives

Learning lessons from the Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion (THFI) Project

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THFI Project Manager, Jocelle Lovell, takes some time to reflect on the launch of the project’s legacy report, which took place this week, on Wednesday 3rd December

I was going to write a blog on the day in the hope of capturing all of the passion, enthusiasm and interest in our work, but then I decided to take time to reflect on the event:

The project has been a 3 year roller coaster ride with plenty of highs and lows, and having to constantly evolve to reflect changes outside of our control. The biggest challenge being, the lack of detail early on regarding the roll out of Universal Credit.

The event was very kindly hosted by the Huggard Centre, which for me sent a very poignant message. Our work is very much focused on the prevention of homelessness, whilst the work of the Huggard Centre is trying to break the cycle of homelessness. Prevention projects, like ours, are vital if we are to reduce the number of people who end up living on the streets, sofa surfing or living in temporary hostel accommodation.

We were very grateful to have Lesley Griffiths AM, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, speak at the event, where it was recognised our work brought together all the elements of her portfolio.

The event was not only an opportunity to thank the project’s funders, Welsh Government and the Oak Foundation, but also to showcase our work to our new funders, Comic Relief, who found the event very informative and gave them insight into our thinking and methodology.

Attendees came from local authorities, credit unions, funders and third sector organisations. Whilst most were familiar with our work, and had been active partners, the event highlighted new opportunities, with many attendees requesting follow up meetings to see how we can work together in the future.

There is still so little we know about the Private Rented Sector, and so much more work to be done, but now is as good a time as any to get started…….

You can find the full report here.

We tweeted live from the launch using #THFI. Below is what some attendees had to say:

Full house @WalesCoOpCentre #THFI report launch ‘Need to engage with #PRS 2 improve #housingWales & #Financial Inclusion
#thfi manager Jo Lovell – ‘thfi’s ability to adapt and evolve to environment, has been key to success’ #THFI

@WG_CommunityMin: Spoke at @WalesCoOpCentre #thfi launch about the role of financial security in preventing homelessness & helping people live fulfilled lives

Written by Ieuan Nash

December 4, 2014 at 4:56 pm

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