Czech delegation learn about Welsh social enterprises
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.