Posts Tagged ‘consortia’
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:
- Improved community buy-in for the renewable energy project as the community has a stake and voice in how the project is run
- Sale of electricity to fund local projects
- Care for the environment through the production of clean electricity and a commitment to preserving local natural environment
- 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.
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
A group of three successful business people are coming together under the umbrella of a new co-operative company. ‘That Useful Company’ will be launched at the Business Network Exhibition at the Vale Resort in Cardiff (Thursday 4th October). The three Swansea-based colleagues, who each work as individual businesses, have formed a consortium to deliver a wide range of bespoke marketing services to clients across Wales. ‘That Useful Company’ was created as a means of allowing the individual members to tender for larger contracts and to offer a wider range of services to their existing customers.
Support for That Useful Company has come from the Wales Co-operative Centre, funded through the European Regional Development Fund and Welsh Government. The Wales Co-operative Centre’s Consortia development team worked with the members of That Useful Company to form their aims and objectives and to incorporate the business. The three members of That Useful Company, Natalie Reynolds, Ben Wheeler and Matthew Pugh, chose a consortium approach as it allows the individual businesses to operate independently and maintain their own identity, but also to collaborate and work for larger clients to help grow their businesses. That Useful Company will be able to offer an integrated range of marketing services including marketing strategy, social media, web design, branding, email marketing and print.
Natalie Reynolds, who runs a successful social media business explained why she chose this approach, ‘After seeing my business grow rapidly in just 18 months I was often asked how I would grow my business further, however employing staff didn’t seem the most appropriate option as the services that I provide are based on my experience. Instead I chose to get a group of marketing professionals together to see if we could collaborate, providing support and sharing our experiences to enhance the services we offer our clients. We worked with the Wales Co-operative Centre to put a formal structure to our group with the intention of pitching for larger contracts to help expand our individual businesses’.
Ben Wheeler is a website designer and software developer. He remarked, ‘I’ve worked for myself and built a successful business over the last 4 years; but when I was approached about collaborating with other individuals to be able to work for larger clients and share resources while still being able to keep my own business identity and clients as well, I thought the idea was fantastic and suited my growth plans well. The Wales Co-operative Centre has been excellent in supporting us to achieve this’.
Matthew Pugh’s expertise in design and print had led him to work with Natalie and Ben on several occasions before joining them in forming the consortium, ‘Having worked collaboratively with Ben and Nat for clients it seemed to be the logical step forward for my business to work within this new company. A specifically created cooperative between us gives us all greater weight when approaching larger clients and as a cooperative group we are able to support each others individual businesses and maintain the identity of our own companies. That Useful Company enables us to offer a greater range of benefits and services to existing clients and also gives greater stability and security to my individual company in the future”.
The consortium was formed from a group of friends and colleagues developed through small business network events. Fittingly, the consortium’s first large piece of work is for a business network. That Useful Company ran the marketing campaign the Business Network Exhibition– managing the branding, website, flyers, newspaper advertising, social media stream and Facebook data capture.
Sarah Owens, the Development Officer who worked with That Useful Company from its initial meeting through to its incorporation as a company limited by shares stated, ‘It was great to work with the creative team at That Useful Company. Natalie, Ben and Matthew have an innovative approach to growing their business which builds on their individual strengths and allows them to continue to develop their own businesses independently of the consortium’.
Wales Co-operative Centre Business Succession and Consortia Project Manager Rhian Edwards commented,
‘Wales is dependent on its micro business sector. The sector accounts for 94.5% of all businesses in Wales. The Micro Business Task and Finish Group Report supported the consortia approach to give micro businesses better access to public sector procurement opportunities. The launch of ‘That Useful Company’ demonstrates the ambition within the Welsh micro-business sector to grow and expand and to service larger contracts and we wish Natalie, Ben and Matthew the best of luck with this new venture’.
Further information on the benefits of consortia for business are available on the Wales Co-operative Centre’s website www.walescooperative.org. Find out more about That Useful Company at www.thatusefulcompany.co.uk from Thursday.
High-up in the mountains of South-West Ethiopia the mist mingles amongst the tree-tops. At ground-level, rich green foliage is abundant and plump red berries are ready for picking. This is the Oromia region of Ethiopia, and here thousands of families are dependent upon Ethiopia’s native crop: coffee.
Dubbed ‘Black Gold’ in a 2006 film, coffee is the second most valuable commodity in the world after oil. But in Oromia and across Ethiopia, smallholder coffee growers find this hard to believe: “What I understand is that people in your country drink it, but I receive nothing,” says one farmer. Coffee growers rarely get a fair deal and Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world.
Union of co-operatives
Just over ten years ago, the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) was founded and today, under the leadership of Tadesse Meskela it represents over 100,000 smallholder coffee farmers and their families. This union of cooperatives has turned around the fortunes of coffee growing communities in the Oromia region.
“Our members are benefiting from the profits made by the cooperative,” says Meskela. “Schools have been built, farmers earn a guaranteed price for their coffee and the cooperative can provide enhanced food security to farmers and their families.”
Such is the success of the OCFCU, more coffee cooperatives haven been founded in Yirgachefe and Sidama. Both of these regions grow unique, world-renowned coffee.
Fair Trade for co-operative Union members
Cooperatives have brought Ethiopian farmers direct access to global markets. Miju Adula is the Chairman of the Kilenso Mokonsia Cooperative: “We used to sell our coffee to exporters who would cheat us and sometimes they did not pay us at all. Now we know the value of our coffee and we receive profits from the coffee sold by the Union”. Coffee growing in Ethiopia doesn’t just provide export revenue; it is engrained in the cultural life of rural communities, who have been growing coffee for centuries.
Climate change and variable weather conditions
Access to world markets and a fair price for the coffee that Ethiopian farmers produce isn’t the only determining factor to the success of a coffee growing community. Like all agricultural producers, coffee farmers must hope for good climatic conditions each season; not too hot, not too cold and perfectly timed precipitation. Without these conditions, yields decrease, coffee quality is poor and the incidence of plant disease increases. Cooperatives have given their members access to fair market prices but can they support growers in the face of climate change?
For fairtrade coffee company Cafédirect, a recent winner at the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards, waiting to see how climate change affects their small holder cooperative farmers hasn’t been an option.
In 2007, Cafédirect launched a Public-Private Partnership programme known as Adaption to Climate Change for smallholders (AdapCC), with the German Technical Cooperative, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit. Together they have worked with cooperative tea and coffee produces in Latin America and East Africa to identify the threats from climate change.
“I have never known the weather to be so unpredictable,” says Willington Wamayeye, the General Manager of the Gumutindo Coffee Cooperative in Uganda which supplies coffee to Cafédirect.
“The coffee plants are badly affected – flowering is stopping. Last year alone we lost about 40% of our coffee production because of climate change.” With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicting rising temperatures and increasingly erratic precipitation across East Africa, coffee growers are at an increasing risk of crop failure and declining yields.
Through the AdapCC partnership project, small-scale farmers worked with experts to recognise changes in climate that threaten coffee production. Growers were involved in identifying low-input technological and management changes that can mitigate the actions of climate change. Such steps can hugely reduce the vulnerability of communities and ensure that they keep on producing coffee, no matter what the weather does. The ethos amongst AdapCC farmers is “the climate changes and I adapt to it!”
Adaptation can be simple, but knowledge about the changing processes is required. In the instance of climate change and predicting the weather for each growing season, meteorological data is needed, but according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), East Africa has one of the lowest densities of weather stations anywhere in the world. This lack of information makes predicting weather and climate in some areas almost impossible. But this needn’t be the case.
In a partnership between the mobile phone company Ericcson, the Global Humanitarian Forum and the WMO, it is hoped that by 2012 large areas of East Africa will be covered by weather stations hosted on mobile phone masts. This much-needed information can then be used to monitor trends and changes in the weather and climate. Companies developing partnerships with developing world communities and actively pursuing corporate social responsibility programmes can bring solutions to problems that have big results.
Partnership between small co-operatives and global companies critical for future
Back in Ethiopia, the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union has successfully transformed the lives of thousands of coffee farmers over the past twelve years. Tadesse Meskela has huge ambitions for the cooperative, but he also faces new challenges as he strives to support over half a million Ethiopians who are dependent upon the profits made through the selling of its coffee. The answers to these challenges don’t just lie in smallholder farmers working together in cooperatives; partnerships with global private sector companies and non-governmental organisations will be critical.