Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

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How will the new UK Government Digital Inclusion Strategy help tackle poverty in Wales?

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This month, the UK Government published its updated Digital Inclusion Strategy.  Dave Brown, Director of Strategic Development and Performance at the Wales Co-operative Centre, asks what this might mean for Wales.

The UK Government Digital Inclusion Strategy describes succinctly the scale of the digital exclusion issue as it affects the whole of the UK.

“Today, the web has 2.4 billion users worldwide. To put this incredible speed of adoption in some context, radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users, television took 13 years, web took 4 years and Facebook took just 10 months. In 2013, 89% of young people now use a smartphone or tablet to go online, up from 43% in 2010.

The web has transformed almost every aspect of public, private and work life. It has underpinned our new economy; from changing the way every workplace communicates to creating entire new industries. It is reshaping government through improved public services and improving transparency through open data.


And it has improved people’s lives, whether through cutting household bills, finding a job or maintaining contact with distant friends and relatives. For business and voluntary organisations, going online can provide ways to reach more customers and reduce operating costs. The internet also provides broader benefits, by helping to address wider social and economic issues like reducing isolation and improving health.”

So what is to be done about the half million or so people in Wales who are left behind: those that lack the skills, confidence, motivation or opportunity to get online?  There is little in the UK Government document that relates to our specific Welsh context.  What we have got in Wales is a proud history of putting our money where our mouth is, when it comes to funding digital inclusion support.  The Welsh Government’s Communities 2.0 programme is run by the Wales Co-operative Centre, and has had a huge impact on the lives of those most excluded and most affected by poverty.

As Wales moves on from Communities 2.0, to the next phase of digital inclusion support, we need to build on the strong foundations of partnership laid down by Communities 2.0 initiatives.  Yes, practical digital inclusion activities need to be integrated into the mainstream.  But for this to be effective it needs support, coordination and leadership.  Nothing like the revolution in information and communication described in the UK Government document has ever happened before. As Wales, as a nation, responds to this challenge, it seems right to give the issue the particular attention that only a dedicated strategic project can bring.


Written by Mark Smith

November 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Reflecting on the last 12 months – part 2

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Earlier in the week, Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, started to look back on the last financial year and the work we had been involved with. We continue Derek’s review, by looking at how the Centre supports some of the most disadvantaged people and communities…

Jeff Cuthbert, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, with Tracy Olin of PATCH

Jeff Cuthbert, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, with Tracy Olin of PATCH

The work of the Centre is closely aligned with the wider tackling poverty agenda. In October we instigated an online campaign ‘Tackling Poverty Fortnight’ that not only received recognition in the Senedd, but demonstrated ways in which social enterprises and co-operative ways of working are supporting people in Wales’ most disadvantaged areas.

Our financial inclusion work continues to have an influence and impact in this area, particularly through our Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion project. That team has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and increase the uptake of Credit Union Rent Accounts, which can help housing tenants, across private, social and council housing, to maintain their tenancies in the face of sweeping Welfare Reforms. This work benefits from close work relationships with housing providers and other partners. More recently, I did my own bit to raise awareness of the issues facing homeless people, in the inaugural Cardiff CEO Sleepout. That event reminded me of the value of our work, with those that need the greatest support.

The latest evaluation of our Social Enterprise Support Project was positive, including lines such as “satisfaction levels with Development Officers support is very high – ‘extremely’ or ‘very satisfied’ at 87%”. In this area of work, we also delivered another successful Social Enterprise Wales Conference and Awards and the new ‘Go Full Circle’ campaign that increased awareness raising of Welsh social enterprises among the general public. Last summer, Cardiff played host to the annual Co-operatives UK Congress that saw more than 300 co-operators come together, to debate issues that matter most to those in the sector.

Our Corporate Services have continued to strengthen the Centre’s corporate governance, financial processes, HR and ICT infrastructure – all vital work, while the Marketing team re-structure is providing a more effective approach to the way we promote our services and raising awareness of our work, that of our clients and the wider sector.

The last financial year also saw us intensify international links, with staff making trips to Africa, to support community enterprises, and participating in an exchange with representatives of the social enterprise sector in the Czech Republic. It is important to be involved with such activities, so we can promote the best of what Wales has to offer in terms of co-operative and social enterprise development, on the world stage, and so we can learn from best practice approaches in other countries.

Greeted by schoolchildren in Lesotho, where we supported community enterprises last year.

Greeted by schoolchildren in Lesotho, where we supported community enterprises last year.

While there is a rich diversity to our work, with many seemingly independent activities, one thing binds it together – a co-operative ethos that sees projects, initiatives, organisations, businesses and individuals getting more from working together. It’s at the heart of everything we do.

When you think about it, that’s some year…..and we haven’t covered everything in this blog post!

As we look ahead to the next twelve months, we know there are challenges ahead but we can meet them head on, with confidence. That confidence comes from the knowledge that we are a strong organisation, with experienced and innovative staff, that make a difference in communities around Wales every day of the week.

Credit unions can help increase diversity in financial services

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The Government has an aim to increasing diversity in financial services, and Mark Lyonette, Chief Executive of the Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL), thinks they are in an ideal position to help.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference, Mark Lyonette explained how credit unions now serve nearly a million people in England, Scotland and Wales and sought reassurance from Financial Services Secretary Mark Hoban that the Coalition Government would support the sector to expand and serve more people.

“Once new legislation is in place – and we sincerely hope that any further delays can be avoided – many more individuals, as well as local community groups and businesses,  will be able to access credit union services.

“We are confident that everyone in Britain will soon be able to join a credit union and have the option of a mutual and local home for their money.

“I look forward to seeing how the Government’s aims of fostering diversity and promoting mutuals will translate into action to support the growth of the credit union sector.”

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban MP, who also spoke at the fringe meeting, said: “The Government supports credit unions as part of its policy commitment to foster diversity in financial services, promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry.

“I believe that strong credit unions, as part of a diverse financial services sector, will greatly enrich British society. It is in our interest, therefore, that the credit union movement should prosper and we are determined to help credit unions grow and expand into the future.”

Source: ABCUL

Wales Co-operative Centre offers advice and support to credit unions in Wales.

Written by C Kenzie

October 15, 2010 at 8:13 am

The Big Society

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“Big Society” is a buzz phrase that’s gathering speed at present. I was even asked a question about it in a recent YouGov survey.

So what is ‘Big Society’?

To quote the website The Big Society “The Big Society is a society in which we as individuals don’t feel small”.

The Big Society Network is an organisation being set up by frustrated citizens for frustrated citizens, to help everyone achieve change in their local area.

Their aim is to create a new relationship between citizens and government in which both are genuine partners in getting things done: real democracy using all the human and technological tools we now have available. Business and the voluntary sector will also be involved.

Most people don’t think they have an influence in local decisions, let alone ones of national importance. Big Society Network add “We are often anonymous tax-payers without a real sense of how our money gets spent. We feel anger and frustration at the recent behaviour of both the City and Westminster and relatively powerless to change them.

“Our aim is to not only create the largest co-operative or mutual in Britain, but to create a mutual that is Britain. Every citizen can be a shareholder, contribute, receive help and rewards.”

For more information, visit

Read their blog for a closer look at the activities going on around the UK as ‘Big Society’ gathers momentum. There’s even a proposal for a ‘social app’ store for smartphones.

The Wales Co-operative Centre offers business and development support for co-operatives and social enterprises.

Written by C Kenzie

September 22, 2010 at 9:40 am

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