Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

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Social enterprise the way to quality jobs and reduced poverty

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The Wales Co-operative Centre today responded to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s report on poverty in Wales, by calling for continued support to social enterprises as a foundation of economic regeneration.

The JRF report identified that 23% of the Welsh population live in poverty. Whilst the overall percentage has changed little in the last ten years, what is new is the extent of in-work poverty, particularly amongst families where members work part-time. The in-work poverty problem is worst in rural Wales: the West, North-West and East. The report suggests that, for some, the way out of poverty could be to work longer hours. But there is also an issue with the quality of jobs available, particularly with the rise of minimum wage, zero hours contracts, with few opportunities for advancement.

This is where social enterprises and co-operatives come in. With their roots often firmly in local communities and a purpose that goes beyond generating profits for the business owners, social enterprises can focus on the quality of employment opportunities they offer to people. Trading surpluses are invested in the business, making social enterprises more likely to grow and increase the number of jobs they offer. By investing in support to social enterprises, Wales benefits both in terms of increasing employment and the quality of those jobs.

The Wales Co-operative Centre provides business support to social enterprises across Wales to help them grow. For example, we are helping the Roman Fort Project, which is a heritage and conservation enterprise in Flintshire. There will be education and experiential learning in different areas including archaeology, ancient and modern build techniques, walking, bird watching, environment, fishing, diving, water sports and agriculture, including rare varieties of herbs, trees and crops. We are providing business planning and financial forecasting support for the enterprise, which could see 18 new jobs created.

The JRF report is a timely reminder of the need for dedicated business support work for the social enterprise sector to continue through the next phase of EU funding.

Social Enterprise Day 2012: Day in the life of a Development Officer – Part 2

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Mike Jones is a Development Officer for the Social Enterprise Support Project based in the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Abercynon Office and covering  projects around Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot, Swansea and Carmarthenshire. Here he shares an insight into a typical day in his working life:

It’s 6:30 a.m. and raining outside as I get up and have my breakfast and start to think about what the day has in store for me. I have to travel some distance to West Wales first where I have arranged a 9:00 a.m. meeting with a client and a business consultant.

So I set off from home at 7:30 allowing enough time for the morning traffic and for me not to be the one that everyone is waiting for. On arriving at my client’s office at 8:50 a.m. I find that everyone has made the meeting and we are able to grab a cup of coffee each and get on with business immediately.

I have been working with this particular client for some time and find that their needs are quite complex. They’ve already formed a Company Limited by Guarantee under which they can operate, but now find that they wish to raise further finance from the community. They will need to do this by issuing shares and their current legal structure is really unsuitable for this.

The main reason therefore for meeting them today is so that we can convert their current company into an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) thereby enabling them to issue community shares. I have already emailed their “Model Rules” a few days before by using support provided by Cooperatives UK based in Manchester.

My main task for today’s visit is to go through the Rules with them in order to be sure that all their needs have been met and that there are no documented errors to be found. I then have to check that the client has followed the correct procedure by ensuring that the membership has correctly met and voted on the conversion and that the paperwork bears this out.

I have also invited along a business consultant for this meeting who I have arranged to support the client further, by writing a business plan with them. Again I have arranged the papers beforehand and what is needed at this meeting is that I explain to the consultant his brief in front of the client and to sign an agreement for the work.

It’s now 10:40 a.m. and the meeting took a little longer than I expected but still the meeting achieved all that I had hoped for. Finally, a quick word with the consultant to ensure that he has all the information he needs and that the work will be completed within the agreed timescale.

By the time I have driven back to my office at Abercynon it’s 11:55, and the first thing I need to do is to inform Cooperatives UK that the client and directors have signed the paperwork and that they were being posted that day. In addition the preferred language of operation for my client is Welsh so now that I am satisfied that the set of Rules in my possession is the final document and there are no further amendments I am able to arrange their translation for circulation.

I then make a phone call to brief another consultant who will be preparing the “prospectus” so that he will be ready to support the share issue once the IPS registration and business plan are in place.

It’s now 1:00 p.m. and down to the local supermarket in order to buy a sandwich and stroll around for ten minutes or so before returning to the office by 1:35 p.m. and a cup of coffee as well as a quick look at what is on the news on the BBC website.

At 1:50 p.m. my sandwich is finished and it’s time to go through my emails. I note that amongst things which need my attention is an email from a client who has been writing her own business plan and has asked me to read through it and to give her some feedback.

By 2:00 p.m. after looking for salient points in the plan that need attention, I note that there is no clear reference to social objectives, no real reference to what services will provide the income needed to eventually be self-sustaining and that no budget has been produced. I phone the client and give my initial thoughts on the plan and arrange to meet with her in two days time, in order to provide more support or to see whether some consultancy may be needed after all.

It’s 2:50 p.m. and I need to drive and meet a group of young people in the Bridgend area who are setting up a social enterprise, which has had issues regarding its grant. They need to discuss issues and concerns that their funders have raised and have asked that I be there in order to help them explain their position. I arrive at 3:35 p.m. and we go through the issues.

The problems were not as great as I had initially feared but they do mean that the group needs to be a little less ambitious about its objectives and, because of their inexperience, they need to seek some mentoring support from someone with the relevant experience.  As it happens, I know how they can find this support at no cost to them and I make a note and promise to speak to the person I have in mind the following day.

It’s now 4:05 p.m. and a client nearby has a project launch I was invited to attend, so I arrive there at about 4:20 p.m. and a quick cup of coffee before the speeches start. I feel quite happy that things are going so well for the client and that the Wales Co-operative Centre has been able to support them in their success.

After the speeches I take the opportunity to network with other invitees and get involved with discussions on issues and problems. I look at my watch and it’s already 5:20 p.m. and, oh dear it’s Thursday evening and I’d promised to take my wife shopping at 5:30 p.m…

If you are based in South Wales and need more information about support for Social Enterprises available through the Wales Co-operative Centre, visit our website www.walescooperative.org or call 0300 111 5050.

Written by Mark Smith

November 15, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Social Enterprise Day 2012: Day in the life of a Development Officer – Part 1

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Mike Williams is a Development Officer for the Social Enterprise Support Project based in the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Bangor Office. Here he shares an insight into a typical day in his working life:

My alarm rings at the usual time of 6.30am. I do not have far to travel this morning so I get up leisurely at 6.45, have a shower and breakfast before catching up with the news and setting off to work at around 8.15. I live close to my Bangor office and it usually takes no longer than 10 minutes to drive in, although the morning traffic on the Britannia Bridge was quite heavy today and its 8.40 by the time I get to my desk. Still, most of my Cardiff colleagues would envy this.

I’m working in the office this morning and have time to catch up on emails and other correspondence before ensuring that my preparation for the day’s two meetings is complete. I take the opportunity to telephone a couple of new client groups to ensure that they remain comfortable regarding our discussions last week – both remain positive about their projects and have no further questions at this time.

I received two further client enquires yesterday and at 11am I work through their enquiry forms to ensure that the Social Enterprise Support Project is the most appropriate source of assistance for them. Under the terms of this project we are tasked with helping social enterprises and co-operatives that have the potential to grow and contribute to their local economy, and whilst not all the enquiries I receive fit into this category I am pleased that the two applications in front of me seem to fit very well. I therefore telephone the principal contact for each group to arrange an initial meeting which will allow me to look deeper into their proposals and provided them with an opportunity to ask any questions they wish.

By noon I have agreed meeting times and venues with both clients and break for lunch.  I usually try to take a short walk during the lunch break because this is a sedentary lifestyle, either sitting behind a desk or in the car on my way to and from meetings. Often, if I am working in the office I will take lunch at home as I live so near and make a point of stretching my legs, even if it’s only for a brief stroll.

I am back behind my desk before 1pm and answer a few more emails before leaving at 1.30pm for my first face-to-face meeting of the day. I am heading to Llangefni, about 20 minutes away, to network with the manager of a locally-based grant fund which was recently launched and is specifically available to social enterprises. During the meeting we discuss the rules of the grant and some of the practical implications which are emerging as it starts to roll out – these are things which are difficult to anticipate in theory and I find the discussion very useful as the grant will undoubtedly be beneficial to several of my clients.

I’m back in the office by 4 o’clock and have time to answer a few more emails as well as respond to a couple of telephone messages before I leave, early at 4.30pm, for home. It’s not a short day, however, as following a cup of tea and a quick snack I make my way to Beaumaris to meet representatives of a group I am working with there, the meeting scheduled to start at 6pm. Evening meetings are not uncommon in my work – the community groups which I support comprise a number of individuals, many of whom are themselves working and can therefore only meet outside normal working hours. Although it is often possible to meet with a few available representatives during the day, if I do need to speak with everyone the meeting invariably takes place in the evening, which is all part of the service.

The group I am meeting this evening is in the process of negotiating with the local authority to take over the running of the town’s leisure centre on behalf of the community. Whilst the authority is very supportive I have been mainly working with the group itself, which on previous meetings had decided that the most appropriate legal structure will be that of a charitable company limited by guarantee. The first step is to create a company and I have therefore prepared a ‘memorandum and articles of association’ for the members, based on their own preferences, which will be acceptable to the Charity Commission.

The purpose of the meeting this evening is to ensure that these rules are acceptable to everyone within the group and to explain the main responsibilities of company directors before asking group members to complete the appropriate documentation for Companies House, which I have also prepared in advance.

The meeting itself went very smoothly as those involved are a strong team, knowledgeable and fully committed to their cause. Even so, it was approaching 9.15pm by the time everything was concluded, but I was able to set off home in the knowledge that I had been able to make a practical contribution to their cause.

If you are based in North Wales and need more information about support for Social Enterprises available through the Wales Co-operative Centre, visit our website www.walescooperative.org or call 0300 111 5050.

Written by Mark Smith

November 15, 2012 at 1:00 pm

We’re recruiting!

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The Wales Co-operative Centre is currently recruiting for four positions:

Administration/Monitoring Officer – Social Enterprise Support Project

Senior Administrative Officer

Communities 2.0 Area ICT Broker (Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil & Torfaen)

(Applications close at midday on 2nd September for the above positions).

Mapping and Web Assistant, Communities 2.0

(Applications close at midday on 20th September)

Please see the Wales Co-operative Centre’s current vacancies for more information.


The Wales Co-operative Centre is a co-operative development agency working across Wales to promote social, financial and digital inclusion through a range of projects..

Written by C Kenzie

August 30, 2011 at 9:20 am

South Merthyr Digital Inclusion Project

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The South Merthyr Digital Inclusion project is now up and running and will cover the whole of the south of the borough.

Two members of staff have been employed who will offer a variety of Digital Inclusion training through drop in, with community groups and through structured classes.

Training will be delivered in a variety of venues including Megabytes Aberfan, the Willows Centre Troedyrhiw, Treharris Library, Ty Pontrhun Pentrebach & Bedlinog Resource centre.

Author: Stephanie Davies, Click. Connect. Discover field officer

If you are interested in finding out more contact Rhodri or Laura 01443 692600. Email rhodri@connect-merthyr.co.uk or laura@connect-merthyr.co.uk

For more information and support with digital inclusion and getting online, visit www.clickconnectdiscover.org

Written by C Kenzie

April 7, 2011 at 9:14 am

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Website of the Week – Citizen’s Advice Bureau

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AdviceGuide is the website offering online help from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

It offers a huge range of advice on subjects from immigration to how to cope in the recession to health, tax and the legal system.

Available 24 hours a day, you will get the same impartial advice that you would receive over the phone or in a branch. The website can also be viewed in a range of languages.

Written by C Kenzie

November 2, 2010 at 9:36 am

£13m investment to digital technology sector in Wales

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A £13m investment into the strategically important digital technology sector in Wales was launched on Tuesday 5th October by Lesley Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation and Skills.

The ‘strategically important sector’ of digital technology in Wales is described as ‘software development’.

Led by Swansea University, and delivered in partnership with Glamorgan, Bangor, Aberystwyth and Wales Trinity Saint David Universities, the Software Alliance Wales (SAW) will benefit individuals and throughout West Wales and the Valleys.

SAW will target support to ICT businesses and professionals working in the industry to ensure they keep abreast of the rapid pace of technological developments. It also aims to increase higher-level ICT skills across all business and industry sectors.

It has been forecast that if businesses fully exploit ICT, over the next seven years the Welsh economy could benefit to the tune of £1.4bn.

The Deputy Minister said the digital economy was a central element of the Assembly Government’s new Economic Renewal programme and offered businesses across Wales opportunities to innovate and grow.

“We will be launching Digital Wales later this year – a framework to create a truly digital nation – so I am particularly pleased to launch Software Alliance Wales which supports this vision.

“Software Alliance Wales will exploit new technologies, support employers and practitioners in the software sector to identify and address skills needs to drive forward the knowledge economy.

“ICT and the creative industries are priority sectors with the potential to make a major contribution to the knowledge economy in Wales.

“It is, therefore, vital that its workforce has the skills to succeed and that businesses are equipped with the skills to maximise opportunities presented by new technology.”

A key part of the project is the creation of a recognised ICT Continuous Professional Development programme for professionals to acquire new skills in the latest emerging technologies.

The project will also help businesses to gain Accredit UK certification, a quality benchmark recognised throughout the UK designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of companies.

SAW will also offer students the chance to undertake collaborative ICT based development projects within SMEs to improve their learning while providing knowledge and expertise for the businesses involved.

Source: Welsh Assembly Government

Communities 2.0 is a Welsh Assembly Government project which helps community groups, voluntary organisations and social enterprises in Wales to benefit from technology. For more information , visit www.clickconnectdiscover.org

Written by C Kenzie

October 11, 2010 at 8:38 am

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