Monday, 29 January 2018

Co-operative incubation - in Somerset and beyond

A new national consortium of co-operative development workers is proposing a to pilot a wave of co-operative incubators around the UK, following a research project by SCS. They believe that the mix of affordable workspace for social entrepreneurs, linked to a local network of technical and financial support, could be an effective model for growing a new generation of community owned businesses.
SCS carried out the study as part of a Bristol University programme, in order to identify the conditions for more business support aimed at enterprises that are managed democratically by employees and other stakeholders, and are run in accordance with a policy of sustainability of community development. Despite recent interest in social enterprise across the country, Co-operatives UK found in 2016 that specialised support services were in steep decline – and had been for several years.
Drawing on examples from Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Sheffield and Taunton, SCS found that a key part of reversing this trend would be a new approach to business incubation. “Grant funding for social enterprise hasn’t encouraged incubators, and grant funding for incubation hasn’t benefited social enterprises. What we need now is fully financed incubators in which the tenants have a diverse range of business ideas but share co-operative values and work together in co-operative ways; supported by staff that are actively engaged in bringing together talented people with good ideas and networks of ethical investors,” said Alex Lawrie, the author of the report.
The proposal is being actively investigated by The Development Co-operative, a new national consortium of co-operative development specialists. They are looking for groups and experienced individuals that are interested in starting new co-operative incubators; with a critical mass of projects, the Development Co-operative can start working with the growing number of social investors to help them get off to the best possible start. Interest from all over the UK is encouraged, and by projects at any stage of development.

Somerset Co-operative Services already manages a hot desking hub for co-operators at 10 East Reach in Taunton, where the new social enterprises taking shape include an urban farming collective, the UK’s first co-operative train operating company and a community business developing tram systems. A second incubator is planned for nearby Wiveliscombe, taking over complex of small offices developed for sole traders. “It’s very important that as well as helping micro-businesses, an incubator enables good ideas to scale up – to the point where they outgrow the incubator. We can add value to existing business premises by adding high quality advice and training, and by encouraging more mutual aid and use of shared online services.”

Monday, 19 June 2017

Time for our summer newsletter

Yes, it's Co-operatives Fortnight 2017 - and after the last year surely it is indeed time to co-operate. To find out how and where, you could do worse than read our summer 2017 newsletter which is now available from this very website - just click here.

In this issue, we have two events during C14 in Taunton and Frome; we have the Somerset Co-operative Services CIC AGM in Taunton on the 7th July, which also features the return of the popular Director's Forum. That's a chance for people who are directing or leading a variety of social enterprises to share their experiences, learn from each other and offer support and mutual aid.

In addition, we also have updates on social enterprises involved in food and farming; news of innovation in financing community energy; and a sneak preview of the forthcoming workshop in Exeter, is a co-op right for you?

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Co-operatives Fortnight 2017

Co-operatives Fortnight is a chance to remind ourselves of the power of co-operation. This year in Somerset we'll be supporting events across the county:
27th June - with Shared Earth Learning, Freco and the Cheese and Grain in Frome
28th June - with Somerset Co-op CLT and Moorvale Credit Union in Taunton
and there's more to come in the week following:
6th July - GO-OP Annual General Meeting in Taunton
7th July - SCS CIC AGM and Social Enterprise Directors gathering in Taunton

It’s a time to co-operate. And after a year of conflict, it's never been needed more. So this year people across the country will be sharing stories of how co-operating, working together, has made a difference. Together we will create a wealth of stories to inspire people to think differently.
Running from 17 June to 1 July 2017, it is organised by Co-operatives UK, sponsored generously by some of the UK’s most successful co-operatives and brought to life by co-ops across the UK.
Why? Because we know that co-operating makes a big difference and it’s time to remind the rest of the UK too.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Spring newsletter

Our spring newsletter is full of bright ideas for making the world a more fertile place: whether it is the conversion of a popular wholefood shop into a co-op, or the prospects for a freelancer's co-op in Taunton, or the emerging co-operative network in Preston, or the latest funding opportunities, you'll find something of interest. And best of all, we keep it short and to the point - ideal for busy people.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Christmas may be approaching fast, but there is just time for one last 2016 co-op event before we disappear into a haze of mulled wine and mince pies.
Since the government cut the Feed in Tariffs, a lot of very smart people have been determined to prevent it slowing down the community energy movement. A new kind of business model is beginning to emerge, that is smarter, more participatory and less reliant on government support. As it happens, it could be an ideal format for urban energy co-ops - and we think Taunton should be first in line.
Do please come and join us on Wednesday 14th at 3pm for a presentation on how smart solar storage could shut down fossil fuel generators across the UK (not too technical) and how it could work in almost any community.
Please check out the attached poster and circulate far and wide - and the event is listed on Facebook, so let us know if you're coming.
Oh, and... there will be mince pies.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Autumn newsletter

Every so often, we get together a newsletter - and here's the latest one. There's news on community owned renewable energy, forging ahead despite unhelpful government policies; some handy pointers for funding and support; news of a pioneering scheme for hiring E-bikes by the half hour; and an update on audacious plans to start the UK's very first rail co-operative, with a route starting in Somerset.
Click for a download.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Going places: co-operative transport solutions

Our events for Co-ops Fortnight will conclude tomorrow with 'Going Place' in Taunton. We will have two presentations - one from Alex Lawrie on GO-OP, the new co-operative rail operator proposing a new route form Taunton to Nuneaton (an ambitious plan, that still requires the consent of the Office of Rail and Road); and one from Mark Hodgson of Co-Cars who will bring their hi-tech car club operation to Taunton soon.
These two projects show how grassroots activism in communities can meet real needs and give rise to fast growing, technologically sophisticated social enterprises. What's more, those enterprises can remain firmly connected to the communities that gave rise to them, using membership participation to continually improve and adapt to the changing world.
Come along to 10 East Reach between 1pm and 3pm to find out more - and please stick around for the Annual General Meeting of SCS CIC at 4.30pm.