Tag Archives: 3RDi magazine

Community co-operatives – realising the potential

Karen BirchThe nature of communities in modern society is evolving, but their role remains more important than ever.

Here Karen Birch, managing editor of 3rdi magazine, a leading voice of the co-operative sector, assesses the value of co-operative community enterprises.

Karen is also a member of Co-operative Development Scotland’s (CDS) Advisory Board.

 

Community co-operatives are organisations set up to provide services to a particular community which use co-operative principles to guide their activities. 

A local community, such as a village or a block of flats, has physical boundaries which makes it easy to recognise. But in the increasingly complex world most of us inhabit many different communities exist and playing different roles. For example, we may be a member of a faith group, a volunteer for a charity and or a member of a local sports team.

Almost every activity which involves people coming together for common purpose has the potential to create a co-operative community enterprise. The co-operative enterprise I am most closely involved with, the 3rdi magazine, is just such a community with women and men3rdilogo5 from across the UK coming together to create an on-line magazine which looks at business issues from an ethical perspective.

We do not serve a local community but rather serve a community with a shared interest in ethical business practices and in furthering equality and diversity in the workplace. Community is an active condition reinforced by active membership with people choosing to identify with and support community values and purpose. 

Community Investment involves members of that community buying shares in an enterprise that serves that community. It gives people a stake in the success of that enterprise. Common ownership puts the assets of the community co-operative in a similar relationship to its members as the village green is to the inhabitants of a village. Everyone has use of the asset but no one person has title or claim and no one person can dig it up and take it away. 

Throughout the last century, the model of community action has been one of volunteering and was heavily reliant on grant-funding from public sector bodies and individual philanthropy. This is not sustainable. I am a fan of enterprise and I’ve run successful businesses for the last 20 years. I see community enterprise as a real alternative to the market failures in the private sector and the continual withdrawal of funding from the public sector. 

Community enterprises provide goods and services to meet the needs of their communities. Community shareholders, unlike traditional shareholders, only expect a fair return not a maximal or rapid return on their investment. This long-term alignment of shareholders to the needs of the community enterprise, promotes long-term sustainability over short-term profit-taking. 

At a time when many communities are faced with the loss of local amenities this change in focus is, I think, crucial. And community shareholders are also far more likely to get involved, to become active supporters of the enterprise, and not just remain as consumers of products and services.

This engagement also strengthens the business model. It creates role flexibility: as customer and supplier and employee and owner is a true stakeholder model, and is more robust and sustainable than the traditional supplier-to business-to customer model. It is this combination of engagement, flexibility and sustainability that leads me to conclude that we need more community enterprise and ownership.

So, what sort of services can community co-operatives provide? Examples are wide ranging and reflect the needs of the communities they serve. These include a crèche in a tower block containing many single-parent families which has enabled them to seek work, through to a launderette in a housing estate.

Most successful community share issues focus on an asset, which is why community shops, pubs and community buildings have featured amongst the big success stories for co-operative community enterprise. As an Advisory Board Member of Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), I’ve seen first-hand how shared ownership enables communities to develop services such as utilities and broadband, and this can work particularly well in remote regions.

However, just because a community lacks a service that it wants, it does not automatically mean that there is a viable business model that can meet that need. As with any business an opportunity only exists if there is sufficient demand from customers willing to pay a reasonable price for the goods or services provided.

With our long term energy future, particularly our reliance on fossil fuels, looking increasingly insecure, more and more attention is being drawn to renewables. Local communities are rightly seeking to benefit from renewable energy projects based in their vicinity.

By coming together to form a co-operative the local community can receive a direct financial benefit from the development and can use any profits generated to re-invest in other community projects. The profit generated stays within the community rather than rewarding shareholders outside the area.

Harlaw Hydro Electric directors (from left): Martin Petty, Simon Dormer, Lynn Molleson and Ian Hynd – pictured at Harlaw Reservoir.

A good example of this is Harlaw Hydro Limited whose purpose is to own and operate a micro-Hydro scheme. It will generate revenue by selling ‘green’ hydro-electricity. The income generated will allow Harlaw Hydro Ltd to contribute to other projects and initiatives within the local area through the Balerno Village Trust. It is 80 per cent of the way to raising £313,000 through a share offer scheme.

CDS works in partnership with other organisations such the Co-operative Enterprise Hub to help communities develop community co-operatives in the renewable energy and broadband arena. The benefit of this model is that co-owners are involved in decision-making. Income can be invested back into the community through local projects or distributed among the members.

From my perspective the key is enterprise and long-term viability and I think that the model of ownership and engagement in community co-operatives means that they can be more robust and sustainable than either their private sector or charitable counterparts.

If you like the sound of this way of doing business do sign up or visit our website: www.the3rdimagazine.co.uk/ and follow us on Twitter, @the3rdimagazine

Co-operative Development Scotland is a Scottish Enterprise subsidiary, established to help companies grow by setting up consortium, employee-owned and community businesses. It works in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

 

One prize – One giant boost for collaboration

 Screen Facilities Scotland 08

After the success of the inaugural awards in 2012, Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) has today launched this year’s Collaboration Prize.

Screen Facilities Scotland was one of the three winners from last summer and Joanna Dewar Gibb, business manager at ARTEM LTD explains how the initiative has had an amazing effect on the consortium’s activities.

 

In the first instance, quite simply, being one of the winners gave us a boost of confidence to the Screen Facilities Scotland (SFS) working group that professional peers also deemed what we were doing as worthy of support.  The double layers of the CDS Collaboration Prize – the practical professional support and the hard cash – gave the working group a solid underpinning for the next steps in the evolution of SFS. 

SFS is now a fully established representative trade body with members and is, in itself, a full member of UK Screen Association.  This forged link between the two entities is a valuable membership benefit of SFS and our thanks go to Creative Scotland for their support with this.

As a recognisable and formal entity, SFS has been able to work effectively with Creative Scotland in a number of other areas as well.  Working as partners, SFS and Creative Scotland set up an eye-catching “Film in Scotland” space at the London Trade Show, BVE 2013. The stand was staffed by Creative Scotland and different SFS members and affiliates.  Each of us on the stand had different knowledge and expertise to share with visitors and the result was a collaborative Scottish presence at this media expo. 

Mini FilmBang directory

Mini FilmBang directory

Alongside this, each of the SFS members, Creative Scotland and other stakeholders took the opportunity to organise a networking event in Central London whilst we were all there.  With combined guest lists and again, many of us on hand to mingle with our guests, this was a valuable opportunity to connect with key clients in London, the media production hub of the UK. 

Copies of a revised Mini FilmBang directory were handed out at BVE 2013 and subsequently at the Cannes Film Festival.  This reference book lists the facilities companies in Scotland all in one place in a handy format. 

Circulating information and contact details of all the facilities and service companies in Scotland is a key focus of SFS as part of our combined collaborative marketing efforts. 

We have produced our logo (that graces the front of Mini FilmBang) and the development of both our website and Members’ Agreement are on-going, thanks again to combined efforts both of SFS members and the business consultancy element of CDS’s Collaboration Prize. 

Across our membership, we have companies that are direct competitors but even so, we find we are able to put those aspects aside to work together in areas of mutual support and benefit to everyone’s advantage. SFS members have been sharing even administrative tasks, like chasing potential member to make sure anyone who wants to be part of SFS is a part of it.

The publicity from winning the Collaboration Prize gave SFS a further boost with articles on SFS appearing in Screen International and Broadcast magazine, two key trade journals in our business.  The £10,000 prize win was the “hook” for the bigger story of the aims of SFS. 

The £5,000 cash prize is being allocated in part to our launch networking event that will include members, clients and key industry figures.  Alongside this, SFS is also planning to have a presence at this year’s Edinburgh Festival and Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival. 

Business consultancy from Co-operative Development Scotland worth £5,000 was also given as part of the prize and has been incredibly worthwhile.  The different experts made available to SFS have each helped focus the working group to achieve key milestones in establishing SFS in a more straight-forward and professional streamlined way. 

SFS photo

On a strategic level, there is an industry-wide period of examination and evolution going on in our core business of film and television production. SFS is now established as a point of reference for those consultants and others charged with reviewing the health of the production sector in Scotland, including the current considerations about building a Scottish Studio facility. 

This is exactly where we wanted to get to. 

It means hard-pressed business managers/owners do not have to be approached separately on every matter but rather, with one point of contact under the banner of SFS, views of busy people can be amalgamated and submitted collaboratively.

In due course SFS plans to have a part-time administrator to manage its business. In the meantime, what is clear on a daily basis is that within SFS there really is strength in numbers and tasks – when tackled co-operatively – become so much more efficient and effective as a result. 

Being one of the CDS Collaboration Prize-winners gave SFS a most incredible boost at the outset of its evolution and we moved forward so much more quickly and efficiently than would have been possible without it. 

This article also appears in the latest edition of 3RDi magazine. Click here to view.

You can follow Screen Facilities Scotland on Twitter @ScotFacilities

Co-operative Development Scotland is a Scottish Enterprise subsidiary, established to help companies grow by setting up consortium, employee-owned and community businesses. It works in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise.