The community business sector in Scotland is growing and, to support this, Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) is working in partnership with Community Shares Scotland (CSS) and the Plunkett Foundation to raise awareness and improve access to support. The partnership has just launched a new video guide which introduces the subject of community business – so we caught up with our co-ops specialist, Jaye Martin, to find out more about the sector, the support available and why now is a key moment for community business in Scotland.
CDS has always supported community businesses and we have consistently seen interest from clients in this area but there has been a change of pace most noticeably in the last 12 months. Two key reasons for this are firstly, the ecosystem in Scotland has evolved with organisations like CDS, CSS and the Plunkett Foundation raising awareness of the benefits and providing support and advice. Secondly, the pandemic has shone a light on how we do businesses and created a desire for change. Everyone, particularly those in rural communities, has been very dependent on their local services and now, more than ever, there may be a desire to preserve and develop the resources that are important to those communities. Community businesses, especially community co-operatives, place democracy and concern for community at the heart of what they do and can provide an alternative way of working that has captured the interest of individuals, communities and businesses.
To improve access to support, CDS, CSS and the Plunkett Foundation offer a collaborative support package to help anyone considering setting up a community business in Scotland. A wide range of advice and practical support is available, including:
- Choosing the best business model
- Selecting a suitable legal structure
- Accessing funding
- Developing a community share offer
- Community engagement, including promoting a community share offer
- Company governance and managing the daily running of your business
- Specialist support for community business in rural communities
Our new video guide is a great introduction to the subject and the available support.
To find out more about Community Business Making it Easy visit: https://communitysharesscotland.org.uk/making-it-easy/
Last month Scottish Enterprise held a webinar on Leveraging Ownership at which participants gained valuable insights into the evidence underpinning employee ownership and its impact on business performance and employee engagement.
Drawing on practical lessons and experiences from Sheffield-based Gripple and the Basque Country’s Mondragon Corporation, the webinar demonstrated how employee ownership in its different forms can support a pervasive culture of accountability, self-management and employee-driven innovation.
Following on from the event, we asked Dr Peter Totterdill, Director of Workplace Innovation Europe, to write a blog based on the findings from the event including a Q&A with Ed Stubbs, MD of Gripple and James Sallows, Chair of GLIDE, the Employee Ownership Trust that holds shares on behalf of workers at Gripple, about their model of employee ownership.
As part of our Reset and Rebuild campaign, we hosted a virtual roundtable discussion with experts from across Scotland to further explore the role inclusive business models can play in the recovery of the economy following the COVID-19 crisis.
From the CDS team
2020 was a year like no other, and one which the nation will feel the effects of for years to come. Businesses and individuals will continue to face challenges around recession and uncertainty, and the road to economic recovery is long.
North East IT provider ITWORX has announced its transition to employee ownership, with 17 staff given a stake in the business.
Established in 2010 by Philip Mowatt and Jill Ross, ITWORX provides tailored IT and communications services and solutions to a range of clients. The firm is headquartered in Aberdeen and has recently expanded into Dundee and Angus, however many of its clients have a global footprint. With 50 years of combined experience, a host of prestigious awards, and a customer retention rate of 98%, ITWORX prides itself on providing an exceptional quality of service. Last year, the firm turned over £2.6m.
As part of our Reset and Rebuild campaign, we have created a video featuring a wide range of experts on inclusive business models, including Darah Zahran, Sarah Deas, Jaye Martin and Carole Leslie, as well as the businesses themselves such as The Community Carrot, Merlin ERD and the John Lewis Partnership, discussing why they think the models can help rebuild the economy post-Covid-19 and help create a stronger, fairer and more democratic economy.
Head of Co-operative Development Scotland Clare Alexander explores further.
Along with the Scottish Government, we want to help create a more progressive Scottish economy that contributes to increased prosperity and equity, creating better opportunities for everyone and spreading the benefits of economic success more evenly. COVID-19, with its proven ability to target and highlight inequality, has made this a more urgent task.
The final webinar in the Employee Ownership Explained series took place on Wednesday 18 November. This month, the focus was on ‘Making Employee Ownership Work’. Having worked in the employee ownership sector for 16 years and supported over 60 companies move into an employee ownership structure, Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates, talked through the process of moving to an employee-owned structure, and how to achieve the best outcome for the sellers, the employees and the business.
Edinburgh-based contemporary furniture and interior design company Tangram Furnishers Limited has announced its transition to employee ownership.
The company, which operates from a showroom and office in Edinburgh city centre, specialises in the premium end of the market and works with clients, designers and architects to specify and supply contemporary furniture, lighting, blinds and rugs. Its wide variety of projects includes work for both private individuals and commercial sites such as restaurants, offices and museums.
The latest webinar in the Employee Ownership Explained series took place on Wednesday 21 September. This month, the focus was on the role of the legal adviser in employee ownership transactions. Having worked on a number of these transactions himself, Bruce Farquhar of Anderson Strathern gave an insightful overview of the process from a legal adviser’s perspective.
We’ve launched a new campaign to showcase the role inclusive business models can play in supporting the Scottish Government with its aim to create a fairer, stronger and more democratic economy, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic.
To launch the campaign we commissioned a new survey which revealed that half of Scots (48%) agree the pandemic has provided an opportunity to make Scotland’s economy stronger and fairer, with under 35 year olds more even more likely to agree (59%). 64% also said that the pandemic has already made their business more socially responsible.
Scotland’s largest product design company Shore has become employee-owned, with over 30 members of staff given a stake in the business.
The company, which operates from Leith in Edinburgh, designs, engineers and develops class-leading drug delivery products, diagnostic devices and medical training products. It has a huge global customer base with over 80% of its customers in the USA, EU, Switzerland and Japan. Its clients include some of the world’s biggest medical and pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, Smith & Nephew, Eli Lilly and Ypsomed.
The increasing interest in employee ownership was reinforced on Wednesday 16 September when our webinar attracted over 60 attendees. Dougie Rae, Partner, EQ Accountants has worked on a number of employee ownership transactions and shared his experience in what was agreed to be a tremendously valuable presentation, followed by a lively Q &A session.
There is growing recognition of the value of community businesses, preserving community assets and generating economic value for their communities. COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated the importance of supporting communities to be innovative and take the step towards generating wealth locally, avoiding the return to normal economics.
In partnership with the Plunkett Foundation, and Community Shares Scotland, Co-operative Development Scotland ran their second Community Business: Making it Easy event this month providing key insight to the realities of establishing a community business and information about the support available.
Civil engineering firm MHB Consultants has become employee-owned, with 40 members of staff given a stake in the business.
Founded by managing director Hendrie Barbour in 2006, MHB Consultants is an engineering design consultancy specialising in bridge design, civil and geotechnical engineering, temporary works and land surveying. Together with fellow directors Fergus Aitchison and Alistair Gray, Hendrie has grown the firm organically to 40 staff, with headquarters in Glasgow and regional offices in Edinburgh and York. Clients include construction firms, transport agencies, local authorities, engineering consultants and private clients throughout the UK.
Earlier this year Co-operative Development Scotland were part of a group that organised and hosted an event called Community Shops & Pubs: Making it Easy. The event was designed to enable communities take action to secure the future of their local shop or pub by helping them to better understand what projects of this nature entail and the support that is available to them. This was a fantastic event was well attended by community groups from across Scotland who were able to access advice on fundraising, governance and community engagement. Attendees also had the opportunity to speak to those already running community businesses and to learn from their experience.
On the day we caught up with some of the speakers from the event to find out what key bits of advice they would give to community groups considering setting up their own community business.
Gillian Kirton, project manager for Co-operative Development Scotland was there on the day and shares some of the key insights.
As we continue to Celebrate Co-ops Fortnight, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with Co-operative Development Scotland client, Glasgow Canals Co-op. Anna Young, Project Manager for the organisation, took part in a Q&A with us so we could find out a bit more about the Co-op, its purpose and how they #KeepCooperating.
Over the next two weeks we join our partners in celebrating Co-ops Fortnight. COVID-19 has left us facing extreme challenges for both public health and our economy, but positive lessons are being learned during this crisis, and we all want to harness this new culture of co-operation to change society for the better. Looking at this year’s theme of #KeepCooperating we caught up with Darah Zahran, team leader at Co-operative Development Scotland to get her take on why co-operatives will play a key part in our economic future.
As our thoughts turn to what our economy will look like post COVID-19, there are calls not to return to business as usual. There is an opportunity to create a fairer and more democratic alternative to what we’ve had in the past and community wealth building and co-operative business models will play a key role in that.
In our latest blog, we catch up with Suzanne Orchard, our specialist advisor for co-operatives to find out more about community co-operatives and why communities in Scotland are turning to this model to both safeguard vital local assets but also to generate economic benefit for the areas they live in.
Although the effects of COVID-19 are still being felt across the globe, there are good news stories coming through and in our new blog article Clare Alexander, head of Co-operative Development Scotland, discusses these in more detail along with what is happening in the employee ownership sector.