Tag: Quebec

Memorable year for co-operative working

Sarah Deas resized2014 has been a busy year for Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), with interest in co-operative working higher than ever.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas reflects on the year and looks ahead to what 2015 may bring.

As we hurtle towards the end of 2014, it is a natural time to look back on the past 12 months. Last December, I remember fondly writing how the eyes of the world would be on Scotland throughout the year – and that certainly proved to be the case!

One shining moment was the XX Commonwealth Games, held in the always-friendly city of Glasgow. I was proud to serve as a Host City Volunteer at this spectacular event which will live long in the memory as an example of what can be achieved when we work together. CDS was delighted to contribute to Glasgow City Council’s (GCC) business event held during the Games. In fact, one of the highlights of the year was seeing GCC and its counterpart in the capital progress their commitment to be Co-operative Councils.Sarah Deas

This is a significant endorsement of co-operative working, which CDS is supporting through the provision of specialist advice. Co-operative working is now recognised as a means of achieving competitive advantage by businesses in a wide range of sectors and there is also growing interest in employee ownership – specifically as a succession solution – helped by the new tax incentives.

To tap further into that growing interest, we held five ‘successful succession’ events during the year. Kindly hosted by employee-owned companies – Aquascot, Galloway & MacLeod, Page\Park, Stewart Buchanan Gauges and Scott & Fyfe – these sessions gave those interested in the ownership model the opportunity to see how it works in practice.

We also engaged with Scotland’s professional advisers through our expert briefing sessions, tackling subjects including funding the employee buyout and employee share ownership.

David Narro Assoc 09

David Narro Associates celebrated becoming employee owned in August.

CDS helped a wide range of businesses across the year, including Fitwise and David Narro Associates, both of which made the transition to employee ownership. Scotland has a host of new employee owners, and hopefully they will find the newly-formed EOA Network Scotland useful – one to watch in 2015.

I was also grateful for the opportunity to visit Quebec for the International Summit of Cooperatives, a truly insightful conference. We heard from the Mondragon Corporation, often seen as an example of best practice when it comes to co-operative working. It is worth noting that the Basque region, where Mondragon is headquartered, is now looking to learn from the UK. Just last month, I welcomed a delegation from the Gipuzkoa province who visited some of our well-established employee-owned companies.

Finally, we once again offered companies in Scotland the chance to win £5,000 in cash and £5,000 in support to make their collaborative ideas a reality. The standard of entries to the Collaboration Prize this year was high, and all of us at CDS are excited to see who will follow in the footsteps of past winners the Scottish Mountain Bike Consortium and The Wee Agency.

In 2015 we anticipate interest in co-operative working to continue to grow as the benefits for staff, business and the economy are further demonstrated. While awareness is most definitely increasing, our job is to keep that momentum going. The growing desire for fairer, more inclusive approaches to working is an opportunity to further underline the virtues of the models – and we will continue to shout about it.

The year began with Kim Lowe, a managing director at John Lewis, calling for more businesses to consider a co-operative approach. I think it is clear that many have done just that, but more can and will be done in 2015.

2014 has been a memorable year in many ways, and I wish you all a happy, healthy and successfully prosperous 2015.

A golden visit – part three

???????????????????????????????From October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas discusses a US organisation driving employee ownership and takes a trip to a co-operative shopping quarter.

The first part of the blog can be read here and the second part can be read here.

An ESOP (Employee Share Ownership Plan) is another form of employee ownership that is becoming more widely adopted. So, I was delighted to meet Perry Phillips and Camille Jensen (pictured above), from the specialist consultancy, ESOP Builders.

They highlighted that there are now approximately 1000 Canadian ESOPs, the majority (80%) having come about as a succession solution. Most famous is WestJet Airline, where 80% of staff are employee owners (modelled on Southwest Airlines).

Sarah with Roy Messing

Sarah with Roy Messing

I was also delighted to meet Roy Messing, Chris Cooper and Bill McIntyre of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center. Established in 1987, the centre has helped 694 companies consider ownership succession, resulting in 92 employee buyouts and creating 15,000 employee owners. In America there is legislation to support the creation of ESOPs – see my previous blog.

The Center was the driving force behind Evergreen Cooperative – the innovative model of socio-economic development in Cleveland. Whilst there are similarities in our approach, there is clearly much that Scotland can learn from OEOC’s 27 years’ experience. Interestingly, they are currently establishing a Cooperative Development Center – an area where we can share our experience.

???????????????????????????????A visit to Quebec is not complete without a visit to the Quartier Petit Champlain. This delightful shopping quarter in the old city is a co-operative owned by its tenants. 50 artists and traders formed a co-operative to buy the properties. Desjardins, the leading financial co-operative, supported members with loan finance.

A co-operative model was chosen for practical reasons – an ideal model that allows shared management of the buildings and promotion of the quarter to tourists. An elected board has oversight, including approval of new tenants/owners and all members are invited to attend an annual assembly.

So, how do I summarise this visit? A golden experience – not just the leaves on trees, the abundance of pumpkins and the warm hospitality but also in the richness of learning. Thanks to everyone that was so open in sharing your story. Let’s stay in touch!

A golden visit – part two

image7From October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.

Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas looks at the approaches taken by co-operatives in Argentina, Spain and France.

The first part of the blog can be read here.

We heard from the Argentinian Federation of Worker Co-operatives in Technology, Innovation and Knowledge that there has been a boom in worker co-operatives. In 1990 there were just 30, now there are 10,000. Social co-operatives account for the largest proportion, followed by young professionals (mostly in technology, communications and consulting services).

The growth is due to public policy; government contracts have advantaged social and construction sector co-operatives. A percentage of co-operatives’ tax also goes into a fund to support co-operative development.

mondragonWe also heard the Mondragon Corporation story – a federation of worker co-operatives based in the Basque region of Spain. It is the tenth largest Spanish company, employing 74,000 people in 257 companies and organisations spanning finance, industry, retail and knowledge. Mikel Lezamiz described the ‘four-legged support stool’ that supports growth: education, finance, social assistance and innovation. A virtuous circle.

France’s worker co-operative membership association, Les Scop, described how they are promoting the model as a solution to ownership succession. From a negligible number 10 years ago, a growing proportion (currently 15%) of their 2,200 members have chosen the worker co-operative model for succession reasons.

lesscopThis percentage is expected to double in coming years. I was interested to see Les Scop’s TV advert, which forms part of a campaign targeting 55+ year old owners – perhaps an approach that we might pursue in Scotland? Les Scop has also introduced training, on the back of the new law in France that requires all companies to provide training to employees.

image2For anyone interested in worker co-operatives a visit to La Barberie microbrewery is a must! On arriving, I was delighted to see Scotch Ale at the top of the menu – although on this visit Pumpkin Beer was the order of the day.

Established in 1997, this worker co-operative has 25 employees, of which 15 are members. It is one of four microbreweries co-operatives in Quebec province that worked together to produce the ‘Rochdale Beer’ which was launched at the Summit. Thanks to Jessica Provencher for hosting our visit.

Read part three of Sarah Deas’ account of her visit to Quebec.

A golden visit – part one

Sarah Deas resizedFrom October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.

Here, in the first of three blogs, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas looks back at her trip to North America and reveals some of her key learnings.

October is a wonderful time to visit Quebec … maple trees adorned with golden leaves and pumpkins piled high awaiting Thanksgiving celebrations.

So, I was delighted when I was invited to facilitate a forum at the global International Summit of Cooperatives. This was a huge event attracting over 3,000 delegates from 93 nations. Keynote speakers included Nobel Prize economist Professor Robert Shiller and author of The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson.

Autumn in Quebec

Autumn in Quebec

Throughout the summit, speakers acknowledged the contemporary nature of co-operative models; identifying their relevance and potential for the future. Balanced against this, there was a strong call for promotion of the social values that make the models unique.

As one speaker said “Co-operatives have the DNA – the humanist values – you need to promote these since conventional businesses are now doing so and capturing your ground”.

Canada has a strong co-operative sector. The Canadian Parliament’s ‘Special Committee on Cooperatives’ reported that there are 8,500 co-operatives employing 15,000 people with assets of $330bn.

Quebec accounts for almost 40% of Canadian co-operatives and 50% of associated jobs. The provincial government aims to expand their economic contribution by enhancing the legal framework, availability of finance, advisory services and promotion.

quebec

I attended a really interesting workshop organised by Reseau and the Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation, in collaboration with CICOPA. Prominent themes included the difficultly young professionals face in finding work and the increasing number that are deciding to set up their own shared venture (co-operative). Also, recognition that owners are getting older and succession is becoming an issue.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that so many countries are taking a similar approach to Scotland in promoting employee/worker ownership as a solution. A big thank you to Hazel Corcoran for making me so welcome (and helping with translation!)

POSTSCRIPT: So sad that within a fortnight of my visit the openness and hospitality of the Canadians had been assaulted by violence in Montreal and Ottawa. My thoughts are with all those affected. 

Read part two and three of Sarah Deas’ account of her visit to Quebec