Scotland’s current National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) was published in March 2022. With its clear commitment to a wellbeing economy and the role of alternative business models such as co-ops, employee ownership and social enterprises, the timing was perfect for Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) as the team was busy planning for 2022-2023.
Those of us who have worked in the sector for some time, already know the huge potential of these businesses but their prominence in NSET provides further endorsement to the work that the team does. It has been a real boost to see the wider business community, stakeholders and policy makers recognise that potential too.
Our focus continues to be on the promotion of the growth of inclusive business models as drivers of a more progressive Scottish Economy. Through NSET the Scottish Government has also committed to implementing a community wealth building strategy of which plural or inclusive ownership is a key feature.
This blueprint for economic development further strengthens the role of inclusive ownership in delivering the transformational change proposed.
Over the course of the year, the team has continued to deliver a huge amount. We have supported clients, strengthened partnerships and improved awareness of inclusive models through; creating content, running events and researching the sector. It’s a pleasure to shine a light on the range and impact of this work through our annual review.
Darah Zahran, Team Leader, Co-operative Development Scotland
Supporting our clients
Support for co-ops
Our co-op expert support is offered to businesses and communities keen to adopt or develop a co-operative business model. It includes advice on feasibility, structure, governance and member engagement. The service was improved significantly in 2022 in response to feedback from the sector around what they need and the challenges they face. In addition to proactively raising awareness, we’ve widened our offer for co-ops to not only support both new and established organisations but also a wider variety of models including community, consortium, platform, and worker co-ops. A decision that has been exceptionally well received, prompting a strong flow of enquiries from new and existing co-ops.
For those considering employee ownership we offer up to three days of funded support with an experienced adviser to review all the business succession options available. If employee ownership is identified as a possible exit solution, we provide funding for an employee ownership feasibility study. Employee ownership continues to be a popular succession option for business owners with further interest growing from those working in the area of community wealth building and keen to anchor wealth locally via plural ownership options.
The team plays a key role in building the market for more co-ops and employee ownership which sees us initiating and supporting many events as well as ongoing marketing and media activity.
CDS’s main web presence is on the Scottish Enterprise website and, with the help of colleagues in our CAMs team we have created a selection of pages which introduce the models we support along with information around the service we provide. (www.scottish-enterprise.com/cds) These were updated in 2022 to reflect the enhanced offer for co-ops. We also run our own blogsite to provide insight from thought leaders across the sector. (cdsblog.co.uk) We aim to provide inspiring and informative content on a monthly basis that can be shared on our social media platforms.
To support our awareness raising ambitions, we have developed content to help create understanding of inclusive models, their potential and the support on offer. The team launched additional episodes for our two podcast series; The EO Podcast and Reset and Rebuild: The Podcast as well as recording new episodes for release later in 2023. A new suite of videos introducing different types of inclusive model has been created for launch in 2023, these can be viewed here.
CDS runs its own event programmes including Selling your Businesses Masterclasses aimed at business owners considering a succession plan. The second series of webinars, Employee Ownership Explained, is a hugely popular series which aims to upskill professional advisors such as accountants, lawyers and banking staff around the technical aspects of employee ownership.
A key highlight this year was the Employee Ownership Learning Journey where 45 people including current employee-owned companies, those considering employee ownership, advisers and other interested individuals joined us over two days to hear directly from employee-owned Woollard & Henry, Accord Energy Solutions, 20/20 Project Management, Scott & Fyfe, STAR-Dundee, Merlin ERD’s and after dinner speaker Andrew Lane from Union Industries.
The team has also delivered a further five event programmes totalling 13 events in partnership with key stakeholders including Co-ops UK, the Plunkett Foundation, Community Shares Scotland and Built Environment – Smarter Transformation.
We have also been involved in four significant partnership development projects with key stakeholders that are helping to broaden our reach. The variety is impressive with us working with partners to advise on the role of co-ops in vertical farming, creating advisor materials on inclusive models and the creation of a Co-op Discovery Centre.
Inclusive Models Review
As part of NSET, the Scottish Government has committed to reviewing how to increase the number of inclusive business models including co-ops and employee-owned businesses in Scotland and we have commissioned three pieces of sector research to support this.
Community Wealth Building
Aligned with this review is the Scottish Government’s commitment to introducing community wealth building legislation during its current term. The approach is made up of a framework of five pillars, one of which is plural ownership which includes models such as co-ops and employee-owned businesses. The new legislation will seek to embed community wealth building in regional economic development going forward, addressing challenges, building capacity and implementing the good practice identified from work underway in six pilot regions (Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire, Fife, Glasgow City Region, South of Scotland and the Western Isles).
CDS is actively supporting this as a member of the CWB Legislation Steering Group.
Inclusive Models Dataset for Scotland
Over the past 12 months, we have also focused our engagement with key Local Authorities to help them better understand the size and scale of inclusive business models in their areas. Through a combination of our existing partnerships, publicly available data and commissioned research we have been able to build an Inclusive Models Dataset for Scotland. This has helped our partners visualise the size and scale of the sector, as well supporting Local Economic Development and Business Gateway teams across Scottish local authorities to understand their baseline contributions to the plural ownership pillar of Community Wealth Building. We plan to build upon this dataset and roll this out across more regions over the next 12 months through better engagement with our target businesses, partners and communities.
While 2022 – 2023 has been a very productive year for CDS and ensured increased awareness of the value of inclusive models, we are now focused on building on these successes in the coming year to assist with the completion of both actions in NSET and support SE in its mission to support a more competitive, more productive and fairer economy.