Category Archives: Co-Operatives

Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog

cwmni bro

Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog is a pioneering development in Wales; a network of successful community enterprises which have come together to co-operate under the banner of one overarching community company.

The company operates in the communities of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Trawsfynydd and Penrhyndeudraeth and nearby villages, which between them have a population of about 8,000 people. Blaenau Ffestiniog was the second largest town in north Wales in 1900 with a population of about 13,000 people, but as the slate industry declined the population had more than halved by the year 2000. Blaenau Ffestiniog is now one of the economically poorest areas in the United Kingdom. Despite the de-industrialisation a cultural legacy survives, upon which an integrated and holistic model of community development is being pioneered by Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog.

There are more social enterprises per head of the population in Bro Ffestiniog than anywhere else in Wales. Thirteen of the area’s social enterprises have come together under the banner of Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog. The members are:

Antur Stiniog     www.anturstiniog.com

Barnardos    www.barnardos.org.uk/cabanbach.htm

Cyfeillion Croesor     www.orielcafficroesoratcnicht.co.uk

CellB/Gwallgofiaid    www.cellb.org

Cwmni Opra Cymru    www.opra.cymru

Deudraeth Cyf.    www.deudraethcyf.org.uk

GISDA    www.gisda.org

Seren    www.seren.org    Gwesty Seren www.gwestyseren.org

Pengwern Cymunedol www.ypengwern.co.uk

Trawsnewid

Y Dref Werdd www.drefwerdd.cymru

Ysgol y Moelwyn/Canolfan Hamdden sg@moelwyn.gwynedd.sch.uk

The diverse activities of these ventures include running two hotels, shops, restaurants, cafes, tourist information centre, leisure centre, arts and crafts workshop, mountain biking centre, retail, horticulture, energy production projects, developing allotments, educational and cultural activities, opera, environmental projects, energy saving promotion, reducing food waste, recycling, river cleaning, work with adults with supplementary needs, youth work including to do with homelessness and teaching environmental and media skills.

The company’s aims are to promote co-operation between the constituent social enterprises, nurture new social enterprises and work with small business enterprises which are anchored in the community. All of this is in order to promote the environmental, economic, social and cultural development of the area.

Between them, Cwmni Bro’s members employ some 150 people. A recent analysis of their economic impact showed that a high percentage of their income comes from trading. Further, this income largely stayed and circulated in the area. For every pound received as a grant or loan, a significant proportion, 98 pence, was spent locally, mainly on wages. Of the 1.5 million pounds spent on wages 53% is retained locally. Nearly half the expenditure on goods and services was local and thus circulated money in the area.

In August 2018, a new venture was launched, BROcast Ffestiniog, a community digital broadcasting service, aimed at facilitating communication between the social enterprises and the community and within the community (See BROcast Ffestiniog-YOUTube and facebook.com/BROcastFfestiniog ).

The integrated and holistic model of community development which Cwmni Bro is pioneering offers a pattern which other communities can emulate. Cwmni Bro resonds positively to invitations to visit other communities to explain what has been achieved in Bro Ffestiniog and to discuss the general potential of this model of community development.

The model presents a challenge to government in Wales; to develop policies and appropriate support in order to facilitate the adoption of this model of community development across Wales.

CONTACT

Cwmni Bro Ffestiniog, 49 Stryd Fawr, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd. LL41 3AG

CwmniBro@CwmniBro.Cymru      07799 353588

Loftus Village Association

Alison and Bron from Pobl Group have blogged for us ahead of our Building Resilient Communities event on the Loftus Village Association – an intentionally created community that they have been a part of from the beginning.  Come and join us at the event to find out more about the successes and challenges that this community, and Pobl, have had during their journey together.

The Loftus Village Association journey began in 2014 when Charter Housing (now Pobl Group) began the process of trying to find 19 households keen to move into Loftus Garden Village under a shared ownership scheme, and also at the same time to become co-operators.

It was a curious top down approach to setting up an intentional community.

Generally speaking Co-housing projects begin with a group of people who for various reasons want to share space and some time together, whereas we had the homes, but no people!

We had carried out some market research and identified a group of people who were interested in the idea back in 2012/13.  So we began contacting those folk, and interestingly one of those did see the idea through to the end, and 6 years on is now on the Co-op’s management committee.

A lot of people liked the idea of living in Loftus Garden Village.  It’s a particularly beautiful new housing development, and that wasn’t a hard sell.

Also most people liked the idea of living in a street where they know all their neighbours before moving in, had a sense of community, felt safe and enjoyed  living in a visually attractive environment…..so ‘Greener, Cleaner, Leaner‘ living soon became LVA’s values.  However it was all the legal/financial paraphernalia that went with it that many found a stumbling block.

Finding a financial and legal model was a headache for Pobl as an organisation and also for our would-be co-operators.  We examined a few legal and financial models before coming up with a version of our own that felt right for us and also the co-operators.  That done the co-operators had many months of working together to draft a management agreement, as well as months of training sessions on how to work together co-operatively.   The management agreement has given the Co-op the responsibility of collecting the rent, being involved in resales and ‘staircasing up’ (to own a higher percentage) and taking on the early stages of any neighbour complaints.  (none so far).

We lost people, we gained people and eventually ended up with 19 households comprising a complete mix of ages, numbers, and backgrounds.  For some it was their first home of their own.  Being a member of the Co-op meant that you could buy with only a 30% share, making it more affordable than most shared ownership schemes.  For others they were starting out again after changes in circumstances, and for some it was a home for retirement.

To keep morale going while waiting for the builders to ‘hurry up and get on with it’ our co-operators enjoyed fun tasks like choosing their kitchen and bathroom, tiles and flooring, discussing what to do with their community garden and building  (a garage), and generally getting to know one another.

There was an application system to ensure we found people who did genuinely want to be part of a community and support one another, rather than just live in a nice house. Would be co-operators had to fill in a section asking them to indicate how much time they could offer each week or month.

Two years ago the street moved in…bit by bit, with great excitement.  There was a huge amount of camaraderie with lots of ‘lending a hand’ with the trials of moving in.

The Co-op has achieved a beautiful community garden, two shared spaces, an office and a garage where garden tools are stored and kept.  They have held numerous social get togethers (often involving the wider community), including Carols by the Christmas Tree, Halloween, Easter celebrations, a Play Street event, where the road was closed for children to play.  Household costs i.e. boiler servicing and energy charges, are reduced via collective bargaining, and they have a reduced Carbon footprint from other streets by sharing power tools.

They have just held their third annual general meeting.  It hasn’t been a bed of roses, and it won’t ever be.  They complain about one another sometimes, complain about Pobl, and generally don’t really want to do the boring stuff.

But they are a community, and they certainly appreciate the power of that, and wouldn’t want to change it.

Wales Co-Operative

Casey Edwards @casey_walescoop from the Wales Co-Operative Centre @WalesCoOpCentre has blogged for us about how housing co-operatives are helping to build resilient communities.  The North Wales leg of our #WAOADM event is next week.

No two housing co-operatives are the same; it’s not a one size fits all approach. Co-operative housing is about communities having democratic control over decision-making about their homes, neighbourhoods and communities. It is a flexible and innovative approach to ways in which we meet the housing needs and the aspirations of local neighbourhoods. Co-operatives can be developed in either new or existing housing and can cover a range of tenancies.

The Co-Operative Housing Project was established in 2011 and is managed by the Wales Co-Operative Centre, and supported by the Confederation of Co-Operative Housing. The project has helped to deliver over 130 homes across Wales and is supporting the delivery of many more by developing expertise in different co-operative models and providing advice to developers and co-operative groups.

I joined the Wales Co-Operative Centre in May 2017 as the project advisor and have realised it takes a lot of hard work from a lot of people to get these schemes ‘shovel ready’. All of the housing schemes have developed in contrasting ways and adopted different models, from the different ways in which schemes were instigated and funded; how individuals came to be involved; to the size, nature and tenure of the housing co-operative. So does all of this hard work actually pay off?

Being part of a housing co-op is about more than just having an affordable roof over your head. It is about being part of a support system, helping yourself but also taking the responsibility to help others in the wider community. Read about how Luana, at Loftus Village Association, is helping to bring the community together through organising events and social activities.

Examples like this also show how living in a housing co-op can also help to tackle isolation and loneliness, especially amongst the vulnerable and the elderly. Co-operative communities form close bonds and look after one another; that feeling of being part of a community which is hard to come by in the 21st century. Haydn from Old Oak Co-Operative shows how being involved in the co-op has helped him grow in confidence and take on responsibility within the community.

Living in a diverse, supportive community also gives people the chance to share knowledge and skills with each other, that maybe they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn living in more traditional environments. As part of the development of the co-op, tenants are involved in a rigorous training programme which includes topics such as co-operative principles, governance and housing management. They learn new transferrable skills which can help them improve their employment status or give them the confidence to change career. Our scheme Ty Cyfle is empowering young people to manage their housing independently, learning new skills along the way.

This self-help and self-responsibility approach to addressing housing need is having a much bigger impact than just providing affordable homes, it is creating self-sufficient, resilient and healthy communities, which can reduce the demand on wider support services.

Living in a community-led housing scheme can offer the kind of support that public services are increasingly finding it difficult to provide, often in a more personal and cost-efficient way. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act has now placed a duty on public bodies to think more about the long-term; to work better with people, communities and each other; to prevent problems and to take a more joined up approach. Co-operative housing is doing so already.

The seven wellbeing goals compliment the seven co-operative principles developed by the International Co-Operative Alliance, which all co-operatives should adhere to. They both emphasize the importance of developing attractive, viable, healthy and sustainable communities, that maintain, even enhance the natural environment. A democratic and fair society with an economy that generates wealth, without discrimination. A society that enables people to fulfil their potential no matter their background or circumstances. A society that provides employment opportunities and education and training for a skilled workforce. A co-operative society that highlights the importance of social and cultural wellbeing.

Co-operative and community-led housing can be a part of the solution to the housing crisis in the UK. But more than just a quick fix, it can be a part of a long term sustainable option to providing affordable homes and creating resilient communities.

The Wales Co-Operative centre offers support and advice to any new or existing organisation wishing to develop co-operative housing. We can provide access to experts’ advice about co-operative housing and we can provide skills and development training for members of a co-operative. We have recently developed a Co-operative Housing Pilot Toolkit, developed to help community groups, housing associations, co-ops, local authorities and others in the initial stages of considering how to develop new co-operative & community-led homes. Take a look.

More information on co-operative housing and what support is available can be obtained from the Wales Co-operative Centre on 0300 111 5050 or at co-op.housing@wales.coop.