Austerity: Who needs it and why don’t we focus on collecting all our tax liabilities?

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Sponsored by the Scottish Co-operative Party – the inaugural Scottish Co-operators Lecture.

An increasing number of commentators, including Will Hutton, are calling for corporations to be legally required to behave more ethically – to act in the best interests of a wider collection of stakeholders and to be accountable to them.

The Co-operative Movement has argued this case for centuries and continue to press the case for more diversity of ownership across the economy and especially in financial services.

Prof Prem Sikka (Essex Business School) has been a consistent advocate of more mutual and community focussed financial services such as credit unions. He has also frequently made the point that if more of our big businesses acted like responsible citizens and carried their fair share of the tax burden then there would be no economic argument for austerity. Prof Sikka will be expanding on these themes in Glasgow on Saturday 18th April 2015 @ 12.00pm.

If you would like to participate in this critical discussion, register at info@cets.coop. Attendance is free but limited and places will be allocated on a first come basis.

McCance Lecture Theatre
University of Strathclyde
16 Richmond Street
Glasgow
G1 1XQ
Saturday 18th April 2015 @ 12.00pm

Scottish School of Co-operation

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Cardinal Newman High in Bellshill became our latest Scottish School of Co-operation.  The school were presented with their award by the Provost of North Lanarkshire, Jimmy Robertson, at an event in the school last week.  The Provost noted the area’s co-op connections, both current and historical.  The new co-op food distribution centre is a 5 minute drive from the school and Scotmid have had a presence since the 19th century through the old Dalziell Co-op.

Cardinal Newman are certainly not going for half measures as regards their SSC status.  They are working with Scotwest to create a credit union and organising at least another 2 young co-op enterprises.

There were 10 co-operative businesses (Co-operative Group Food, Pharmacy, Funeralcare and Membership, Scotmid, Green City, Media Co-op, Scotwest, West Whitlawburn Housing Co-op and Clansman Dynamics) supporting a speed networking event.  In particular, the 40 pupils starting out on their SQA Awards in Co-operative Studies were able to extract valuable information on how co-op businesses function and what makes them different from other types of enterprise.  They also learned the role played in the creation of the original James Bond character – Sean Connery having spent his initial years in employment with Scotmid.

We are hopeful that this event might prove to be the catalyst for developing SSC across North Lanarkshire.  The council has made a significant investment in developing co-operative teaching, so it would seem logical to want to teach about co-ops as part of that exercise.  The significant employer engagement and the use of co-ops as the context for cross curricular learning and teaching was also noted by senior educators.

Making 2013 a great year for Co-op Education

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Diarmuid

‘What could be important in this co-operative initiative is not what is accomplished but what it is intended to do.’
– José María Arizmendiarrieta

One of the key messages of the UN 2012 Year of Co-operatives was to see the celebration not as an ending but as a beginning. We have taken that to heart at CETS and have a variety of activities, resources and projects planned for 2013 that will hopefully improve co-operative education in Scotland and the UK.

  • The first cohort of students will be completing the inaugural SQA Awards in Co-operative Studies in 2013. Offered at levels 4, 5 and 6, the qualification provides secondary students with a detailed understanding of the core historical, social and organisational topics relating to co-operatives. We are working on promoting these awards to other Scottish secondary schools in the year ahead.
  • 2012 saw the development of our interactive online resource on the Commonwealth Games. The Co-operative Games: Succeeding together is aimed at upper primary/early secondary level pupils and covers a variety of topics within the Curriculum for Excellence. We will continue to promote? this resource in the run-up to the 2014 Games.
  • We are always seeking to develop relevant, interesting learning and teaching resources on co-operatives and 2013 will continue this trend. The end of the summer will see the launch of a resource on ‘making your school co-operative’. Loudoun Academy became the first “Scottish School of Co-operation -SSC”. We are now building on our work to create the first cluster of SSC schools in Edinburgh and the first Primary SSC in Angus. We also have plans for a second resource but we’re still at the idea generation stage; any ideas/suggestions are welcome at info@cets.coop.

2013 will also be also a big year for us in relation to our work at tertiary level:

  • In co-operation with Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), we are organising a series of screenings of the US employee ownership film, We The Owners, across 3 or 4 Scottish Universities. Open to students, academics, local business people, and co-operators, the screenings will take place during late February, early March; contact info@cets.coop if interested in attending.
  • March will see the completion of an innovative project, supported by Co-operatives UK, to establish a co-operative providing employment to students from a Scottish university. Student-owned and led, the new co-operative will be launched in late March and will be based on a successful model from Mondragón Corporation in the Basque Country.
  • Finally, work continues, thanks to the support of CDS, on disseminating the outputs of a recent Knowledge Transfer Partnership project between CETS and the University of Aberdeen. These outputs include an academic textbook, a collection of essays, an entrepreneurship guide for students/graduates, and a virtual learning environment. We are also delivering a series of lectures across Scottish universities, in particular with the University of the West of Scotland.

Co-operative education workshop – Co-ops United

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Details of an interesting workshop at the big co-op event Co-operatives United at the end of the month:

Title: Business Education Geared to the Co-operative Model: A Growing Trend

Description: When current and future co-operative leaders wish to pursue professional development specific to the co-operative business model, they do have options. Discuss the benefits of existing business programs geared to co-operatives. Learn directly from those with first-hand experience as students, instructors, and co-operative sector supports of co-operative specific management education.

Date: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Time: 14:30 – 15:30

Location: ICA Expo, Manchester Central. Room/location in conference: Business (Central 7)

http://www.icaexpo.coop

Co-operatives and public health: some recent evidence

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Interesting talk from Teaching Scotland’s annual conference a few weeks ago. Sir Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, spoke of the role autonomy plays in the health of Scottish citizens. He presented evidence linking stress levels with the level of autonomy people have in their working lives. Seems like a timely reminder of the role member-owned businesses can play in the Scottish economy in relation to improving the well-being of citizens. Similar research is being carried out in the Basque Country where academics are investigating the link between worker ownership and reduced risk of cardiac arrest.

£30,000 PRIZE FUND FOR BEST NEW CONSORTIUM BUSINESS IDEAS

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Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) is offering £30,000 worth of cash and support to develop new consortium co-operatives in Scotland.

The inaugural Collaboration Prize aims to encourage businesses to consider working with others to form a new consortium co-operative. Co-operatives are collaborative vehicles that play an important role in creating globally competitive businesses. They enable employees, businesses and communities to work together to fulfil shared interests.

CDS is calling for interested parties to pitch an idea for a new consortium co-operative with up to three winning concepts each receiving a cash prize of £5,000 and a further £5,000 of support to get the business off the ground.

First Minister Alex Salmond, who has backed the initiative, said: “I am determined that the Scottish Government does everything possible to get more businesses thinking about how they can work better together, and the Collaboration Prize is a very valuable opportunity.

“I hope the new prize will stimulate new thinking.”

With a combined turnover of £4bn and employing around 28,000 people, Scotland’s 550 co-operative businesses currently play a key role in driving Scotland’s economic growth.

The deadline for entries is 31 July 2012 and winners will be announced later this year in August.

For more information about the Collaboration Prize or Co-operative Development Scotland, please visit: www.scottish-enterprise.com/cds-collaboration-prize or call 0141 951 3055.

Scottish parliament launch of Year of Co-op

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Diarmuid

On 9 February 2012, the UN International Year of Co-operatives (IYC) was launched at the magnificent (and slightly odd) Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh. Organised by the Holyrood cross-party parliamentary group on co-operatives, it was an event designed to showcase the political support for the co-operative movement in Scotland and provide an opportunity for co-operators across all sectors to meet and greet.

I am aware that I am biased but I must say that the quality of the event was superb; well-respected speakers (including finance minister John Swinney, who spoke with authority and passion on the role of co-ops in his constituency) and hardy exhibitionists co-operated to create an enjoyable and dynamic atmosphere. For CETS, it was an opportunity to showcase some of our most recent work (a couple of launch dates in the pipeline – we’ll keep you posted) and gain valuable feedback and contacts. Rather than try (and fail) to fully describe the tone and content of the event, I will let the excellent video produced by Glasgow’s own mediaco-op tell the tale.

Co-operative innovation: lessons from the Basque country

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Diarmuid, Hugh and Morag from the Co-operative Education Trust Scotland, as well as three students from the Scottish Agricultural College, visited the Basque country in Northern Spain to research co-operative models of enterprise. For the next week, we will publish a series of blogs on our experiences. In this post, Diarmuid outlines some of the ways in which the Basque co-operatives have developed innovative solutions to meet member needs.

A trip to visit the co-operatives of the Basque country, in particular the Mondragón Co-operative Corporation, is quite a popular excursion for global co-operators; Mondragón itself facilitated over 5000 visitors in 2010. Rather than recount the details of these co-operatives (much better examples exist – see the notes at the end of the article), I will share the most important insight I derived from the trip: the willingness to innovate to meet member needs.

1. Dealing with the downturn

While co-operatives have dealt with the current economic crisis better than other models of enterprise, they haven’t been immune to its effects. Mondragón has attempted to negate some of the worst effects by implementing measures aimed at protecting member interests. Some of the measures they take include withholding the 7.5% dividend paid on members’ capital accounts; reducing the working week to four days; letting non-member workers go; and relocating members from poorly performing co-ops to ones that are not in financial difficulty. These range of measures are designed to protect employment levels amongst members and to dilute the amount of risk borne by any one member or co-operative.

2. Getting capital onside

Day three of our trip took us outside of Mondragón to a potato processor, Udapa. Udapa is a secondary co-operative consisting of three member classes: a producer co-operative, a worker co-operative, and a credit union. Now, there is nothing hugely innovative about secondary co-operatives but I was intrigued by the role the credit union played; I just couldn’t figure out the need the secondary co-operative solved in terms of the credit union. It turns out that the credit union’s role is central to the financial stability of the co-operative: as well as contributing 20% of the capital requirements of the co-operative, the credit union forgoes its claim of the surplus in return for the co-operative conducting its banking with it. Udapa’s financial support might just be replicable here in the UK and could significantly increase the probability of smaller co-operatives surviving and subsequently prospering.

3. Involving multiple stakeholders

Following on from the previous innovation, the Mondragón co-operatives are particularly adept at productively managing multiple member classes. Take Eroski, the equivalent of the Co-operative Group. It successfully balances the needs of worker and consumer members to operate a multi-billion euro business. Representation on the board is equal: 6 worker-members and 6 consumer members. The co-operative bank, the Caja Laboral Popular, is no different: the needs of its co-operative members are balanced with those of the bank’s workers. In this case, representation is weighted 8:4 in favour of co-operative members but the result is the same i.e. a highly successful enterprise. And finally, Mondragón University is a secondary co-operative whose members are the different faculties, who in turn have three member classes: students, lecturers and collaborative partners (local businesses, authorities, community organisations). Co-operative practitioners and scholars will be aware of the challenges associated with operating a hybrid co-operative but the Mondragón experience, while not offering an off-the-shelf solution, could possibly offer a way of galvanising the disparate consumer and worker movements here in the UK.

Many co-operators consider the Mondragón co-operatives to be one of the best examples of a co-operative network in the world. They are not without their problems though. The key for the UK movement is to analyse its strengths (a well established consumer movement and an increasing presence in local communities) but look to the lessons from Mondragón to help address some its weaknesses (a divide between the consumer and worker movements, insufficient support structures for new and established co-ops). With the 2012 Year of the Co-operative fast approaching, now is the time for the UK movement to draw inspiration from Mondragón and instigate its own program of innovation.

Notes:

http://www.solidarityeconomy.net/2011/03/16/mondragon-as-a-bridge-to-a-new-socialism/ contains details of some of the great pieces of work that discuss Mondragón. Have a look at the work of Oakeshott, Ellerman and Whyte for further analysis also.

What I Did on my Holidays or Co-ops Really Are Everywhere (Except in the Travel Sector)

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Author :Hugh

Last year I started collecting photographs of co-ops I encountered whilst on holiday, to support my oft made claim that there is virtually no where in the world where you won’t find a co-op (or mutual or employee owned operation)  The collection now ranges from a community co-op pub in the lake district (I was on holiday!) to a plumbers merchants co-op in Sicily (yes, sadly I was on another holiday); a small community based credit union on the West coast of Ireland to an AFL-CIO (trade union) credit union just round the corner from the White House (Obama’s place, not the derelict public house in Holytown).

 I have to confess to visiting Corleone, of Godfather fame, whilst in Sicily but I didn’t manage to get any photographs of the Libera Terra agricultural co-ops, created by handing over former Mafia owned land to community co-ops.  A colleague has come across their produce being sold in Palermo markets (olive oil, fruit and veg).

 Conversely, there was little glorification of the Godfather connection.  The Museum was an Anti-Mafia one and we parked in the Piazza to the Victims of The Mafia.  The Italians seem to be better than most in using co-ops for social cohesion.  In Genoa they brought warring factions from Sampdoria and Genoa football clubs together in a Type B co-op to provide the cleaning service in the communally owned stadium used by both teams.

 Whilst I continue to ramble (I did get a lot of sun on my hols), I have been reminded by some recent reviews that there are co-operative champagne houses out there and that the Co-operative Food and Waitrose do stock them.  I suspect that much of the other supermarket own label wines still come from “caves co-operatives” in France, Italy and Spain and I was delighted that several of the reds I enjoyed on holiday were from co-operatives.  There really is nothing I won’t do to support co-ops.

 Co-ops not only feature in the real world but pop up regularly in fiction.  Inspired (?) by my visit to Sicily, I have started re-reading one of the first novels to tackle the Mafia concept – “The Day of the Owl: Leonardo Sciascia (1961).  The opening scene is a young man being gunned down as he tries to board a bus to Palermo.  It soon becomes apparent that he is targeted because he is a member of the Santa Fara Building Co-operative Society and has not been showing due respect to the men of honour i.e. refusing to get involved in bungs relating to public contracts.  So even in fiction, co-ops are held up as the ethical alternative.

 In the Stieg Larsson novels (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc) there are repeated references to Konsum (the Swedish food retail co-operative) and several characters are members of housing co-ops, reflecting the role of co-ops in Swedish culture.

Which does beg the question, if co-ops started in Fenwick and they are ubiquitous socially, culturally and literally speaking, then why don’t we have more of them in Scotland?

Education?

 However, the big breakthrough for my photo album will come in October, when I am taking some students over to Mondragon.  There should be co-op photo opportunities galore.

 Whilst on the topic of photo opportunities, I was on my travels again at the weekend (business, not a holiday) and was snapped, at half time in An Camanachd’s Sutherland Cup Final, with the First Minister.  The Co-op connection was the Co-operative Group Membership were sponsoring a shinty taster event for school kids; we were providing shinty starter packs for Aberdeen schools and Aberdeen University Camanachd were celebrating their 150th, which puts constituted co-ops a hundred years ahead of constituted shinty clubs.  Not to worry, we did manage to get some interest from An Camanachd in looking at co-op structures for their member clubs, so yet another possibility of co-ops springing up in new areas.

 It would seem remiss to talk about travel and not mention the future of Co-op Travel.  It would appear that the deal with Thomas Cook is back on after consideration by the Competition Commission.  There has been some disquiet about the co-op brand being used when the Group and Midlands Society only retain a minority stake.  If the alternative was simply to exit from the travel market, making lots of people redundant then I would have to say the deal with Thomas Cook not only secures employment (maybe not for all as there will be some rationalisation) and offers the co-op partners the chance to maximise the value they realise for what was a failing business.  Personally, I would have liked to have seen the Co-op Travel employees given the chance to take the business over as a worker co-operative but I’m not sure that option has permeated the senior ranks of decision makers in the movement.

 Any engagement I have had with Co-op Travel staff in Scotland has been very positive and they always struck me as get up and go types.  The Webbs still have a lot to answer for.

 Anyway, this should be the last instalment of our Summer Special, as the schools return and the CETS nose is returned to the grindstone.  At least that is what the Resident “Hiedie” tells me.

First Enterprise Practitioners Association Meeting 27th August

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CETS are delighted to be the first organisation to support this newly formed network of Enterprising Practitioners in Scotland.

As Determined to Succeed funding comes to an end this session, the groups which were supported by this funding, are now also having to consider whether or not they can continue. Neil Mclennan,  Enterprise  LTS and Leigh Brown Enterprise, Scotland’s Colleges, decided that it was really important to make sure there was an opportunity for these individuals to have a regular opportunity to meet and share ideas, experiences and expertise.  To this end they have set up a group called the Enterprise Practitioners Network, click here for details

CETS became involved through a discussion with Neil, to try and find premises and a theme for the first meeting. After a couple of phone calls and emails, we were able to offer Scotmid as a venue and co-op themed workshops for the afternoon.  We also managed to secure Stonelaw’s award winning pupils (UK’s Young Social Entrepreneurs of the year) to run a workshop on setting up and running a Young Co-op in your school!

 Sign up and attend – only £5 for members and £10 for Non members!  See details of the day, below:

  Event Title 27 aug 2011[1]

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