Our history

We have a long history of supporting co-operatives and social enterprises at the Wales Co-operative Centre. Here are the key events that led us to where we are today…

See this page in: Cymraeg

Key Milestones


The Centre was established in 1982 by the Wales TUC to provide business support to co-operatives in Wales.


The Wales Co-operative Centre helped establish the first credit union in Wales in Rhydyfelin. It also started providing advice to trade unions and their members about employee ownership.


Tower Colliery became the largest employee-owned company in Wales with support from the Wales Co-operative Centre. The Centre also helped to set up the UK’s first credit union based on an NHS Trust, in Bridgend.

Image of the coal mine Tower Colliery
Photograph by Iain Wright, RCAHMW


The Centre began working with social enterprises in Wales and became the first Chair of the All Wales Social Enterprise Network.


The Wales Co-operative Centre also gained support from the Welsh Assembly Government for a significant credit union development and grant fund initiative, which then became a flagship project under the new European structural funds programme.


The Wales Co-operative Centre brings together the Communities First Support Network to support the work of the Communities First programme.

Communities First Logo


The Coalfields Regeneration Trust provided further funding for the Centre to administer the Debt Redemption and Money Advice Scheme to protect those most at risk from doorstep lenders.

Coalfields Regeneration Trust Logo


The Centre secures European Objective One funding to continue work in developing co-operatives and leads to a major expansion of the Centre.


The Welsh Assembly Government’s Social Enterprise Strategy for Wales formally recognises the role which social enterprises and co-operatives play in economic development.


Communities@One is launched by the Communities Directorate of the Welsh Assembly Government. The Wales Co-operative Centre wins the contract to deliver this digital inclusion initiative.


The Wales Co-operative Centre launches a Fair Trade project working with businesses across Wales to show them the benefits of adopting a Fair Trade policy, following funding from the Welsh Assembly Government.


The Centre wins contracts to deliver the Social Enterprise Support Project and the Welsh Assembly Government’s digital inclusion project, Communities 2.0.

communities 2.0 logo



2010 saw a change of Chief Executive. After a total of 18 years with the Centre, Simon Harris left to become Director of Wales at Business in the Community.

He was replaced by Derek Walker, coming from Director of External Affairs at the Big Lottery Fund.

A picture of Derek Walker
Derek Walker, Chief Executive



the Centre launches the Business Succession and Consortia Project. The project employed a specialist team to promote employee ownership to exiting business owners as well as promoting co-operation within the private sector in the form of co-operative consortia.


  • Huw Lewis, Welsh Government Minister for Housing, Regeneration & Heritage announces that he wants to see homes built in Wales using a co-operative framework.
  • The Co-operative Housing project is launched to increase the supply of co-operative housing in Wales. Pioneer schemes are established in Cardiff, Carmarthen and Newport.

people standing outside a house being built




  • The Centre is awarded the contract for a new digital inclusion programme called Digital Communities Wales.
  • The Centre secures funding from the European Union and Welsh Government to develop Social Business Wales, a £15m project to deliver growth support to social enterprises, co-operatives and employee owned businesses across Wales.



  • The Centre develops Care to Co-operate, a project to support people to come together to plan and discuss their own care and support needs. The project aims to help people set up their own co-operatives to help deliver care and support.
  • The Centre launches Community Shares Wales, an innovative project to help communities finance new projects using community shares. The project provides technical guidance on developing schemes that could raise equity finance from members of the community.

Community Shares Wales with Derek Walker and Michael Sheen standing in a field


Digital Communities Wales logo



This year’s highlights

This year has been difficult for everyone and has brought un-precedented challenges to the way we do things. Despite these challenges, we’ve been working hard to provide support and deliver our services across Wales.

In co-operation with social enterprises and social enterprise support agencies and with the support of Welsh Government, the Centre launches the Transforming Wales Through Social Enterprise vision and action plan:

Digital Communities Wales has reached the final 3 in the Digital Leaders 100 awards, in the category Digital Skills or Inclusion Initiative of the Year for their tablet loan scheme during the COVID-19 crisis:

Discover more

Find out more about the work we do and our achievements