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Why co-operatives are essential for the well-being of future generations

Vikki Howells is Assembly Member for the Cynon Valley and Chair of the Cross Party Group on Co-operatives and Mutuals. Here, Vikki reflects on a recent meeting of the group exploring the contribution of co-operatives to the well-being of future generations.

By Ceri-Anne · December 3, 2018

Recently, AMs, support staff and representatives of around eighteen organisations came together to discuss the role of co-operatives in delivering the objectives set out in the Well-being of Future Generations Act. The meeting was held under the auspices of the National Assembly for Wales Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Co-operatives and Mutuals, which I was elected to Chair in March 2018. As the full first meeting of the CPG since March, this obviously was a significant topic for us to consider.

The Welsh Government’s ground-breaking Well-being of Future Generations Act aims to improve the economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being of Wales. Public bodies are required to work together to proactively address future challenges, whilst at the same time more responsively working with the individuals and communities around them. Importantly, solutions must be sustainable and cannot compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Our first speaker, Cliff Mills of Anthony Collins Solicitors, drew on his twenty years’ experience of the co-operative movement to explain how co-operative principles are closely aligned with the goals of the Act. Both are based on similar values such as integration, collaboration and citizen engagement, and there is much that is familiar to co-operators within the ‘five ways of working’ the Act sets out for public bodies. Indeed, the member-driven governance arrangements of co-operatives are particularly apposite. Furthermore, Cliff suggested that through this compatibility of values, co-operatives could provide the structural arrangements to underpin the Act and ensure its successful delivery.

Adrian Roper, from learning disability support provider Cartrefi Cymru spoke about the organisation’s journey to becoming a co-operative. Adrian suggested a number of ways in which Cartrefi Cymru embodied the five ways of working outlined in the Act. Governance arrangements in particular are key. Cartrefi Cymru distributes power by giving people, including service users and employees, a strong voice and real control over the organisation and uniting them in a genuine co-production and partnership model.

Sam Dabb and Gary Inight, from community pub and arts venue Le Public Space, outlined their journey to becoming a Community Benefit Society. Sam and Gary explored the ways in which their work particularly aligned with the Act, in terms of involvement and collaboration.

The founder of Indycube Mark Hooper noted that that the Act is revolutionary in intention, but that it was not just the role of government’s and public bodies to deliver it. Co-operatives in particular have a key role as co-operative values reflect the values of the Act. Mark outlined how the principles on which IndyCube operates take into account the Act.  For example, he pointed to IndyCube’s four day week policy and flat pay structure.

Delegates took part in a spirited and informative question and answer session. A common theme was around procurement, and it was felt that this could be a good topic to return to for the CPG’s next meeting the New Year.

With such a fantastic turnout at the CPG, we had a good crowd for a photo-op on the Senedd steps to celebrate the 2018 National Social Enterprise Day and its key theme of #WhoKnew. I really enjoyed Chairing this meeting of the CPG, and would like to thank the Wales Co-operative Centre for their support. I look forward to working with the CPG, and the Wales Co-operative Centre, to advance and promote co-operative values in Wales.