Training and developing new co-operatives that bring social investors together with community activists to create jobs

by Somerset Co-operative Services CIC

About the project


Tipping Point £5,000
Development and community action £10,000
Feasibility and support £20,000
tipping point
In-kind donations range from drinks to office supplies. We even accept homemade cakes. See what else we need!
tipping point
25 hrs
In-kind donations range from drinks to office supplies. We even accept homemade cakes. See what else we need!

More about the project

What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
We want to tackle the growing problem of unemployment and underemployment – in particular helping those most disadvantaged in the labour market. There is a desperate need for work to re-tool our economy for a low carbon future, but institutions and businesses are failing to make the bold investments needed, and too many startups are poorly supported one-man bands. The solutions need to come from the grassroots to ensure that scarce resources are used effectively.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
Somerset has traditionally had lower unemployment than elsewhere in the UK, but as Somerset County Council report, “In Somerset, the unemployment rate has risen sharply since December 2008, at a much faster pace than in the UK as whole. In March 2011 unemployment in Somerset stood at 6.8%, compared to 7.7% in the UK. The proportion of vacancies in management, professional roles and skilled trades decreased. Somerset historically has a lower skilled economy compared to the UK and the downturn appears to have further affected this balance.”
What is your solution?
We will bring together workers, community activists and social investors in social enterprises that can create jobs in the growing green economy. We have worked with the FSA to develop new Multistakeholder co-operative rules that allow social and community investors to buy shares in co-operative ventures that create jobs in a community. Not only are people working for a sustainable future, but they are gaining high level skills in managing and planning businesses. To achieve this, we need to publicise best practice, run pilots, and train activists.
How will you deliver this?
A multistakeholder co-operative, unlike other businesses, raises small sums of investment from many people in the community – provided it has a strong business case and is 'investment ready'. Using the Co-operative Enterprise Hub and other support networks, a team of community activists can begin to create jobs first on a small scale, then rapidly growing as the business proves its worth. Our role is to link up the legal, financial, and human resources in community based co-operatives – first in Somerset and the South West, then further afield. The success of one project allows us to reinvest in more.

Get involved

Here are some great ways to get involved with the project and help out. If you have...
  • 2 minutes
    You can sign up for our newsletter – or for our 'Co-op Angels' mailing list which is ideal for social investors wanting to invest as little as £250 a time in co-operative businesses.
  • 5 minutes
    Are you a member of a co-operative in the South West, or a mutual business such as a credit union, LETS scheme or Community Land Trust? Encourage them to become a member of SCS. When we get good direction from our members, we can provide better services to the sector.
  • 15 minutes
    Could you promote co-operative enterprise in your community? We can provide literature and follow up.
  • 30 minutes
    Perhaps you could write a letter to your local newspaper celebrating local co-operative successes and encouraging readers to back the social economy. We'd be happy to provide topical information relevant to your area.
  • A few hours
    Maybe you have a vision for a co-op in your community – perhaps a employment co-op as described here, or something different like a food co-op, energy co-op or housing co-op. We'd love to help get it off the ground.
  • Regular time commitment
    From early next year, we hope to have new offices in Taunton. We'd be very keen to hear from potential regular volunteers!

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About the organisation

Vision and mission

Somerset Co-operative Services (SCS) mission is to promote the application of international co-operative principles, to help people establish new social enterprises and to enable social enterprises to work together to be financially, environmentally and socially sustainable. We aim to provide high quality services to our user members and secure, fairly rewarded work to our worker members. We offer specialist support to co-operatives, particularly those bringing different groups together and those that make measurable impacts on the reduction of carbon emissions.

Geographical coverage

Within a city/shire

Our track record

For new social enterprises such as Go! Co-operative, the Ecological Land Co-operative, 10 Radio CIC and Lightweight Community Transport we provide consultancy, project management and executive services to steer their businesses through complex launches. We've helped mutual businesses raise over £0.5M from social investors. We have developed new model rules, approved by the FSA, for co-operative societies seeking to bring together different stakeholder groups, raise investment though community share issues, and work towards defined social missions. These multistakeholder rules have since been adopted by Somerset Co-operative Land Trust, Hazelhurst CSA, The Source TV Limited, Go! Co-operative and the Ecological Land Co-operative. Through the Co-operative Group's 'Co-operative Enterprise Hub' we have delivered advice and support to an number of co-ops in the South West; this led to the formation of South West Co-operative Support, of which we were founders. We were commissioned by Co-operatives UK to write their guide to social enterprise finance, 'Simply Finance' and we are part of a consortium that will train new co-operative business advisors.