The social business sector, which includes co-ops, plays a key role in building an inclusive economy in Wales, according to a new study.
It argues that boosting equality should be put at the centre of economic development.
The report defines an inclusive economy as one which gives people a say in economic decisions, ensures their needs are taken into account, and benefits more people.
It identifies four separate, but linked, dimensions of an inclusive economy, based on the drivers of economic success. These are: diverse and resilient businesses to create wealth and provide goods and services; decent work for everyone to generate an income to live on; knowledge and skills so people can secure a livelihood and progress; and a say in economic decisions so that people’s needs are taken into account.
The study notes that worker representation can be achieved through employees owning the business, such as worker co-operatives and other forms of employee ownership, or through unions and similar representation.
Victoria Winckler, director of the Bevan Foundation and author of the report, said: “There is growing evidence that the most resilient places across Europe have strong networks between public, private and social sectors. Yet most economic development decisions, like the existing Welsh City Deals, are taken by public sector leaders and big businesses that are far removed from civil society and focus on more traditional economic objectives such as boosting the Gross Value Added (GVA).
“For example, how do we ensure places such as the south Wales valleys and groups of people such as disabled people or black and minority ethnic communities actually benefit from growth? Our report looks at practical proposals that can help achieve an inclusive economy in Wales, its economic regions and its diverse communities. It provides a vision for what an inclusive economy might look like, and sets an agenda for action that economic actors of all kinds can adopt.”
Derek Walker, chief executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, added: “Creating an inclusive economy goes much further than getting a citizen voice around the City deal table. It is about changing the way we connect with people and do business with one another. It means increasing equality an integral part of the process of creating prosperity. It is in effect a new economic model.
“The vote to leave the EU was a strong signal that the current economic system is not working for everyone. The Welsh Government’s recognition within its latest economic action plan of spreading opportunity and promoting well-being, is a welcome first step. However, there is a great deal more to do to ensure that commitment is translated into action.
“Both the Wales Co-operative Centre and the Bevan Foundation will be playing an active part in turning the vision of ‘prosperity of all’ into a reality. We hope that Welsh Government and its agencies, local authorities, City Deals, trade unions and many other economic actors will play their part too.”
The Wales Co-operative Centre intends to set out a 10-year development strategy for the social business sector, working with the sector and the Welsh Government. The full report is available here.