A “team Scotland” approach is catalsying the co-operative economy. So reported Sarah Deas, Chief Executive of Co-operative Development Scotland, at the “Growing the co-operative economy through business support networks” plenary session of Congress.
CDS is working with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Business Gateway to unleash the potential to co-operate, Ms Deas told delegates. “We’re integrated into their services,” she said. “CDS offers specialist advice alongside wider support. In return our partners benefit from training and updates on co-operative models.” Through these networks, over 250 advisors were diagnosing opportunities for co-operative solutions, she said.
Scotland Food and Drink, Scottish Tourism Alliance and Creative Scotland partner CDS by promoting its collaboration prize; a competition designed to catalyse interest in the co-operative consortium model. “Working together we’re creating opportunities for collaboration,” Ms Deas said. “It increases the reach we can achieve to thousands of members.”
Ms Deas introduced delegates to Screen Facilities Scotland, a co-operative of enterprises serving the film industry, which used the money it won from the 2012 CDS Collaboration Prize to launch a networking event. Increased visibility has helped its members win contracts, and the co-op is now looking at building a studio.
Another consortium, Heart of Argyll Tourism Alliance, was shortlisted for Co-operatives UK’s most innovative co-op award 2013. A co-operative of accommodation and activity providers, it is using its collective voice to reach a broader audience and engage with government.
Other partners for CDS include Scottish Chambers of Commerce, Institute of Directors Scotland, Scottish Family Business Association and Law Society of Scotland. “In the IOD awards, four employee-owned businesses achieved awards in their category,” Ms Deas said. “That really is punching above their weight.”
“I see this as a long term approach,” she told Congress. “If co-operative models are to become mainstream it’s important that we work with and through partners. It’s the only way to have a catalytic effect.”