Annual Q&A: Derek Walker, CEO, Cwmpas

‘We are helping exciting new co-operative businesses to set up and grow, in all sectors and in all parts of the country’

How has the last year been for Cwmpas and co-operatives in Wales? 

The year has ended on a high, with co-operators from across Europe visiting Wales to share and to learn. After over two years of trying and at least three failed attempts due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, we were finally able to welcome members of Cooperatives Europe to Cardiff for their strategy conference. The focus was on engaging young people in co-operatives, a vital issue for our movement. It was fantastic to see such a diverse audience at a co-operative event. Discussions and presentations were productive with lots of good ideas to pursue. 

Our Welsh co-operative sector continues to prosper. We are helping exciting new co-operative businesses to set up and grow, in all sectors and in all parts of the country. Social care co-operatives have continued to be an area of focus for us and the prospect of a new community mutual back, Banc Cambria, moves ever closer. The number of co-operative and community-led housing groups is growing as people look to find solutions to the affordable housing crisis. With the generous support of the Nationwide Foundation and Welsh government, we are helping these groups take forward their plans, but the challenge of accessing finance is a particular issue, but we are hoping to make a significant breakthrough on this issue early next year.

Over the last 12 months we have seen an increasing interest in employee ownership. We are supporting more clients than ever before to transfer to an employee-owned businesses, with four new client enquiries just last month. Welsh government’s public commitment to doubling the number of employee-owned businesses has made a crucial difference in raising awareness and encouraging organisations to work with us. One high profile client was iconic Welsh textile firm Melin Tregwynt. 

After 40 successful years as the Wales Co-operative Centre, we decided this year was the right time to pursue a new name and brand for our organisation that has expanded and evolved so much. We believe Cwmpas does that perfectly, while staying true to our Welsh, co-operative roots. 

We have recently agreed an ambitious new five-year strategy. To mark Cwmpas’s 40th  year anniversary, we ran a ‘Co-operators of Tomorrow’ competition for Key Stage 2 aged children across Wales. The competition challenged entrants to look ahead 40 years and produce a piece of work answering the question: ‘Thinking about the place where you live, what could be better 40 years from now if people co-operated more?’. The winner was Oaklands Primary School of Aberaman.

In spring, we will also launch an exciting new initiative called Start Something Good. With co-operation at its heart, we will be bringing people together to develop fresh ideas. Groups of people will work in teams, co-operating, collaborating and being creative to solve problems they care about. Watch this space. 

‘Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda’ (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year) from all of us at Cwmpas.