Cwmpas chair and co-founder David Jenkins to stand down after 40 years

‘David has left an incredible legacy, and one which we will honour as we move forward into a new chapter’

A leading pioneer of the co-operative and trade union movement in Wales, David Jenkins, OBE, is to stand down from his role as the chair of Cwmpas (formerly the Wales Co-Operative Centre).

Jenkins, a founding member of Cwmpas and an active member of its management board since the first meeting in 1982, has been chair of the co-op development agency since the early 1990s.  

“As chair of Cwmpas I can look back with considerable pride as the organisation has grown to become one of the largest and most successful co-operative development agencies in the UK,” he said. “It has been four decades during which we have worked with communities throughout Wales to promote social, financial and digital inclusion and to empower people to take control of their future by forming new co-operative businesses.” 

Born and brought up in Cardiff, Jenkins graduated from Liverpool University in 1970 and went on to lecture in liberal studies at Peterborough Technical College. His time as a lecturer saw him become increasingly active in the trade union movement, and in 1978 he joined the Wales TUC as research and administration officer. In 1983 he was appointed general secretary of the Wales TUC, serving in the role for 21 years.  

During his time at the Wales TUC, Jenkins was instrumental in establishing and developing the Wales Co-operative Centre, with the aim of providing advice and support to co-operatives in Wales.  He was also instrumental in establishing the first credit union in Rhydyfelin, South Wales, and providing advice to trade unions and their members about employee ownership.  

David Jenkins in the 1980s

An early highlight saw him help to set up the largest employee-owned company in Wales, Tower Colliery, which was purchased using miners’ redundancy payments in 1985 following the closure of coal mines across the south Wales valleys. 

“Here was a pit and mining community, discarded as redundant by British Coal, subsequently transformed by the willingness of its workforce to invest in a successful co-operative mining venture,” he said. “There can be no doubt that the success of the Tower co-operative and the significant international interest it attracted helped to raise public awareness about co-operation and the role of the then Wales Co-Operative Centre, and now Cwmpas.”

Related: Cwmpas: A new direction for the Wales Co-operative Centre

In the late 1980s the organisation’s work broadened from delivering co-operative development and training into also working with disadvantaged communities in Wales. Jenkins and his recognised the importance of co-operation in achieving a shared aim and benefit for communities in need and they were successful in securing Welsh government and European funding to support this work.

Under his leadership, Cwmpas was awarded funding from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust to administer the Debt Redemption and Money Advice Scheme to protect those most at risk from doorstep lenders; won contracts to deliver the Social Enterprise Support Project and the Welsh government’s digital inclusion project, as well as launching a project to increase the supply of community housing in Wales. 

Jenkins has held a number of public appointments within NHS Wales since retiring from his role with the Wales TUC and he is the former chair of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (2009-2017). He was awarded the OBE in 2004 for his contribution to improving industrial relations in Wales. 

Despite his stepping down from the board and long association with Cwmpas, Jenkins says he is determined to be part of its future. 

“Looking ahead, I am sure that Cwmpas will be pursuing a broader spectrum of funding opportunities as well as more opportunities for earned income,” he said. “We will be looking at collaboration and partnerships, at opportunities to improve efficiency as well as outcomes. But in doing this, one thing will stay the same: we will remain true to our values as a co-operative and our mission to build a fairer, greener economy and a more equal society, where people and planet come first.” 

He added: “Although I am standing down as chair and ending my tenure as a board member of 40 years, I remain committed to this organisation and to Cwmpas’ values and its mission. It’s a mission that sits well with the aspirations of our Welsh government and its commitment to future generations, and it’s is a mission that tells me that for all our past successes Cwmpas still has much to do, and every reason to have a very successful future.“  

The new CEO of Cwmpas, Bethan Webber, paid tribute to his unwavering commitment. “David has been a leading figure in the development and promotion of Cwmpas and the movement over the last 40 years,” she said, “and he has left an incredible legacy, one which we will honour as we move forward into a new chapter.

“On behalf of the board, senior leadership team, and everyone at Cwmpas, past and present, I want to thank David for his unstinting commitment and contribution. We wish him well for the future and I also want to extend my personal thanks for his welcome and support to me since I joined Cwmpas in May this year. And I have no doubt that whilst he is retiring from his role as chair of Cwmpas, he will remain a friend and mentor to the organisation.”