End of year Q&A: Bethan Webber, CEO Cwmpas

The new head of the Welsh co-op development body looks back on 2023

How was 2023 for Cwmpas and the Welsh co-op sector?

2023 brought its challenges and opportunities.

European Structural Funds (SPF), used to develop the sector in Wales for almost 40 years, came to an end in June 2023 and with that brought huge change not only for Cwmpas but the entire sector. 

Working with consortia partners, Cwmpas, however, managed to secure £1.5m a year from Welsh government to support the development of co-operatives, employee-owned businesses and social enterprises until 2025. And we have developed seven SPF projects across Wales that will provide additional support in certain local authority areas. £1.2m has been secured from UK government as part of the Shared Prosperity Fund to provide support to the sector until 2025. 

The Welsh government has continued to progress its policy to take the profit out of the care of looked after children and Cwmpas has been working hard to promote co-operative models, including employee ownership. 

In fact, the Welsh government made a commitment in its programme for government to double the number of employee-owned businesses in Wales by 2026. This year, our Employee Ownership Wales team, within the Social Business Wales project, confirmed we have reached 68 employee-owned businesses, that’s up from 37 in 2021. This means we have nearly achieved our ambition to double the size of the sector with three years to spare – highlighting the potential this model has for the Welsh economy. 

And, we will not be complacent. Research that Cwmpas published this year highlights the impact of employee ownership and how it leads to better employee engagement, productivity and economic resilience in our communities.

All in all, 2023 has seen transformative change for Cwmpas itself.

What are your hopes for the future?

My hopes are that co-operatives and different models of social business are at the heart of our adaptation to the multiple crises we’re facing, from the climate crisis to financial crisis and the pressures on services. Wales has the potential to lead the way on a different economic model that has people and planet, at its heart, and I firmly believe that co-operatives are a fundamental part of how that can be achieved.

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