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Co-operative pioneers lead the way

cooperativeFOURTEEN modern cooperative pioneers from across Wales have gathered together to participate in a photo-shoot to celebrate Cooperatives Fortnight 2014.

 The photo-shoot mirrors a photograph of the original Rochdale Pioneers co-operative taken around 150 years ago. Each of the ‘modern pioneers’ is involved in a dynamic cooperative or employee owned business which, between them deliver a range of vastly different products and services across Wales. From manufacturing to training, retail, communications, pubs and football clubs, co-operatives are still pioneers within their sectors so many years after the start of the movement. The co-operative pioneers of 2014 operate at the heart of their businesses and organisations and believe that cooperatives have an important role to play in supporting communities and developing the economy of Wales. Today the co-op sector in the UK is worth around £37bn per year and employs roughly 235,000 people. In Wales the sector is worth around £1.54bn per year and employs in the region of 11,000 people but many within the movement believe the sector offers even more potential for growth. Derek Walker is Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, commented: “Working together is the central principle of co-operatives. Each of our co-operative pioneers know that co-operatives are viable and sustainable business models that work to achieve the aims of their organisations. “Today’s modern co-operative pioneers are symbolic of a resurgence of interest in co-operation and socially focussed business models. “The Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission published an influential report earlier this year that made a number of practical recommendations which focussed on supporting the development of cooperative businesses across a range of different sectors. “The will is there to stimulate this sector because of the sustainable benefits co-operative business models can offer communities and to the Welsh economy as a whole”. Cris Tomos has been involved in many co-operative ventures. In north Pembrokeshire he helped set up Canolfan Hemron near Crymych, a community co-operative that is currently opening a community cafe as part of the old school site in the village and offering a 10.83% investment to local people for supporting the development www.canolfanhermon. org.uk. Most recently, he has been involved in a town regeneration cooperative, 4CG in Cardigan, and an energy generating co-operative, Cwm Arian Renewable Energy. He is also the volunteer treasurer of West Wales Credit Union. www.wwcu.co.uk “The role of co-operatives and mutuals is extremely important and the key is to have the vast majority of local people taking up membership. Having a community co-operative in every neighbourhood would allow the creation of community action plans, to address the weaknesses and develop the opportunities of the locality. Having co-operative energy companies in each community and town council in Wales would see money spent locally for local benefit”.