Boost for community-led solutions to the running of businesses and services as Co-operative Enterprise Hub arrives in Northern Ireland

October 05, 2012

Neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland are set to receive an enterprising boost with the launch of The Co-operative Enterprise Hub to support the creation and growth of community-owned enterprises.

From pubs to post offices and retail to renewables, resilient communities are turning to co-operatively-owned solutions to operate business and services that are set-up, run and controlled for the benefit of the community. 

The Co-operative Enterprise Hub represents a multi-million pound investment in the co-operative sector by The Co-operative Group - the UK’s largest member-owned organisation.

The Co-operative has pledged a further £5million between 2012-14 to continue to develop the service which provides free specialist advice, training and access to finance – plus a radical new scheme to underwrite community share issues - enabling co-operatively-owned organisations to get off the ground or grow.

Michael Fairclough, Head of Community and Co-operative Investment at The Co-operative, said: “Communities, driven by needs other than to maximise profit, are turning to co-operatively-owned solutions to tackle local issues and, for the provision of businesses and services important to their needs - enterprises operated by a general public increasingly concerned for environment, accountability, community cohesion and sustainability.

“The co-operative business model has a significant role to play in fostering the growth of future enterprise and contributing to the rebuilding of a more balanced and stable economy.”

Tiziana O'Hara from the Northern Ireland Co-operative Forum - the regional body representing existing and emerging co-operatives in Northern Ireland, said: “The arrival of The Co-operative Enterprise Hub is an exciting development and will provide the specific advice needed to support the development of sustainable co-operative enterprises across Northern Ireland.

“Co-operatives are resilient even in a downturn, reinforcing the fabric of our communities and contributing to a more balanced economy. This is a special year for co-operatives with 2012 designated the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives - a year dedicated to highlighting the contribution of co-operatives worldwide to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on community cohesion, poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. I truly believe that there has never been a more exciting time to be involved in the delivery of co-operative development.”

Latest figures reveal a near ten percent increase in such co-operative-led solutions with the number of UK co-operative enterprises rising from 5,450 (in 2010) to almost 6,000 (5,933) in 2011 and, combined UK membership up 5.5 per cent to 13.5 million people over the same period. Together they contribute almost £36 Billion to the UK economy and operate across all business sectors*.

For further information about how to set up a co-operative enterprise and the free specialist and technical support, advice and training available, contact The Co-operative Enterprise Hub by visiting www.co-operative.coop/enterprisehub

Additional Information:

International year of Co-operatives, 2012 – 2012 is the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives - a year dedicated to highlighting the contribution of co-operatives worldwide to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on community cohesion, poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.

Co-operative sector in Northern Ireland: There are more than 250 co-operative enterprises in Northern Ireland with a combined turnover approaching £1Bn*.

About The Co-operative Group - it is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by over seven million consumers.  It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer and a major financial services provider, operating The Co-operative Bank and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider, the third largest pharmacy chain and one of Britain’s largest farming operations. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies over 50 commitments in these areas. The Group operates 4,800 retail trading outlets, employs more than 100,000 people and has an annual turnover of more than £13bn.  Further information is available at www.co-operative.coop

* Source: Co-operatives UK – the trade association for co-operatives.

Contact Information:

Andrew Torr
The Co-operative Group Press Office
T: 07702 505551
E: Andrew.torr@co-operative.coop