Churchill Fellowship

f74b530c-d65f-4c9a-9edf-b79b5fffb25f-3194-0000030d7908d90eI’m really pleased I can share some brilliant news. I’ve been awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship for 2018.

The idea behind the Fellowships is to travel outside of the UK, learn about interesting and relevant things which can then be shared back here. Every year the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust supports about 150 Travelling Fellowships to study a wide range of topics which is explained here on their website.

Applications for 2019 are open from the 27th April and can be found here. The idea behind the Travelling Fellowships is neatly summed up in the phrase, “travel to learn, return to inspire”, which you can have a read about in this brochure on the WCMT website.

Looking at Huge Cooperatives? The idea I put forward was to look at some very large scale cooperatives in Spain and the USA. I want to see if there is anything specific they are doing that helps them maintain large scale financial stability and have a positive impact on the environmental and social capital of the communities where they operate.

Just to put it in context. One of the cooperatives I’m interested in has a turnover of around €14 Billion and employs about 80,000 people. The smallest has about 5000 people, involved as small businesses, that contribute to a wider economy operating over 3000 miles of coastline. When you compare this to Wales; the Welsh Government Budget was about £15.5 Billion in 2017 and the Welsh NHS employs about 76,000 people. The biggest private sector firm in Wales is Iceland Foods which had a turnover of about £2.6 Billion in 2017.

The birthplace of cooperatives, Newtown, Mid Wales?

Wales has a long history of copperatives. What you might not know is that Wales already has about 450 cooperatives. However, beyond Housing Association and farmers purchasing cooperatives, like Clynderwyn and Cardiganshire Farmers Ltd (£41 Million), I suspect that many people might struggle to name a Welsh cooperative.

This feels a bit ironic when Wales has such a rich history of cooperatives, with Robert Owen the ‘founding father’ of cooperatives having been born here.

Lots of the existing cooperatives in Wales are small and local, which might be exactly what they need to be. However, does size matter when it comes to cooperatives and the impact they have on communities?

In case you are interested to know a bit more, Cooperatives UK has an open data explorer which allows to find out a lot more about UK cooperatives.

So what exactly am a looking at? My idea is to look at how these large scale cooperatives organise themselves to achieve long term sustainability; economic, social, cultural and environmental.

How does governance and decision making work in large, diverse and dispersed cooperatives?  How do they educate people in the ‘ways’ of a cooperative so that the people (staff, managers, leaders) who work in the cooperative all do the right thing?

Some massive questions and a pretty massive task ahead of me. I’m intending to share most of what I’m thinking, planning and get around to doing on the blog. It won’t be perfect and will be very much working in the open.  Any comments, views or suggestions are very much appreciated… particularly any contacts you might have with cooperatives in NE Spain, Massachusetts Cranberry Production and the Maine Lobster Fishery.  I’d love to hear from you.

Wish me luck…  Thanks, Chris

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