A few months ago, I blogged (here) about The Co-operative Membership Fund looking for local community projects to help sponsor. It's therefore great to be able to come back with an update to tell you about some of the really worthwhile initiatives that have been funded with their help.
As well as the great ethics and community spirit, I love the heritage of The Co-operative group. It was originally the Rochdale Pioneers who established the first successful co-operative in 1844 and started a revolution which is still going strong. . Now it may just be me but I imagine Now, I have no doubt this is just me, but the name "the Rochdale Pioneers" makes me think of people running around in Thanksgiving Pilgrim hats eating turkey with American Indians for some reason !
Today in the UK, as well as The Co-operative Group, with its six million members and 5,000 outlets across its family of businesses including food, financial services, travel, pharmacy and funerals, there are thousands of other co-operators who share the same heritage. Every year, The Co-operative supports thousands of initiatives, both in the UK and the developing world, helping people to change the world around them, so I won't be able to tell you about all of them, but I can mention a few that particularly caught my eye. The Co-operative Group is actually launching a high profile, multi-media campaign, showing the massive impact the original co-operators had on the world and urging consumers to "Join the revolution" and "Get involved", so you actually may have seen some of these stories already.
1. A new generation of inner-city beekeepers
Urban Bees was set up by bee-lovers Brian McCallum and Alison Benjamin, who wanted to help protect dwindling honeybee populations in urban areas by educating city-dwellers in beekeeping. Having already invested £500,000 into Plan Bee, their own bee protection and education programme, funding from The Co-operative helped Urban Bees to run training courses for beginners, give talks and work in partnership with other organisations and companies. Brian and Alison have now established 20 new hives on rooftops and in community gardens and allotments across London, and they will have given training and start-up equipment to approximately 300 people by the end of 2011.
2. A co-operative football club putting community back at the heart of the game
Founded by a collective including Andy Walsh in response to the increasing commercialisation of football, FC United now has a membership of over 3,000 co-operative shareholders. As well as offering affordable football matches, the Manchester-based club runs sports coaching courses for refugees, care-leavers and other people who may not otherwise be able to access them. In January 2011, it also launched a Community Football Coach Apprenticeship especially for children in the local area. The Co-operative have offered the club training and support through their Enterprise Hub, including helping them to develop a Volunteer Information Pack, with job specifications and information on club policies. To date, FC United have sold more than 1 million £1 shares.
3. A Cumbrian village powering their village by wind ( 00 (and I'll resist the urge to make jokes about beans for tea !)
The UK’s first community owned wind farm, Baywind Energy Co-operative was established in 1996. The project has always favoured local investors, that way the economic benefits of the wind farm are kept within the community it serves. In 1998 Baywind secured a loan from The Co-operative Bank to purchase two turbines for their Harlock Hill site. It has also received several grants from The Co-operative Enterprise Hub to develop new, co-operatively owned wind farms across the UK. Baywind now typically generates around 10,000MWh of electricity each year – enough to power around 30,000 homes. And along with educational visits throughout the year, it funds environmental books for local schools.
4. A community group offering even more ways to play to local children
Play Montgomeryshire provides families with free or low cost activities that give children greater opportunity to learn through play. One of their services, the Machynlleth Toy Library, came under threat of closure when its existing funding was cancelled. The library is a well-loved part of the local community, and Mieke and the Play Montgomeryshire team were determined to save it. The group approached The Co-operative and secured a donation of £2,000 from their Community Fund. As a result, they are now confident that the library will continue to serve local children.The Co-operative Community Fund is funded by the money that our members agree to donate from their share of the profits. In 2010 their generosity allowed them to make 1319 awards to local community projects.
Hopefully, these stories may have inspired you to come up with a project of your own. As I mentioned in my earlier blogpost, I'd love to see a community allotment where kids and teens could learn about growing their own food then go to a community kitchen where they'd learn to cook and love fruit and vegetables that many of them probably wouldn't be familiar with. I think I'm having a Jamie Oliver-moment !! What's the best project you can come up with ?
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