A new day, a new social enterprise…

Five more to go… we’re getting close to Christmas, so the social enterprise and cooperative ‘advent calendar’ which I’ve been writing for The Guardian’s social enterprise pages (one social enterprise a day from Dec 1st) is also getting close to its conclusion (advent calendars traditionally stop on Christmas Eve, and so will this one).

Today’s entry offers you some information about the Dartington Hall trust near Totnes in Devon.  Yesterday was the turn of Jamie Oliver’s 15 restaurant.  Tuesday’s entry focused on Divine Chocolate.

Have we missed anyone’s favourite coop or social enterprise?  Sorry, but of course we will have done.  The Guardian’s comment section is open for your feedback (not to mention the chance of winning a social enterprise xmas hamper).

What will 2014 bring for coops?

The Guardian’s social enterprise site is carrying on the usual tradition of newspapers at this time of year in running pieces looking back on the year just ending and forward to the year ahead.  Among contributors offering their reflections on the way forward for coops in 2014 are Ed Mayo, head of Co-operatives UK, Peter Holbrook who leads Social Enterprise UK, and Vivian Woodell, Chief Executive of the Phone Coop. I was also asked to contribute my thoughts for this feature.  If you want to read what we’re all saying, you’ll find the piece here.  There is also of course the facility for you to leave your own comments.

Advent(ures) in the social and solidarity economy

I’ve been finishing off today the last in a series of 24 short pieces on British social enterprises and cooperatives, which The Guardian is using for its 2013 online social enterprise ‘advent calendar’ (you’ll need to look at the website here and here to see what exactly this means).

Organisations covered in the series include some well-known social enterprises such as the Big Issue and Jamie Oliver’s 15, but it’s the small initiatives, often inspired by one key individual, which I found particularly interesting to report on. Good luck to them all.

In Britain, we are becoming familiar with the term ‘social enterprise’. Internationally, including at the UN, the talk tends to be of the ‘social and solidarity economy’, SSE. If you’re interested in some of the debates happening globally around SSE, a good place to start may be this UNRISD webpage.

Want info on a coop? It will cost you…

Long ago, if I wanted details on a limited company I was researching, I would take myself off to the old Companies House office near Old Street tube.  Now it’s so much easier: just log on to the Companies House website.  Documents are a £1 apiece.

But what’s this?  Try to get equivalent information on a cooperative or bencom (society for the benefit of the community) registered under the Industrial & Provident Societies Act and you will need to look at the list on the website of the Financial Conduct Authority.  And every document you want to access will cost you £12.

Should information on coops cost twelve times information on companies?  Of course not.  It’s not good for researchers, and it indirectly discourages high standards of cooperative governance.  (Incidentally, it also breaches international guidelines which say that coops should be treated no less favourably than other forms of enterprise).

Of course, the problem would be partly solved if coops and social enterprises ensured their rules and accounts were available on their own websites.  (Treat this as a gentle hint if you’re reading this, Greenwich Leisure…)