Supporting a range of common interest groups such as co-operative societies and social enterprises – Edinburgh Council

Posted on 2nd October, 2015

The City of Edinburgh Council is innovating to support a range of common interest groups such as co-operative societies and social enterprises to establish themselves across the City. These common interest groups involve a wide range of people from academics to elected members and from private sector investors to local people to co-produce of services and stimulate engaging active citizenship.

Some of the new cooperatives and social enterprises being supported to thrive in the city in the following areas:

Eco Housing: Craigmillar Self Build Housing Association.   A grass roots eco self-build Housing Association, preparing to build 21 eco-homes utilizing sustainable development practices and providing research information for the Council and public.   The coop has secured external social investment funding and is moving into the final stages of preparation to commence construction.

Student housing: The Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative Ltd has 106 members and rents two properties, in Bruntsfield very close to the University with 24 flats. All flats have 3, 4, or 5 bedrooms. In total there are 106 bedrooms.

Social housing: The Council is in discussions with the above groups and external university and real estate experts on the delivery of larger scale energy efficient social and affordable housing in a number of locations across the city.

Renewable Energy: Edinburgh Community Solar Cooperative.   A community benefit society renting roofs of schools and other buildings from the Council for the installation of solar PV panels, funded through a community share offer and with charitable donations to assist families in fuel poverty.

Energy Efficiency Retrofit: Edinburgh World Heritage Trust is creating a cooperative ESCO to provide integrated retrofit – walls, windows, doors, heat pumps, gas combined heat and power unit and solar panels for buildings in the Royal Mile.   This ground breaking initiative on difficult to treat historical listed buildings will help save energy, reduce fuel poverty and reduce emissions.

Care in the Community: Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council, an umbrella body for voluntary organisations in city, which provides advice, information, training and support for networks has with Council support set up a consortium of third sector groups to deliver at home care services in the city.

Social Care: Edge a new social care cooperative is being set up with the assistance of the Council to help people with learning disabilities

Cllr Andre Burns, Council Leader, says that the city is planning to launch a Council ESCO is early 2016 and is exploring the delivery of Council services through co-production via development of public, private and community co-delivery. He concluded that “Edinburgh believes that the co-operative principles of empowerment, equal partnership, and collective action offer a positive route not simply to survive through tough times, but to enable local communities to thrive, supported by relevant, meaningful, and empowering local public services. Our work is helping to define the future of local public services – not for local people, but with local people – and putting local people back at the heart of what we do.”

Echoing this, Doug Prentice member of the Council’s Cooperative Development Unit Expert Group commented that for Councils facing budget cut backs the cooperative model can deliver a much wider range of services using community share offers and with community charitable donations from the coops which can then be utilized to further support locally those in greatest need.