In October 2012, the City of Edinburgh Council agreed a ‘Framework to Advance a Cooperative Capital 12/17’, this identified key objectives and related change objectives:

Cooperative Capital Themes   Intended Change
Cooperative Societies   “Changing the market and economic infrastructure”
Cooperative Community Engagement   “Changing our relationship with communities”
Cooperative Procurement   “Changing the way we buy and grant aid goods and services”
Cooperative Education   “Changing the culture of schools and childcare”
Cooperative Service Delivery   “Changing the way we review and design services”
Cooperative Corporate Social Responsibility (included in May 2013)   “Changing Corporate Social Responsibility to meet city outcomes


The Council wants Edinburgh to become a Cooperative Capital where public services work better together and communities have more influence over the services which they use.

The Cooperative Capital approach has come about because of the reductions in public sector funding combined with increasing demand for services. The Council and partners need to undertake substantial cultural and practical change to respond to these challenges.

Thinking and working in a cooperative way, i.e.; routinely working with service users and other interests, should assist in ensuring that Edinburgh has a prosperous future and that high quality and purposeful services continue to be delivered.


A twin-track approach is being used to introduce these changes:

  • Development of cooperative initiatives in energy, housing, childcare and adult social care; and
  • a range of ‘change-focussed’ projects working with others to deliver better quality outcomes.

In order to better understand the impacts of this approach, six case studies are attached which illustrate the difference being made by cooperative activity and in finding solutions to budgetary and demand pressures.

Case Study 1 – Progressing Cooperative Societies, Development of cooperative housing arrangements

About the project

Name of project
Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative (the Housing Co-op)

What was the challenge?
To set up a student housing co-operative to offer students an affordable alternative to the private rented sector, providing purpose build student accommodation within a community setting.

Identifying improvements


What were the service improvement requirements?
A group of students in the city were keen to set up a student housing co-op to provide good quality, affordable housing for students in Edinburgh.  There was a desire to establish an autonomous, student owned and run housing co-operative, to increase the level of affordable long-tenure accommodation that includes opportunities to develop a community that students can take an active role within.
Were there any financial benefits to be achieved?The Housing Co-op offer rooms to rent for £300 per month including bills. This is significantly lower than the average private rented accommodation costs in Edinburgh, which the University of Edinburgh estimates are between £85 and £100 per week. (£368-£433pcm).
What process was undertaken to identify and achieve improvements?Much of the planning and preparation stages of the project were undertaken by the students themselves, assisted by a number of partners including; Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association (CREHA), Co-operative Development Scotland, Edinburgh University, Cooperative Development Scotland and the housing and regeneration service.
What were the critical success factors?
The leadership demonstrated by the student group, business support and successful negotiations with CREHA were the key critical factors.
What was the resulting outcome?
The Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative has been formally established a 5-year lease with CREHA, and the Housing Co-op has a long term view to purchase the property. 106 students were selected to move into the flats. Students now have another option in the housing market. This provides affordable accommodation below market rates, and autonomy over the running of the building. The Housing Co-op also offers students an opportunity to develop skills and be part of a thriving community.

“One of the general lessons we have learnt is the importance of good stakeholder relations and networking. The project would never have advanced if certain key individuals with good relations in the co-operative movement, the council and the housing sector had not been committed to the success of the project. These relations have time and again opened up a wealth of opportunities, knowledge and savings for the business.”
Mike Shaw. Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative
More information on the Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative can be found on their website.


Case Study 2 – Cooperative Community Engagement: Positive destinations for young people

About the project

Name of project
The Edinburgh Guarantee

What was the challenge?
In recent years, it has become a challenge for young people to find their first opportunity from leaving school. The economic slowdown has had a major impact on young people with reduced opportunities and increased competition for jobs driving youth unemployment rates up, with over 500 (17%) young people exiting the Edinburgh school system into unemployment, unable to secure work or a place in Further or Higher Education. Without action there would have been significant implications for our people, economy and communities, as the longer an individual is out of work the more entrenched their unemployment can become.

This issue could not be tackled by any one agency or organisation alone and it is for this reason that the Council developed cross-partner action – The Edinburgh Guarantee.

The Edinburgh Guarantee is a key response to the problem of youth unemployment and outlines a number of actions to increase the natural rate of recruitment of young jobseekers by employers, improve the preparation of young people for work, and remove barriers to employment for young people.

Which stakeholders have been involved?
The Council formed cross partnership action between public, private and third sector employers. With over 350 partners involved to date. The partnership action involves agencies who offer services and other positive destinations for school leavers, including Further Education and Skills Development Scotland.

Identifying Improvements

What were the service improvement requirements?
Discussion with those affected identified a lacked of work experience as a barrier to a positive destination. City’s employers, educators and training providers actively targeted and generated more opportunities for school leavers, enabling young people to have access to employment, education or training relevant to their needs.

Financial benefits to be achieved
The long term effect of youth unemployment has the potential to place significant financial pressure on the benefit system and on Health care, housing, community and society as a whole. Early interventions to ease access to work /training or learning provide financial benefits to the economy as well as benefit savings in the long term.

What process was undertaken to identify and achieve improvements?
A leadership Group was established and key stakeholders identified. From this the Edinburgh Guarantee developed:

  • Non political strategic partnerships
  • An identity through a brand and vision
  • A communications strategy
  • A forward Plan
  • An operational and delivery structure

Cross departmental working between Economic Development and Education

What were the critical success factors?
The characteristics of success are a high demand for young people in the economy; excellent career prospects; and a network of educational and employment support that is clear, integrated, and adapts to changing needs and opportunities.

By 2017 it aims to:

  • Increase the % of school leavers moving into positive destinations, matching or exceeding the performance of the highest ranked Local Authority area
  • Increase the % of “looked after children” moving into a positive destination, matching or exceeding the performance of the highest ranked Local Authority area
  • Reduce the % of young people (16-24 yrs) who are unemployed, matching or exceeding the performance of the highest ranked Local Authority area

The Edinburgh Guarantee is a priority within the City’s Economic Strategy and integrates with Scottish Government’s “Opportunities for all” initiative.

What was the resulting outcomes?
So far from 2011 – 2014:

  • Improved positive destinations from 82% to 91%, exceeding the Scottish National Average
  • Partnerships with over 350 businesses in the City
  • Improved positive destination for looked after young people
  • Youth unemployment rates lower than the Scottish National Average
  • Economic value to Edinburgh of £17 million and £29.4 million to Scotland.
  • Estimated almost £4 million savings in Benefit payments.

Delivering change and improvements

What was the impact of coproduced changes on service users
We now have a central point of contact for businesses to access support, guidance, advice and funding for recruiting school leavers.  Businesses have a single point of contact for engaging with schools. This strategic offer supports businesses in engaging in an efficient and effective way, ensuring we can offer relevant industry insight to our Cities young people whilst still at school. Young people have more opportunity to move into a positive destination, more diversity in the opportunities available and insight to industry relevant to the City’s labour market needs. This positively impacts on young people making informed decisions on subject choices and career paths.

What were the difficulties or barriers encountered
The challenges have included:

  • The concept of creating a vision not a programme. This has been overcome with a strategic approach; including creating a brand profile and full marketing and communication plan, full support and leadership from the Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh Council bringing the City’s Business Leaders together quarterly to support and develop the vision.
  • Ensuring the Edinburgh Guarantee does not replicate a service which is already in place. Our plan is only to fill the gaps or enhance current activity that will contribute towards achieving our objectives. This requires a thorough understanding of:
    • The full employability provision in the City for young people
    • The current employer engagement activity in the City by all employability providers
    • The current business engagement with schools

What would you do differently?
One of the elements of engaging with business and attracting more businesses to ‘get involved’ was the creation of ‘Champions’. Over a period of a one year we worked on establishing sector Champion groups with a remit of inspiring involvement in their sector, creating more opportunities for young people in their sector and supporting each other through change by offering best practice solutions to youth employability and employment. However it was initially difficult to establish these groups as some sectors were more ready to engage than others.

In future ambassadors from the programme will support promotional work and introduce new sectors and champions on an ongoing basis.

Case Study 3 – Cooperative Education, Developing a Cooperative After-School Clubs Charter

About the project

Name of project
Lothian Association of Youth Clubs (LAYC), After School Clubs Co-operative Charter

What was the challenge?
To convince parent-led/community-based After-School Clubs (ASCs) that the way they worked embodied the principles and practices of cooperative working and to provide additional support that would help crystallise that approach and secure the mutual benefits that it brings.

Identifying Improvements

What were the service improvement requirements?
The work in devising, developing and delivering the ‘Co-operative Charter’ is founded on increasing and enhancing the levels of support provided to both committees and staff in order to enhance the quality of the child care provision.

What were the critical success factors?
The active engagement of the ASCs, particularly the volunteer office bearers, and listening to their concerns and ideas on what would best assist them in respect of building a more co-operative and collaborative approach.

What was the resulting outcome?
The original plan that focussed on governance was overtaken by a more pragmatic and co-operative model that in itself demonstrated the benefits of adopting co-operative working and which provided longevity and legacy.

Delivering change and improvements

What was the impact of co-produced changes on service users (please provide evidence of any user feedback which indicates improvements)
The critical difference was the providers having ownership of the process and the resultant outcomes which were designed by and for them.

Case study 4 – Cooperative Procurement: Co-producing Preventative Alcohol and Drug Treatment programmes

Name of project
Edinburgh Alcohol and Drug Partnership Commissioning Collaborative

What was the challenge?
The Scottish Government has set out in a clear national strategy that drug/alcohol treatment services need to make recovery the focus of service activity.  In Edinburgh this means that treatment services needed to develop greater options for people who are abstinent or have stabilised their condition.  This should enable people who have stabilised to continue their recovery journey into self managed recovery and fulfil their potential.

This required a redesign of service provision which retains effective approaches to stabilisation but also develops a range of services for people in early recovery: group work, links to mutual aid, peer support and links to other community based services.

Identifying Improvements

What were the service improvement requirements?

  • improved access to services and reduction in drop-out between referral and treatment start;
  • clear roles for nurses, social workers and community services to improve capacity and the improve the quality of intervention;
  • improved access to residential services, aftercare support and appropriate counselling / psychology service;
  • a clearly articulated set of services for people in early recovery, including improved links to mutual aid and the recovery community.

Were there any financial benefits to be achieved?
£500k of savings need to be found by April 2016

What process was undertaken to identify and achieve improvements?

Actions to date include:
Establishment of a Commissioning Collaborative – this sets the priorities, action plan and investment.

Four multi-sector Alliances have been established – responsible for service design

Delivery Plan – sets out priorities in the form of a logic model as well as a series of priority actions.

What were the critical success factors?

  • Ownership of the “collaborative approach” amongst the organisations involved
  • Putting time aside to jointly focus on the governance arrangements required
  • Clearly set out decision making process in which there are delegated functions within the collaborative

Clear requirements for redesign within the Alliance structure.

What was the resulting outcome?

Clear governance arrangements have been developed and owned.  These are shared arrangements across the public and third sector.

Alliances are currently working on the redesign and this work is not yet complete.

Case Study 5 – Cooperative Service Design: Re-designing Homelessness Services

About the project

Homelessness Prevention Implementation Plan – Collaborative Consultation on Advice and Support

What was the challenge?

The challenge was to:

  • commission services with an increased focus on homelessness prevention and improving the independent living skills of people who are homeless or threatened by homelessness;
  • improve partnership working between commissioned services and Council services delivered in local Neighbourhoods;
  • procure services on the basis of the positive outcomes they deliver for service users; and
  • improve efficiencies with budgetary restrictions.

Identifying improvements with efficiencies 

The service improvements required were to:

  • commission services with an increased focus on homelessness prevention and improving the independent living skills of people who are homeless or threatened by homelessness.
  • improve partnership working between commissioned services and Council services delivered in local neighbourhoods.

Were there any financial benefits to be achieved?

In addition to improving services the work stream had to be managed within budgetary reductions of 15% (around £500,000) in the period 2014-17.

What were the critical success factors?

The critical success factors were to develop services that:

  • focus on homelessness prevention and give people the life skills they need to live independently;
  • work within the available budget and related pressures;
  • develop services that work more closely with the Council’s own support and housing management services; and
  • meaningful input from service providers and service users.

What was the resulting outcome?

From 17 original services that cover all of the city, the new services that will be in place from October 2014 are:

  • one city-wide service of each of the following; advice, mediation, home budgeting and food preparation; and
  • three neighbourhood services that will cover parts of the city and provide visiting housing support and peer and preventative support.

Case Study 6 – Cooperative Service Design: Re-designing Supported Employment Services

Name of project

Supported Employment Service


The Council’s Employability and Skills service took over five contracts from Health and Social Care that were offering employability support to people with a disability. These projects had a number of existing third sector providers in the market. One provider received grant monies to provide the service.

The main challenge was to enhance and focus the service upon progression to employment.  There was also a variance of provision for people with different disabilities.


Stakeholders involved

A Project Board of key stakeholders was installed to oversee the process and help guide the changes required.  An independent consultant to conduct a comprehensive review, including working with stakeholders.


Service improvement requirements

Develop a pan-disability service offer for all jobseekers with a disability and to align the service with the established Scottish Government’s Supported Employment framework which sets out a 5 step approach to getting people into a job and sustaining and progressing within the job.  A core requirement was to ensure in-work support was a key feature and that securing a job was the start of an on-going career aspiration which was sustainable.


Financial benefits to be achieved

In the previous funding model, providers were all at different levels of funding and this was not related to need, performance or outcomes.  Investment could clearly be making a much larger impact and there was an opportunity for efficiency on overhead costs.  A move to commission investment in outcomes based upon service user needs was identified.


Process to identify and achieve improvements

A Project Board of key stakeholders was formed and an independent consultant tasked with capturing the needs, aspirations and goals of jobseekers with a disability.  The consultant undertook surveys, individual one to ones, focus groups and large public events to test out our ideas and model proposal.

A further phase of co-production took place with workshops with providers and also monthly discussions with the current six providers to help shape and inform the process.


Critical success factors

Having a recognised framework developed and endorsed by the Scottish Government was absolutely crucial in us being able drive forward changes.

Engaging extensively with clients was also a critical factor as we ensured their voices were at the heart of the changes and represented at all times. Holding co-production workshops with providers also helped to move the service away from the current six grant holders and include the views of other potential delivery providers of a future service.



The resulting outcome was the commissioning of a one stop shop Supported Employment service for all job seeking clients with a disability.  The service brings together a core consortium of social enterprises and sub contractors to deliver the new service from April 2015 for four years. This gives the client group the longest period of support security.

By also having a procured service, European Social Funds can be accessed (EU funds require procurement) at a 40% intervention rate, which will increase the core budget to circa £1.8 million.  This is the largest investment in employment support for people with a disability in the history of the council. The early adoption of the Supported Employment model has already resulted in a 50% increase in employment outcomes as other providers take on its working methods and principles.

Additional benefits are being realised including; 9 month internships in the Council to move into employment, expansion into the NHS, offering up to 60 internships over the next 3 years.


Impact of the coproduced changes

The impact was a service design that was more closely aligned to the needs and aspirations of the client group. Clients were able to access a service that secures jobs in the open labour market with built-in support to make them sustainable and to progress their career.

Outcomes for clients include a service that is more easily recognisable and accessible and which encourages referrals and uptake.


Difficulties or barriers encountered

Managing the transition to a new service for providers and service users. A pattern of regular discussions with the current providers focussing upon the process and possible changes assisted culture change and adjustment.


Lessons learned?

Have a system that is evidenced based and to ensure that co-production and consultation took place to shape the requirement.  This allowed us to clearly state that this is what the actual service user wanted.  Having key stakeholders as part of a strong Project Board also gave the process the necessary support to move forward.

If you would like to discuss these case studies further, please contact Graeme McKechnie at the Cooperative Development Unit on [email protected]