Case Study – Consultancy Coop
Organisation Name: Consultancy Coop
Named Contact/Interviewee: Mr Hywel Davies
Address/Contact Details/Website: consultancy.coop LLP is a co-operative Limited Liability Partnership Company No. OC352683 consultancy.coop is a member of Co-operatives UK
Registered Office: 37 Cardiff Road, Dinas Powys, CF64 4DH
Theme 1 – ‘Scale, Scope and Ambition’
How would you describe your organisation?
Brief background to the organisation:-
Age of organisation: 2 years
Target Group/Beneficiaries: Offering professional mentoring and mentoring services to 3rd sector practitioners, we help the people who help the people!
Are the people you ‘trade’ with the same as the beneficiaries: we’re commissioned by both the sector directly and by 3rd parties, we provide support for social enterprises themselves rather than the individuals who they help.
Geographical remit: Mostly Wales but no geographical limits – keen to work with other regions.
Who was responsible for setting up the organisation? All the founders are still there.
What is the organisation’s social mission? We help those who help others. The social mission means ‘pro bono’ work for some social enterprises.
Have you got a ‘mission statement’? ‘Help to help yourself’.
What is the ownership structure? Cooperative i.e. all members have an equal share – any people interested in becoming member has to apply to the existing members.
Number of paid staff (FT & PT)? NA
Number of volunteers and average weekly contribution? NA
Are the people originally responsible for setting up the organisation still involved and in what capacity? Yes, all still involved.
What is the organisational position on staff salaries, are there comparative issues to recruit or keep the right staff? NA, consultants are paid a fair day rate for their work and contribute ‘pro bono’ work for appropriate causes.
What would be the key words when looking for your ideal member of staff? Knowledge, experience, empathy, attitude and keen to seek new opportunities.
What is the legal status of the organisation? Limited Liability Partnership
Number of directors/trustees? 4
Management/governance structure and relationship? Cooperative Limited Liability Partnership
Who has the main responsibility for strategic and business planning? All directors but two directors with specific responsibility.
E. Management and Direction
Is there a trading/sustainability plan in place or is trading activity more opportunistic or market led? Market led.
What is the approach to risk/investing in new income streams? Keen to explore new markets but definitely not to ‘grant chase’. We’ll stay in trading areas which we know well and have expertise in.
What percentage of income do you:-
Currently generate through trading activity? 100%
Aim to generate through trading activity in future? 100%
4. What style of management would you say works best for your organisation? e.g. autocratic, democratic etc, (‘what works best’, not ‘what do you aim for?’): Entirely democratic and always will be.
5. Is there a management succession plan in place? There are ‘associates in place, the plan is to develop these into full members. There is no time limit or minimum term to being an associate and being an associate in effect serves as being an extended interview to becoming a full director. It is definitely a meritocracy.
What are your current sources of income and what percentage of your turnover do these represent? 100% trading income from consultancy and research contracts.
What was the organisation’s initial source of revenue/funding? Director’s own funds. Very small start up costs as a consultancy organisation.
What is the capital structure of the organisation? Co-op
What is your current financial position – positive, negative or break-even? Positive
What is your policy in terms of distribution or reinvestment of any profits or surplus? Surplus is used to fund ‘pro bono’ work.
G. Context and Impact
Who are your beneficiaries? Third sector organisations and social enterprises.
Who are your stakeholders? Clients, associates and organisations such as the Wales Cooperative Centre, the Cooperative Enterprise Hub and public sector project partners through work such as supporting the WINSENT project.
Who are your main trading or delivery partners: private consumers, other not-for-profit organisations, public sector or private sector businesses? Other not-for-profit organisations.
Operational scope – are you looking to move into other trading or delivery areas? No, we’ll be sticking to what we know best, this is where our expertise is. We will practice what we preach and not overtrade or over-promise in areas where we don’t have sufficient expertise.
Opportunity – Is the current economic climate an opportunity or a threat to your organisation? Both. In reality it is a threat due to the lack of work which is available, this presents short term trading difficulties. In the long-term, when taking a strategic view, it is a real opportunity as we believe that the forthcoming years will present ever increasing opportunities for the sector.
Theme 2 – ‘The Social Entrepreneur’
Were you involved in setting up the organisation? – Yes
Would you describe yourself as a social entrepreneur? - Yes
H. The Journey
When were you first aware of your ‘social conscience’? To some degree it was always there. My family was always very active in the community and you could say that I came from a traditional, left leaning, Welsh background.
Was there a ‘watershed’ moment which made you decide to become a Social Entrepreneur? If anything, it was 1994 at the time of my father’s death. I realised that it was the time to ‘get things done’. I had a strong belief that communities could, and should, help themselves. Essentially I thought ‘Eff this –let’s get things done’.
Did you become a Social Entrepreneur:-
Gradual immersion in the sector?
Through a long-held ambition to pursue your social cause?
Through accidental immersion if there is such a thing. I didn’t know what a social entrepreneur was when I was told I was one.
firstly become a social entrepreneur and then identified the cause closest to your heart?
identified a trading opportunity first and then realised that there could be a social ‘dividend’ from your work?
Neither. I just wanted to help change things for the better at home. It was only after this that I was branded a social entrepreneur.
What were your initial aims or ambitions and have these changed? At first I wanted to change the world. I felt that the culture I had been brought up in was under pressure and that my community was threatened by economic and social changes such as traditional industries closing and declining standards in governance and public life.
I’m more realistic now and realise that I won’t change the world, but I can maybe help in some small way.
What reaction or understanding do you get from individuals in the following sectors when you describe yourself as a Social Entrepreneur?
I wouldn’t necessarily tell people that I’m a social entrepreneur as I think it can sound quite self-righteous. The level of awareness has however increased hugely in the last couple of years, it’s a very fashionable term at the moment.
Do people understand your motivations for creating a Social Enterprise or can there be a degree of mistrust? More misunderstanding than mistrust but it can sometimes border on mistrust. There are a lot of stereotypes of ‘social entrepreneurs’ and it can confuse people if you don’t neatly fit into one of these categories.
Being a social entrepreneur can arguably make you a difficult person to deal with due to your questioning mindset and desire to change things. Many people in authority find this uncomfortable and would rather not deal with you.
Do your customers expect goods or services for less than market value, for a fair price or are they prepared to pay a premium to reflect the ‘social dividend’? They used to expect things for less than market value but they are now happy to pay the market rate. It’s however very hard to find anyone willing to pay a premium for the social dividend, social enterprises should never base their business plan on this.
To expand on the previous question – What pricing strategy do you think social enterprises should adopt? A fair price for high quality goods and services.
J. The ‘Unease’ of an Entrepreneur
Are you happy with what you’ve achieved as a Social Entrepreneur? Happy that I’ve contributed but I’d like to do more. I would however need to find the right cause, I would never look for the cause but the cause would ‘find’ me. I’m busy enough at the moment though, I really don’t need a new cause!
All other things being equal, who can achieve the most for their beneficiaries? – A ‘socially entrepreneurial’ organisation or a politically savvy third sector organisation? Unfortunately, it’s probably being a politically savvy organisation. I don’t agree with it and would like it to be the other way but the ‘system’ usually works against social enterprise, no doubt about it.
Will you always be a social entrepreneur? Yes, I think so. It can lay fallow but the roots are always there.
What would have been your alternative career path if you hadn’t become a social entrepreneur? I’d have joined the forces but my eyes didn’t pass the medical.
Does becoming a Social Entrepreneur offer a more rewarding working life than a career in the public or private sector? 100% yes, when it goes right, it’s an incredible sense of achievement, something which I believe would be hard to find elsewhere.
Do you find it easy to stay focused on current areas of work or do new opportunities always beckon? Yes, pretty focused, I always make sure that we deliver what we’re supposed to be delivering.
Is it lonely being a Social Entrepreneur? Yes but no more than being any other type of entrepreneur.
What are the highpoints and low points of your career in social enterprise? Some of the highpoints would be the reopening of the Miner’s Theatre in Ammanford and when I won the New Statesman award. I’ve never been a big fan of awards but it was nice to get recognition.
Low points would be the failure of some projects. I strongly believe that a key skill is being able to move on so I’m not haunted by any failures.
What are the most important lessons learnt? Patience, being able to move on and being pragmatic.
Would you have done things differently? Yes, but not sure how! The mistakes are what shape you.
Which one of your skills or personal attributes do you think has been the most valuable to you? Imagination. It’s all about negotiating one’s way around hurdles!
What advice would you give an aspiring social entrepreneur? Find what you believe in and take it as far as you can go. Make sure you fight the battles you can win and learn when to be quiet. Try to focus on solutions.
What is your view on CSR? There is definitely such a thing as CSR but as a concept it can be cynically abused. It is something that social enterprises manage to achieve every day not just when a marketing brochure requires it.
Can the third sector and the private work in partnership or collaborate on ventures? Absolutely yes.
Who are your heroes and villains? John Charles the footballer known as the ‘Gentle Giant’ would be my personal hero – an example of how someone can be at the top of their profession but still be a real gentleman. I prefer to focus on heroes.
What do you hold up as the ultimate Social Enterprise? Pack-IT and the Big Issue, simply due to the purity of their business model and how they directly help their beneficiaries.
Who is the ultimate Social Entrepreneur? I wouldn’t want to name him directly but there’s one guy which I work with locally who absolutely believes in what he does and isn’t afraid to challenge anyone, no matter what their title or position. What counts is that what he says is always absolutely spot on and difficult to argue against, I’ve seen him tear politicians apart when they’ve failed to help the community and they’ve got no defence against his arguments He’s a true example of how a community can help themselves when they’ve got a strong advocate.
Can you teach someone to become an entrepreneur or a Social Entrepreneur? You can definitely teach the elements but you can’t guarantee that people will apply the knowledge. You can give people the tools.
Theme 3 – ‘Replicating Success’
M. Replication and Social Franchising
Can you think of a Social Enterprise which has successfully ‘replicated’ or ‘franchised’ its activities? Yes, Pack-IT in Wales is a good example and the Big Issue, I believe that each of their sellers is essentially a franchisee.
What are the key challenges in replicating or franchising any social enterprise? Keeping the local nature and community capacity of any social enterprise, without community support or understanding of the value of the social enterprise through its community dividend a social enterprise would struggle. Would the sales of the Big Issue be the same if you didn’t directly buy from the person who benefits from your purchase? The social enterprise’s message has to translate to any new markets.
Has your organisation ever replicated or franchised its activities? No, but would keenly consider any new markets with shared cultures such as Ireland.
Do you feel that your organisation’s work is ‘scalable’? Yes, our challenge would be in finding enough associates with the right skills and experience.
If you were to replicate or franchise your activities, what would you expect in return for your organisation? e. g. financial, exchange of ideas, contribution to marketing or simply the generation of ‘social good’ within a different geographical area?
Involvement in a larger and ever increasing collective movement.