What are CDBs?
Co-op Development Bodies (CDBs) are individuals and organisations who nurture the economies that work for people and planet.
The sector has been poorly resourced in recent years, we are determined to revive it. We believe co-operative development includes:
• consultancy and specialist advice
• consistent promotion of co-operative values, principles and the co-operative business model
• critical self-analysis to ensure that the sector lives up to its claims and its potential
• community organising, to bring teams together around co-operative solutions to local problems
• brokerage of investment deals between co-operatives and the funders, lenders and social investors
• strategic coordination within the co-operative movement in an area or sector
CDBs have always existed first and foremost to meet the most urgent needs of communities and Development co-op is not different. It is led by a group of member owned CDBs and is ultimately accountable to those communities.
CDBs were first established in the late 1970s and continued to grow until the end of the century. But the long recession in local government, during the 2010s and the growing power of giant multinationals have all taken their toll.
CDBs that were reliant on grant funding and had limited access to investment were shut down and now many parts of the UK have no promotion or systematic early-stage support for co-operatives.
Shared Values – A Network of Co-op Development Hubs
We envision access to shared workspaces and to specialist advice that helps to develop both high-quality jobs but also knowledgeable post-holders.
As a country we have a need for affordable, low carbon housing and employment opportunities. These needs can be met through co-operation.
There is growing evidence that investment in shared workspace with specialist advice on-hand and access to investment networks creates high quality jobs. Needs such as employment, affordable housing and infrastructure for low carbon living can all be met by building homes and workspace on neglected urban sites.
Co-operatives can benefit from the interactions resulting from co-location. Learning from the experiences of existing business incubators (both successes and failures) and pro-actively engaging with communities where they can be established.
We can help to evaluate suitable sites and consult with local stakeholders. Often, a Community Land Trust is the ideal organisation to acquire the site. We will contract with key participants to manage delivery of the development so that afterwards they can run some or all of it with profits re-invested locally. There are great exemplars of this model in Hackney, Taunton and Birmingham (Strichley).
Development Co-op’s collective skills in financial planning, community organisation and, sustainable development makes us an attractive partner for community enterprises. Our willingness to work ‘at risk’ with early stage projects, builds confidence and security among local partners who may come from diverse backgrounds with no previous experience of property development.
Development Co-op will not act as a disinterested consultancy, however. We want deeper, long-term relationship with host communities; we’re there first and foremost to serve, but also to share in the risks and benefits. In many cases we will acquire the site in the first instance and enable the local group to take on as much or as little of the ‘design and build’ as it chooses.
We’ll continue to have a presence in the building long term, for example by ‘planting’ and supporting a new co-op development body based there. These revived CDBs are resilient, accountable and sustainable enterprises in their own right. There is a deficit in proven business models for CDBs. Our collective experience can identify the replicable, profitable and scalable work that our most successful CDBs have done.
There are just a few key ingredients:
• a passionate network of local community activists, including at least some willing to form the board of a new Community Land Trust;
• a property market in which we can find development sites large enough for million pound-plus developments;
• to create lasting value, the opportunity for a well planned construction project (either new build or a transformative conversion)