Douglas White: The future’s bright, the future’s co-operative?

IT’S an inspiring story, familiar to most of us. An once treasured local asset is set to close, no longer deemed viable in the harsh commercial realities of the 21st century. But, at the last minute, there’s a hero to the rescue – prepared to purchase said asset, rip up the old business plan and invest a huge amount of time, money and effort to make the venture a success, both socially and economically.

Who is this hero with a remarkable ability to transform failing businesses into viable, thriving local enterprises? No, it’s not Alan Sugar or Duncan Ballantyne. Of course, it is the local community. Across the UK, over 300 shops, 20 pubs and ten senior football clubs are now owned directly by local people. In Scotland, an incredible 500,000 acres of land in the Highlands and Islands are owned and managed by those who live there. Through a variety of co-operative-style ownership models these communities, from very different parts of the UK, are running highly successful, sophisticated businesses which are delivering invaluable ‘public goods’ for their local area.

Earlier this year over 200 activists, journalists and readers came to events around the UK to debate the opportunities and the barriers for bringing more local news outlets into these types of co-operative ownership models.