Message from Wales Coop centre

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The easiest way for people to get together and create their own affordable housing solution is to set up a housing coop. A housing coop is a business whose sole purpose is to provide housing for its members. The business owns the house, but all of the members run the business and decide what goes on there. None of the members need capital. And the business can get a mortgage and find the deposit by attracting loan stock investment from supporters.

But it is also possible to lease a house as a housing coop. Bridging the capital gap and putting normally out of reach houses into the hands of people on low incomes.  This is the model used by Machynlleth Housing Coop, and you can watch my presentation about how that all works here:

But it is also now being used by the UK’s first student coop, who have had the backing of The Phone Coop. It’s a ground breaking new scheme because it leverages financial support from a large commercial organisation. It could be a model successfully adopted by Registered Social Landlords for example, or by other ethical commercial ventures who may see the benefit of having some assets in housing whilst still providing affordable homes.  
Rhagfyr 11

Y ffordd haws i bobl dod at ei gilydd a chreu datrysiad tai fforddiadwy ar gyfer eu hun yw sefydlu tai cydweithredol. Mae’r busnes yn berchen ar y tŷ, ond mae’r holl aelodau yn rhedeg y busnes ac yn dewis beth sydd yn digwydd yna. Does dim angen buddsoddiad ymlaen llaw gan yr aelodau. Gall y busnes dod o hyd i forgais ac yn medru ffeindio blaendaliad trwy ddenu buddsoddiad ‘loanstock’ gan gefnogwyr.

Ond mae hefyd yn bosib prydlesu tŷ fel tai cydweithredol. Plygio’r bwlch ariannol a rhoi tai y tu allan i gyrraedd fel rheol mewn dwylo pobl ar gyflogau isel. Mae’r model yma yn cael ei ddefnyddio can Tai Cydweithredol Machynlleth, a gallwch wylio cyflwyniad ar sut mae’n gweithio yma:

Mae hefyd yn nawr cael ei ddefnyddio gan brosiect tai cydweithredol myfyriwr ar gyfer y tro cyntaf ym Mhrydain, sydd gyda chefnogaeth oddi wrth y Phone Coop. Mae’n gynllun sydd yn torri tir newydd achos mae’n sicrhau cefnogaeth ariannol gan sefydliad masnachol mawr. Gall fod yn fodel llwyddiannus ar gyfer cymdeithasau tai, neu gan fentrau masnachol moesegol eraill sydd yn gweld budd cael asedau fel tai ond yn dal medru darparu tai fforddiadwy.
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Want to join a pioneering co-operative community?

Dragons co-operative in Llanrhaeadr ym Mochnant are always interested in hearing from potential new members. Even if we dont have a place available you may join our waiting list.

We are a very small co-op but might be interested in expanding, with the help of new members and supporters. We have access to land locally and ;links to permaculture sites all over Wales and rest of the UK . We also have strong links to Uganda where members are involved in permaculture education and development. We remain committed to developing a strong base here in Mid Wales.

Dragons operates on Radical Routes model rules and has secondary rules based on the principles of permaculture design. Members are encouraged to study permaculture and to use it as an operating system for co-operation. We are financed 100% from ethical banks and private individuals, investment is not a requirement of membership but we are always happy to discuss investment opportunities with members and supporters.

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This coffee plants trees!

Coffee from Uganda – drinking our coffee can be part of your commitment to fighting climate change

Excited to announce our first batch of coffee from Mt Elgon is here, we working out the best ways to get it out there. It is excellent quality, we are really pleased with the aroma, colour and taste, its wonderful.

We hope to build a long term relationship with our friends at Mt Elgon Coffee and Honey Co-operative and through this partnership we can contribute directly in the reafforestation of this remarkable and special landscape.

The story of how this came about is a long and interesting one. Wales — Africa links are deep and strong and has greatly affected my life and many of the people I work with through Sector39. In an attempt to share some of that journey i put the video reel below together I a working on a narration. I need to make it much snappier but its an on-going project for now.

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Invest in co-operation

invest in co-operatives

Dragons aims to raise £12,000 loanstock by the end of 2020.

£3,000 to replace an existing investor and £9,000 new loanstock, offered at 2-4% to invest in essential roof improvements to the house. As custodians of a 400 year old build we are coming to terms with our long-term responsibilities to the building.

With bank rates at an historic low (< 1%), it has never been a better time to invest in the social economy. Borrowing money even from ethical banks is still expensive, they have to make their margin too, and as a small enterprise we can be charged up to 7% for new loans or 5% for a mortgage, so private investors can benefit from this disparity.

You may choose your own interest rate (up to 4%), to get this fantastic rate you are only required to commit for three years minimum.  Withdrawal is by negotiation – the larger the sum to more notice is required. There is a fully legal contract supplied and your loan is secured against the value of the house, so it is risk free. The co-op is contracted to pay an annual interest payment, usually on the same day each year.

Contact us directly if you would like to know more about this great investment scheme!

dragons housing cooperatice, #permaculture #wales
The roof facing us us is desperate need of some tlc, removing the slares, replacing any damaged batons and adding
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Investing in co-operatives – a very sound investment

There is such a thing as loanstock. Many fully mutual housing co–ops raise part of their capital by offering out loanstock to investors, a low interest investment secured against the value of the house. It is a bricks and mortar very safe investment. Money borrowed from a bank as a mortgage costs in the region of 5%, higher than domestic mortgage, but as  co-op we pay a commercial rate plus, we are customers of Triodos bank, an ethical bank with high standards but consequently not the very cheapest to borrow from. We have been offering 4% on loanstock, and indeed we have some we need to replace currently and with interest rates at historic lows its a sound bet.

I trained as a teacher, completing a PGCE in Economic and Business Studies, and later taught for 4 terms in Reading before I moved to Wales, so i kind of the subject in my blood stream. I really enjoy the Uneducated Economist on YouTube for his wry and insightful observations on economic themes. In this episode we speculates about the likelihood of negative interest rates. This chimed deeply with me, its some thing max Keiser talks about on is RT progam Keiser Report. Of course you have to get rid of cash to make negative interest rates happen effectively and it seems almost certain that we are goign to begin to experience that soon, especially as Uneducated Economist speculates when we move to UBI stimuli to try and restart the collapsing world economy.

Investing in social infrastructure such as affordable, ecologically responsible housing makes a a lot of sense. One Planet Development ideas here in Wales are also really opening up the possibility for whole new ways of living. More collaborative, with a localised lifestyple and much more closely connected to the land.

I might suggest that it is a time to think about investing in co-ops – those who have funds to invest, many don’t of course, but maybe they might have initiative and drive to offer instead. This kind of mutual could unlock and whole raft of possibilities.

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Celebrating 25 years of co-operation, Chickenshack

In the early 90’s I was living in Zimbabwe along with my friend Sue, we were studying and working in permaculture and setting the course for a life we hoped to live. I had ran away from UK to Africa for adventure, to learn and to escape Thatcher’s Britain. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, just what I didn’t want to do, all of that changed in Zimbabwe. I learned that Africa was always in some way gong to be part of my life, it had changed me and my life purpose and direction was to embed myself in the world of alternatives to planetary destruction. Permaculture is a path of regeneration and healing, and I decided to dedicate my life to that, without having an idea where it would take me.

By 1995 I was living in the Welsh mountains within a wider community, one that was very much committed to finding alternatives and different kinds of lifestyles. I learned about housing co-operatives through Radical Routes, joined the Permaculture Association and started working at the Centre for Alternative Technology, total immersion. 25 years later I am living in a different part of Wales, still in a co-op and working full time in permaculture education with the S39 Academy of Permaculture.

It has been an incredible journey and during that time I have taught on 42 Permaculture Design course, and counting as well as reconnecting to Africa, this time to Uganda where we are developing a network of demonstration and training hubs in Uganda and in 2 neighbouring countries.

Sector39 are based in Wales and teach permaculture design and co-ordinate permaculture education. We are currently developing the S39 Permaculture Academy. It is our conviction that permaculture design is one of the most powerful tools available to address the ecological catastrophe that is happening around us.

Can we empower people to become active enough to be the solution and not the cause of the problem? We believe this to be possible and this gives us great hope and a positive and creative direction to move forward in.

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Mondragon Cyrmu – a vision for the post carbon world

The invitation letter is Above
Sorry for so many words, I think there is much at stake and therefore we need to think this through in advance.

This is a time for big ambition and long term thinking as the global economy hits the re-set button; what good examples are there that we can learn from? Well here is a really good one, Mondragon. It is the biggest most successful co-operative in the World I believe and is in the Basque country in Spain. There are of a size that they have their own bank and university, outside of the capitalist for-profit system and have integrated together 100’s of business in every sector, retail, manufacturing, you name it.

It is regionally based, so it concentrates itself on meeting the needs of the Basque community drawing largely on the resources and skills of the region. There is no better explanation that I know this than the one presented by Prof Richard Wolf in the lecture below.

He sets out the economic ground rules gives an up to date overview of where socialism is now in the 21st century.

This powerful lecture gives a clear indication of the way forward
– double click to get a full screen window
History matters, so it is worth thinking about the impact of previous pandemics and how they reshaped the economies of the time
If we are to re-boot the economy what kind of economy are we trying to create?
Newtown community horticulture space, the root that created Cae Bodfach Llanafyllin

Mondragon Cymru?

More background on co-operatives, this is time a meeting with Robert Owen, originator of the first ever mutual company and the 7 cor principles of co-operation, the bedrock which all co-ops around the world have in common.

Slideshow will download as a PDF and you may stream the audio track to go with it from below. – this is S39’s main public lecture on co-ops and serves a good introduction to the core principles and why.

Co-operative principles and origins and the vision for Dragons co-op 40 mins

Watch the videos, to understand the proposal you have to have the foundation stone concepts in place already, Prof Wolfe explains basic concepts of economic theory that underpin co-operatives better than i ever could. You may also see the S39 presentation co-op principles above, supplorted the above audio track

The second video puts the pandemic into an historical context, they have happened before and we can begin to see the patterns and what might come next.

The third video explores the nature of the kind of economic recovery we have to make. How can we make this is in line with our co-operative and permaculture principles and ethics? The proposal under development this week is outlining how we might successfully build on the work we have achieved together over the last 25 years to collaboratively create a future that works for all of us.

I added a slide show of Cultivate which Yossi and I went to visit recently and caught in all its spring glory. This is a 3 acre horticulture hub developed by Sector39 and Cwm Harry between 2010 and 2015. This project also is what planted the seeds that is now Cae Bodfach.

Thursday’s Zoom meeting will open to all who want to better understand this proposal. We will be inviting the Wales Co-op society and other members of our wider stakeholder group as well. The presentation will be recorded and re-posted here so that any one who missed it, or couldn’t figure out the technology can view again in their own time.

Key point at this stage we are developing the overall proposal and looking at the bigger picture, am deliberately trying to avoid becoming bogged down in details at this point, all that is to come. The proposal launched on 14th May is available below.

This is the recording of the live presentation

Thank you to everyone for joining us on our co-operative journey!

I honestly believe we can help shape the world by committing strongly to a common and ambitious vision, such as this

Steven Jones, Sector39/ Dragons co-op
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Walk at Pen y garnedd

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Meetings 2020

Four quarterly meetings for 2020 including the next AGM which will be the June meeting.

Co-op members will arrange interim meetings as required to develop the agenda items and proposals . It has been agreed that for better planning we will agree on meetings for the whole year in advance so we can all better plan and be able to attend.

Dragons co-op meetings 2020
Meetings 2020
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Dragons 2020

dragons craft shop and co-operative in Llanrhaeadr ym mochnant, Powys, Wales
Dragons in Winter Solstice 2019/20. I photo-shopped in the blue sky for fun – it feels like it has been grey for months!

It has been an intense period of change at Dragons in 2019, whilst at the same time the co-op is finding its feet, its stability and its purpose. During this period of change Dragons has been in breech of contract in that we have been late filing our accounts and also we were due to pay loanstock interest payments in August and we are only able to do that now. We apologize for these failings and are working to rectify these things currently.

The Dragons gift shop has built up a fantastic volunteer team and is ticking along smoothly. Thanks to the hard work of Sue and Rosie a good solid pattern has evolved and this in turn has enabled others to join in and to develop a regular team and be open for regular hours.

The shop also extended its product range to include more Suma wholefood items, especially none perishable ones and our detergent refill service has proved popular as well

Good bye to Claire Henderson-Davies who was with us for nearly a year and who has taken up a new position in Liverpool. Claire was especially appreciated for covering for our other two members when they were working in Africa last year.

Her support enabled other members to take on huge challenges teaching permaculture in the one of the biggest refugee settlements in the world

Also to Grace Maycock, who as a founding member, house painter and decorator, treasurer and allotment co-coordinator, will be sorely missed. Grace also studied permaculture and horticulture during her time here and was a massive support to both Dragons co-op and Sector39 in their project work. We wish her well on future projects where she is taking her permaculture and teaching skills abroad for new challenges

Firstly we welcome Yossi Burland from Manchester who arrived with Luna the dog and who replaced Claire at the co-op. Yossi has interests in natural health, gardening and is here to study permaculture, walk the Welsh hills and to embrace co-operative life

Also Welcome to Andrew McConnagh, who attended a permaculture course here a couple of years ago, he is an artist exploring how to incorporate nature and natural forms in his work and is a teaching support worker also.

The co-op is currently comprised of three human members, two cats and a dog, it is also home to two enterprises, Dragons Shop and Sector39 permaculture.

Accounts and trading
Dragons has taken on a local accountancy firm to make sure we get back on top of our financial reporting and we also must thank Diana Allan who has been volunteering in the Sector39 office as a book keeper supporting both enterprises.

2018 was my personal busiest year ever, running a full EU funded education project here in UK. whilst also running a 7 month permaculture training proejct in Uganda as well a big PDC. This coupled with changes of membership and also the nature of EU funding has caused many stresses and strains on cash flow, staffing and also relegated the co-op to low down on the list of priorities. It has been recognised by the co-op as a whole that we need to do better and we will be focusing on this in 2020.

Thanks to Banksy for reminding us that not everyone is free to visit their families
Thanks to Banksy for reminding us that not everyone is free to visit their families

Nadolig Llawen
Yes its that time again, with best wishes to all of our members, supporters, investors, friends and fellow co-operatives for the festive season and looking forward to a year of peace, prosperity and climate action.

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