One evening in the Rochdale Pioneers Museum on Toad Lane, the management committee of the Rochdale Borough Social Enterprise and Co-operative Forum mulled over whether to wind up or make a final push to generate a borough-wide movement for positive change.  They chose to make one final push and a year later launched Rochdale Stronger Together.

A community wealth building initiative, Rochdale Stronger Together is based on the success of the co-operative networks in Mondragon Spain, Cleveland Ohio and Preston UK.  It relies on anchor organisations (large-scale local employers, purchasers of goods and services and controllers of fixed assets) and smaller co-operatives working together in collaborative networks to forge community wealth, based on the Co-operative Party’s Six Steps to Build Community Wealth.

The goal is “a good local economy” – jobs that people want; services that people need; communities where people want to live and opportunities for young people to aspire and achieve.

Fast forward four years to today and Rochdale Stronger Together is well established, looking to scale up and to increase its impact.  A leadership group representing the health, education, social housing, and leisure sectors as well as the local authority and local co-operative and social enterprise sectors exists.  Four workstreams oversee and deliver operational output: Buy Local, Learn & Hire Local, Live Local and Connect Local.  The arrangements give the initiative a truly civic feel and having adopting the International Co-operative Alliance’s values and principles it has a strong co-operative element too.

Rochdale Stronger Together delivers on key 6 elements:

  • Transformational Leadership – This is the commitment of local leaders to work together to do something truly transformational to turn the Borough’s fortunes around and forge a good local economy.
  • Anchor Organisations – As mentioned the Borough’s key public service organisations are coming together with community representatives to help lead change. Anchors are adopting recruitment practices which strip away barriers for local people to join their workforce. They are offering local people opportunities to volunteer or become apprentices.  They are encouraging local employers to become “real” Living Wage Accredited.
  • Local Procurement – Using local suppliers is another way to boost the local economy and again anchors are taking a lead by reviewing where they spend their money and where possible direct it so that it is spent locally. Sometimes this requires indicating to local suppliers that they need to improve their productivity or product quality if they are to secure contracts.
  • Co-operative Development – Where there are holes in the local market, co-operatives can be set up to plug the gaps, or existing community-owned businesses supported to grow. Viable opportunities for products or services to be produced locally will be supported.  This includes ensuring the necessary focussed and specialist support for people and businesses is available to help them make every step along the way to greater economic empowerment and self-sufficiency.  Wider macro-trends are being examined and where suitable will be tapped into to enable the Borough to increase its contribution to the regional and national economies.
  • Access to Investment – An important objective is to set up a community development foundation by bringing together funds from various socially aware sources. These will be used to provide low risk loans to support community-owned businesses to grow and become self-sufficient.
  • Assets working for the Community – Perhaps the most important element. There’s no point doing any of this if local people aren’t empowered and given a stake in their own destinies.  Existing strengths within community are being identified and built on.  Wherever possible co-operative values and principles are being used to build community wealth and share the benefits of success fairly.

Rochdale Stronger Together’s whole community approach is unlocking potential from the grass roots up; evolving, adapting and seizing emerging opportunities as they arise; helping local residents to aspire, have confidence and take back control; and ultimately enabling local people to have a stake in making a brighter future for themselves and the Borough.