The Foster Care Co-operative was visited by Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, on Thursday 1st February. He was specifically looking at successful and innovative organisations operating as co-operatives. He spent the time meeting the team and hearing about what they bring to the organisation.
Ed also visited Malvern Book Co-operative and Jamboree Co-operative whilst in the area.
Ed Mayo said: “For nearly twenty years the Foster Care Co-operative has shown what a difference it makes when an organisation is run by the people most involved, the foster carers and staff. The wider social care sector is gradually waking up to the importance of participation, something that the Foster Care Co-operative has pioneered for almost two decades. There is so much that can be learnt from this inspiring organisation.”
The Foster Care Co-operative (FCC) was founded in 1999. Since then, the co-operative model has proved hugely beneficial. As there is no involvement from distant shareholders or investors, FCC’s members on the ‘shop floor’ have always been consulted and listened to. This has made the organisation totally ‘transparent’ and responsive to change – particularly at a policy level. It has also created a culture of greater democracy.
Simply put, FCC has given its staff who work directly with children the power to make positive change within the organisation for the good of those children. A perfect example of the co-operative model.
FCC’s founder, Laurie Gregory, was a Deputy Director within a local authority and a foster carer himself when he started FCC.
“Quite apart from the morality of it, I wanted to give more children the chance of family life,” Laurie said. “I instinctively did not wish to start a ‘for profit’ company and after meetings with my Chamber of Commerce and invaluable advice from Co-operatives UK, I chose the model of multi-stakeholder and common ownership and registered the company. We have grown slowly by bringing new people to fostering.”
FCC remains the only not-for-profit fostering agency operating as a co-operative in the UK. It has grown steadily and organically and now has teams situated throughout England and Wales, with offices in Malvern, Cardiff and Manchester. Generally, FCC’s status as a co-operative has made the organisation more attractive to new staff and foster carers alike – perfectly complimenting their not-for-profit approach.
There are nearly 7,000 organisations in the UK operating under a co-operative structure in lots of different sectors, giving their members the power and the passion to make a positive impact, along with a voice that will be heard.
Ed Mayo is the author of the book ‘Values: how to bring values to life in your business’, published by Greenleaf. You can also find out more about co-operative organisations here: https://www.uk.coop/