Tag: Calderdale

Equal Care Co-op are Crowdfunding! – a new co-operative owned by care workers and the people they support

SME Funding

This is such a great story we had to share it – Ambitious and ethical start-up, Equal Care Co-op are crowdfunding to change the balance on of power in the provision of care services. Based at the University Business Centre in Halifax, this start-up is one to watch.

Read on to discover why……..

Imagine if Uber was owned by its drivers. Imagine if taskers got to make decisions about how TaskRabbit was run. This is exactly what Equal Care proposes to bring to social care with its exciting and radical new business model.

Equal Care Co-op is the UK’s first social care platform co-operative. The team are setting out to change the traditional homecare industry, refocusing the power, choice, and control onto the most important people involved: the people receiving the care and the people providing it – be they paid or unpaid, a family member or a professional carer.

This is a real gig economy alternative that pays equal attention to the rights of workers and the rights of those they support.

The gig economy has received a great deal of publicity in recent years – not all of it good. The formula has – inevitably – extended to the world of care work and there are now some established platforms offering a vetted labour pool and easy process for booking care workers of your choice.

However, the existing gig-economy platforms are vulnerable to the same criticisms levelled at nearly all companies operating such a business model. The worst-offending companies tell care workers that they have to offer a flat rate, that any bad review will knock them straight off the platform (one strike and you’re out) and that too many rejections of work opportunities will also push them off the platform.

On the other hand, some of the better platforms have gone on to become care providers in their right. Others remain as introductory agencies, avoiding the regulatory requirements involved in care provision, maintaining their status as technology services companies rather than providers of care.

All of these platforms are privately owned, and all of them retain a value-extraction based business model which charges a commission on every hour of care given. In most cases, these companies are angling for an exit from the market and a windfall for the founders and early-stage investors.

Equal Care Co-op has a different focus. By changing the balance of power that currently exists in services, some magical things can happen: people choose who supports them, workers get paid a decent wage, the huge levels of turnover in care services can stop. And people being supported get a chance to help others too.

Big ideals do not map well onto big profits, so Equal Care Co-op’s start-up route is a grant-dependent, CrowdFunder-led one. It will be making use of Community Shares – a recent investment vehicle only open to co-operative and community benefit societies. However, the equity-loaded finance that drives most ventures of this type is closed to them.

Founder Emma Back said: “We’re looking at strawberry patch principles, sociocracy based growth models and federated structures. There are many possibilities for growth that don’t entail becoming enormous and monolithic, but where you can still be large enough to offer a real alternative to the private companies taking UK care contracts.”

Equal Care Co-op recently participated in the world’s first platform co-operative accelerator, designed by Co-operatives UK and funded by the Co-operative Bank.

Ed Mayo, Secretary-General of Co-operatives UK, observed: In Equal Care we have a viable, alternative and pioneering model for social care as well as platform co-ops, and we’re incredibly excited to see what the future holds. Co-operatives UK has been delighted to support Equal Care in its development – through UnFound, an accelerator for platform co-op, and through The Hive, our support programme for co-operatives in partnership with The Co-operative Bank”

Fran Watson, Founder Member of Equal Care and an independent care worker herself, says: “The biggest issue for me was having the reassurance of getting enough work and having the right amount. It’s finding the work that takes the time and effort. I know of no independent care workers who do 15-minute slots. You just can’t do it. The options are either to go with an agency or go it alone.”

Equal Care has now launched the invitation-only, first iteration of their platform. They are a co-operative that prioritises power, money and decision-making truly sitting on the front line, thus offering potential for community-led scale.

Equal Care aren’t rolling in venture capital, they are bootstrapping with the best of them, but they need help. They have just released their Christmas CrowdFunder and are looking for support to help get the vision flying. Please visit https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/equal-care-co-op and help change social care.

BLOG SPOT: Digital Shift – Transforming Calderdale’s digital and creative landscape

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By Deborah Hetherington, Business Engagement Manager at Leeds Beckett University

The Ad:Venture programme aims to help businesses within the Leeds City Region reach their full potential. There are several partners involved in the project, each of whom offer their own set of specialist skills in order to assist startup and scaleup companies to grow.

Here at Leeds Beckett, we concentrate on the support we can offer to digital businesses. This can be made up of academic support in the areas of digital marketing, business planning, pitching techniques, the art of selling and so on. We also offer student research projects, access to our app studio, a wide range of masterclasses, events, funding, incubation space, and a variety of other business support. We have branded this arm of the Ad:venture project as Digital Shift.

When I was brought on to the project, I was tasked with increasing awareness of Ad:Venture specifically within Calderdale.

Leeds Beckett’s aim in Calderdale is two-fold; we want to play a valuable part in growing the expanding digital eco-system, and we want to have an impact on local startups’ bottom lines. We want to see more startups becoming scaleups and we believe our Digital Shift offering has a genuine and credible role to play in that journey. Within my first few months in Calderdale I have managed to meet with collaborators from local public, private and third sector partners who all share the same vision. We have a great relationship with the council and it’s rewarding to work with such a forward facing, innovative organisation.

I have been pleasantly surprised at just how much activity is already taking place throughout the Valley. There is a growing digital community made up of some fantastic co-working spaces filled with successful digital companies, a range of networking activities and strong local business support.

“We want to have a tangible impact on business outputs and productivity.”

Leeds Beckett wants to add to that business support by offering our vast range of academic and industry business knowledge and expertise to digital SMEs within the region. We want to have a tangible impact on business outputs and productivity. Through meeting with a range of startups already, the feedback we are getting around the programme is very positive. The spectrum of businesses I personally engage with is incredibly broad, ranging from a chatbot specialist whose company is one month old through to an e-commerce business who already have an impressive turnover and are looking to hire a management position imminently.

The type of guidance and support we give is bespoke to the company; from basic business planning and funding, right through to the more advanced industry coaching and assistance through the scaleup process. Andy Banks, Founder of Venture Forge, an e-commerce consultancy Firm, says about the Ad:venture programme: “The programme provides a good balance of knowing where I would need value input and equally where I don’t. It gives me confidence that the support we will receive will be right for us and not some kind of one size fits all approach.”

Andy goes on to comment on Calderdale’s potential as a digital centre: “We’ve got massive potential. Calderdale is full of great businesses looking to grow digitally. With the recruitment of digital people always being challenging, being located halfway between Leeds and Manchester puts Calderdale right in the middle of two pools of amazing digital talent.”

UBC mainThe University Business Centre, that officially opened at the end of September and already has an impressive array of tenants, is proving to be a successful catalyst for engagement.

We have started running monthly digital breakfast mornings allowing the digital community to come together and network whilst simultaneously providing knowledge transfer seminars from local industry experts on a plethora of sector specific topics. We are holding full day workshops specific to taking businesses to the next step of productivity, and not to forget the three-day Digital Shift Summit we held at the end of September.

The Summit saw a range of industry experts from the likes of marketing agency Woven, through to BJSS and Sky Betting and Gaming offering their expertise and knowledge to 40+ eligible businesses. The range of workshops from the event included ‘Practical Business Planning’, ‘Mentoring to Hire’, ‘Accessing Finance’ and ‘The Future of Video’ to name a few.

Feedback from the event was entirely positive, some of the delegates commented on the business planning workshop:

“The workshop was challenging but in a really good way.
Excellent and interactive, very useful exercises.”

“Really interesting, good session, highlighted gaps in what I’m doing and where I need to spend more time.”

As a university, we are very excited to play our part in growing the digital eco-system in Calderdale and we encourage all eligible businesses and intermediary organisations to get in touch to see if we can add value to your company and business relationships.

You can read more about how you can benefit from the project here

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