The state doesn’t have the answer to Welsh economic woes

markhooper

Six years ago I founded co-working company Indycube. I wanted to change the way Wales did business. I wanted to change the emphasis on the state believing it was the answer to all the country’s economic woes; I wanted to do my bit to challenge the mindset among Welsh business people that risks aren’t worth taking (unless it was with others people’s money, often the state’s); and, I wanted the same business people to realise that being overly cosseted won’t enable them to grow, and therefore support the communities in which they’re situated.

With a fair wind, a lot of hard work, and some amazing people to help, we’re still here. More importantly, as we turn the corner into 2016 we have over 25 spaces in our co-working network, with a further handful scheduled to open before the end of February, and we are represented throughout the length and breadth of Wales.

We plan on growing further, enabling our users to do what they do best – run their businesses, but from their own communities. We won’t be encouraging them to travel miles to one of our spaces; quite the contrary, we’re bringing spaces where you can work alongside others, to every part of the country. That doesn’t mean all the spaces will be 3,000 sq ft offices – far from it, you’ll start to see Indycube spaces in smaller locations with maybe five or six deskspaces in them.

‘We are enabling our users to do what they do best –

run their businesses, but from their own communities.’

Most importantly, we’re embarking on the next step in our journey. We’ve decided to mutualise, and will be changing from a Community Interest Company (CIC), to a Community Benefit Society.

The CIC has been the perfect corporate vehicle for us to come this far – it’s been light touch, the company needing to push on without being held back by too much intervention. I know we wouldn’t have got to half the places we have, had I needed ‘board’ approval every step of the way. However, Indycube was always ‘owned by the community’, but in legal terms was being held by myself and two other shareholders.

The time is right to pass the ownership fully onto the community, and on our sixth anniversary, St David’s Day 2016, we’ll go from being owned by three people, to being owned equally by the members. If you live, work or have an association with Wales, you can become a member of Indycube, and be part of our future.

You’ll take an equal right in the decisions of the company; electing the board, agreeing strategic plans and helping the emergent network grow. We want everyone to be able to join, so we’ve set the membership levy at only £1 per month. You don’t have to be a user to join. If you agree that the status quo just isn’t delivering for Wales, come and be part of something that, with your input, is actually working.

This accelerated growth will mean we need more people to join the team, but we’re going to be doing that from within our own (still limited) resources. We’ve never believed what we do should be supported from the public purse, particularly when other priorities are so pressing.

Ceding control of an organisation you’ve developed should be difficult, but I’m not finding it so – which makes me think that what’s been built is ready for the pressures and tensions a community cooperative will bring. Indycube has always belonged to the community, now its organisational structure matches that.

I’m not denying the last six years have been hard work, but I’ve never enjoyed work so much. As many people know, my job basically involves chatting to people over a coffee, or if I’m really lucky a beer or two. Even better, I get to have these conversations throughout Wales. Over this time, I feel like I’ve become more Welsh – in my outlook, my motivation and my passion. I’ve come to understand what ‘hiraeth‘ means. It may have taken me 40 odd years to ‘get it’, for sure, but it’s definitely been a journey worth making.

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markhooper

markhooper

Social entrepreneur, Mark Hooper has run Welsh coworking community, Indycube CIC for almost six years, and their investment partnership, Indycube ventures with local angel investor, David Hulston, for the past two.

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