1. What is a CDA?

translations of CDA - various suggestions received by email (9/98)

English Co-operative Development Agency
Italian Agenzia per il Sviluppo Cooperativo
French Agence de Développement Coopérative
German Entwicklungsagentur für Selbstverwaltete Betriebe
Spanish Agencia para el Desarrollo del Cooperativismo
Welsh Cefnogwyd gan Awdurdod Datblygu Cydweithredol


A CDA is a local Enterprise Agency, but with a difference. It is committed to the establishment and support of enterprises which are owned and controlled either by the workers in the enterprise or by the consumers of the produce of the enterprise. There are about 35 CDAs throughout the UK. They are funded largely by Local Government and therefore provide a free service to residents of their respective catchment areas. They normally affiliate to the Industrial Common Ownership Movement (ICOM) for centrally resourced legal and other expertise.

Such an Agency is often the first port of call for people thinking about starting up in business but with no clear idea as to how to go about it. Some CDAs also offer a free advice service to existing small businesses, whether co-operative or not. This can include help with a broad range of problems such as sales & marketing, book keeping, legal matters, VAT difficulties, etc.

But primarily, a CDA seeks to establish and support co operative limited companies or co-operative partnerships. These are enterprises which are owned and controlled by the people who work in them.

A CDA is often thought of exclusively as an instrument for defeating unemployment. In fact, it is much more than this. It is also an instrument for bringing a greater proportion of the local economy into local ownership. And for Local Authorities, this means greater local economic stability (see the Appendices - "Localising the Economy"). Local economic stability through common ownership isn’t achieved simply through business start-ups. It is also achieved through conversion of existing business into employee ownership and control. A CDA is therefore a broader instrument for the achievement of local economic stability and for the development of stable, sustainable, local economic growth.

Additionally, it is an instrument for regenerating blighted community economies more generally in specifically targeted areas through community businesses, credit unions, and other forms of neighbourhood managed initiatives. Very often, such communities have no appeal for private enterprise. The only way to turn the tide of economic blight is to get the people themselves involved in economic regeneration.


Why "CDA" Anywhere?

CDA" (Co-operative Development Agency) is a widely recognised acronym in the UK. Although not as successfully adhered to and marketed as, for example, the CAB (Citizens’ Advice Bureau), it has been around as long. If it had been as successfully adhered to and marketed as the CAB over the same period of time, it would now be very much more a part of public awareness. There is now a modest national and European trend towards correcting this situation. Besides establishing standards for CDAs, this project is looking to encourage all CDAs to consider renaming themselves so that the acronym appears before the town or region.

The purpose of this is to assure that wherever a member of the public may be, they will know to look under "c" in the phone book to find their nearest CDA. This may sound trite, but the bulk of first time enquiries come from people whose first port of call is the phone book or the Yellow Pages. In the West Midlands, they would have to know to look under "b" for Black Country CDA; in Devon under "c" for Co-active; in Bristol under "a" for Avon CDA, in London under "s" for Social Enterprise London. In terms of marketing, a nationally co-ordinated effort to capitalise on the name changes would reap immeasurable benefits in every locality.