5. What Resources does a CDA have?

5.1 Management/Membership

CDAs are normally non-profit making Limited Companies. They usually have a management Board elected by an associated membership of local co-operatives, supportive individuals, and affiliated organisations. Their Articles of Association will usually specify the number and nature of meetings to be held each year and it is the servicing of these meetings that tends to keep the local co-operative community informed and aware of what is happening in their locality. This membership, and the management teams elected out of it, is probably the CDA’s single greatest resource. Knowledge of and commitment to the ideals and principles of co-operation are usually high among such communities. This is how the history of the movement plays a role in developing its future.

5.2 Management/Membership training

Most co-operators will readily concur that there is always room for improvement. However much experience local co-operators may have, there should always be the ready availability of training for those who wish or might wish to take up the challenge of having a hand on the tiller of the local CDA. Most CDAs have a programme of induction for such willing volunteers.

5.3 Premises

Resourced Office: CDAs normally have offices with basic phone/fax, photocopying, word-processing, and reprographic facilities. An important feature of any office is the facility for having clients of all sorts visit without fear of losing credibility. A respectable office space which can be perceived to be independent of Local Authority is important to the varied levels of management with which CDAs are increasingly dealing. Community representatives and company directors should feel equally at home in attending meetings at the CDA offices.

Meeting/Training Space: Much of a CDA’s work has to do with collective or group meetings or sessions. Adequate space of an acceptable standard for conducting these should be an integral part of the accommodation.

Kitchen facilities: Not absolutely necessary, but an important aspect of conducting group activities is making the venue and the process hospitable and appealing. Even tea/coffee making facilities will contribute to this.

5.4 Equipment

The following are now considered essential to a properly functioning CDA:

  • Computer(s)/software/printer
  • Phone/Fax/Answer machine
  • Photocopier
  • Filing System
  • Training/presentation equipment
  • Modems/Comms/E Mail

5.5 training packs/start up packs

Information packs on starting your own co-operative enterprise and modules for co-operative business training are essential core information handouts for CDAs. Where possible, these should be modelled on existing good practice (see Appendices), but locality specific variations may prove more popular.

5.6 Information - research/internal

The backbone of a good CDA is the information it has readily at its disposal. Clearly, in this day and age, good links to the internet will now provide much of this, but it is important to build up a library and a range of reference material to have on hand for DOs and for clients.

It is important to have to hand information on any current government schemes (eg New Deal), as well as the most current versions of any planned new schemes/initiatives (eg Learning & Skills Councils, Small Business Service).

5.7 information - handout

There are two kinds of information in a CDA. One is the research oriented information as touched upon above; the other is information readily available in handout form. These might include CDA-specific information (see Appendices), but they might also include, for example, Companies House forms and leaflets, VAT leaflets from Customs & Excise, leaflets from the Inland Revenue, etc.

These materials should be updated regularly and showcased as simply and straightforwardly as possible.

5.8 promo material

Apart from the straight information handouts mentioned above, the CDA should have good, clear, straight forward handouts which explain what the CDA is and what services it has to offer.

5.9 bank account

Most CDAs bank with the Co-operative Bank who don’t normally make charges for "voluntary bodies". This tends to vary from locality to locality but it is certainly a policy that is recognised at national level. A separate bank account is an absolute necessity. Where banking has been done through major funding partners, such as Local Authorities, lines of communication get badly stretched and enormous delay factors inevitably get built in.

5.10 insurance

DOs are offering professional advice and therefore require indemnity insurance. In addition, insurance is required for premises and equipment and for public and employer liability.

5.11 access to professional services

A good CDA will cultivate relations with a variety of local professionals, especially accountants and solicitors. Free and informal advice can be a very useful precursor to actually retaining such professional services. Some CDAs are considering "voucher schemes" which are seen to be a way of retaining services from professionals with a clear commitment to the co-operative sector.

Good relations with local bank managers and perhaps insurance brokers can also be useful for CDA clients.

5.12 administration aids

Anyone who has ever run an office will know that there are innumerable ways of systemising office routines. CDAs in particular have invented and re-invented such systems copiously. A selection of administrative forms and other paperwork templates has been included in the Appendices. A troll through these may avoid hours of duplication.

5.13 loan/grant fund

Many CDAs manage local loan or grant funds, either directly or through a third party such as ICOF (Industrial Common Ownership Finance). In the co-operative sector, such loans are usually made on an unsecured basis in start up situations. Grants can be for feasibility studies or perhaps items of capital equipment community businesses.

Many ethical funds consider co-operative enterprises to be sound investments because they recognise the ethical way in which co-operation distributes surpluses.

5.14 also see Appendices