Thursday, December 13, 2012

International Visitors for Co-Op Project Inspired by Mersey Visit

Visitors from Slovenia and Italy have been putting Merseyside in the spotlight for an EU policy report on best practice. The visit organised by The Women's Organisation and their UK partners was the first Transnational Forum for Co-op project, looking at how public, private and third sector organisations can work together to support the social economy.

While in Merseyside the delegates gathered at 54 St Jame Street, home of The Women's Organisation, to discuss findings on the project to date and share best practice learning. The group were also invited to visit the First Ark Group to learn from its pioneering work creating vibrant, sustainable communities.

During their visit they saw how First Ark is leading the way in the UK for bringing together private companies, the public sector and social enterprise to provide quality homes and services.

Conclusions and best practice from the visit will be presented to the EU in a report that will be used in policy making.

The visit was organised by Liverpool Vision, Downtown Liverpool in Business and The Women’s Organisation, to demonstrate best practice and explore issues around how the public, private and the third sectors can work together to increase competitiveness and drive success.

Tony Cahill, First Ark’s Executive Director of Commercial Services, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the delegates and show them what we have achieved.

“First Ark has a strong track record of collaborative working between sectors to bring about successful projects and initiatives that benefit the community. Working together we can achieve more.”

“Success for us is achieving our social aims of giving back to the communities we work in. We wanted to show how social and commercial business aims can go hand in hand.”

The Group showcased how through public, private and social partnerships it has provided jobs and training, helped lower energy bills for its residents and supported charities.

The visitors toured First Ark’s Prescot headquarters and housing developments that have helped revive areas of the borough including Blakeacre in Halewood and Tiverton Close in Huyton, both examples of successful projects involving private developers and public funding.

Helen Millne, Chief of Operations and Finance at The Women’s Organisation, said: “The delegation had a very successful visit with First Ark and we hope that the links made will become rewarding relationships in the future.

“Staff shared their expertise and knowledge in different areas which met the specific interests of the visitors, and I know they took away many inspirational ideas to report back to their organisations at home.”

First Ark attracted health care social enterprise CASA Knowsley to set up in the borough – creating 33 jobs, a service to 131 clients and 1,222 hours of support each week.

They brought together private sector sponsors and supporters to help fund a volunteering trip to the Ukraine for 33 staff members to renovate an orphanage and have helped to set up a foodbank charity in the area providing emergency food parcels to low income families.

To help reduce fuel bills First Ark teamed up with E.on, Billscutter and Money Angels in its Save Energy Save Money scheme – providing 1,500 home energy audits.

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