Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise

Greater Manchester is home to 16,000 voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations working to improve the lives of citizens.

The VCSE sector is active across every aspect of growth and reform, including crime and disorder; sport, culture and leisure; skills, employment and enterprise; health and social care; housing and transport; environment and carbon reduction; poverty reduction; inclusive growth and governance.

Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Accord 

On November 7, 2017 the Mayor signed a formal Accord (opens in new tab) with the 16,000 voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations in Greater Manchester.

The Accord sets out the framework for a new relationship between the Mayor of Greater Manchester, the Combined Authority and the VCSE sector. It includes building and sustaining the VCSE sector’s strategic capacity to deliver the shared vision as set out in the Greater Manchester Strategy, supporting the priorities that will help make Greater Manchester one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and grow old.

Greater Manchester’s VCSE Leadership Group

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) works directly with the Greater Manchester VCSE Leadership Group (opens in new tab), which was set up as a coalition of voluntary, community and social enterprise leaders seeking to promote the role and involvement of the VCSE sector and communities in Greater Manchester devolution. Members of the Leadership Group act as ‘catalysts and connectors’ on behalf of the sector.  

In 2020, the leadership group published its policy paper (PDF opens in new tab), which sets out a long-term ambition for the VCSE sector in Greater Manchester.

Membership of the Co-operative Council’s Innovation Network

Greater Manchester is the home of the co-operative movement. The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was established in 1844 and Greater Manchester remains the home of the Co-operative Group, the world’s largest consumer owned business.

In July 2018, the Combined Authority became a member of the Co-operatives Councils’ Innovation Network (CCIN) (opens in new tab). The CCIN is working to define a new model for local government, built on civic leadership. Member councils work in partnership with local people to shape and strengthen communities, with a view to replacing traditional models of top-down governance and service delivery with local leadership and genuine co-operation.

Co-operative Commission 

The building blocks of cooperation in Greater Manchester are strong, with more than 160,000 people in Greater Manchester already members of a co-operative. Co-operatives collectively contribute £73 million to the local economy. The co-ops include credit unions providing financial services to communities, ten housing co-operatives, and retail, which is the largest sector and includes a number of organisations that are reporting significant increases in turnover. Co-operatives are also starting to emerge in key growth areas such as digital and green technology.

In July 2018, the Combined Authority set up a Greater Manchester Co-operative Commission to ensure that the city-region stays at the forefront of co-operative development. The Commission sat as an independent panel, chaired by Cllr Allen Brett and vice-chaired by Cllr Angelika Stogia, the GMCA Portfolio Lead and Deputy Portfolio Lead respectively for Community, Voluntary and Co-operatives. They were joined by nine independent Commissioners.

The Commission examined how the sector can support the delivery of the Greater Manchester Strategy, exploring four ‘opportunities’ for co-operative business and working, housing, digital economy, transport and co-operative business development

The Commission’s report, A Co-operative Greater Manchester (PDF, opens in new tab), sets out a number of recommendations to support the development of the co-operative sector in Greater Manchester and make the most of the social, environmental and economic benefits co-operatives bring.

These include designating Greater Manchester as a Co-operative Zone with a dedicated resource to offer business advice and support for both existing co-operatives and those who wish to start or convert to a co-operative approach.

Other recommendations include:

  • Partners from across all sectors in Greater Manchester should come together to enable an increase in community-led, placed based approaches to co-operation, community ownership and economic development
  • Greater Manchester should lead on developing a city-region version of pioneering work in Europe, drawing together ‘freelancers’ and people in precarious employment into a powerful and functional economic unit.
  • Greater Manchester should set up a Greater Manchester Community Housing Hub to address a gap in the housing market and enable the establishment of co-operative and community-led housing projects
  • Greater Manchester should carry out a place-based pilot programme for the development of community-owned ‘total transport’ business models / community transport to link up with shared modes and mainstream network as part of the ongoing work around bus reform

More information on the ongoing work of the Commission can be found on their independent website (opens in new tab).

Read the report: a Co-operative Greater Manchester (PDF)

Greater Manchester Social Enterprise Advisory Group

Further information about the membership and work of the Social Enterprise Advisory Group can be found on the Economy pages of our website.

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