eoa Celebrates Third ‘Ownership Hub’ Pilot Launch in West Midlands 

In partnership with the eoa, the West Midlands Combined Authority has launched its Ownership Hub project to grow employee and worker ownership in the region’s arts and creative sectors. 

(L-R) Jonny Graney, founder of Artefact Stirchley; Natalie White, Portfolio Manager of Power to Change; Mareen Aktar and Stephen Hawkes, from The Developer Society; Hayley Pepler, Head of Culture at the West Midlands Combined Authority; James de le Vingne, Chief Executive of the eoa; Rose Marley, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK; Jo Ind, Manager of the West Midlands Ownership Hub (credit: Edward Moss Photography)

This week, the eoa attended the launch of the West Midlands Combined Authority Ownership Hub with its national and regional project partners invested in growing more employee and worker ownership in the UK. 

The inspiring event, which kicked off the project in spectacular style at Fazeley Studios, saw Richard Parker, the new Mayor of the West Midlands, set out his vision for the region's creative and cultural sectors. 

He pledged to help maximise these sector’s potential to improve people’s quality of life and boost economic growth, supported by delivering on his manifesto pledge to grow the number of worker co-operatives and employee owned businesses in the region. 

Benefiting From a Stake and a Say 

West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is the third regional pilot in the Ownership Hub, a partnership project between the eoa and Co-operatives UK.  

With support from Power to Change, it aims to grow the number of businesses and individuals that benefit from having a stake and a say in the business in which the work. 

Both business models drive increased performance including being 8-12% more productive, while supporting better livelihood outcomes and economic security. 

Our Chief Executive, James de le Vingne, attended the event as a panellist alongside Rose Marley, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, Dr Vishalaskhi Roy, assistant professor in the creative industries at Warwick University and Dr Karen Wood, founder of Dance Co-operative Birmingham. 

“We’re delighted to see West Midlands Combined Authority take this innovative step to grow and sustain employee and worked owned businesses in the region – businesses that will be rooted in the region for the longer term, driving growth and greater benefits for people, planet and place,” says James. 

A Growing Pool of Pilot Areas 

The West Midlands is the third Pilot area, following in the footsteps of South Yorkshire Combined Authority and Greater London Authority. Each have a commitment to growing employee and worker ownership in their mayoral manifestos. 

The event also featured contributions from eoa Members David Sproxton, co-founder of Aardman Animations, and Jeremy Gadd from J Gadd Associates. 

Aardman became employee owned in 2018, with a focus on keeping its creative IP, employees and investment rooted in the Bristol region for the longer term. 

J Gadd Associates, meanwhile, provide commercial, cultural, and engagement services to the EO sector, and have supported many businesses to deliver Great EO.   

“After such a spectacular launch, we look forward to seeing how the focus on growing opportunities for individuals and sustainable business models in the arts and creative sector delivers impacts for the region, and the learning we can take from this to influence future national, regional and local activity to grow more employee ownership,” adds James. 

Over the next two years, the WMCA will invest £15 million to support the ambition and capacity of the sectors – which were among the hardest hit by successive Covid-19 lockdowns. 

“We know that our region’s creative industries are full of talented creatives, many of whom work for the benefit of their communities and localities,” says West Midlands Mayor, Richard Parker. 

“But we also know that our world-class creativity is too often built upon the commitment and dedication of freelancers working in a volatile market.  

“Our creative industries cannot be sustained by such fragile workforces, and it’s very important that we put pay and good working conditions right at the top of our agenda across the sector.  

“Co-ops and employee-ownership are one way of addressing some of these challenges. And the good news is that we know that these business models are very successful – more productive, resilient and secure. I’m delighted that there has been such significant interest already.  

“I hope that in time we will be able to expand the sectors that the Hub supports. But for tonight – let’s celebrate our creative sector as rich ground for co-operative and employee-owned forms of working to emerge.” 

Rose Marley, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, says: "Ownership and control are the backbone for creativity, but they're increasingly rare commodities for people in the creative and cultural sectors.  

“Whether through AI, music sharing, or exploitation by global tech, our creative and cultural communities are facing new challenges in industry 4.0. 

"Co-operatives are a way for people to guarantee ownership and control of their creativity or cultural communities.  

“We're thrilled to be part of the West Midlands Ownership Hub and excited to see the positive impact we can have, together, by creating more worker co-ops and employee-owned business. It's how we can empower people to free up their creativity and control their own future." 

Discover More 

Click or tap here to find out more about the West Midlands Community Ownership Hub and other much-needed support the WMCA is providing to arts, culture and heritage across the region. 

If you’re a national, regional, or local policy maker or business support lead interested in the work of the Ownership Hub, send us an email. We’d love to here from you! 

Share your insights and good news stories directly to our thriving community in the eo Hub. If you’re not already signed up, create a profile today and join thousands of others in our exclusive online member area. 

For anything related to stories, please email Dominic

For media enquires, contact Keely

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