Gloucestershire Gateway Trust – a groundbreaking partnership between a retailer and local communities – with implications for the way cooperative retailers work with communities.  

Recently I went on a study visit to the Gloucestershire Gateway Trust.  

The story behind Gloucestershire Gateway Trust is that Gloucester Services, a motorway service station on the M5, gifts a percentage of its profits to the Trust.  The Trust then uses the profits to fund community activity.  

What I liked about this model was that there is a long-term relationship between an ethical food retailer and a community organisation.  This gives more certainty to both parties and makes it easier to measure the impact of how the funding is used.  

Gloucestershire Gateway Trust is, as the name suggests, a gateway.  It’s not an organisation that exists for its own sake. It operates as a gateway between a larger commercial organisation and smaller community groups, which is often a difficult relationship to manage due to different working cultures.  Gateway is an appropriate name for the Trust – it’s not a gatekeeper or a “middle man”.

In the cooperative movement there are many examples of retail cooperatives sharing profits with community groups.  It’s one of the things that makes us cooperative. But sometimes I worry that the relationships between the cooperatives and the community groups are short-term, one-off, and unmeasurable.  

Maybe the Gloucestershire Gateway Trust model is replicable within the cooperative movement?  Retail coops could distribute a share of their profits, agreed annually by cooperative members, through sub-regional or city-wide gateway trusts?  The Trusts would then help local community projects to demonstrate the impact they were having?

Thanks to the Active Wellbeing Society and Gloucestershire Gateway Trust for organising the study visit.

Phil Beardmore is a director of Localise West Midlands.