THE financial crash in 2008 that led to the long recession that we’re still coming to terms with today, was more than a crash of banks. It shook all of our confidence in the way we do business in this country.

Since then many have been looking for a different way of doing things.

Rather than putting all our faith in big banks or big business, individuals and groups are increasingly pulling together and working as co-operatives and social enterprises for a variety of projects.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a number in the last few months.

Two of the most recent were very different in their activity but similar in their culture.

Argus readers will be familiar with the iconic Lysaght’s Institute, first opened in 1928 but in recent years was left derelict. But a new lease of life has been secured and the institute has reopened as a social enterprise, a partnership between Linc Cymru and the local community.

The facilities there are very impressive and it is once again an asset to the city of Newport.

As well has having conference and IT facilities, the revamped institute offers employment and training opportunities.

Social enterprises and cooperative models have also been invaluable in the business sector in Gwent.

I recently visited a packaging factory in Ebbw Vale that once faced closure.

The parent company wanted to shut its doors and lay off staff, and it was on the verge of becoming another sad story in Welsh manufacturing.

But workers at the factory knew the business had the potential to succeed.

Determined, they pulled together and with support from the Wales Co-operative Centre, they organised a workers’ buy-out and now the company is in their own hands.

On both visits I left feeling inspired and uplifted by what local people can achieve in the face of the economic challenge we face.

They have demonstrated that, with the right support, small groups of determined people can achieve great things.

There’s an alternative to being entirely at the mercy of financial markets and big banks.

As we look to rebalance our economy, to rebuild our manufacturing base and revive local communities, the social enterprise sector provides exciting opportunities.

Individuals can benefit from social enterprises and co-operatives too.

As many succumb to pay-day lenders and their high interest rates, local credit unions provide a fair source of saving and borrowin