20 August 2020
5 min read
Our heritage is founded in the roots of the co-operative movement, and our values and ethics drive us to continue to support co-operatives, and co-operative groups. We do this by offering free banking for co-operatives, charities and social enterprises through our Community Directplus Account, and our funding of The Hive, a business support programme for co-operatives delivered by Co-operatives UK.
The Hive is a UK-wide cross-sectoral programme of support for co-ops and community businesses developed in partnership with Co-operatives UK, which aims to enhance the development and growth of co-operative and community enterprises. So far, our support of The Hive has helped around 600 co-operatives and groups with expert business advice, workshops, training and mentoring.
The programme helps those who are looking to set-up a co-operative, or those wanting to grow their existing co-operative with up to 12 days’ worth of bespoke support, training and mentoring.
We caught up with some co-operatives to find out how the support they received from The Hive is helping them to grow.
The Meteor is an independent media outlet. It has provided news, features and commentary to the people of Manchester since 2016. They became a co‑op in July 2019 to “go to the next level" says director Conrad Bower. “We want to make The Meteor bigger, better and more influential. And we already have! It was our story that started to build pressure to change council policy.”
The Meteor published an article about the lack of affordable housing in Manchester city centre. Soon after, the story featured in local and national press and led to change from Manchester City Council.
Whilst the Meteor team knew how to handle council paperwork, they knew little about how to set themselves up as a co‑op – which is why they applied to The Hive. As a result, they received mentoring from The Bristol Cable, who went to Manchester to deliver three half‑day workshops.
“Their help and advice was excellent,” Conrad explains. “They took us through their route to becoming a co‑op and gave us advice on what to avoid, how to grow our membership and create member engagement.”
The Meteor also received help to set‑up as a co‑operative. As a team of six writers, they wanted to open up membership to the wider community – the readers of its website. Their plan? To give members a greater say in the news stories the journalists cover.
October Books has been a co‑op since 1981, selling ethical cleaning products, vegetables and vegan food, as well as books. It provides a fulfilling working environment for Clare, who is a worker-owner:
“A co-operative way of working is important for us. If we were a regular bookshop there wouldn’t be so many minds with collective wisdom. The more people you have involved the more resilient an idea will be.”
As well as being a shop, they offer space for local groups and organisations to meet, which puts October Books at the heart of their community.
The Hive gave October Books access to emergency support during lockdown, to understand their options when crisis hit. As a result, they adapted to selling products online and supported staff and the wider community at a difficult time.
“We’re so grateful for The Hive’s support. Being prepared and on the front foot has helped us the most. It’s made us proactive rather than reactive – and we’ve remained in control.”
InFact Digital Co-op is an agency that specialises in creating apps, websites and digital tools for charities, non-profits and businesses. They began as a collective of freelancers after meeting through London’s tech co-op community.
"Co-op working is the future. More and more companies are going to move over to that model, or a form of it,"says Lucy, a founding member of InFact Digital Co-op.
"Traditional hierarchy is going out of fashion. We didn't consider setting up any other way. We wanted equality, a lack of hierarchy and to be in control of our own destinies."
InFact Digital received support from The Hive to set up as a co-operative business. They had access to an experienced business adviser who broke the process down for them. Being salaried employees gives a greater sense of security – as well as being owners of their own business.
They generate business with the help and support of their networks. More than two years since starting, and a year since being a co-op, they’ve reached a place of business stability. They're now able to focus more on the future.
"We’re grateful that The Hive’s help got us here. It enabled us to have a sense of structure. It's given us a pathway to follow and a mentor we could talk to about our worries – and find answers to those worries. It gave us the belief we could do it. And we did!"
Access to an interpreter for deaf people within the NHS should be the norm, but this is not always the case. Signalise, a platform co-op, provides translation for deaf people getting NHS treatment in Liverpool and the Wirral access.
Jen Smith, co-founder of Signalise, says:
"We know of a deaf man who was in hospital for 21 days without any interpreting support. Global agencies often provide poor sign language services in favour of profit".
Signalise is a collective of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters. They are pioneering a new approach to interpretation services in the healthcare sector. The platform will continue to develop their offer, focusing on giving deaf people more choice and empowerment.
Signalise's membership comprises deaf people and interpreters. They hope hope that healthcare providers will join in the future. The Hive helped Signalise to understand their options when becoming a co-op. Support included financial advice and mentoring from another social care platform co-op.
Jen is optimistic about what the future holds. "We’re fortunate to be one of the first platform co-ops in the country. It’s a privilege to be part of this movement and to be at the forefront of these changes. To have deaf people, who aren’t usually included, at the start of this journey, is very exciting!"
If you’d like to know more about starting your own co-op, or if you’d like more information about how The Hive could help your co-operative grow, visit the Co-operatives UK website.
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