Barefoot Co-op and Community Business Development training

Barefoot Co-op Community Business Development training

The sector needs more advisors

At Co-op Culture, we are serious about growing the co-operative and community business sector.  We have an ageing population of skilled advisors, and an increase in desire, commitment and opportunities to grow the co-operative and community business sector. To make the most of this potential, we as a movement need to develop more suitably skilled and experienced advisors and support providers.  We recognise that to grow the sector we need to grow the pool of practitioners who can provide the right sort of advice and support to people wanting to start or expand co-ops and community businesses.

Barefoot Co-operative and Community Business Development Training programme is a course designed to provide practitioners with the knowledge, skills, experience and confidence to provide effective support to co-ops and community businesses.

Barefoot practitioners

We know that there are plenty of people who have developed skills and experience starting, managing and growing their own co-ops and community businesses who would like to help others.  We call them “Barefoot practitioners” [Barefoot – adj. Self taught through experience, but lacking formal qualifications, for example barefoot lawyer, barefoot doctor, barefoot accountant.]

Barefoot Co-operative and Community Business Development Training

In 2017/8 using a combination of our own resources and funding from the Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund, we carried out an action research programme which established significant interest among the worker co-op community in providing support to new-start groups and existing co-ops.  This included 2 day-long workshops covering the scope and role of co-op development.

During 2020, using funding from Network for Social Change, Barrow Cadbury Trust and Power To Change we have been delivering the first pilot programme of training.  21 participants from a range of different co-operatives and community businesses have been joining online face-to-face tutor led sessions, carrying out preparation and self directed learning tasks, practicing their learning with case study client groups, meeting outside of sessions and participating in an online forum.

The Barefoot training programme has been designed for

  • Members/staff of existing co-operative and community businesses already delivering or aspiring to deliver support to others.
  • Staff at infrastructure bodies, who are either delivering or commissioning support (as part of their CPD).
  • Those seeking to create a livelihood in the exciting co-operative and community business support sector.
  • New members/staff of co-operative development bodies (CDBs)

Course content outline:

  1. Induction
  2. Introduction to Co-operative and Communtiy Business Development
  3. Legal structures and governance
  4. Working effectively with groups
  5. Marketing
  6. Financial planning
  7. Business planning
  8. Wrap up

As part of this pilot we are working with the Co-op College to provide a qualification which recognises the skills and knowledge gained during the training.

Future delivery

We are already receiving interest from people who would like to take part in future runs of the programme.

Including qualification costs associated with the qualification, the delivery cost is in the region of £2,000 per learner.

We are keen to hear from sponsors, including co-operative organisations and community enterprises who would like to “pay it forward” to help grow the co-operative movement of the future.

In particular we would like to address the lack of diversity in the co-op and community business sector by training up people from BAME communities so they have the skills to promote and support the development of locally owned, democratic, stakeholder controlled enterprises.