• Are you involved in running a co-operative or community business?

  • Could you apply the skills and experience you have developed to help other organisations?

  • Maybe you, or your organisation, are already delivering support to other co-operatives and community businesses. Would you like to do it better and even get paid?

  • Are you working for an organisation that supports co-operatives and community businesses?

  • Could this be the next step in your career?


Apply here  This is an open application to take part in a future Barefoot programme.  Please read the information below before starting your application

Since 2020, Co-op Culture has trained a total of 51 members of co-operative and community businesses to deliver specialist business development support, over three training programmes. These “barefoot practitioners” are already delivering support to new and existing co-operatives and community businesses and have already established new co-operative development bodies or joined existing support providers. New providers established by Barefoot alumni include People Support Co-op and 241 Co-operators Limited.

When is the next run of the Barefoot training programme?

The fourth run of Barefoot is now full.

We have kept applications open and we will run a fifth programme in 2023 if there is sufficient demand, so please apply if you are interested.

Who is it for?

The Barefoot programme has been designed for people who have prior experience gained through managing a co-operative or community business and want to support other similar organisations to start and grow.

We equip you with knowledge and skills, which combined with your relevant experience, should give you the confidence to provide quality support to co-ops and community businesses.

The course would also be suitable for staff of infrastructure bodies or existing co-operative development bodies as part of their continuous professional development.

Who it’s not for

  • If you want to start your own co-op or community business, this course is not for you and you are advised to seek support and resources from a Co-op Development Body, The Hive, Plunkett Foundation, Locality and Power To Change.
  • If you don’t have at least 2 years “lived experience” of management within a co-op or community business, this course is not for you. The course is designed for people who already have an understanding of the underpinning values of co-operatives and community businesses and can bring relevant experience.

What do we cover?

The course covers the following topics:

  • What is co-operative development?
    We explore the political, cultural and economic landscape around co-operative and community business development.
    Who is delivering what support to whom and how is it resourced?
  • What it means to become a co-operative and community business advisor:
    The different models of delivery. How advisors organise and get paid. Assessing your skills and devising a personal development plan. The next steps after the course.
  • Skills and strategies for successful working with new and existing co-operatives and community businesses.
  • Helping groups to define define their “Theory of Change” – their vision, mission and aims.
  • Helping groups to choose the right governance model and legal structure for their organisation.
  • Helping groups to define, refine and communicate their business models.
    From the back of an envelope to a full business plan.
  • Helping groups to properly research and define their products and services to create an effective marketing plan.
  • Helping groups to develop financial models around their development.
    Creating the key financial documents for any development – profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow
  • Supporting groups to finance their development.
    Covering grant, loan and shares-based finance and how to include them in financial projections.
  • Supporting groups to assess the financial health of their organisation.
    The key indicators of an organisation’s financial health – how to assess and address them.
  • Supporting groups around human relationships.
    How to ensure that the organisations has a thriving internal culture consistent with their vision and values.
    Dealing with conflict constructively.
  • Supporting groups to write a business plan

Optional units

In addition to the core programme we will offer one free optional workshop. These workshops will also open to the public:

  • Introduction to co-operative and community business finance.
    This is an introduction to the topic and is an essential option for those who are not already familiar with the basics of the financial management of their organisation.
  • Sociocracy in co-operatives and community businesses.
    An introduction to a model of governance and decision-making that is becoming increasingly popular in the sector.
  • Community finance.
    An introduction to the popular and growing method of financing co-operatives and community businesses by offering investment to their host communities.

How will the programme be delivered?

The mode of delivery is fortnightly on-line half-day workshops. That is a commitment to attend 14 half day sessions.  

In addition there will be pre-reading and preparatory work for each session amounting to another half day per session, occasionally more.

You will be encouraged to work together with other barefoot learners and there will be an on-line forum to facilitate this.

There will also be tutorial time built in to allow you to discuss your particular needs and aspirations.

Additional information

Many of the participants of the Barefoot programme have found it particularly useful to shadow existing development workers. We cannot guarantee to provide such opportunities, but we will provide introductions and signpost to opportunities, which it will be your responsibility to pursue.

How much does it cost?

Due to the support of our funders, we are able to offer subsidised places at less than the full cost of the course. In addition we have some fully subsidised places:

  • Solidarity price of £2,000 – this will allow us to offer even more subsidised places.
  • Full cost price of £1,000 – this is the only option for staff from infrastructure bodies or existing co-operative development bodies (unless they wish to pay the solidarity price of course).
  • £500 – we suggest that this is the standard price for those who  aren’t in the categories above.
  • £150 – for those for whom the standard price would be a barrier.  We ask organizations and individuals who can, to pay the standard, full cost or solidarity price. This allows us to provide this discounted price. 

If you would like to discuss how this might work for you, before applying, then send us an email and we’ll arrange a chat: barefoot@culture.coop

Apply here 

Our funders

We would not be in the great place we are today without the financial support support and advice of funders w3ho have contributed to the pilot and development costs.

Co-operatives UK

The Network for Social Change

Barrow Cadbury Trust

Power to Change Trust

Central England Co-operative

Our supporters

We are also grateful for the critical friendship of the following organisations, who have helped us evaluate our work to date and plan our next steps.

The Ubele Initiative

Stir to Action


Plunkett Foundation

241 Co-operators

Co-op Futures

The Co-operative College