Discover how we’ve enabled an ambitious co-op to begin building the foundations for a strong community share offer that aims to boost Sheffield’s co-operative economy.
Regather is a co-operative working to improve food for Sheffield and create a sustainable food system. The co-op runs an organic farm and works with other local growers and independent businesses to provide ‘Regather Box’ deliveries of quality food.
It also manages space and facilities at Regather Works, a cultural centre based in the Sharrow area of Sheffield. Regather’s aims are to enable local people to live, work and play co-operatively and develop a mutual local economy.
Originally established as a co-operative consortium of freelancers and sole traders, Regather has evolved over the years. In 2018, the organisation changed its rules to become a community benefit society.
“We realised that how we govern ourselves as an organisation wasn’t catching up with that rule change. So we contracted Co-operatives UK to carry out a board and governance review for us,” explains Regather member Gareth Roberts.
Co-operatives UK’s Head of Co-operative Advice, Emma Laycock, facilitated a series of meetings with the Regather team. “She posed a number of questions that prompted responses and reflections on aspects of our governance. It allowed us to identify our strengths and weaknesses,” says Gareth.
“We were able to unlearn the way were doing things and establish where we want to be. Our board is principally made up of paid staff. Our aim is to develop a community share offer proposition, which would benefit from having a board that is different from the senior management team and paid staff.”
“We want to separate the two and have a clear distinction between their responsibilities. We want to make the role of being a director more attractive, more manageable – and one that would appeal to customers or members of the local community interested in sustainable food systems.”
As part of the governance review, Co-operatives UK supported one of the Regather team with membership development, to enable the co-op to put the building blocks in place to create a strong investment proposition for their community share offer.
“We are launching a membership offer in the early stages of 2022. Thanks to Co-operatives UK’s support, we’ve now got a clearer sense of why members are important to the next stages of our development and how we engage them.
Regather has been a member of Co-operatives UK since it was formed. “Co-operatives UK has been there whenever we’ve needed it – and we’ve always got the support and specialist knowledge we need,” says Gareth.
“When it comes to governance and co-op specific advice, we don’t go anywhere else except Co-operatives UK. When we first set up, it would have been a lot harder, a lot slower and we’d have made a lot more mistakes had it not been for their advice.
“Emma’s board and governance review was excellent. She provided expertise, experience and specialist knowledge to facilitate the team through a process of asking questions, eliciting responses and learning from that process. It will enable us to get our co-op where we want it to be. We are on a journey and Co-operatives UK is on that journey with us, thank goodness!”