Find out how the Business Support for Co‑ops programme helped a consultant partnership convert to a co‑operative to align their structure with their social justice ethos.
A co‑op of freelance consultants offering a range of expertise from governance to communications, the PG Collective (previously Practical Governance that rebranded in 2023 to better reflect their structure and offer) supports organisations that are working to bring about social change.
“We don’t see ourselves as radical people out there changing systems, but we want to stand behind the radical people who are doing that,” says PG Collective member Christel Hawkins.
“We want to help them so they can focus their energy on what they do well – coming up with radical, system‑changing ideas. Then we stand behind them and help them deliver their ideas.”
Among their clients is a group of three organisations that are part of a local eco‑system working together to acquire ownership of historic buildings in a neighbourhood and renovate them. Their aim is to ensure the spaces are owned and used by the community to offer long‑term affordable homes, work and leisure for local people.
“We’re providing a number of different services,” Christel explained. “Two of my colleagues are supporting with their communications and building their website – to show how the three organisations are working together as one.
“I’m helping them with their governance, so they can organise in a way that is compliant with the law and reflective with their idea of ‘commoning,’” (collaborating to achieve the wellbeing of individuals and communities).
Operating since 2016, the PG Collective registered as co-op in June 2023 after seeking support from Co‑operatives UK’s Business Support for Co‑ops programme, delivered in partnership with The Co‑operative Bank.
“We’ve adopted co‑op principles and sociocracy to ensure everyone can take part in decision making.
“We believe that traditional hierarchies are not conducive to changing systems and we now have a structure that enables us to live our values of equity, equality and social justice.”
The Business Support for Co‑ops programme awarded Christel and her colleagues advice from Aaron Hirtenstein of co-operative development agency Principle Six.
As part of his support, Aaron guided the team through the different legal forms the organisation could take, as well as the legal practicalities around decision‑making processes.
“We didn’t have to reinvent the wheel because we had someone guiding us who’s been through that journey. There were lots of things we didn’t realise about adopting a co‑operative legal form and it was really useful being taken through that.
“Aaron was also a sounding board and guided us through all the necessary steps. He worked with the whole team, asking important questions like ‘What do we want to keep doing?’ and ‘What do we want to change?’ This enabled us to have a clearer idea of how to move forward.”
With seven core members, the PG Collective co‑op are now planning to grow in a way that fits with their ethos.
“We’re developing a pathway for bringing on new members from amongst our associates, so they are more than consultants working for us.” Christel explained.
“We’re working towards creating a community of shared challenges and learning – and a way of interacting with our wider network in a way that brings mutual benefit.”