Press release

The Hive helps new wave of entrepreneurs tackle social issues – together

From cuts in social care funding to preventing business closures, 100 groups have been supported in starting and running co-ops that address some of the most pressing social problems, thanks to ‘The Hive’ a programme that provides them with expert advice, training and resources.

Designed to help people start and grow co-operatively run organisations, The Hive is a unique business support programme led by Co-operatives UK in partnership with The Co-operative Bank. Since its launch a year ago, it has supported over 100 co-operative organisations with a further 150 in the pipeline for next year.

"We are seeing a new wave of inspiring organisations that are owned and run by local people." Ed Mayo

Examples of organisations which have benefited from The Hive over the past twelve months, include:

  • In Doncaster, micro-providers of social care have formed a new co-op, Choices4Doncaster, in order to reduce their costs and offer a joined-up service that can compete with larger providers while also offering a responsive and personal service
  • In Bristol, the staff of a well-loved nursery, Harcourt Pre-school, are being supported in buying the business themselves and running it as a worker co-op after the owners decided to sell up, putting the service and jobs at risk
  • In Glasgow, a support service run for women by women, Tea in the Pot, is being assisted in becoming a co-op with a plan for commercial sustainability so that it can formalise its approach and offer its vital services in the long-term
  • In Leeds, a worker owned artisan bakery, the Leeds Bread Co-op, has been working with The Hive to put its expansion plans in place so it can extend the number of customers and grow the number of employees

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: “We are seeing more and more people deciding to just get on and do things themselves, rather than waiting for government or business to do it for them – but crucially, rather than going it alone they are forming co-ops and doing it together. We are seeing a new wave of inspiring organisations that are owned and run by local people.

“The Hive is the only programme of its kind that is helping people discover whether a co-op is right for them, supporting new co-op start-ups and advising existing ones it’s a fantastic opportunity, perfect for anyone with an idea they want to make happen.”

Zig, one of the co-owner of Leeds Bread Co-op, said: “I didn’t think I’d ever own my own business. There was so much support when we started out. It is eminently possible if you really are motivated. It’s hard work but it’s very rewarding.

“The one thing that blows me away is that there was nothing there to start with. It was a chance encounter and conversation. And so many years later you have generated, from absolutely nothing, livelihoods for 16 people, a product that we’re all proud of, and that didn’t exist in 2012.”

Martin Walker, a founder and director of Choices4Doncaster, said: “We wanted to establish a member organisation where a group of trusted providers could collaborate to provide personalised support and care. As a group, we stand more chance of being able to meet an individual's various care and support needs.”

“We will offer an alternative to more traditional forms of social support, one based around individual needs, preferences and interests. One size does not fit all and Choices4Doncaster, is able to be proactive, responsive and personalised.”

Matthew Carter, Products and Communications Director at The Co-operative Bank, said: “The Hive helps guide people through the process of starting a co-operatively run business, assists those looking to convert to a co-operative, and helps existing co-ops grow. We are proud to support the Hive and this innovative business support programme has already helped over 100 organisations since its launch, which has helped boost an important part of the economy.

“Supporting co-operative values and ethics in the UK is a key part of the Co-operative Bank’s Ethical Policy commitment. This partnership brings our commitment to life by providing funding over three years in order to provide resources and expertise to help existing and new co-operatives grow and flourish.”

To see how the Hive can help you visit