Co-operatives take a different approach to business, and the launch of a new peer mentoring programme for co-operatives shows how this approach can benefit new and existing co-ops.
As part of The Hive, a business support programme run by Co-operatives UK in partnership with the Co-operative Bank, co-operatively run organisations will be able to access advice and support from other co-operatives that have been there and done it through a new peer mentoring scheme.
Existing and new co-ops can benefit from mentoring by a peer through the programme, which will match co-ops looking to learn about specific areas with others that have experience in that area. With 28 peer mentors, covering sectors as diverse as digital communications, retail and housing, the scheme offers three to four days of support from a mentor for a nominal cost.
The model follows that of an energy mentoring scheme run by Co-operatives UK last year, which used the same approach to provide peer support to community energy organisations, winning the innovation award from Community Energy England.
Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said:
“The peer to peer movement is transforming the way much is done in business. Co-operatives, not surprisingly, are at the forefront of this. When it comes to business advice, we can so often benefit from other businesses which have been there and done it.
“Conventional businesses might not take the time to provide to support to other businesses – and potential rivals! – but collaboration with other co-ops is at the heart of what it is to be a co-op, and so peer mentoring is a natural approach to business support for co-operatives.”
In addition to peer mentoring, The Hive will also be providing from between two and seven days of advice on specific areas from specialist advisers, again at a nominal cost. The Hive has over 30 providers who can offer support on key business areas for co-ops, whether around the start-up process, converting an existing organisation to a community or employee owned business or identifying areas for strategic development for existing co-ops.
"Suma Wholefoods has been trading for over 40 years and we are considered an authority on working practices and governance structures for other worker co-ops. We regularly provide informal support to co-ops and are delighted to join The Hive Peer Mentoring programme and pass on our experience in a more structured and formalised way." Suma Wholefoods, one of the 28 peer mentors in the new scheme.