Press release

The Hive £1m business support programme launches

New report highlights demand for the co-operative option among business owners, employees and customers

First programme of its kind will help new and existing co-operatives, social enterprises and community businesses

Co-operatives UK and The Co-operative Bank  today (29 February, 2016) announce the launch of The Hive, a new business support programme for people wanting to start or grow co-operative or community enterprises, using a mix of online resources, training and advice. The programme is designed to enhance the development and growth of co-operative and community enterprises, a sector that is currently worth £37bn to the UK economy.

Over the next three years, The Hive, the first co-operative development programme of its kind in the UK and powered by £1million funding from The Bank, will support the development of the existing 7,000 independent co-operative businesses across the UK alongside helping new co-operatives and community businesses starting up.

"We have a combination of public support for co-ops, a dynamic sector and now an innovative business support programme, which can help boost an important part of the economy." Niall Booker, Chief Executive, The Co-operative Bank

The launch comes as a new report – The Co-operative Option – highlights evidence of people’s discontentment with the amount of control they have over the economy, their workplaces and their local communities. And it finds that people see co-operatives as an answer, whether as a way to have more influence over large businesses or as a way to save local services in their community.

The Co-operative Option report found that of those who expressed an opinion:

  • Almost two thirds of people (59 per cent) feel they have no control over the economy and 62 per cent said the same for the big businesses in Great Britain
  • Two thirds of people would like their library or leisure centre (69 per cent) or family’s elderly care provider (66 per cent) to be a co-operative, and 68 per cent of people say the same for their supermarket and also for their healthcare provider
  • Whereas almost two thirds (62 per cent) of people see co-operative businesses as fair, only one in ten (11 per cent) say the same of PLCs
  • 68 per cent of people in work do not feel that their workplace is something they can influence, a 10 per cent increase since last year
  • 72 per cent of people have, or like the idea of, clubbing together with other people to save a local service or asset, particularly historical buildings, public parks, and local shops and pubs

Ed Mayo, General Secretary at Co-operatives UK, said: “The Hive is a new business support programme designed for people wanting to start or grow co-operatively run organisations. It will provide mix of online resources, training, advice and peer mentoring to organisations and start-ups across a range of sectors, from renewables to retail, sports to social care.

"Our research shows that there is increasing disillusionment at the lack of control people have over the economy, their local area and their workplaces. However, it highlights how people also see co-operatives as an alternative way to have some influence over everything from what happens at their local leisure centre to the content of their preferred TV channel."

Niall Booker, Chief Executive at The Co-operative Bank, said: "The Hive is a unique programme that can help guide entrepreneurs through the process of starting a co-operatively run business, assist those wanting to convert to a co-operative, and help existing co-ops grow. We have a combination of public support for co-ops, a dynamic sector and now an innovative business support programme, which can help boost an important part of the economy.

"Last year we underpinned our commitment to supporting co-operatives in the UK with the launch of our extended Ethical Policy. This partnership brings our commitment to life by providing funding over the next three years to launch and promote ‘The Hive’ in order to provide resources and expertise to help existing and new co-operatives grow and flourish."

The Hive offers comprehensive online business advice and guidance, alongside one-to-one support, peer mentoring and group training sessions, covering key issues such as registration, membership development, and co-operative finance. An online co-operative community, launching in April will unite member-owned businesses across the country, creating networking and business development opportunities.

For more information visit The Hive website.