Pathway 3: For businesses looking to convert to co‑operative or community ownership

Are you a small family run business with up to 15 employees considering your succession plans, for example, due to retirement?

Our expert advice will quickly help you to understand the options for direct employee ownership and the benefits this brings.

What support is available?

Successful applicants will be offered a fantastic, bespoke package of up to 12 days support including some or all of the following:

Up to eight days direct one‐to‐one support with a co‐operative development adviser

Up to eight days direct one-to-one support is on offer. The Hive has a network of expert co-operative development advisers who are contracted to deliver direct one-to-one advice based on the needs identified in a group or co-operative's application. The one-to-one support involves some face-to-face time, but contact will also be via phone/video calls or email. We do not intend that it will all be face-to-face.

Ways one-to-one support can help

  • An initial diagnostic review working with the existing owners to assess the viability of a co-operative employee ownership option
  • Clarification of the owner’s withdrawal expectations and the most suitable model of co-operative employee ownership for the business.
  • A financial assessment to understand the potential buy-out timescale.
  • Advice and support around how funds can be raised for the buyout.
  • An implementation plan leading to incorporation as a co-op.
  • Where more specific expertise is required, we will sign-post clients to industry technical and legal expertise.


  • New registrations / incorporations.
  • New members (employees).
*These are indicative outputs and will vary with each group. The exact outputs will be agreed with you if your application for support is successful.

Skills training delivered in‐house

One in‐house training session is on offer, to be delivered to your board or management committee. This will be determined by the support needs identified in your application as well as further dialogue with The Hive team.

The focus of the training session will be flexible but is likely to address areas relating to governance (new director / board training, how to manage conflict), membership or understanding your co-op's finances.

Peer mentoring from an experienced co-operative

Up to three days mentoring is on offer where a group or co-operative is matched with another, more established and experienced co‐operative. The content of support is agreed between you and your peer mentor.

The mentoring will likely take place in a range of ways, from face‑to‑face meetings (one-to-one or group), phone/video calls or email. Mentor co-operatives need to be a Co-operatives UK member.

Who can apply?

We welcome strong applications from all sectors and from all regions of the UK. Below outlines specific criteria and objectives that we are looking to achieve and that will make your application for support even stronger.

Essential criteria

Your co-operative is or will be based in the UK.

Your co-operative is or will be a trading and sustainable business.

  • You are already or you aspire to be a business with a clear trading model and you aim to sustain or grow jobs or members.
  • You are already or aim to generate a surplus which will be distributed among members, reinvested in the business or will benefit your local community e.g. a community fund or improved services.
  • You will not be wholly dependent on charitable donations or grants.
  • Please also read the should my business be a co-operative guidance.

Additional criteria

Co‑operatives from key sectors

The Hive welcomes strong applications from all sectors. However, we are particularly interested in applications from the following:

  • Creating fairer working conditions for freelance or casual workers, particularly in the ‘gig’ economy where work can be precarious.
  • Creating more collaborative digital and tech ownership models e.g. platform co‐ops (see also the UnFound programme)
  • Delivering improved health and social care provision.

Co‑operatives offering something new

  • Your co-operative offers, or aspires to offer, something new. You may be filling a gap in the market or creating alternative and more democratic solutions to specific issues or challenges. Your model has the potential for scaling-up or being replicated.
  • Examples might include providing access to better quality services which benefit local community that might not otherwise exist, delivering affordable quality community-owned housing or innovative community-owned renewable energy projects.

Co‑operatives from key regions/nations and demographics

The Hive welcomes strong applications from across the UK. However, we are particularly interested in applications from the following regions:

  • Lincolnshire and East of England
  • Midlands
  • North East​
  • Northern Ireland
  • Scotland
  • Wales

We are also interested in supporting co-ops which serve or benefit under-represented communities such as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities or young people.

The Hive is open to applications all year round with applications reviewed at monthly panel assessment meetings. We aim to notify applicants of the outcome within two weeks of a monthly panel meeting, which means that the maximum amount of time an applicant will have to wait for a decision following submission is eight weeks. 

How to apply?

Are you ready to apply to The Hive? If you've read through the 'Who can apply' information and you think your group or co-operative is eligible, you should read through our application guidance before starting your application.

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Updated: 09/04/2019