Tips to help a successful Hive application

We caught up with Petra Morris, who leads on the delivery of The Hive – our support programme delivered by Co‑operatives UK in partnership with the Co‑operative Bank.

Petra is Co‑operative Development Manager at Co‑operatives UK. When she is not assessing Hive applications, Petra advises prospective applicants and travels around the country delivering the free ‘Is a co‑op right for you?’ taster sessions.

We asked Petra a few questions about the application process – what advice she has for putting in a good application, and some of the common questions that have arisen during the process.


You read all the Hive applications and are involved in the assessment. How does it feel to have this opportunity?

I’m always excited when a new application comes in, you never know what to expect applications have been very diverse – from across the UK and all sectors.

It’s a great opportunity to be helping new groups start their journey, as well as helping existing co‑ops tackle issues so that they can continue to grow and develop.

With so many applications are there things which stand out for you, what tips do you have for applicants?

The first thing applicants should understand is – we don’t know who you are, so don’t assume anything! Groups can be very passionate about their ideas and we want to share that passion, so make it easy for us.

That much‑used phrase ‘the elevator pitch’ is actually a good discipline for application forms – explain clearly in a couple of sentences what you are trying to achieve, what difference it will make, and why it’s needed, then that’s half the battle won.

When there’s lots of applications to read through it makes all the difference to quickly understand what you are trying to achieve. So try and avoid simply copying and pasting from your website.

Take a look at our guidance and what we are looking for and make every effort to answer the questions.

Are you only looking to support new and innovative ideas?

Of course! But let’s be honest, there are very few ideas that are truly unique and original and not been done before – it’s possible, but unlikely. However, an idea might be innovative for your community. We expect groups and co‑ops applying to have already taken some time to test out their idea – demonstrate to us that thought has been put into the development of the idea and evidence has been gathered to prove there is a need and support for it.

This doesn’t mean expensive consultants are needed, or even feasibility studies. Use your Facebook page, run simple surveys with your audience. If you are setting up a retail business, have a pop up store, market stall – show that people are prepared to purchase your goods. If you are taking on a community building / asset transfer, knock on doors of local people, hold coffee mornings, and collect pledges, signatures. It doesn’t need to be original but hopefully you are offering something new, and can demonstrate that you are offering a better alternative, filling a gap in the market and meeting an identified need.

You are happy to receive applications from all sectors and all parts of the UK. Are there any restrictions?

We will support strong applications but do have a focus on some key sectors and markets as our research and strategy indicates there are opportunities to provide better more democratic alternatives and where we see a gap in the market. These include co‑operatives:

  • 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
  • Delivering improved health and social care provision.

We’ve put together some clear guidance. There are also some regions of the UK where we would like to see more co‑ops.

Do you accept applications from an individual?

A co‑op by definition needs to be more than one person. Co‑ops are businesses that are democratically owned by their members, rewarding the many not just the few, so even if you initially have the idea, you should quickly surround yourself with a group of people who share your passion, have the skills and experience to help you drive this through.

Even with the best will in the world it’s hard to maintain that level of enthusiasm, energy and drive on your own. At the end of the day if you are the sort of person who wants to go it alone, doesn’t wish to share, wants to be in the driving seat and are looking at personal gain, then a co‑op might not be for you. You can also find out more by attending one of our free ‘Is a co‑op right for you?’ sessions.

Do you support good causes or charities with philanthropic aims?  

Probably not if the group is wholly dependent on grants and fundraising. The Hive supports co‑ops that have a trading model and aim to be sustainable and make a surplus – it’s what they do with this and how they distribute this to their members that make them different.

Co‑ops are democratically owned by their members and exist to benefit those members. Co‑ops meet a set of values and principles and often work to be ethical businesses and will have social values.

That can be as simple as setting up a worker owned co‑op which aims to provide fairer and better working conditions for its workers and equally distributes profits. A ‘community benefit society’ is a type co‑op that benefits the wider community ‘saving’ local assets and services e.g. community hub, your local leisure centre, cinema etc. You might be providing essential services which benefit the local community but there should be a trading model at its heart e.g. renting out meeting space, shared workspace, café, commissioned services around wellbeing etc.

If a group is successful with their application, what support can they expect? Is there any funding?

Successful groups can receive a bespoke package of support involving up 12 days working with one of our approved and experienced support providers, a mentor co‑op and/or a skills training practitioner. There is no funding but the value of this advice and support can be over £4,000. If you are already working with one of our approved support providers, you can indicate this in your application and we will make every effort to match you with that provider.

If a group has previously applied to The Hive and received support can they apply again and also if they were unsuccessful with their application?

Yes, we welcome new applications from all groups – The Hive has been supporting groups since 2016 so we may have helped you in the past to set up initially and you are now looking to grow your co‑op. You can also re‑apply at any time if your application was unsuccessful.

Thanks Petra, any final tips?

Yes read the guidance and check the eligibility criteria – we’ve provided lots of help with your application and pointers so take time to read it! And if you’re still unsure, come along to one of my free ‘Is a co‑op right for you?’ sessions.


Find out more about applying to The Hive – and make sure to read the application guidance first! 

Written by Leila O'Sullivan
Updated: 24/04/2019