Help is at hand – The Hive is here for all co-ops

The Hive is a business support programme for groups wanting to start or grow co-operative or community enterprises, run by Co-operatives UK in partnership with The Co-operative Bank. The Hive is helping to build better co-operative businesses across the UK by offering offer a unique mix of free online resources, business advice and training and an online community.

The Hive offers a range of bespoke business advice to new and existing co-operative businesses and community groups, including:
FREE ‘Is a co-op right for you?’ sessions for anyone interested in learning about co-ops

Direct one-to-one advice

Peer mentoring

If you want to start or grow a co-op, visit to see if The Hive can help you.

Capital for co-operatives

Money talks – and so do people.

The co-op model of business is one where the voices that matter are not those of distant investors, but members – the people who are up close and involved in the business. That makes a difference. But every business needs finance and capital, so how do co-ops cope with the trade-off between access to capital and ownership based on participation?

13-arnold-kuijpers-600x685The relationship, says Arnold Kuipers, Director of Rabobank in Europe, is ‘a tense one’. Arnold was the opening speaker at an outstanding roundtable that we organised this week in London, along with our sisters, Building Societies Association and Association for Financial Mutuals (which has just merged with the British Health Care Association, which is good news).

The experience of Rabobank itself ranges from member capital and guarantees at the outset to a point at which there was no need for external capital. More recently, it developed a model for member shares, as a minority of their capital base built on retained earnings – which, through the sweepstake of regulatory policy, is now sold to institutions outside.

The headline conclusion was that there is no avoiding the trade offs if you need capital. But there is a lot of room for manoeuvre in terms of designing the approach you take to avoid the risks, and in structuring your business around a true understanding of the full costs and opportunities of external capital.

We will be working with our members on models for member capital raising, building on the success story of the last decade around community shares. Pioneered, or rather renewed, by Co-operatives UK, working with Locality and with the support of the Department for Communities and Local Government, since 2009, around 400 community businesses have raised around £120 million in member capital. That is real social investment.

Arnold Kuiper’s presentation is here: arnolds-presentation-co-operatives-uk

Simon says …in a complex world, we need deeper democracy

One of the great UK thinker and architects of democracy systems, Simon Burall at Involve is making a change today and it is one that might affect us all.


Simon’s achievements at Involve have been numerous. They include his leadership and innovation on open government. Under his leadership Involve has championed the cause of open government as a worldwide movement. He oversaw the development of the UK Open Government Network, and ensured the UK’s Open Government Partnership process was established as a widely recognised model of good practice.

Simon’s tenure has also seen Involve lead the push for deliberative public engagement on complex and controversial science and technology innovations. Finally, Simon has played a critical role in the thought leadership provided by Involve. He has made the case for deliberation and engagement across a raft of policy areas, developed Involve’s theory on deliberative systems, and innovated new models of citizen engagement on public services.

As Chair of Involve (not the day job, I know) I am delighted that Simon will continue to work with Involve as Senior Associate. That gives him the space to work further around the concept of deeper democracy, including how society responds to complexity and the emerging challenges and opportunities of science, technology and data.

We have appointed Tim Hughes as Involve’s new Director. Tim’s vision, expertise and dedication to Involve’s cause make his the strongest possible pair of hands to guide Involve into its next phase.

As Tim writes today, “If Involve didn’t exist, now would be the time to invent it”. Overcoming the triple threat of disillusionment, polarisation and disconnection will be one of the defining challenges of the decade to come. With our skills and expertise in citizen participation, open government, deliberation and facilitation, we believe that Involve is uniquely placed to take a leading role in facing that challenge.

It is time to speak up on democracy and Involve has something precious to offer, which is a vision of a deeper democracy. John Dewey described democracy as conversation, and Simon’s tireless work in favour of a more deliberative democracy is a cause that is worth fighting for. Co-operatives talk about everyday democracy – and indeed are written into the Italian constitution on exactly that basis. In a more complex world, we need to upgrade our democratic systems and culture.

A lot depends on it. Thank you, Simon.