‘Barefoot’ programme relaunches to support a new surge in co-operative and community businesses across the UK

Stir to Action to expand UK’s only advisor training programme for democratic businesses to tackle shortfall in specialist advice

National co-operative infrastructure bodies Stir to Action and Co-op Culture are teaming up to relaunch ‘barefoot’ – a six-month programme that has provided more than 65 practitioners with specialist support to gain skills, knowledge, and confidence to work as democratic business advisors since 2020. This new partnership will support the programme’s expansion across the UK, offer alumni networking events, and create more opportunities for practitioners to deliver advice through national business programmes.

Over the last few years, despite the explosive interest and investment into worker and community ownership – particularly through foundation and local government responses to economic renewal –  there is still a significant shortfall of advisors. At the same time, the democratic business sector has not taken advantage of the extensive practitioner experience that exists in workers from ethical tech, local food, and the creative industries, and communities leading initiatives to transform high streets, green spaces, and local food systems.  

The ‘barefoot’ programme will enable co-operative and community business leaders to use their experience to support other businesses that are planning to start or scale.  This support will reach a range of different business sectors in the UK co-operative and community business economy. The next programme starts on 25 April 2023 and workers or community members with two years or more experience are encouraged to apply. Find out more at www.stirtoaction.com/barefoot.

Stir to Action is also looking to extend the partnership with other UK-based infrastructure organisations who are interested in investing in their own practitioner-to-advisor development. Get in touch with our team on barefoot@stirtoaction.com.

Nathan Brown/Mark Simmonds of Co-op Culture said: “Co-op Culture are proud of all this course has achieved and it has exceeded our original expectations.  Past participants are now delivering high quality support to co-ops and community businesses which demonstrates the value that Barefoot delivers.  If we are serious about growing the democratic business sector then training up more advisors with relevant lived experience has to be part of the wider strategic plan. Stir to Action are perfectly placed to enable Barefoot to reach its full potential, and grow the co-op and community business sector in the process.”

Bonnie Hewson of Power to Change said: “barefoot is the common sense solution to scaling up co-op development. The advisors emerging from the programme are passionate and experienced co-op practitioners who are skilled up and connected to a wide-reaching network of experts to support more co-ops to emerge. The course leaders are extremely experienced trainers on the cutting edge of co-op development themselves, and who are well placed to upskill the next generation of co-op development advisors. If we want to grow the new economy we have to support the growth of appropriate business support infrastructure, and barefoot is an important piece of the puzzle.”

Abby Gordon-Farleigh of Stir to Action said: “We’re really excited to be relaunching barefoot as more interest in worker and community ownership turns into new commitments from the local to the national level. We’re currently building partnerships with local government and infrastructure bodies in the third sector who could potentially invest in their members to be active as advisors.” 

With thanks to Stir to Action

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