Skip to main content

Worker-owned cooperatives

Are you looking to set up a worker-owned cooperative or convert your existing business into one?

A more democratic economy is central to the Preston Model, including cooperative models of business enterprise. The University's Centre for SME Development and the Propeller enterprise development and incubation hub are committed to supporting the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) community in the creation of business start-ups, including, where appropriate, co-operatives. The Centre for Citizenship and Community is engaged in participative research with Preston communities, including the research and evaluation of the Preston Model.

In 2020 UCLan, supported by Preston City Council and the Preston Cooperative Development Network (PCDN), received a grant from the Open Society Foundations (OSF) to support the development of the Preston Model and the cooperative economy in Preston. The grant covers the creation of a development plan for a cooperative entrepreneurial ecosystem for Preston, supported by experts from Mondragon; the creation of a Preston Co-operative Education Centre, the development of Union Co-ops with the support of experts from the US based organisation 1Worker1Vote, a research and evaluation project by UCLan researchers, and funds for the development of worker-owned co-operatives for Preston. In partnership with the PCDN, we are offering funding from the OSF grant to provide start-up technical support for worker cooperatives in the Preston region to March 2022.

What is a worker-owned co-op?

Worker coops exist all over the world. In the UK there are over 500 worker coops operating in many different sectors, from printing and graphic design to food wholesale and distribution, cycling, catering, web design, clothing manufacture and healthcare.

Worker cooperatives aim to create and maintain sustainable jobs and provide their members with a decent living. Democratic self-management is a core principle. Membership is free and voluntary, and members collectively carry out the work of the cooperative. Each member has an equal vote in the decision-making process.

Cooperatives allow people to take control of their economic future and, because they are not owned by shareholders, the economic and social benefits of their activity stay in the communities where they are established. Profits generated are reinvested in the enterprise or returned to the members.

As businesses driven by values, not just profit, cooperatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through cooperation. Putting fairness, equality and social justice at the heart of the enterprise, cooperatives around the world are allowing people to work together to create sustainable enterprises that generate long-term jobs and prosperity.

What will this funding cover?

The OSF Fund is available for worker cooperative start-ups. Successful applicants will receive a bespoke package of technical support to assist with the set-up of a new worker cooperative business. This might cover:

  • Cooperative management and organisation
  • Employment and staffing
  • Marketing, sales and PR
  • Business planning
  • Financial planning and raising finance
  • Legal structure and governance

Funding will also cover cooperative registration fees.

A bespoke package of advice will be agreed with each successful applicant and will include up to 10 days of consultancy support.

Who is it for?

To apply, applicants must:

  • Reside in the Preston City Region
  • Comprise a group of three or more members
  • Present a clear business idea
  • Provide evidence of collective decision making
  • Have appropriate experience in their chosen business sector
  • Demonstrate a willingness to learn new skills
  • Share a commitment to cooperative enterprise.

How to apply?

If you wish to apply for the technical support, please write an email to admin@prestoncoopdevelopment.org or Alina Belousova to abelousova1@uclan.ac.uk and request an application form.

Your application will be assessed by an experienced cooperative advisor. If it does not meet the minimum standard for further assessment, we will provide brief written feedback explaining why and suggest what you may need to do to develop your plans further.

If it does meet the minimum standard, an advisor will make an appointment to meet your group to discuss your application in greater detail. This will be used to develop a bespoke support plan for your cooperative business which will be considered by the PCDN Board.

If the Board approves the plan, the cooperative advisor will agree a delivery schedule with you for the proposed work programme.

For more infromation on the Preston Model and OSF grant, please contact Dr Julian Manley