Global creative agency strengthens co-op structure

An international creative agency based in the UK and Sri Lanka is expanding and strengthening its co-operative structure with help from a loan from Co-operative & Community Finance. Small...

An international creative agency based in the UK and Sri Lanka is expanding and strengthening its co-operative structure with help from a loan from Co-operative & Community Finance.

Small Axe, which has offices in London and Colombo, is set up as a multi-stakeholder co-op in the UK and provides creative communications for courageous causes. It works on strategy, branding, messaging, campaign films, digital and development for campaigning organisations, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations. Recent clients include the Green Party, Bite the Ballot and Robin Hood Tax.

The name comes from a Jamaican proverb made famous by Bob Marley: “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe.”

Small Axe was set up in December 2011 by Jana Mills, a refugee from Sri Lanka, and Dan Stanley, a community organiser and social psychologist, who shared an ambition to help good causes succeed by improving the way they communicate.

The Small Axe London team
The Small Axe London team

Jana’s cousin, a software architect in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, joined soon after and five years later the organisation has grown to a team of 12 creatives, organisers and technologists based in London and 13 website and app developers, project managers and technologists based in Colombo.

“Small Axe has grown rapidly over the last two years and we realise that we need to strengthen the co-operative,” said Mr Stanley. “We have always worked in a co-operative way, but many of our employees have not yet formally become members.”

The Small Axe Colombo team
The Small Axe Colombo team

The loan will be used to implement an action plan of co-operative training and development, plus office space, equipment and administrative staff.

“We want to grow the work that interests us most,” added Mr Stanley. “We started out in websites and apps – and that will continue – but in recent years the creative work has become much bigger. The new area we are planning to develop is our political and organising work.”

Small Axe recently recruited a political director, Dan Firth (formerly a lead organiser at Citizens UK) to lead this new strand of work.

Ian Rothwell, investment manager at Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “We are very pleased to help this dynamic, international communications business to grow and become more co-operative.”

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