Three fledgling platform co-ops have won a combined total of £10,000 from Co-operatives UK’s UnFound Accelerator programme for their innovative work in arts, wellbeing and education.
UnFound is a 10-week programme which provides co-operative start-ups with training and business development support. This year’s programme culminated in a live pitch event on 6 July where nine co-ops pitched for prize funds from the Co-op Bank. All co-ops involved in the programme will receive follow-on support from UnFound, with the aim of registering as co-ops in the UK by the end of the year.
The winners, chosen by a judging panel consisting of Co-operatives UK CEO Rose Marley and the Bank’s managing director of SMEs, Catherine Douglas, were RIMA, Kocoon and The Learning Co-op.
The Learning Co-op was awarded £2,000 for its work delivering education from tutors around the world, including languages taught in their political, historical and social context. Co-op member Imtithal Audi said: “Participating in the accelerator has given us an incredible insight into some very exciting new organisations, and we have learnt and grown a lot by exploring how to create effective workers co‑operatives.”
Kocoon, which is working to help young people understand and improve their wellbeing through access to academic research and signposting to relevant services, won £3000 at the pitch event. Founder Isaac Finn said: “We are delighted to have been supported by the Unfound Accelerator and achieved second place in the pitch event. The grant will make a real difference to our growth and we are excited to show you what we will do next.”
Taking home the top prize of £5000, RIMA works with emerging creative practitioners from the global south by connecting them with international funding, mobility and networking opportunities and training them towards more sustainable practices.
RIMA’s Carlos Zerpa said: “This grant and the knowledge acquired during the accelerator will be instrumental in the realisation of RIMA as a product that will empower emerging creative practitioners from the global south by connecting them with international opportunities for funding and mobility. Thank you to Co‑operatives UK and The Co‑operative Bank for all their support.”
All the teams will receive a package of tailored support from Co-operatives UK to help them set up their co-op, and an after package that includes access to the Bank’s free business banking for co-operatives and a dedicated relationship manager.
Rose Marley congratulated all of the teams, describing them as “shining examples of how we can use tech co‑operatively, for good – for the good of each business, its users and society at large”.
She added: “These innovative and pioneering social entrepreneurs are forging a fairer, more equitable future. I’m excited to see how these platform co‑ops develop, flourish and contribute to a thriving co‑operative economy.”