Barefoot training programme relaunches to tackle need for co-op business advisors

‘If we want to grow the new economy we have to support the growth of appropriate business support infrastructure’

Applications are open for the Barefoot training programme, set up to address the lack of specialist business advisors for the co-op and community-owned sectors.

With sessions led by co-operative consortium Co-op Culture, the course will this year be delivered in partnership with co-op development organisation Stir To Action.

The six-month course, aimed at co-operative practitioners who want skills as democratic business advisors, includes an overview of co-op development, the elements to consider as a co-op and community business advisor, and skills and strategies for working with new and existing co-ops and community businesses.

Since 2020, Barefoot has trained over 65 advisors, who are now delivering support to new and existing co-ops and community businesses. Some graduates have gone on to establish new business support providers, such as People Support Co-op.

The next round of the programme will include networking events for alumni.

Stir to Action says the democratic business sector has a significant lack of advisors, and warns it has not taken advantage of the experience co-op practitioners have to offer – across a variety of backgrounds including tech, food and the creative industries.

“We’re really excited to be relaunching Barefoot,” said Stir to Action’s Abby Gordon-Farleigh, “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.”

Co-op Culture said that training up more advisors with relevant lived experience must be part of a wider strategic plan, adding: “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.”

The course starts on 25 April – more details and application form here.