Co-operatives UK co-helms scheme to boost social economy in Greater Manchester

Backed by regional mayor Andy Burnham, the project will launch a new co-op, Our Business, to provide support for the sector

Co-operatives UK has joined forces with 10GM to launch a new co-operative, Our Business, in a bid to grow and support the social economy in Greater Manchester.

Backed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which is managing the city-region’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund allocation, Our Business is due to launch this summer and promises “a new digital front door for specialist support, with the aim of supporting the growth and sustainability of organisations and businesses in the social economy”.

The venture will create an Online Inclusive Ownership Platform with wrap-around staff support, which will be delivered by Co-operatives UK, as well as training and practical support activities to further grow the social economy delivered by 10GM  – a joint venture to support the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE) in the region.

“In 2022 when the government confirmed the scope of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the listing of support for co-operatives, community business and social enterprise as a fundable intervention, was welcomed as a big opportunity for progressive local leaders to finance their ambitions,” said Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operatives UK.

“This was something sector representatives, including ourselves, had lobbied for since 2017. With over £5million allocated locally for democratic and social business development in England since then, local leaders have clearly responded with enthusiasm and we are especially pleased to see the Greater Manchester operating area leading the way.”

Related: West Midlands Ownership Hub to launch in May

Alison Page, one of the directors of 10GM, added: “We are working with our local delivery partners in all ten authority areas to deliver bespoke support to help grow the social economy across Greater Manchester. The sector is made up of a variety of social enterprises, community businesses, co-ops, charities and small  local businesses but the picture across Greater Manchester is very different dependent on the area so we have a bespoke localised plan to implement across the city region.”

In 2022 the Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, alongside council leaders, engaged with VCSEs, universities, housing providers, health and social care providers and others to understand how the city region could nurture and develop further its social economy.

This process highlighted a need for an online platform that would link various projects, networks and programmes across the city region.

“Creating opportunities that are owned by the communities they serve is at the heart of how we operate in Greater Manchester and is the way we can forge real, sustainable change,” said Burnham.

“We’re delighted to be working with Co-operatives UK and 10 GM – their expertise in this space is key due to the breadth of Greater Manchester’s social economy and the degree of knowledge that is needed to deliver a successful platform and additional specialist support.

“Having them drive this initiative will allow it to be fully inclusive and accessible by reaching users who are least likely to engage through the creation of an online community and knowledge hub as well as signposting to other resources like mentoring or financial support.”

Cllr Bev Craig, leader of Manchester City Council and GM lead for economy, said: “This collaborative new service will empower our social economy to shape their long term development plans and will help them to successfully navigate the local ecosystem. We have two specialist providers on board that will work together, better connecting existing support activities as well as facilitating relevant knowledge sharing across all 10 districts in the city-region.”