Hackney Council steps up support for co-ops and social enterprises

A research project will look at current issues around support available in the London borough – and offer practical solutions

Hackney Council in London has launched a business programme and commissioned research into the challenges facing co-operatives and social enterprises in the capital. 

Launched for Social Enterprise Day (16 November), the research is looking at issues around support available to co-ops and social enterprises and will offer practical solutions that can benefit organisations based in Hackney and East London. 

The move follows concerns in the sector that available support can be too short-term and often doesn’t respond to the local social and economic context. The project also aims to help maximise the potential of Hackney Impact – a new council-funded partnership delivering a range of hands-on business help in Hackney, including one-to-one coaching and mentoring, group courses and networking, and grant funding. 

“This research will make a vital contribution to that goal, helping us do more locally to support socially focused businesses but also influence funders and policymakers about the wider support these organisations need to thrive,” said Cllr Guy Nicholson, Hackney’s deputy mayor for delivery, inclusive economy and regeneration.

“Whether it’s insourcing council services or supporting socially-conscious business, we want to create a fairer, genuinely inclusive economy in Hackney, which is why we’re supporting the fantastic co-operatives and social enterprises in our borough to grow and thrive.”

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To mark this year’s the International Day of Cooperatives (1 July), Hackney Council and local co-op support organisation Hackney Cooperative Developments hosted a weekend of events celebrating the role co-operatives and social enterprises play in the borough. Hackney’s co-op and social enterprise sector comprises more than 450 organisations, with over £350m in assets.

At the same time, the council announced a raft of new measures to “help the growth, resilience and future-proofing of socially conscious businesses in the borough”. Building on that, this new research will be undertaken by worker co-ops Stir to Action and Coop Culture, and Hackney-grown social enterprise Renaisi, with findings to be published next February. 

“We hope Hackney will become a beacon for other boroughs who want to grow and maintain a vibrant co-operative sector,” said Nathan Brown, director, Coop Culture. 

Jonny Gordon Farleigh, director, Stir to Action, added: “By investing in this research, Hackney Council is leading the way in establishing the real challenge involved in building a supportive local ecosystem for the growth of social and democratic businesses, particularly in their unique geographical context. 

“We’re confident that our recommendations can play a big part in improving the way the public sector supports these businesses, both in Hackney and further afield.” 

John Hitchin at Renaisi said he was delighted that local social enterprises are also involved in this project. “While businesses of all types are struggling because of inflation and economic uncertainty, social businesses must also make sure their work continues to benefit people and the planet,” he added.

“This research will help the council develop support so social businesses can thrive in Hackney. Longer term, we hope it encourages other places to better support their social businesses.” 

To hear more about the research, email [email protected]