Solidfund partners with in a bid to grow the movement

‘If we want to achieve real impact we need control of the means of production, that’s our lever to change the world’

A co-op ‘community chest’ is forging a new partnership to strengthen the voice of the worker co-op movement. 

Solidfund, which has withstood a decade of austerity and financial uncertainty to celebrate its recent 10th anniversary, is a permanent common fund, paid for by the voluntary subscriptions of worker co-op members, individuals and organisations.

Members can contribute from just £1 per week either individually or through co-op organisations. Currently, there are around 500 supporting members with £316,600 in place to support a wide range of initiatives and offer solidarity to worker co-ops worldwide. 

Now, Solidfund has signed a memorandum of understanding to offer financial support to the Workers Co-op Federation – In return it will receive help with marketing and administration to build its membership and profile, plus support with member meetings, web hosting and coordination with the organisations in the wider movement such as Co-operatives UK and international apexes. 

Membership applications and processing will also be carried out by, which launched in 2022 and now has over 50 members including Yorkshire-based wholefood co-op Suma and the award-winning Unicorn grocery store in south Manchester.

Related: Q&A, John Atherton of

Solidfund founder member Siôn Whellens, co-op adviser with Principle 6, is a worker-owner at print co-op Calverts, which is also a member of As he explains, the two organisations will work in tandem while retaining separate identities.

“ will manage Solidfund’s infrastructure and promote membership more widely, while Solidfund will make a contribution to’s core costs,” he says.

Header photo: A demonstration in support of the GKN workers’ occupation and reindustrialisation plan in Italy. Solidfund contributed €5,000 to the new worker co-op’s share issue, and funded a UK worker co-op delegation to its organising conference (above)

“Both will remain independent, and we hope Solidfund as an individual subscribing supporter organisation can appeal beyond the milieu of worker co-operators themselves to people across the co-op movement who want to support our activity in developing and delivering radical education and in the formation of new co‑ops.

“In many ways, this development is in line with our original vision of being a vehicle to underwrite the continuity of worker co-op organisation and culture. The main thing when we have bedded down the new arrangement is to use the marketing chops of to promote Solidfund to broaden its appeal.”

Related: US lawmakers introduce bill to strengthen worker co-op sector

The partnership has declared the goal of mobilising activists to spread awareness of the worker co-op model. It is also looking to substantially increase the number of people motivated to start or join a worker co-op, or convert an existing business to the model –making the idea more accessible and easier to grasp. And there will be learning and training opportunities for members of worker co-ops. 

Fund members occasionally meet in person but mainly communicate through the online platform Loomio, where regular discussions are held and decisions made about the Fund’s resources. Separate groups have been set up to discuss everything from governance of worker co-ops to training and education. There are also key policy proposals, all decided at grassroots level by those taking part in the meeting online, with no hierarchy or officers in place. 

The numbers participating in these events are impressive, with 200 of the 500 members subscribed to Loomio in any particular proposal or discussion. Decisions are made by consensus with a 75% vote in favour required for a proposal to be accepted. 

Solidarity is a key part of Solidfund’s mission and recent initiatives include supporting workers in Italy, who are fighting plans to close an auto parts factory near Florence by occupying the premises in the hope of taking it over. 

Solidfund has also contributed £4,000 to Yalla Coop’s Gaza Appeal, helping web development workers who have lost their homes as well as their livelihoods; £12,000 to support the development of Hempen Co-op in Oxfordshire; £3,000 for independent news platform the Canary; and sponsorship of the Young Cooperators Network in May 2023.

Whellens, who is also vice president of Cecop-Cicopa Europe, the European federation of worker co-ops, said: “We are continuing to recruit new members and it’s been far more successful than we ever dreamed. But we have been run by volunteers with no paid workers, so we have never really had the capacity to do any proper marketing. 

“In the future, the hope is we will be marketed much better. Since 2014 there has been no increase in the basic subscription of £1 a week so we are looking at whether it will be possible to increase it.”

Solidfund and have dual membership with Co-operatives UK and, with the help of, Solidfund is hoping to broaden its reach and spread the word further. Whellens, who is active in both organisations, believes the collaboration could be a formidable force in furthering the worker co-op movement after many years on the back foot.

“Solidfund was started by a group of people with a vision to create a strong, growing and self-reliant network of workers co-ops,” he says, “because we believe businesses owned, controlled and for the benefit of their workers create a fairer and more sustainable society.

“The last big growth of worker co-ops was in the 1970s when workers were on the front foot and winning. Lack of access to capital and funding mechanisms is why we needed things like Solidfund because workers usually do not have capital. They have savings and pensions but no access to charitable funding. 

“We need to be oriented much more strongly with social justice. We need to be more political – we think it’s our only option and the only route that makes any sense. Lobbying governments is one thing but the emancipation of workers is the task of workers themselves. 

“The first step towards that is when workers have control and ownership of goods and services. Ours is a much more workerist approach but it is important to us that we negotiated a good arrangement and have dual membership with Co-operatives UK.”

He adds: “The main reason the fortunes of the worker co-op sector go up and down is that they depend on the fortunes of the wider workers’ movement – and when they are on the back foot accepting redundancies, and when trade unions are passive, worker co-ops go into decline. 

“There has to be a preparedness to get control of the situation. If we want to achieve real impact we need control of the means of production, that’s our lever to change the world.”