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What is a co-operative?

Co-operatives are businesses that are owned and democratically controlled by their members. The members may be customers, employees, residents, businesses, people who are part of the local community or a combination of these, depending on the legal model chosen. Almost any kind of enterprise can be run as a co-operative, with the financial risks and rewards being spread fairly among their members.

The internationally agreed definition of a co-operative is: ”A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.”

Co-operatives also balance the need to make a profit with the necessity of strengthening communities and protecting the environment.

Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. The principles, or guidelines, by which co-operatives put their values into practice, are defined as:

  • Voluntary and open membership
  • Democratic member control
  • Member economic participation
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Education, training and information
  • Co-operation among co-operatives
  • Concern for community

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Do you support all social enterprises?

The Hub exists to provide services for co-operatives only. Support does, however, extend to enterprises that are not yet registered as co-operatives, but are confident that the co-operative model is for them. If you’re interested in setting up a different type of social enterprise, the Social Enterprise Coalition's website might be of help.

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I want to start a co-operative, can I get help from the Hub?

If you are still at the ideas stage and do not have a formally constituted group, then it is a bit too early for you to receive support from the Hub. If you are well on the way to setting up a co-operative and need some help, then it's likely the Hub can support you. Click here for more information on eligibility. For more information on co-operatives, visit:

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How long will my application take?

Typically, you can expect to hear from one of our co-operative development advisers within 2 weeks of submitting your online application. In certain circumstances, the process could take longer, or it could be completed much sooner. For a more detailed outline of the stages involved in an application, visit the process page.

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I’ve already applied to the Hub and had my application rejected. Can I apply again?

If your previous application was rejected, then it is probable that you did not satisfy our eligibility criteria. If things have changed at your organisation – for example, you may have become an incorporated body, or all members of your organisation are now firmly committed to becoming a co-operative – we may now be in a position to support you. Revisit our eligibility criteria to see if you qualify.

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I have already received training and advice from the Hub, but would like more. Can I apply again?

Priority will always be given to those organisations who are seeking support from the Hub for the first time. However, if the Hub supported you in setting up your co-operative and you have successfully been trading for a year or more, the Hub may be able to provide you with additional support. Click here to apply now. If you were already trading as a co-operative at the time the original training was provided then we are presently unable to provide you with additional free training and advice.

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