Enrolling now for 25 April 2023

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Despite explosive interest and investment into worker and community ownership – particularly through foundation and local government responses to economic renewal –  there’s still a significant shortfall of advisors in the sector.

Barefoot provides existing practitioners with specialist training to gain skills, knowledge, and confidence to work as advisors to co-operative and community businesses in the UK.

Are you ready to join a new generation of advisors who are committed to democracy in the workplace and local communities?

a group of people seated and talking at a training event

Could you apply the skills and experience you have developed working in a co-operative or community business to support other organisations?

Are you already offering informal mentoring support to other co-operatives and community businesses?

Would you like paid work in co-operative development? Could this be the next step in your career?

Apply Now
You can apply anytime to join this course –
we'll assess your application and put you on
the next available cohort.

Questions? Want to find out more before you apply?
Contact barefoot@stirtoaction.com

What is barefoot?

Barefoot provides practitioners with specialist training to gain skills, knowledge, and confidence to work as advisors in the co-operative and community business sectors. We’re looking for a new generation of practitioners who work in their own co-operative or community business and want to support others to start up or grow their own co-operative and community-led organisations.

You will leave with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to provide quality support to co-operatives and community businesses (building on your own prior experience in the sector), the tools and resources to use in your own practice as an advisor, and the opportunity to stay connected with your peers and barefoot alumni.

Who is barefoot for?

– Individuals with prior management experience within a co-operative or community business
– Individuals who want to develop a practice as an advisor within the sector and support other organisations to startup or scale
– Staff of infrastructure bodies or existing co-operative development bodies (as part of their ongoing professional development)

This programme is not designed to support people or groups who would like to set-up their own co-operative or community business. If you’re looking for support, advice, resources, and training in this area, see our other programmes, as well as support offered by Co-operatives UK, Locality, and the Plunkett Foundation.

How we assess applications

Assuming that you are based in the UK and meet the essential criteria, we will assess your application against the following:

1. Impact - how you will apply the learning
2. What sort of co-op(s) you are (have been) part of.
3. What sort of co-op development interests you.
4. What specialist skills and experience you might already have.

If you would like to discuss your application before submitting then please do contact the team on barefoot@stirtoaction.com.

Course Content

How is it delivered?

The Barefoot programme is delivered online through a series of interactive online workshops (three hours) on a fortnightly basis. The workshops are designed and delivered by a team of co-operative and community business advisors with more than 25 years of experience working in these sectors. You will be studying as part of a group, with opportunities to share knowledge, experience, and ideas through conversations, breakout sessions, and an online forum.

What do we cover?

  • What is co-operative development? We explore the political, cultural, and economic landscape around co-operative and community business development. Who is delivering what support to whom and how is it resourced?
  • What it means to become a co-operative and community business advisor: the different models of delivery, how advisors organise and get paid, assessing your skills, devising a personal development plan, and supporting your next steps
  • Skills and strategies for successful working with new and existing co-operatives and community businesses.

Supporting learners to help clients:

  • Define their Theory of Change
  • Choose the right governance model and legal structure for their organisation
  • Define, refine, and communicate their business models
  • Properly research and define products and services to create an effective marketing plan
  • Develop financial models and key financial documents, such as profit and loss, balance sheet, and cash flow
  • Create a financial strategy for different stages of business development
  • Cover grant, loan, and shares-based finance and how to include them in financial projections
  • Assess the financial health of their organisation and identify the key indicators of an organisation’s financial health
  • Ensure that the organisation has a thriving internal culture consistent with their vision and values and manage organisational conflict constructively
  • Write a fully developed business plan.

In addition to the core programme we will offer one free optional workshop. These workshops will also be open to the public:

  • Introduction to co-operative and community business finance: An introduction to the topic and an essential option for those who are not already familiar with the basics of financial management of their organisation
  • Sociocracy in co-operatives and community businesses: An introduction to a model of governance and decision-making that is becoming increasingly popular in the sector
  • Community finance: An introduction to the popular and growing method of financing co-operatives and community businesses by offering investment to their host communities.


Course Fees

Barefoot is offered on a sliding scale. We are working with funders, which will allow us to reduce the cost to applicants and offer a limited number of subsidised places.

  • £2000 solidarity price - this will allow us to offer even more subsidised places.
  • £1000 standard price - minimum fee for staff from infrastructure bodies or existing co-operative development bodies.
  • a limited number of subsidised places at £500, £100, and fully funded are available for those who meet the eligibility criteria.


Eligibility for subsidised places
We are particularly in interested in applications from people from less represented communities and organisations actively working to improve diversity and inclusion in the co-operative and community business sector.

Course Leaders

Co-op Culture is a co-operative consortium of co-operative and community advisors, entrepreneurs, and enterprises.

a photo of Mark Simmonds speaking at an event

Mark Simmonds

Mark is an experienced co-operative and community business entrepreneur. As well as supporting hundreds of co-operatives and community businesses down the years, Mark is also a founder of many such enterprises, including Co-op Culture, the Fox and Goose
Co-operative Pub, Pennine Community Power, Platform 6 Development Co-operative, and Heptonstall Community Assets.

Mark has a particular interest in co-operative governance and sustainable land-based enterprise.

Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown got involved with ad hoc, barefoot, co-op development as a member of a housing co-op and this led to a professional career delivering co-op support since 1998. He has supported and trained hundreds of co-ops and community businesses and prior to the creation of Barefoot he had been involved in development and delivery of other training courses for co-op advisors and social enterprise development advisors. Nathan’s training and support draws on direct experience of management and governance roles in a wide range of organisational and legal forms of co-op and community business.

a photo of Nathan Brown at the beach
a photo of Mark Simmonds speaking at an event

Abbie Kempson

Abbie is a co-operative and community business advisor and a founder member of People Support Co-op, offering governance and co-operative HR support, advice and training. Abbie has worked for 10 years at Unicorn Grocery worker co-op, is a member of the UK Co-operative Governance Expert Reference Panel, a Virtual Employment Law Academy graduate, and a certified Sociocracy Consultant.

Andy Cocktaildress

Andy is a co-operative and social enterprise advisor and finance specialist who has helped groups raise over £15 million in capital. Andy has a L5 Certificate in Social Enterprise Support and a Certificate in Training Practice, is a licensed Community Shares Practitioner, a member of the Co-operative and Community Capital Committee, and an assessor for the Community Shares Booster Investment Panel.

a photo of Nathan Brown at the beach
a photo of Mark Simmonds speaking at an event

Lorraine Power

Lorraine is a Co-operative and community business advisor and a founder member of People Support Co-op, offering governance and co-operative HR support, advice and training. Lorraine is a former member director of Valley Organics and Leeds Bread worker co-operatives and a Virtual Employment Law Academy graduate.

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