Stir to Action: Strategic update for 2022

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written by

Jonny Gordon-Farleigh

Jan 5, 2022

As we start 2022, it's useful to review our achievements from the last year, and an exciting set of new projects that we are working on over the next two years. Together these represent a big step forward as we change as an organisation, increasingly working on sector strategy, infrastructure, and development on a regional and national level. We look forward to having more to tell you about many of these in the coming months, and engage in reviewing and developing our strategic partnerships with others in the sector.  

Policy influence & research

In 2021 we received two years of Core Funding from the Friends Provident Foundation to influence policy for democratic businesses at the local and national level. The focus is on reducing the gap between policy making and business development in our sector, and bringing together funders, local government, policy makers, and democratic businesses through research, publishing, and events. For more information, see here.

We also published our first research report, Building democratic cultures, skills, and partnerships in policy-led regions,a new evidence base that shares the direct experiences of democratic business members and advisors who have been working within institutional strategies and economic policy initiatives over the last half-decade, especially Community Wealth Building and the Co-operative Council Innovation Network. The report features a set of recommendations for how to build new cultures and infrastructure to support democratic business.

We published a short guide on how to work with local government, if you’re a democratic business, based on a deep dive at our residential campus in mid-Devon, Selgars Mill. It offers 10 ‘hacks’ to consider when approaching your local council, using the experience of co-operatives and business advisors  from across the UK.

Co-operative development

We're part of a consortium that is working with Islington Council to create the first local government funded Co-operative Development Agency for a few decades. The programme will also be offering seed funding and business support to new and existing businesses in the borough. Over the next six months, we’re working on engaging anchor institutions, connecting procurement opportunities to local co-operatives, and creating the governance for the new agency.

We joined the Co-operative Council Innovation Network as an affiliate member, which is a network involving more than 40 councils who are supporting the sector. We also delivered training for 15 member councils in the network, demonstrating how to use Stir to Action’s ‘pipeline development tool’, which outlines the five stages of business development from ‘awareness’ to ‘aftercare’, suggesting how councils can support the full cycle.

Succession and democratising farm ownership

We've started an 18-month pilot to explore the process of family farm succession, in partnership with Shared Assets, Ecological Land Cooperative, and CSA Network, encouraging family farm owners to transfer land into democratic ownership as part of long-term efforts to support national food security. The pilot will focus on the cultural, market, and financial opportunities, working with ethical financial institutions, farming federations, and other initiatives who are interested in retaining land for food production and local employment. 

We are also involved in the early stages of a new food and land commission, which is planning to engage large landowners, and are feeding into a land-use framework in the South West of England, led by the Food, Farming, and Countryside Commission and Devon Communities Together.

National training & development programmes

We've been awarded Community Renewal Funding in partnership with SSE Dartington and Devon Communities Together to launch a new programme for underemployed young adults to create new co-operatives in local food and wellbeing in Devon. The programme starts in late March, and offers a £1,000 grant, six workshops, three residentials, a business fair, and one-to-one business support.

We continue to deliver training sessions for the heritage sector as a learning partner on the Architectural Heritage Trust’s Transforming Places through Heritage programme online and at heritage venues across England. You can watch our session on ‘Creative Approaches to Community Engagement,’ delivered by Stir to Action associate Simon Borkin here

We worked with Co-ops UK to relaunch UnFound, an accelerator for platform co-operatives, with a cohort featuring Wings (ethical food delivery) and Red brick Language School. We designed several graphic-based guides for platform co-ops, which you can see here. We’ve now ended our partnership with the programme, but there is another application process for a new programme starting in 2022.

We’re supporting the relaunch of the Young Co-operators Network, an independent, peer-to-peer network, free to join, with a mission to support young cooperators through outreach, friendship, collaboration and knowledge sharing. The first phase has been supported by the Solid Fund, and it’s now looking for new funding to support its activities for the next three years.

Our own programmes & publications

We hosted the first Playground for the New Economy festival at Selgars Mill in July 2021, joined by 200 people from all across the UK. Early bird tickets for 2022’s event are on sale here and we’re engaging potential event sponsors - see the guide here. Thanks to Power to Change and Lankelly Chase for being our first headline sponsors.

We published four issues of STIR magazine, our quarterly publication, in January, April, July, and October. In 2022, we have plans to raise funding to publish more research and investigative journalism in the magazine, which will give us more dedicated resources to make specific interventions into national debates, policy proposals, and local economic initiatives in our sector.

We launched the fourth New Economy Programme, with workshops from October 2021 to June 2022, which is also our first women-led programme with new topics ranging from community partnerships and setting up food co-ops to community building, setting up a worker co-operative, and supporting co-operation through HR. The programme continues to be delivered by practitioners and activists working towards a new economy. And through working with partners like Power to Change and Preston City Council, we’re able to offer hundreds of fully funded places to those in underrepresented and minoritised communities.

To engage with our current strategy, get in touch with jonny@stirtoaction.com.