Thu 6 Apr 2017 8:23AM

Barefoot co-operative development

MSC Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Public Seen by 127

Note: this is a public thread shared with others outside of the CD Loomio Group. This intro text has been updated to reflect the current state of play with this work, as at April 2019

This thread is to help develop a programme where members of existing co-ops can actually deliver peer to peer co-operative development in conjunction with CDB's.

Barefoot – adj. Self taught through experience, but lacking formal qualifications, for example barefoot lawyer, barefoot doctor, barefoot accountant.


  1. We have an ageing and dwindling CDB sector, many due to retire in next few years. This will lead to a lack of capacity to support the growth of the co-operative sector, whether that comes from a strategic programme to encourage the co-operative model or, more likely, arises spontaneously as a grass-roots, DIY response to austerity, state underfunding and retreat from public services.

  2. There is some peer to peer co-op development already being done and some CDB's (Including Co-op Culture) are exploring using existing co-ops as associates to provide development support to other co-ops.

  3. There are many members, particularly of worker co-ops, who have significant business development skills, developed through their work in the in own co-op. What they lack however is a knowledge of the process of business development and are unfamiliar with the language used and the funding models around paying for co-op development. They are the “barefoot practitioners”.


In late 2017, Co-op Culture facilitated an action learning pilot project around building the capacity of members of co-ops, so that they can they can deliver co-operative development as associates, and with the oversight of, of existing CDB's.

We held two workshops (Manchester and London), funded by the Solid Fund, bringing together members of worker co-operatives and some co-operative development advisors, to explore the following:

  • what barefoot co-operative development was already happening;
  • which co-ops were open to further exploring this work
  • what the co-ops would need in order to participate.

We produced a report on the results of these two workshops (attached).

Further to that work we continued to talk within the CD Forum (and wider) to determine:

  • How we might deliver training to barefoot co-op developers to give them the capacity and confidence to deliver co-op development support.

  • What additional partners might we involve in this work?

  • How we might resource this further work?

  • Which existing CDB's would be willing to participate and “apprentice” barefoot practitioners and how that might work.

As part of this work, Co-op Culture have produced a document which outlines how they work with Barefoot developers as a possible model for working with other CDB's (attached). Co-op Culture is actually starting to use Barefoot developers to deliver co-operative support.


If this project initially focussed on worker co-operatives, then it could be funded wholly or partially from the SolidFund. Training for barefoot CDB practitioners could possibly be delivered/funded by the existing Hive programme as an extension of the Co-op option training. It may be that in order to resource any training we would need to cast the net wider than just worker co-operatives, this being where the current funding is concentrated (for example Power to Change).

##Where we are now:
Co-op Culture and new partner Platform 6 held an on-line meeting recently on 26th Feb 2019 (notes attached). One of the main outputs of this meeting was to invite those who attended the initial action research workshops to join this thread and several have.

Please continue the conversation below with this larger thread membership.


Martin Meteyard Thu 6 Apr 2017 8:57AM

I'm extremely interested in pursuing this, and will put it on the agenda of the next CBC Skype meeting on 26 April. As I think I've mentioned previously, I've already been discussing similar ideas (incubators, mentoring) with current and former members of Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative - several of whom are working on potential co-op ideas. Count me in.


adrian ashton Fri 7 Apr 2017 12:31PM

happy to add my name (for what its' worth) in support of this - wonder if it might be able to build on existing lasped materials (such as CDAnywhere and the old enterprise hub - especially as one of the aspirations of that was to see something like this emerging from within the groups it supported)?


Martin Meteyard Fri 7 Apr 2017 4:52PM

I forwarded the email with Mark's initial post to several of the ESHC students, one of whom has now come back asking if he can join in the discussion. But as this appears to be a forum for CDB members only, I'm wondering if we should start a new discussion group to include potential barefoot co-operative developers?


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Mon 10 Apr 2017 10:34AM

Hi Martin. You could propose their membership of this forum (like we did with John Goodman) , which is already wider than the physical CDB Forum. Alternatively there is a discussion around this on the Loomio group for the SolidFund.


Martin Strube Sat 8 Apr 2017 7:00AM

With the collapse of Northants CDA, we are looking at the possibility of setting up a "virtual" CDA based loosely on the old CDA Anywhere (www.cda-anywhere.com) template. Apart from documentation, templates, fact sheets, and FAQs, It will include a register of local co-operators (and any CD professionals still standing) able and willing to offer guidance and assistance. Happy to share the model and evolving refinements as we progress.
Best wishes.


bob cannell Tue 11 Apr 2017 8:27AM

Yes please let's do it. This is what DAWN do in the USA. (Democracy At Work Network). Peer to peer accredited and supported cooperative development by worker cooperators. Bob


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Mon 17 Apr 2017 2:44PM

I think that there might be some discussion around this proposal at the Worker Co-op Weekend but I don't know if I can get there in time as I'm doing this https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/calderdale-bootstrap-2017-tickets-33408708346?aff=efbevent Can someone feed back who does go?


Austen Cordasco Wed 19 Apr 2017 5:47PM

If any aspiring barefoot co-operative development workers wish to explore the idea of working with CAN they can download a simple form here and use that to put their idea to us. Similarly, if any co-operative is interested in working in partnership with us for co-operative development they only have to drop us an email to start the conversation. We are always open to new ways of working together.

That is our current position, which we can put forward without having to invent any more internal systems.

We are open to ideas about programmes to facilitate barefoot co-operative development and will consider them as they arise but don't have much more to contribute to the process of developing such programmes at this stage.


Hilary Sudbury Mon 24 Apr 2017 11:51AM

Happy to work with members of existing co-ops in Bristol and wider area...


Alex Lawrie Mon 5 Jun 2017 10:42AM

I'll be honest, I'm a little wary; barefoot CDWs will do some things well (direct support, especially within the same sector) but other things not so well (securing local funding, and developing fundable projects; maintaining a consistent public profile for co-ops in an area; developing detailed expertise...) and if scarce resources are diverted away from CDBs that can both both, that's a problem.
However, putting that to on side, peer to peer support is quite obviously a Good Thing, and we'll do what we can to support it here in the west country. Outside community energy, I can't say there is much evidence as yet that there are people willing to get stuck in to mutual aid in this way though.


Andrew Woodcock Mon 5 Jun 2017 10:47AM

And housing co-ops, lets not forget
Radical Routes Alex ;)


Alex Lawrie Mon 5 Jun 2017 11:38AM

Ah, I was referring to Devon and Somerset in particular; and there is a tragic shortage of housing co-ops in the area despite our best efforts over the years. Of course, 6 Fingers and a Tail is a notable exception, and they might well be up for it.


Andrew Woodcock Mon 5 Jun 2017 11:50AM

Blimey are they still about, say hello
from me if you see them


Hilary Sudbury Tue 6 Jun 2017 10:35AM

The CDA in Bristol was set up in 1980s by local co-ops because they wanted to get on with their roles within their co-ops and not spend time talking to groups about being a co-op and how to do it. That said, the CDA always uses advisers that have first hand experience within Co-ops so depending on the capacity and skills within local co-ops there is potential. I wish there was some way of getting Federals, Worker Co-op Council and CBS talking together as there is cross over here which could lead to duplication.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Tue 6 Jun 2017 11:40AM

Quick update. This didn’t get discussed at the Worker Co-op Weekend, however John Atherton and Co-op Culture are working up a proposal for a funded pilot project, focusing on Worker Co-ops that we will take to the SolidFund - watch this space. We'll share it here too when we post.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Tue 22 Aug 2017 6:52PM

Some of you have noticed via other forums that the SolidFund agreed to fund two workshops around worker co-ops getting involved in co-operative development. We are currently seeking expressions of interest from members of worker co-ops who would like to attend one of the workshops (London and Manchester). Please forward this information to any worker co-ops who you think might be interested. They can register their interest using the Google form below.


Interestingly we have had several members of existing CDBs apply to attend. The workshop is aimed at worker co-op members not currently involved in formal co-op development, so we're not sure what to make of this.


adrian ashton Thu 24 Aug 2017 7:21AM

maybe it's an indication that many in the CDB field feel that there's precious little by way of directly relevant CPD opportunities?


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Thu 24 Aug 2017 11:05AM

That's another issue Adrian and one that the CDB Forum used to partially address, before its declining attendance. Is there anything else that we might be doing? We'll certainly be discussing this at the next CDB Forum. I'm starting to favour a mixture of virtual meetings with face to face meetings piggy backing on events likely to have attending CDB's anyway - Congress, Future Co-ops etc. Possibility of themed fora too? Would suggest we pick this up outside this thread.


to build on what @bobcan and @adrianashton said, my experience doing Jim's ILM course was invaluable in terms of hearing the experiences of/building relationships with existing coop advisors - having a mixture of levels of experience on the course was wonderful. But it was a 10-week course, not a taster, so i don't know how relevant that is


bob cannell Wed 23 Aug 2017 2:57PM

If CDB workers have relevant recent experience why would they not be involved? I'm all for barefoot CDWs but there needs to be people involved with the experience to say ' that's good but have you also considered X, Y, Z?'. In my experience coop activists often don't know what they need to know and usually don't know how to resolve needs they are aware of. That's when they import inappropriate techniques from hierarchy world such as HRnormal and which either don't work or damage the coop.
Helping barefoot CDWs to understand how to be the catalyst to effect self learning in worker coops is a an important role for us CDBworkers not currently in a worker coop.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Thu 24 Aug 2017 10:59AM

The purpose of the workshop is to introduce worker co-op members to the nuts and bolts of co-op development and the CDB sector - it's scope, business model, sources of support, challenges. We also hope to explore the motivations, reservations and expectations of worker co-ops in getting involved in co-operative development. It will certainly be useful to have other CDB practitioners there to contribute to that, but we will favour non practitioners (or those already dabbling with co-operative development) over existing practitioners, where the workshop is over-subscribed.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Thu 24 Aug 2017 11:01AM

This is only the beginning of this action research and there will be other opportunities to get involved.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Fri 1 Sep 2017 9:56AM

The original inception was to introduce barefoot CDW's to the ways of working - which includes a hefty dose of understanding the difference between symptom & cause, the role of a CDW i.e. different approaches to support and understanding the limits of your own experience and skills (as hinted at by @bobcan). The danger of CDB folks filling the room is that they will stray into very technical issues and discuss (or argue about) things pitched at a higher level than the introductory stuff needed by barefoot practitioners. We have to bear in mind the level at which this training is being pitched. This is not CPD for CDB workers. That should be addressed separately. If there is an appetite for that, could we not arrange something based on mutual support/shared contribution? Barefoot CDWs could be encouraged to attend and that would the opportunity to learn from other CDB folk.


John Merritt Mon 4 Sep 2017 8:38AM

I think the idea of workshops at Future Coop's and Congress (and possibly other events) for introductory workshops are a great idea. One concern I have is that the time needed to understand Cooperative Development work fully, is extensive. However, providing the seeds of understanding is especially useful for people who work in worker coops, as they have a commitment to the Cooperative values, principles and ways of working. However there is a problem with business advisors getting a taste of of Cooperative and Social Enterprise development work. That is that within a day they think they know what they are doing and I know many of us have had to spend many often unpaid hours, unpicking the problems bad advice and support creates.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Mon 4 Sep 2017 9:36AM

Hi John. Some clarification on what is being proposed at the moment:

1) The mention of piggy-backed meetings was to address the desire of existing CDB's to attend the initial two action learning workshops we have funding for. Adrian stated that he thought that this desire to attend, by CDBs, was due to a lack of CPD opportunities for existing CDB practitioners. My response was to say that possible changes in the CDB forum meetings (on the agenda of this month's meeting) would possibly address that.

It is not proposed at the moment to have introduction to CD workshops piggy-backed onto other events, although I wouldn't discount it.

2) It is also not the intention to deliver a one day workshop and then send people out as CD practitioners. The initial proposal at the top of the thread states that the purpose is to explore how "members of existing co-ops can actually deliver peer to peer co-operative development in conjunction with CDB's." That remains the intention. We will bring co-op members up to speed with what we do as CDBs, how CD is currently funded, explore what CD work they are already delivering (if any) and then explore how any potential delivery by them might work - their aspirations, the barriers and opportunities etc. We'll then feed all that back to the SoldFund and discuss the next steps with all stakeholder groups.


Hilary Sudbury Mon 4 Sep 2017 9:43AM

HI Mark,

Is it possible for the feedback to come to the CDBs as well as the Solid Fund as it does relate to the work we do on the ground and it would seem disjointed for the Solid fund to be discussing how barefoot CD workers can work in conjunction with CDBs without
input from CDBs? Or am I missing the point?



Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Mon 4 Sep 2017 9:57AM

Hi Hilary, Yes that's the intention. As they are funding the workshops, we are of course obliged to report back to the SolidFund. Their members response will then feed into the discussion that must also involve CDBs, funders, The Hive, Plunkett, potential new Funds etc. I anticipate that we will only write one report and share it with everybody. We don't know where this is going yet - we're just stirring the pot (with a Kickstart from SolidFund) and seeing what happens. I'm thinking that we'll also need some CDB input prior to the workshops to check the questions that we'll be trying to answer - watch this space.


John Merritt Mon 4 Sep 2017 11:38AM

Hi Mark, thanks for the clarity.


bob cannell Mon 4 Sep 2017 5:25PM

I spent years trying to do coop support from one worker coop Suma to others. Its not easy which is why I also set up another coop CBC as a consortium network so coop activists could support each other and train each other in CDW skills.

I continually tried to get experienced Suma members to use either path to share their knowledge. Very little success. Sometimes if it was directly relevant to a suma coop customer or supplier, people would do it or colleagues would agree to pay me to do it.

Suma and undoubtedly other longer established coops continually provide advice and support to sister coops and to supplier and customer coops. Things like business advice eg shop stock, financial management advice and frequently from me, HR and membership development advice.

But that's different and less scary than walking into an unknown coop with unknown people and high emotions (they called for help usually.) You need handholding onsite, an apprenticeship arrangement, to get the confidence to do that. Ive done that too. There are a few Coop Dev practitioners who I took under my wing and in areas where I was lacking, others did it for me (thank you Kate.)

But the coops need an ongoing relationship with trusted individuals who are mentors. I'm Uncle Bob to a few. Ring Bob. If I dont know what they could do, I will know someone I trust who does.

The big question is how do you remunerate the mentor? If it's expected to be free then we aren't going to get many people doing it. Current coop support is designed for a transactional exchange (you pay me to deliver a unit of advice) but we need relational exchange (ongoing developing relationships not 'sheep dip' in and out).

Its no secret that I have been very critical of what passed for support and advice in the Hub and now via the Hive. Clearly being designed by people who dont know how worker coops and small community coops work in practice. Much of that spend was wasted, water off a duck's back. But we did use the flexibility of the Hub to actually do what was needed in many cases ( ie not what what they told the assessor.)

Im not after CPD, I just want advice and support for worker coops that works. If I'm not able to be involved in the barefoot initiative I'll just carry on. But I would like to be. I think I first introduced the DAWN example of accredited barefoot practitioners to the UK from the US.


Uncle Bob


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Wed 15 Nov 2017 12:56PM

Hi everyone. The 2 barefoot practitioner workshops (Manchester and London) are looming and we have 15 participants in each. One issue which we want to address during this pilot is the relationship between existing CDBs and new entrants into the field. We're particularly interested in being able to express how many existing CDBs would be willing to take on barefoot practitioners as associates, apprentices or members, collaborative partners (if they are doing the work through their co-op) and what/if any terms and conditions would apply?


bob cannell Wed 15 Nov 2017 5:54PM

CBC have a long established associate process for people who want to be mentored by a more experienced CDB worker in their dealings with client coops and be a part of a campaigning organisation too. Associate subs are £10 per month as a contribution to CBC's minimal running costs.


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Fri 1 Dec 2017 6:22PM

Principle Six - yes.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Tue 2 Jan 2018 11:23AM

Request for input.

As you are probably aware, Co-op Culture held two workshops recently at which members of worker co-operatives, who had expressed an interest, spent a day exploring their current co-operative development practice, how they might do it better and do more of it, and what were the barriers and opportunities around this "barefoot co-operative development".

The members of the participating worker co-operatives were very keen to get involved in all stages of co-operative development from inspiring people to create co-ops to peer to peer mentoring to actually delivering support.

In the new year, we'll be reporting the results of this process to all stakeholders, including CDB's. Several themes are emerging that certainly affect and could potentially involve existing CDB's directly. We'd like to include in the report, the reaction of those CDB's to these emerging themes and also the wider concept of Barefoot Co-operative Development. We are also exploring some of the ideas that have emerged with other partners, such as Co-operatives UK.

The form linked below, describes some of the emerging themes and we seek your initial thoughts, to factor them into the report and the suggestions for where we go with this.



Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Thu 11 Jan 2018 12:30PM

Thank you to the 9 CDB's that have contributed so far. We'll be closing the form on Monday 15th January in order to give us time to analyse CDB feedback and include in the draft report. Please contribute before Monday if you haven't yet done so. We plan to circulate the draft report the week before the next CDB Forum meeting on the 12th February, at which we'll discuss the next possible steps.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Thu 17 Jan 2019 8:00PM

Back from the dead! In an effort to provoke more action and potentially co-ordinate our activities regardingn Barefoot Co-op Develoment, I'd like to hold a "Fringe" meeting - an extended conversation - with CDBs who are interested in working with Barefoot Co-op Developers after the CDB Forum meeting. I am sure there will be somewhere we can grab a coffee or other beverage if the room needs to be cleared. I will also post this in the CDB Forum thread


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Fri 18 Jan 2019 8:21AM

I can’t get to Brum before the Saturday so will miss the CDB Forum, but am digesting Coop Culture’s paper on barefoots and will hopefully have Principle Six’s version ready in time


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Wed 6 Feb 2019 3:18PM

This is embarrasing...I thought I had sent this last week but here it is unsent! .....For your perusal, and in the spirit of open-ness, here is a working paper on how Co-op Culture is/planning to work with barefoot co-op developers. It's an agile process, we are learning and so the paper is a work in progress and does not go into the detail of insurance etc which will be dealt with at contracting stage. We aren't suggesting any other CDB takes this approach and welcome a plurality of offers to barefoot co-op developers.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Wed 6 Feb 2019 3:22PM

For any CDBs who are interested in discussing how we can train up and/or integrate the next generation of co-op developers from barefoots, we will be holding a Zoom meeting on Tues 26th February at 10 a.m. We really hope someone from your CDB can participate if you are interested in working with barefoot coop developers. https://zoom.us/j/833356021


Martin Meteyard Wed 6 Feb 2019 4:16PM

Thanks Nathan. I'll join if I can (but might have last minute prep to do for an AGM I'm chairing later in the day).


Alex Lawrie Wed 6 Feb 2019 5:15PM

Ah, er, that's an interesting time. South West Co-op Support - that's SCS, Kabin, Co-op Futures and CAN - are having a meeting in Bristol at 11 that day. So a Zoom at 1000 is either really convenient, or really inconvenient, and I'm not sure which. I'll see if I can make it work, and then you'll get four of us for the price of one.


bob cannell Wed 6 Feb 2019 6:48PM

and me. I'll need a reminder


John Atherton Thu 7 Feb 2019 9:25AM

I'd like to come to this, the worker co-op solidfund initiative hit a stumbling block of time and organising, so nice to relook at this from another angle


Martin Meteyard Mon 25 Feb 2019 6:14PM

Sorry, going to have to give my apologies now but am still very interested.


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Thu 7 Feb 2019 2:43PM

I am running a Principle Six event at exactly that time - otherwise would be there


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Mon 25 Feb 2019 4:41PM

Just a quick reminder that we have a Zoom session tomorrow at 10am to discuss how we as CDBs can integrate barefoot practitioners into our work and provide them with experience, skills, on the job training etc https://zoom.us/j/833356021


bob cannell Mon 25 Feb 2019 6:07PM

apologies if i dont make this, depends on wifi/mobile signal


Dave Hollings Tue 26 Feb 2019 6:48AM

CMS is interested in this but we all have other commitments this morning. Please keep us in the loop.


John Atherton Tue 26 Feb 2019 9:03AM

same for me sadly, something else has come up I can't get out of, do let me know how it goes.


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Mon 25 Feb 2019 9:04PM

Aaargh my apologies too, am faciltating a P6 even. I’m not doing very well here.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Tue 26 Feb 2019 11:06AM

Some rudimentary notes about what was discussed. Although small in numbers, it was useful to tease out some key issues and agree some next steps


Poll Created Tue 26 Feb 2019 11:12AM

Expand the Barefoot Co-op Development conversation Closed Fri 15 Mar 2019 11:01AM

by Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Fri 15 Mar 2019 11:43AM

OK. Thanks for voting. Big support for the option of inviting barefoot practitioners to just this thread. I'll sort that next week.

In the barefoot CDB Zoom meeting today, it was suggested that we should start to involve people in the conversation who may actually be delivering such development - members of existing co-ops who can help deliver formal development work.

We will particularly be looking at developing training and qualifications to give any co-op development practitioner the skills and confidence to deliver.

This poll is to decide the best way forward to include more people in this conversation. Please indicate your preference.


Results Option % of points Voters
Invite people who are interested in becoming barefoot practitioners to this "Barefoot" thread within the CD Forum (they would only see this thread). 66.7% 8 BC JA AA NBC AW TC JG JDL
Invite people who are interested in becoming barefoot practitioners to the whole CD Forum 25.0% 3 SWS MM AP
Move this conversation to the public Platform 6 Loomio Group where anyone can participate 8.3% 1 CMI

12 of 92 people have voted (13%)


John Atherton Tue 26 Feb 2019 12:07PM

Invite people who are interested in becoming barefoot practitioners to this "Barefoot" thread within the CD Forum (they would only see this thread).

The main thing to bare in mind is most of these people will have a million other things to be thinking about so I'd suggested limited involvement for now so as not to scare them off with the full unadulterated forum.....


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Tue 26 Feb 2019 6:24PM

Invite people who are interested in becoming barefoot practitioners to this "Barefoot" thread within the CD Forum (they would only see this thread).

but would be fine with it moving to P6, just think this is more appropriate as P6 is not "owned" by all CDBs


John Goodman Tue 26 Feb 2019 7:00PM

Invite people who are interested in becoming barefoot practitioners to this "Barefoot" thread within the CD Forum (they would only see this thread).

Makes sense as a route in


Angela Porter Tue 26 Feb 2019 10:04PM

Invite people who are interested in becoming barefoot practitioners to the whole CD Forum

They can benefit fully from the information shared on the whole CD Forum

Move this conversation to the public Platform 6 Loomio Group where anyone can participate

If we put the whole conversation on the Platform 6 group, it will a) be a public conversation open to people not confidently describing themselves as co-op developers, but on their way and might be interested b) encourage people to join Platform 6, hopefully c) invite people to nominate themselves to join the CDB forum.

Though generally in favour of the CDB forum being open, I'm mindful of @nathanbrown 's point. But OK i think that it's open to anyone who requests to join.


bob cannell Thu 14 Mar 2019 10:44AM

Invite people who are interested in becoming barefoot practitioners to this "Barefoot" thread within the CD Forum (they would only see this thread).

theres a problem in other loomio groups of non-involved people who only want to voice their opinions (no actions) dominating the thread. same old, same old - it used to happen with coopnet back in the 90s!!


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Wed 27 Feb 2019 9:36AM

Once people are regular practitioners they could be invited into the whole CD Forum. I agree with @johnatherton that for some barefooters, the whole forum might be overload - a bit "all or nothing". I find it difficult to keep up and I am doing 40+ hours a week. Maybe consider it a "ladder of participation"?


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Wed 27 Feb 2019 10:27AM

Thanks for the Zoom notes and for keeping this alive. I would like to be a bit clearer about how people think this action thread relates to outcomes from the Solidfund-sponsored initiative, which is focused on worker coops and worker cooperation. This is my (and others) main concern; although there is obviously a general need to expand dev capacity, worker coop initiatives find it even harder to access startup support than other types of coop.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Wed 27 Feb 2019 5:38PM

In response to @sionwhellens while I see the worker co-op sector as a primary source for barefoot co-op development workers both in the past and in the future, I feel that the development of training suitable for barefoot workers will probably need to be open to practitioners from across the co-op piste in order to be sustainable and certainly if we want it to be funded by the wider co-op (or even community business) sector. I think that the lack of funding for support for worker co-operatives is a separate issue to the creation of a training programme, although the predominance of barefoots from the worker co-op sector may help to improve the situation by osmosis.


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Thu 28 Feb 2019 10:56AM

Thanks Mark. Just want to be clear that this is a 'fork' in relation to the Solidfund initiative. I see it as being a bit like the worker coop skills training event programme that the Worker Coop Council designed (and, largely, ran - i.e. Rebecca at Seeds and others) a few years ago. It was successful in its own terms, then absorbed/adapted into a wider programme of coop trainings by Coops UK. I still think there is still potential demand for a focused worker coop thing.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Thu 28 Feb 2019 11:01AM

It's one way we might do it. I'm happy to explore here and at Worker Co-op Weekend how we might satisfy the demand for a worker co-op focussed programme. At the moment the "big" money available to co-op development is targetted at all co-ops (or sectors within that - eg platform co-ops) or the community business sector that disfavours worker co-ops.


John Atherton Thu 28 Feb 2019 11:02AM

To be honest that is my view too, there are enough people knocking around with experience of community share issues / community co-ops, but there certainly aren't enough people who genuinely know how to advise on worker owned co-ops. But if to get external funding we are saying its for wider benefit but internally we know our goal is clear, then I have less of an issue.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Thu 28 Feb 2019 11:06AM

This also relates to the strategic direction of SolidFund - will it ever be big enough to run a dedicated worker co-op support programme? How big would that need to be in terms of income? How might we get there? There was interest in direct funding (1% fund) from worker co-ops at the Barefoot workshops and one of the policy asks being posited in response to the Co-ops Unleashed report is corporation tax relief for co-ops supporting co-op development funding.


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Thu 28 Feb 2019 4:54PM

Exactly Mark. I guess the investment in the worker coop barefoot events was that - an attempt to explore how we might satisfy the demand for a worker coop focused programme. Perhaps we need to reset and go a bit more onto the front foot, with some clear objectives.


Dave Hollings Thu 28 Feb 2019 10:02PM

I think SolidFund could be in a position to do this in a couple of years time if current rates of growth are maintained. We have over £15k to distribute this year and will have more next year because we are retaining half our income each year.

The key, assuming we want to do this, is to get to a point where we have enough money to entice a partner. Going to potential funders in or supportive of the co-operative movement and saying (for example) we have £20k to put into worker co-operative development each year, please can you match it up to £40k is a conversation with a great deal of potential.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Fri 1 Mar 2019 3:15PM

I'm confused that there is a feeling thatthere aren't enough people to advise worker coops. I'd quite happily work solely with worker coops and never touch community coops but the work just isn't there. (caveat: I am referring to paid work not pro bono)


Graham Fri 1 Mar 2019 5:12PM

Perhaps this is a bit of chicken and egg? If there aren't many people who "genuinely know how to advise on worker owned co-ops", and those that are around are quite well hidden, given the near-zero coverage given to the model, then the number of would-be worker co-ops approaching people like Nathan will necessarily be very low. Which is not the same thing in my view as there not being any demand. In my view there probably is demand, although much of it is latent, i.e. if people were more aware of the possibility, and how they might access information, advice, funding and support, then we'd probably see a lot more visible demand.
I think most of us would agree that if we wanted to double (or preferably more) the size of the worker co-op sector in the next 12 months, we wouldn't start here. The challenge, in my view, is to understand where we would start, and what we'd do in order to achieve that goal. If that work has already been done let's look at it.
I'd say that having more people with the basic skillset (and the confidence to use it) is part of the solution, but only part.


Graham Tue 5 Mar 2019 8:45AM

I'm very much up for Platform 6 playing a leading role in the barefoot coopdev initiative as it plays absolutely into our agenda of crowdsourcing expertise. Here’s info about Open Badges which I think could be the way forward in terms of accrediting barefootists (and others). https://openbadges.org/about/ I'm looking at how we build this in to our platform.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Wed 6 Mar 2019 12:05PM

I think that openbadges look great - well worth exploring


bob cannell Wed 6 Mar 2019 12:24PM

open badges, theres a worker coop developing these in the uk. sorry cant remember who. came to WCW a couple of years ago. John Atherton might know.

yes they are democratising training and development


Graham Wed 6 Mar 2019 12:43PM

Yes. They are called 'We Are Open'. I'm in communication.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Tue 26 Mar 2019 11:30AM

I've just emailed all those who attended the Barefoot workshops (or expressed interest in doing so) to ask them if they would like to join this Loomio group. Watch this space.


Joshua Lawson Tue 2 Apr 2019 9:15AM

Hey, I was a participant on the Barefoot workshops and have already been part of the co-operative development forum loomio. I've been actively pursuing trying to get some more direct experience within the co-operative development sector, particularly in supporting worker co-ops, in the hope of becoming a practitioner. Energies being invested by existing CD people is very much appreciated toward encouraging new practitioners, but as already outlined above it does seem like further resourcing is required to create a clearer pathway/training/resources - utilising Solid Fund resources, either independently or with a partner seems like a good way forward (perhaps some funding for some initial design work ahead of reaching out to possible partners?). I think Graham has made good points about the need to develop new practitioners alongside a strategy creating/incentivising more worker co-operatives and this also needing to be tied to this work. Happy to be involved as a keen would-be practitioner in helping push these ideas forward :)


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Tue 2 Apr 2019 11:08AM

Cheers @joshualawson1 One thing that would be good to know is what you need in order to feel confident and competent to deliver face to face co-op development support. We're currently looking at developing training and steer on content and method of delivery would be particularly useful feedback from potential barefoot practitioners.


bob cannell Tue 2 Apr 2019 1:32PM

an important area is consultation skills. what questions to ask at different stages of interaction and how to ask them.

i think this is the biggest obstacle to skilled and knowledgeable cooperators 'going into' other coops as advisors. its scary until you are experienced.

there are great 'how to' do consultation books and videos for GPs. lots of which is relevant to coop doctors too. i can look them up. my other half trains GPs in consultation skills.

previously practitioner training has concentrated on the 'what' and nowhere near enough on the 'how'.

if youre experienced you have probably tried to forget how you learned (oh god i remember my crass attempts).
and you wont know where the holes are in your competence from OTJ training (on the job) or CA (copy annie aka apprenticeship)

glad this is being revived and hopefully this time around it wont be stuffed into an accreditation straitjacket but developed for needs.




Joshua Lawson Fri 12 Apr 2019 9:40AM

More direct/practical experience - delivering sessions alongside/partnered with a more experienced practitioner would be a big help. Also resources that outline the various areas where support may be needed, legal, membership etc, would also be a great help in framing the scope of the work and provide greater clarity for upcoming barefooters to see what further skills they might need. Happy to provide more detailed or specific feedback into the development work :)


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Tue 15 Oct 2019 7:49PM

Thanks for the heads up from @martinmeteyard on this excellent podast from Geo Collective. Speaks directly to the conversation here. Driving our movement with P2P learning


Martin Meteyard Tue 15 Oct 2019 9:56PM

There's also a transcript of the podcast which you can skim through if you don't have time to listen to the whole thing.


Irena P Thu 14 Oct 2021 1:36PM

So keen to hear an update from Barefoot Co-op Development if possible. Any helicopter views, how the last two years have faired for co-op development in your experiences etc. What Barefoot's next steps could be - this and more would be really interesting. thanks.


Sion Whellens (Principle Six/Calverts) Thu 14 Oct 2021 3:38PM

Hi Irena, Principle Six has been working with three alumni from the last Barefoots cohort, and someone I advised is applying to the programme after next, so very positive!


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Fri 15 Oct 2021 7:49AM

@Irena P there is a recent update on our website, including a downloadable report. Latest news is that we have just started Barefoot 2.0 with 16 new people and are looking to start Barefoot 3.0 in the new year. Exciting times!

If anyone is interested in working with any of our new exciting cohort - allowing them to sit in on support meetings etc., then please do get in touch.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Fri 15 Oct 2021 9:09AM

@Irena P In addition to the update on our website, new CDB People Support Co-op is registered and trading (including referalls and contracts from Co-op Culture), one other is in the process of registration and a third is under discussion. We have established a reference group and will be reviewing the strategy for Barefoot's future including stewardship and growth potential. We are also whitelabelling the programme so that it can be picked up and delivered by other co-operative development practitioners including in other countries with different trading and legal environments.


Irena P Fri 15 Oct 2021 9:27AM

I'm so glad I asked, this IS exciting...


Poll Created Wed 4 May 2022 7:35AM

Barefoot alumni - invite to CD Loomio Group Closed Tue 31 May 2022 7:01AM

by Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Thu 2 Jun 2022 2:04PM

Thanks for the engagement. The proposal was supported unanimously. Brace yourselves for new arrivals 🙂

Co-op culture is currently part way through the delivery of Barefoot 3 (BF3) and have just finished delivery of Barefoot 2 (BF2). Barefoot 1 alumni were invited to join this group and BF2 and 3 currently have their own sub-loomios.

This proposal is that, as active members of the co-operative development sector, those who have completed the BF2 course and those currently part way through BF3 be invited to the full CD Loomio Group.

They are a dynamic exciting group (approx. 30 people), many already delivering CD support and so have much to contribute as well as learn from this community of practice.

For anyone new to the Barefoot Programme there is more information here.


Results Option % of points Voters
Abstain 0.0% 0  
Disagree 0.0% 0  
Block 0.0% 0  

25 of 146 people have voted (17%)


Douglas Racionzer
Wed 4 May 2022 7:35AM

Full participation as early as feasible is a key objective in growing our sector.


Kate Whittle
Wed 4 May 2022 7:35AM

Barefoot peeps we need you!👍


Wed 4 May 2022 7:35AM

No-brainer. They should be automatically invited when they start, as part of signing up for the course.


Brian Morgan
Wed 4 May 2022 7:35AM

Inclusivity - why not?


Tatiana Baskakova, Ceramics, Ldn
Wed 4 May 2022 7:35AM

If we aren't here yet, we should be :D

Thank you, @Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture & Platform 6)


Jane Avery
Wed 4 May 2022 7:35AM

Good idea. The Barefoot initiative is excellent


Diana Moore (Wessex CA) Wed 4 May 2022 7:38AM

Thank you for your email. I work part-time, on different days each week, so I may not be able to attend to your email immediately.
I will contact you as soon as possible on my return. If your query is urgent please don't hesitate to contact me on my mobile (07903 932 214).


Carole Donnelly Thu 26 May 2022 10:35AM

Mark thanks for the link - can you resend the link to the previous loomino board that had all the recordings on please - my laptop died and now have a new one so putting everything back online so I can access, Plus did you mention a certificate of completion - I may have missed the email


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Thu 26 May 2022 10:46AM

Will do Carole


Diana Moore (Wessex CA) Mon 30 May 2022 6:03AM

Thank you for your email. I work part-time, on different days each week, so I may not be able to attend to your email immediately.
I will contact you as soon as possible on my return. If your query is urgent please don't hesitate to contact me on my mobile (07903 932 214).


Diana Moore (Wessex CA) Thu 2 Jun 2022 2:06PM

Thank you for your email. I work part-time, on different days each week, so I may not be able to attend to your email immediately.
I will contact you as soon as possible on my return. If your query is urgent please don't hesitate to contact me on my mobile (07903 932 214).


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Thu 2 Jun 2022 2:17PM

Further to this, I'm unable to add Barefoots yet as the Loomio plan for the CD Forum has lapsed. This was a special deal negotiated between Loomio and Co-operatives UK - I've raised it with @Petra Morris