Co-operating Oxford ends but new co-ops live on!

#CoopFortnight this year celebrated how co-operatives offer an altogether different way to do business, to support communities, and to support people.

It coincided with the final weeks of the Co-operating Oxford project.

I’ve had the pleasure and good luck to have been working on this project as the Co-operative Development Worker at Co-operative Futures since July 2022. Through funding from Oxford City Council, I’ve been able to provide free start-up support, training and events to groups who wished to set up community or worker owned businesses.

Over the last year I’ve got to work with some passionate groups of people who’ve come together, to serve their local area, or address a need, through creating a purposeful business. From creating financial projections to advising how to take on a lease for a community building, I’ve been able to provide mentoring and in-depth support for around 12 groups along their business development journeys. I’ve also met with another 20 groups to advise about co-operative options for their businesses.

The project has also fostered connections between existing and new co-operative businesses across the county by holding 2 networking events. We’ve also been part of facilitating events and conversations about using co-operative models for providing social care services. As well as working with the Owned By Oxford partnership and grassroots community organisations to discuss community-ownership and management of community space in Blackbird Leys.

By the end of the project, I’m excited to announce that 4 new co-operatives have been set-up in Oxford with another 3 groups converting to become co-operatives.

Here are some their stories:

Cutteslowe Greenhouse Project

When the garden centre in Cutteslowe park closed, the local community came together to try to rescue it. They are setting up a community benefit society and hope to take on the greenhouses to provide a community hub that connects people with the natural world and each other through nature and food based activities.

“The Cutteslowe Greenhouse is all about enabling and creating community that is easy to access and identify with. Becoming a Community Benefit Society is therefore exactly the right structure as it will reflect how we want our group to be owned and governed.”

Michael Huth, founder

“We are at the stage where we have a founding team and board members, ready to take the plunge. This summer will see a number of engagement events in Cutteslowe Park to raise our profile and tell our story. A paid engagement coordinator is taking on the organisation and promotion of these events, while our steering group continues to work on our business plan and proposal.

Flame Lily Co-operative

Flame Lily is group of colleagues and friends, setting up to provide much needed administrative and training services in the health & social care sector. They were passionate about setting up a workers co-operative to work together and use their skills to give back to the community.

Wolvercote Community Space

Having been gifted a community space at the new Wolvercote Paper Mill housing site, this group has been consulting with the local residents and are in the process of setting up a community hub offering cafe, work and events space.

Community-owned Music Venue

Driven by the shortage of purpose-made and accessible music venues in the city, after several public meetings drawing support from over 100 people, a group is forming as a community benefit society in order to develop support and find a space for a community-owned music space.

Oxford has an incredibly rich pedigree of producing world famous popular music artists, but many of the grass roots venues which nurtured them have been forced to close due to unsustainable rents or poorly thought through redevelopments. That means just a handful of venues remain where a diverse range of artists can cut their teeth, enriching cultural life and social cohesion in the city, regardless of whether they go on to become superstars. We aim to address that situation through concerted community action and invite the major landowners and public bodies to work with us to make the dream a reality.”

Paul Wightman, community music venue activist


South Oxford Farmers & Community Market

The market has been going for many years and is much used and loved by the local community. They have decided to convert into a co-op.

If you’re interested in exploring co-operative solutions to the challenges faced by your community, please do get in touch.

Alice Hemming