Guides to setting up and running your own co-operative or social enterprise

Please use the links below for helpful guides and templates from HCD and other support organisations:

Funding for your social enterprise

There are five sources of funds for your social enterprise:

  1. Use your own savings and resources
  2. Borrow money from the bank, friends, or other financial institution
  3. Get people to invest by selling shares in your social enterprise
  4. Get money by offering to provide a service or product 
  5. Get a grant or gift

Contact Douglas Racionzer to book a consultation and find out which funding source best suits your social enterprise

There is a regularly updated blog offering funding opportunities.

For inspiration, ideas, and useful tools, go to the social enterprise ethics playbook.

Start-Up Guides

Simply Series from Co-operatives UK

The series of Simply guides from Co-operatives UK is the most comprehensive suite of resources ever to be developed for community enterprises, providing top quality financial, legal and governance advice.

The suite of resources, available both online and as hard copies, is free to use. 

Simply Start Up is a guide for anyone involved in the creation of an enterprise that will be owned by, run by, and supported by the community in which it operates.

Simply Performance identifies the need for co-operatives and mutuals to adopt a set of performance indicators that interrogate how they are delivering value to their members. The publication puts forward innovative ways for measuring this ‘co-operative difference’.

Simply Legal is a clear, simple and understandable guide to the legal and governance processes required to support the third sector - from co-operatives to social enterprises.

Simply Governance is designed as a reference for anyone involved in advising or supporting a co-operative, social or community enterprise and may also be relevant to the governance of any third sector organisation. It is also suitable for any member of such an enterprise and is designed to be particularly relevant to a member of any governing body.

Simply Finance is designed for you if you are involved with a project that wants to be more, or better, than it presently is. In order to best make that leap something extra may well need to be brought in from outside the organisation.

Simply Buyout is a guide aimed at owners, professional advisers, and employees looking for a co-operative option as well as an owner interested in selling their business to the employees.

There is excellent information and advice on what to work through if you want to set up a co-operative on Co-operatives UK's Start a Co-operative web page. We recommend consulting this free resources as a first step. This is produced under Co-operatives UK's 'The Hive' programme to suppoirt the start-up and growth of co-operatives. HCD is a delivery partner of support services under the Hive, so please do contact us if you would like to progress with this support after reading the information there. 

Unltd have partnered with DLA Piper to provide social entrepreneurs with important legal support and guidance through a series of downloadable Legal Help Sheets. 

Structures for Social Enterprises highlights identifying the best legal structure for your social enterprise using a flowchart, a comprehensive glossary and comparison table.

To celebrate 10 years of Community Interest Companies, Bates Wells & Braithwaite produce this incredibly helpful practical framework, offering CIC directors guidance on effective governance, which ought to be robust and well-considered, as CIC directors are responsible for the corporate behaviour of the CICs they govern. An essential read for anyone new to being a CIC director, or to revisit how well your existing CIC is governed.

Go to their full page of guides for advice on Intellectual Property Protection, Service Level Agreements, Employment, Communications and Internet Policy and many more.

Social Good Guides have also produced A Legal Primer for Changemakers which provides a broad overview of the legal issues that social entrepreneurs may encounter in establishing and operating a new social enterprise.

How to Guides from Radical Routes

How to set up a Workers Co-op by Radical Routes guides you through choosing legal structures, registration with companies house, market research, business plans, democratic decision making, legal requirements & responsibilities, finances and a few bits on running the thing once you've set it up. You can also buy a hard copy of this excellent guide.

How to set up a Housing Co-op by Radical Routes guides you through thr process of starting your own ethical housing solutions. You can also buy a hard copy.

How to Set Up a Social Centre by Radical Routes guides you through legal structures, business planning, property maintenance, licencing, policies, housing legislation, running a bar, and all you need to set up a community-run social centre. You can also buy a hard copy.

Social Good Guides have produced a number of ‘How-to’s including How to Start a Social Enterprise, Idea to Launch and What’s Strategy Got To Do With It?

Changing the World: A Beginners Guide to Social Entrepreneurship from UnLtd is a culmination of their learning from working closely with young social entrepreneurs and is a tool for sharing the stories, challenges and insights of young people who had an idea and ran with it. The aim of this guide is to share our learning in the hope that it will support future young people who have ideas to make their world better. 

Governance Guides and Toolkits

Model Constitutions:

For an up-to-date list of model sets of rules for co-operatives approved by Co-operatives UK, go to

The Charity Commission have created model governing documents that will speed up your regsitration with them if you are creating a charitable organisation. Go to 

3 tools for effective meetings by Co-operantics is a good starting place to find out the essential basics.

The Worker Co‑operative Code of Governance published by Co-operatives UK’s Worker Co-operative Council, sets out what anyone should expect, and should work together to achieve, as a member of a worker co-operative.

Governing the Firm: Workers' Control in Theory and Practice by Gregory K. Dow draws upon economic theory, statistical evidence, and case studies to frame an explanation. The fundamental idea is that labour is inalienable, while capital can be freely transferred from one person to another. This implies that worker controlled firms typically face financing problems, encounter collective choice dilemmas, and have difficulty creating markets for control positions within the firm. Together these factors can account for much of what is known about the incidence, behavior, and design of worker- controlled firms. A policy proposal to encourage employee buyouts is developed in the concluding chapter. It is available to buy online but by way of introduction you can read extracts from the text here.

Co-operative Skills Audit.
Co-operative skills include good communication, excellent meetings, effective team working, awareness of different conflict resolution styles and skilful negotiation techniques. Carrying out this excellent audit by Co-operantics will provide you with some ideas regarding where your co-operative might look to improve performance, and it will also provide us with useful background information if you decide that training or coaching would help your co-operative improve the way you work together.

Consensus decision-making

A Consensus Handbook by Seeds for Change is a guide to co-operative decision-making for activists, co-ops and communities.  it explains the spirit and philosophy of co-operative decision making as well as providing practical guidance on how to facilitate a consensus process. It looks at common situations and explain the skills and tools your group can use to ease the path to a decision. It includes material on some of the pitfalls and problems you and your group may face - and provides some suggestions of how to deal with them! It is also available to buy in hard copy from Seeds for Change's website.

This Consensus Decision-making guide is a shorter but very imformative piece by Rhizome, a co-op providing facilitation, mediation, consensus building and training to grassroots activists and communities across the UK, and to those organisations that support activism in all its forms.

Business Planning has produced a number of tools and templates for problem-solving and decision-making. These include free SWOT analysis template and examples, and PEST analysis template, and the ethical decision-making quick guide is certainly worth a look.

The Ultimate Guide To Price Strategy gives some insightful advice on pricing, which many clients find a tricky area at start-up.

For Marketing Social Good Guides have produced Marketing: Lean In and Control The Lane which includes include one recipe you can use to build a respectable and measurable marketing plan that will allow you to draw direct correlations from your marketing costs to your marketing goals. Fill in the chart and you will have a path.


Raising Finance for your Enterprise is a free guide on raising finance for Co-operatives and Social Enterprises, created by our friends at Co-operative Assistance Network.

It includes calculating your ongoing capital requirement, sources of finance (including finance options available only to social businesses), balanced investment strategy and some real-life examples. A recommended read.

Does some of the jargon surrounding finance leave you a little confused? Take a look at Unltd's Jargon Buster to help you make sense of it all. 

Simply Finance is designed for you if you are involved with a project that wants to be more, or better, than it presently is. In order to best make that leap something extra may well need to be brought in from outside the organisation. 

Community Shares

Practitioners' Guide to Community Shares was published in 2011 by the Community Shares Unit. It was the culmination of an earlier action-research programme promoting equity investment in community enterprise. Based on the experiences of ten co-operatives and community enterprises across England, the guide explains how to raise risk capital for ventures serving a community purpose. This guide has largely been updated by the new Community Shares Handbook.

Investing in Community Shares explains what community shares are, and will help inform your decision on whether you should invest in a community share offer. It focuses exclusively on organisations that are registered with the Financial Services Authority as co-operatives or community benefit societies, which are subject to different legislation from companies, and have their own unique form of shares.

Community Share Issues and Community Land Trusts is a research paper looking into the work undertaken by the Community Shares Unit and Wessex Community Assets to explore the prospects for Community Land Trusts (CLTs) to raise finance using community shares. Focusing on the Wessex Community Land Trust Project as a cluster of live CLT activity in South West England, the team at Wessex Community Assets, led by Alison Ward, researched the perceptions and practicalities of community investment within the sector. This research paper sets out the findings and some future recommendations for how community shares could be applied for housing and land-use initiatives on a wider scale. 


Civic Economy & the Transition Movement

The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins is a highly sought-after book which shows how the inevitable and profound changes ahead can have a positive outcome. These changes can lead to the rebirth of local communities, which will grow more of their own food, generate their own power, and build their own houses using local materials. They can also encourage the development of local currencies, to keep money in the local area. There are now over 30 Transition Towns in the UK, with more joining as the idea takes off. The book is hard to find now but is available here for download

Compendium for the Civic Economy presents 25 case studies of the civic economy. The remarkable achievements of these 25 trailblazers show why we need to get better at understanding and recognising the role of civic entrepreneurship and enable it to turn ideas into action and impact. It is also available to buy through your local bookstore or online.