Helping multi-stakeholder co-ops to grow

During 2017 we helped two very different multi-stakeholder co‑operatives to expand and develop.


RetrofitWorks, based in London, is a multi-stakeholder co-operative whose members include both owners/managers of housing stock such as local authorities, housing associations and charities, and tradespeople and building companies.

Megan Williams, Projects Manager at RetrofitWorks, said: “RetrofitWorks brings together the supply and demand sides of the complex market for retrofitting. We are the bridge between the clients and the contractors, the families and the fitters. We provide administration, project management and quality control.”

The co-op was set up in 2013 and now has some 50 Practitioner Members, who include sole traders and small businesses, and a similar number of client members, known as Advocates. Work is focused on energy saving measures such as replacing boilers, fitting double-glazing and installing/replacing all kinds of insulation but also includes general building refurbishment that facilitates the retrofitting measures. To date most contracts have been for local authorities in London and the South East, for between 50 and 200 households. The ultimate purpose of this work is to reduce carbon emissions and energy usage.

Megan Williams said: “The outlook for RetrofitWorks is very exciting. We have a number of big projects in the pipeline and over the next few years we are aiming to extend our geographical spread and we want to get the retrofit market growing to a much larger scale.”

Ian Rothwell, Investment Manager at Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “The team at RetrofitWorks are passionate advocates of co-operative working. They have brought together key professionals from a range of areas – community energy co-ops, trade associations, local authorities etc. Using RetrofitWorks enables small local contractors to directly benefit from large contracts because Retrofit Works handles the administration, quality control and any complaints.”

Sencio Community Leisure

Sencio Community Leisure is a community benefit society set up in 2003 to run three leisure centres and a golf course on behalf of Sevenoaks District Council in Kent. The transfer from local authority control has allowed access to more finance options. In 2017 the organisation developed and refurbished a number of facilities at their sites including extending the health and fitness suite at the Sevenoaks centre and the replacement of water flumes at White Oak leisure centre. These projects were funded by loans from Co‑operative & Community Finance, Big Issue Invest and the local authorities.

Over the last 20 years a number of local authorities have ‘externalised’ their leisure services by setting up trusts. Today about 30% of public leisure centres in the UK are run by trusts. Sencio Community Leisure generates over £4.5m from its four sites which are used by more than 4,000 people a year.

Violette Saad, Finance Manager of Sencio Community Leisure, said: “The leisure centres are very popular and at Sevenoaks the gym and dance studio sometimes could not cope with demand and people had to wait to use the equipment. With this new funding we were able to refurbish the existing facilities and create a second gym and studio.”


[Picture caption: new boiler being fitted by Retrofit members Ecologistics]