The Wellbeing Co-operative

The Wellbeing Co-operative

The Wellbeing Co-operative is a collective of freelance health and wellbeing practitioners. The practitioners offer a range of services, from acupuncture and yoga to massage and arts and crafts. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the practitioners were unable to offer their services and suddenly found themselves in an incredibly difficult position. We spoke to one of the co-founders, Joe Jennings, about his experience:

“The Covid-19 pandemic was a huge blow for freelance practitioners, most of us couldn’t work which was a huge blow to our income and it was a struggle to build up again afterwards. It made us realise how alone and vulnerable we are and led to others retiring early or leaving the profession for a safer job.”

The practitioners came together to explore how they could support one another during such a difficult time. With some support from the Owned by Oxford team, the group set up a consortium co-operative together. With this model, the practitioners continue to run their own independent businesses, but each business is a member of the co-op. 

The co-op will allow them to pool their resources, for example by combining their marketing and communications. The co-operative will have a social media presence and website promoting its members’ services, as well as a centralised booking system.

They will also share other ‘back office’ services, such as accounting. The group are even exploring how they could provide members with sick pay, offering the sort of security of income that self employed workers wouldn’t normally have access to. 

Co-founder Joe explained that as well as saving members time and money, the co-operative acts as a support network, providing members with access to a community of other practitioners:

“We also need to sustain our own mental and physical health and wellbeing. Being part of the co-op gives us security and dignity. It also makes it easier for people to get into the profession, by taking on some of the admin, marketing and management tasks necessary for starting up a practice.”

A core element of the co-operative is benefiting the wider community and increasing access to wellbeing services. Joe explained: 

“Access to health and wellbeing services should be a right, not a privilege. Coming together allows for economies of scale, which means we are able to offer more affordable services. It can also help us to apply for larger pots of funding to help reach those that couldn’t usually access our services. 

Physical accessibility is also very important to us – we want to make sure we use venues that are accessible to those with physical disabilities, and that are close to public transport links.”

The group received a £4,000 grant from the Owned by Oxford project to cover the cost of a website and a temporary organisational development post. This allows a founding member to be paid to put time into developing the organisation during its infancy. 

“Because we’re all running our own businesses and some of us have dependents and care commitments, it’s hard to find the time to dedicate to developing the organisation, such as setting up the necessary systems and processes. Having this post in place makes all the difference.” – Joe

What does the future hold for the co-operative? Joe explained that once the organisation is more established, they would like to expand their membership so that more practitioners can enjoy the benefits of being a part of their community.