Our work is organised around what we call ‘collaborating communities’. Collaborating communities usually emerge in marginal and isolated communities and enable both people and micro-businesses to overcome the limitations of their small size through mutual support and collaboration. Like industry clusters, they provide a growth-friendly ecology – but tend to be organised around a place, cause or community of interest, rather than an industry sector.
Both international research and local pilot activity suggested to us that STOs work best, and seed wider economic activity, when they are part of a collaborating community. In our evaluation, we found that STOs that are part of a collaborating community perform better than those working in isolation. Creating opportunities for STOs to support each other is a key part of our work, measuring their impact to provide better evidence.
Kindred has set out to foster collaborating communities to create an environment best suited to STO growth. Unlike traditional business support, which encourages competitiveness, Kindred finds ways to encourage collaboration, cooperation, the sharing of ideas and a culture in which mutual benefit is understood and practised.
Our data shows that even STOs who weren’t part of a collaborating community when they first approached Kindred used the connections they made at early consultation events. Kindred now actively connects people into virtual or geographical collaborating communities.
Collaborating communities had shown us how much more there is to come when STOs are fully engaged and active. It has allowed an element of new thinking to emerge, which questions the purpose of growth and reinforces the necessity to trade (alongside leveraging grant funding, etc.) It has also facilitated practical hands-on business support and capacity from peers, including interims, helpers with expertise and access to shared specialists.