Online Centres Foundation
In 2011 Online Centres Foundation, a staff-owned mutual with around 35 staff, won a £7.2 million contract from the Skills Funding Agency to manage the 3,800 UK online centres throughout England.
UK online centres were set up by the Government in 1999 to provide everyone with the skills they need to use computers and the internet. The centres, including libraries, Housing Associations, community centres and schools, support people who are offline to gain the skills and confidence they need to use computers and the internet.
The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) launched a competitive tender process in 2011 for the management of the centres network. Staff who had been running the network for eight years as part of a parent company formed a mutual - Online Centres Foundation - to bid to run the service.
The fledgling mutual won the £7.2 million contract, and took over the running of the network from December 2011.
Online Centres Foundation is staff-owned. Membership was optional,yet all staff became members, each guaranteeing it to the sum of £1. Three staff members, elected by their colleagues, sit on the organisation's Board as Staff Directors, alongside the Chief Executive and the five External Directors.
As a staff owned mutual, all the team has a say in how the organisation is run, and...we're ensuring this is a dynamic, entrepreneurial and supportive place to work.
Helen Milner, Chief Executive, Online Centres Foundation
Although it is early days, the organisation is performing well against its targets. These include getting 345,000 new people online by March 2013, which the organisation is already well on its way to achieving.
Since December 2011, Online Centres Foundation has already earned around £400,000 in external income through both selling its services and securing new project funding. This will be vital to ensure the organisation’s long-term sustainability.