Digital Exclusion – and why there’s a “hive” of activity at the Co-op’s Academy

I’m Russell Gill,  Head of Membership & Co-operative Relations at the Co-op. I also Chair the Co-operative Academies Trust which runs eight primary and secondary schools in some of the most challenging areas of Manchester, Leeds and Stoke-on-Trent.

Last week I was delighted to attend the opening of The Hive – a joint venture between the Co-operative Academy of Manchester, based in Blackley, and YES– a social enterprise helping match the people of North Manchester with jobs, training and volunteering opportunities.

Digital exclusion is a growing problem in communities like Blackley. That’s why the Co-op Academy is so keen to develop the right skills and know-how for its students to thrive in a digital world. So there’s a real opportunity for the Co-op to share our fantastic digital expertise, alongside many other rich sources of learning represented by the Co-op way, to give our students a real head start.

But what about their families and the community more broadly? The Co-op Academy’s vision has always placed the needs of the whole community at its centre. Now, with the opening of The Hive, people in Blackley can learn new skills and look for opportunities to be work-ready. And that’s not all – The Hive also provides low-cost enterprise pods for new business start-ups, freelancers and small businesses, targeted at the burgeoning digital community. We hope that The Hive will provide a strong connection between the Co-op Academy’s students, members of the community who are keen to learn, and the area’s budding entrepreneurs.

A great example of co-operation in action.

To find out more about the Co-op’s Academies, visit us at And for more information about The Hive, go to


Russell Gill, Head of Membership & Co-operative Relations, @RussellMGill

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