The UK has led the way when it comes to SME businesses innovating and collaborating as they seek to scale and grow.

During uncertain economic conditions it is more important than ever for SMEs to work together through their challenges to learn, share and collectively find solutions that can have long-term impact both on their business and the economy.

At times of uncertainty, business owners should not feel they are on their own and by working with like-minded people who know business best, other business leaders, they can ensure they are getting the right support and solutions to prepare them for future growth.

To do this, the Government backed Peer Networks has been developed to support businesses in England.

The programme has been created with SMEs in mind and will be delivered by local Growth Hubs, who understand the local business landscape.

How does Peer Networks work?

The programme will see the creation of a series of Peer Networks (cohorts) through the Growth Hub network, with each group consisting of between eight and 11 owners or managers from the SME business community participating in each network.

Led by a professional facilitator, there is no cost to join Peer Networks. Sessions are virtual and can be joined from the home or office. Individual one-to-one support (coaching, mentoring, or advice) will also be provided.

Active involvement in Peer Networks will enhance the leadership capabilities, knowledge and confidence of business owners and entrepreneurs within a local region. It will help build local connectivity and strength within the SME business community.

What is the format for a Peer Networks session?

Professional facilitators will support a small cohort of fellow business leaders as they work together on important challenges, and the topics to be discussed, and come up with tangible solutions in a collaborative, non-competitive environment.

Peer Networks will be underpinned by an Action Learning. This is an approach to problem solving and learning in groups to bring about change in individuals, teams and organisations and is designed to enable participants to unlock benefit from – and the collective thinking power and experience of – a peer group.

This is not formal management or skills training, but personal development focused with the help of a professional facilitator.

Each member has the chance to present an opportunity or issue and receive help to explore this and any solutions, whilst also commenting on the challenges for others.

Participants bring results back to the group to feedback on what worked, what failed, and why? They can then reflect, draw conclusions, and learn from this rich experience and integrate the new knowledge they have gained into workplace actions and business plans.

What is the aim and objectives of this and how does it benefit my business?

Peer Networks will form an important part of the Government’s drive to improve productivity and deliver part of the economic response to the effect of Covid-19 on businesses.

It will provide support to SMEs as they move into and through the Recovery phase of Covid-19 response.

The aim is to improve business owners and senior managers leadership capabilities so they can to adapt their business models to the “new normal”, position themselves for future success and drive longer term productivity gains through improved leadership and management skills and tech adoption.

How do I sign up?

To find out more about Peer Networks, or to register an interest in joining a cohort, please visit https://peernetworks.co.uk/ or speak to your Hub advisor.

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