Belfast Cleaning Society

Belfast Cleaning Society

The first co-operative in Northern Ireland to receive advice and training from the Hub is an inspiring example of how co-operative enterprise is actively rebuilding communities.

Belfast Cleaning Society brings together women from both sides of the divided community in the Springfield Road area of the city.

The co-operative was formed by women who had been meeting regularly in a cross-community women’s group. They had been talking about starting a co-operative for a couple of months when, in October 2011, the opportunity arose to clean up after a music festival. In a few hours they assembled a workforce, agreed a contract and started work. After this successful first job, they contacted the Hub for help in setting up a sustainable co-operative business.

Alice McLarnon, one of the founders of the new co-operative, said: “We all had a natural co-operative ethos but lacked some of the skills needed to set up and run a business. We were thrilled to become directors of our own company.”

Since Belfast Cleaning Society was registered in April 2012 it has gained several regular office cleaning contracts and some more festival work. The six members aim to create a successful business and to invite others to join the co-operative and earn a decent wage so that they are not reliant on benefits.

Alice said: “Although some of our clients might have contacted us because we are cross-community, the main reason we are getting work is because we offer much better value for money than the big contract cleaners.”


  • We helped with membership policy and company registration
  • We assisted with business planning
  • We gave training on co-operative principles and practice

Jo Bird, the Hub adviser, said: “Cleaning workers are often low paid and have poor conditions of service. Setting up a co-operative has given these women much more control over their working lives and has improved cross-community relations.”

Credit for case study text to Co-operative Enterprise Hub

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