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Peer Networks programme in Devon

What is the Peer Networks programme?

Peer Networks offers businesses across Devon free support to develop and grow their business. It’s part of a Government funded programme to support businesses to adapt to a changing external environment.

Delivered through a series of interactive group sessions, and supported by experienced facilitators, the sessions enable business owners to bring challenges they are facing to the group. Using the principles of Action Learning, participants discuss their challenges with their peers, develop action plans and identify practical solutions. Over time, the group builds to a powerful network of trusted peers whose expertise and advice you can draw on once the programme ends.

The programme includes 3 full days of interactive group sessions as well as one-to-one support and coaching from an experienced entrepreneur tailored to your business needs.

What sorts of business challenges are covered on the Peer Networks programme?

From finance and HR to sales, marketing and organisational culture, our experienced facilitators give you the flexibility to create a trusted support network that works for you, helping you to build and strengthen your business and improve overall performance. You’ll walk away with new perspectives and a clear action plan of how you can tackle your business challenges.

What is action learning?

Activities take place in structured, small-group sessions, led by a experienced facilitators to make sure you see real results in return for the investment of your time. You and your small cohort of fellow business leaders will work together on important challenges and come up with tangible solutions in a collaborative, non-competitive environment.

Who is running the Peer Networks programme?

The Peer Networks programme is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The University of Exeter Business School has been commissioned by the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Hub to deliver two more cohorts following a successful pilot earlier this year.

The programme is delivered by experienced facilitators Ciara Eastell OBE, Sarah Bailey and Michelle Mahdon. Ciara is a Professor of Practice within the Business School, the former CEO of social enterprise Libraries Unlimited and a business owner in her own right. Sarah is a Lecturer in Management and Leadership and has a background in supporting social enterprises and teaching on the Business School’s MBA programme. Michelle is a Research Fellow in Management and Leadership and Chartered Psychologist experienced in working with businesses across different sectors.

SETsquared, which is based at the University of Exeter, provides tailored one-to-one coaching and mentoring support through its network of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence as part of the programme.

What have our previous participants said about the Peer Networks programme?

“The Peer Networks Programme was my first venture into action learning and most certainly won’t be my last. It is an alternative and great way to openly discuss business issues with likeminded business owners and identify a range of solutions that might not have been considered by yourself. The people on the programme were all highly supportive and we all learnt quickly that sharing and trust is a very powerful thing! I will be using action learning for any problem solving / business issues moving forward.” Joanne Caine from Cathedral Appointments.

“I found the Peer Network and Action Learning sessions incredibly valuable and relevant to my business. We had a group that was very supportive and I felt completely at ease sharing some of our business challenges throughout the sessions. The program was expertly facilitated, with clear actions and follow-up from each session. I learned a lot, met some great people and came away with some new ideas to take our business forward. I found the meetings with the entrepreneur-in-residence very valuable and a great complement to the Peer Network sessions.” James Woollam, David and Charles Ltd

“Peer Networks was an incredibly valuable experience for myself and my business. On meeting the group you instantly take comfort in the fact you’re not alone in this big wide business world, as the trials and tribulations you face on a day to day basis have been walked by many others before. The simple format of open questions is brilliant and cleverly guides you towards answering your own business conundrums. (Oh and you also you get to meet a great bunch of people too!)” Dave Meadows, Pushed Ltd

Do I qualify to join the programme?

Peer Networks is open to any SME business in Devon that has:

  • Operated for at least one year
  • At least five employees
  • A turnover of at least £100,000
  • An aspiration to improve

Desirable criteria:

  • The potential to scale up
  • The ability or potential to export

All participants are asked to complete a short Expression of Interest form setting out what they would like to gain from the programme.

When will the programme run?

The dates for this next cohort are: 27th January, 17th February, 17th March 2022. You must be able to commit to attend all three dates. Sessions will run from 09.30 until 16.00 with regular breaks. All sessions will take place in Exeter city centre (venue TBC).

Please note that you cannot send someone in your place if you find yourself unable to attend.

What is the cost?

There is no cost to join Peer Networks, other than your own time to participate over the 3 months of the programme. Sessions are provided online so you can join from home or your office. You can also access 1-2-1 support from experienced entrepreneurs matched to your specific needs to help you build on your learning experience.

How do I apply for the programme?

If you are interested in participating in the next Peer Networks programme starting in January, please contact Ciara Eastell: [email protected]. Ciara will arrange a short call with you to tell you more about the programme and to answer any questions you may have.

Find out more

If you have further questions about whether this programme is for you, please contact Ciara on [email protected] or phone 07495734887.