The Community Shares Unit (CSU) is the UK-wide body responsible for awarding the Community Shares Standard Mark. Among the CSU's aims are the provision of good practice guidance and the promotion of voluntary regulation by societies issuing community shares. The CSU is working closely with practitioners to promote these voluntary standards through the co-ordination of a Community Shares Practitioner Network.

What is a practitioner? 

Practitioners are individuals who provide advice and guidance to communities undertaking share offers.

In 2015, the CSU introduced a licence for community shares practitioners that authorises them to award the Community Shares Standard Mark on behalf of the CSU. A licensed practitioner is someone who has been assessed by the CSU as being competent to review a society’s share offer, and licensed to award the Mark on the Unit’s behalf.

Practitioners have a wide variety of backgrounds, but all are experienced in community share offers. They might be board members, technical advisers, business plan developers or share offer document writers. Some may be experts in a particular trade sector, knowledgeable about society law, or experienced in community engagement. Whatever their background, experience and expertise, they are all committed to the principles of good practice and independent peer review, and value the contribution a second opinion can bring to the development of high quality share offers.

The CSU maintains a directory of licensed practitioners, detailing which societies a practitioner has worked with, and the services they provided.  Licensed practitioners are required to sign up to a code of practice, which includes participating in an open complaints procedure, giving both their clients and the general public the right to complain about a share offer or the work of a licensed practitioner. Under the code the CSU has the ultimate sanction of removing a practitioner’s license.  

Becoming a licensed practitioner

The Community Shares Unit runs its Practitioner Training and Licensing Programme - our dedicated community shares training course, which supports existing and emerging practitioners to become licensed to award the Standard Mark.

We now offer three pathways:

  1. Foundation Pathway
  2. Training Pathway
  3. Experience Pathway 

For the Foundation and Training Pathways, the programme involves five action learning workshops where you can apply your learning to support a client through the process of making a community share offer

If you're interested in practioner training please contact us here for more information and next available training dates. 

About the assessment

To make the most of this programme you should already be working with a client which intends to launch a community share offer in the next six months.

Once you have completed the workshops, you will need to complete a client case study assignment to become a "probationary" licensed practitioner. This involves supporting your client in the development of their share offer to the point where it is awarded the Standard Mark, under supervision of the Community Shares Unit (CSU). 

You will be required to carry out an initial assessment of your client’s share offer, which will also be assessed by the CSU, given feedback on your assessment, and supervised in the support you give your client through to the award of the Standard Mark by the CSU. Typically, it will take you four to six days client work to complete this process. You will also be required to write a case study of your work supporting the client with their share offer, which may take one or two days to produce.

Once you’re licensed

All licensed practitioners are listed on the CSU directory, and can offer Standard Mark assessment to fee-paying clients, under the supervision of the CSU. To become a fully licenced practitioner you must complete a further three Standard Mark assessments, at least one of which must be as the lead assessor with your own fee-paying client, the other two can be peer reviews of a share offer where the CSU is the lead assessor. Opportunities to participate in peer reviews are frequently available. When you become a fully licenced practitioner you can independently award the Standard Mark without the supervision of the CSU.  You should allow at least two working days to complete a peer review, which means that together with four to six work days it takes to complete a lead review, it may take you another ten days work to become fully licenced.  


The costs are dependent on the pathway you decide to take to become a Community Shares Practitioner. We're now offering three pathways to cater for individuals' circumstances and motivations for getting involved with the programme. 

Training Pathway

The full route, in which you participate in all the training workshops and complete all the assessments to become a fully licensed practitioner, is called the Training Pathway.

The Training Pathway fee is £3,000 + VAT per person.

Foundation Pathway

Alternatively, you can choose the Foundation Pathway by attending the five workshops and then satisfactorily completing a peer review of a share offer. You do not need to be working with a client group to participate on this pathway. You will be listed on the CSU directory as a "foundation practitioner” and will be recognised as having a very strong grounding of the community shares model.

The cost to participate in the Foundation Pathway is £1,000 + VAT.  

You can then, if you wish, progress to become a fully licensed practitioner by completing the Experience Pathway – explained below.

Experience Pathway

The Experience Pathway involves the same practitioner assessment process as the Training Pathway (client case study assignment plus three further reviews) but the practitioner does not attend the workshops.

The cost of the Experience Pathway is £2,000 + VAT or £1,750 + VAT for foundation practitioners.