A rural oil provider and a discount website for household essentials are among a shortlist of seven organisations in the running for a £60k community buying innovation prize, it was announced today.
The shortlist for the ‘Buy Better Together Challenge’ - an exciting initiative to inspire new models of community buying - includes co-operatives, social enterprises, non-profit organisations and charities.
The community challenge prize, which was launched earlier in the year by Co-operatives UK and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to encourage more people to think collectively and combine their buying power, received a total of 110 applications from all UK regions.
Community buying, which involves groups of individuals combining their buying power to purchase goods or services together and get better deals from shops and other suppliers, can help businesses spread their overheads and in turn lowers costs for consumers. The challenge was open to applications from groups and organisations within the public, voluntary or business sectors which wanted to create new or develop existing community buying schemes.
“I am very excited about this project,” said Norman Lamb, Consumer Affairs Minister.
“The challenge is not only bringing citizens together to strengthen their purchasing power so that they can get a better deal, but it has the fantastic advantage of bringing people together in a common endeavour.
“And the shortlisted seven reflect this very well. Not only do they highlight how people can benefit from getting the price down on things that they buy, for example energy or food, they are also bringing communities together and increasing the power of consumers.”
Both Co-operatives UK and BIS contributed £30k to the prize fund, which will go towards training and mentoring the shortlisted projects and includes £15k for the overall winner to develop their project.
Community Energy Plus has been shortlisted for its project - Cornwall’s Community Energy Club - which provides heating oil to residents across Cornwall, while the Northern Housing Consortium was chosen for its community buying project – Smarterbuys – a discount deal website that offers customers the chance to buy essential household goods at significantly reduced prices.
The full shortlist for the ‘Buy Better Together Challenge’ is:
- Carlisle and District Employee Food Buying Scheme, Sustainable Carlisle
- Smarterbuys, Northern Housing Consortium
- People & Planet's SCOOP project, People & Planet
- BEST (Buying Exchange Sharing Together)- Scottish Community Food Network- Strength in Collective, Community Food Initiatives North east (CFINE)
- Cornwall's Community Energy Club, Community Energy Plus
- Caistor Energy Partnership, Caistor Energy Partnership
- People's Republic of Energy - online collaboration tool, Carbon Co-op.
The shortlisted entrants will now be asked to develop detailed business plans of their ideas, to be submitted by 22 October 2012, then finalists will be selected and invited to talk through their idea with a panel of experts in early November 2012 before the overall winner is chosen.
Nicola McCheyne, Project Delivery Team Manager at Community Energy Plus, said: “We are delighted to have reached the mentoring stage of the challenge. Community Energy Club was developed to empower our society’s most vulnerable householders, and ensure that everyone can access competitively priced heating oil. The opportunity to develop this into a robust business plan is very exciting.
Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) commented: “We are absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted for this competition. These are extremely challenging times, and we believe that anything we can do to help financially excluded and vulnerable people to get better deals for their money - and keep them away from high interest payment stores, payday loan companies and loan sharks - has to be positive. We’re passionate about the role that the Smarterbuys website can play in achieving this, as well as promoting digital inclusion. We’re looking forward to the next stage of the competition and to working with our appointed mentor.”
Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: “The ‘Buy Better Together Challenge’ was intended to help inspire new models of community buying and it is most certainly doing that.
“The response we have had from people sharing their ingenious ideas on ways of buying co-operatively has been tremendous and we look forward to seeing what innovative and exciting detailed plans our shortlisted seven submit next.”
You can also join the conversation on Twitter by using #communitybuy.