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Brought to you in partnership with Locality, Plunkett UK and Power to Change

Co-operatives UK partners with Ubele to launch new research on community shares and diversity

Blog post

John Dawson
Written by
John Dawson
4th December 2023
Co-operatives UK
Dewsbury Arcade Directors
Dewsbury Arcade launch their share offer

We are pleased to share news of a partnership and piece of research with The Ubele Initiative exploring the barriers and opportunities for black and racially minoritised communities leading community share offers.

Hundreds of communities across the UK have used community shares to save and create businesses that are important to them.

The Community Shares Booster Fund – delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with Locality, and funded by Power to Change and Access the Foundation for Social Investment – helps communities to reach their investment goals. We offer business development support at all stages of planning or launching a community share offer, as well as equity investment in share offers, to community owned businesses in England.

In the last few years, we have taken steps to increase the diversity of communities leading community shares and using the underlying co-operative business model. We have:

  • Signed the Diversity Forum manifesto – a bold new way to address equity, equality, diversity and inclusion in the social investment sector, primarily through the Booster Fund.  

  • Sought to better understand who we are reaching with our support and see where we can adjust our approach.

  • Launched a level of 'pre-grant' support for the Booster Fund to give support to groups specifically opens up access to groups to help them to explore the opportunity of community shares more

  • Delivered more in-person training to specifically targeted groups from communities who we believe would benefit from the use of community shares and the Booster Fund; undertaken steps to increase the diveristy of new community shares practitioners taking part in our training; and attended and spoken at diversity events.

  • Promoted and developed further our work on Shariah compliant share offers.

We also know from our 'Communities doing if for themselves' report published earlier this year that the Booster Fund support less affluent communities to be successful with using community shares. Around 42% of investments to date are less affluent communities (measured as IMD 1-3 postcodes).

The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is one measure for understanding the relative deprivation of an area at full postcode level. The Booster Fund uses this, alongside other information, to allocate investment where a ‘boost’ would be most likely to support an offer to reach their targets and have the greatest impact.

IMD of share offers supported by Booster relative to the whole market
The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is one measure for understanding the relative deprivation of an area at full postcode level.

However, we still have a lot ground to make up to ensure that the support we offer is accessible to all.

Our 2020 'Understanding a Maturing Community Shares' report showed that "community shares investors are predominantly white (92%), which is a higher percentage than reported in the UK 2011 Census (86%)." To date, we have also seen few black or racially minoritised communities leading community share offers. 

This is despite us anecdotally knowing a lot of these communities run community facilities, can be in areas of need and/or investment and displaying strong levels of self-organising. Some of this must stem from our historical focus at the Booster Fund on communities of place, rather than other communities. But we must also not underplay other institutional, systemic and societal barriers.  

The Adebowale Commission on Social Investment report starkly said:  

Quote mark
We must tackle historic barriers of access for Black-led social enterprises and others which have been underserved and put power and resources into those communities which have experienced disadvantage.
– Adebowale Commission on Social Investment (2022)

None of this is new to The Ubele Initiative, who have produced a number of reports on this. It is also not unique to social investment or grant funding in general. Both have not been distributed equitably over the years.

At Co-operatives UK, we know we can not seek to even start to solve these problems in isolation. 

We wanted to explore with Ubele how we could better understand the needs of black and racially minoritised communities, but they challenged us to think bigger. It wasn’t just about more marketing or increased ‘reach’; it wouldn’t be understood or addressed with a few small one-off ‘interventions’.

Therefore, the two organisations have worked together to secure new resource from the Connect Fund to do some deeper listening and exploration. We want to explore the barriers and opportunities that black and racially minoritised communities face when it comes to using community shares and the underlying community benefit society governance model. 

We both feel the patient form of finance that community shares offers could help many more communities to both raise much needed and more affordable investment, but also to use a tested governance model with invested local members.  

We will be open to any communities that want to explore this but have struggled to date, for whatever reason, so that we can provide tailored help to progress at their own pace.

You can find out more on the Christxpher's blog on the Ubele website about our initial thinking and approach, or get in touch with [email protected] or [email protected] 

More information

Read Ubele's blog post on the work
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