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Coalville CAN: A co‑operative, constructive and creative community

Case study

14th April 2023
Co-op development
Coalville CAN

Find out what happened when people in an East Midlands town formed a co-op for the community, creating opportunity and changing lives…  

“I didn’t know anything about co‑ops,” said Deana Bamford. “I went to a talk by co‑operative advisor Ian Wilson and at the end of it, he mentioned community benefit societies.  

“I thought, ‘How come nobody talks about them? They need to be set up in every town and village.’ So we set about starting one in Coalville.”  

And that’s how Coalville CAN (Communities and Neighbours) came about. Its purpose: to create community wealth by being enterprising and creative – and supporting others to do things that matter to them in their community. 

Coalville CAN building

“We set up as a community benefit society (CBS) during lockdown, which gave us an opportunity,” Deana continued. “People had moved out of a local building to work from home, so we took over the top floor. This enabled us to employ 68 young people on the government’s Kickstart scheme.” 

Many of those young lives changed thanks to the scheme, as Deana explained: “Two of them stayed with us as apprentices. One is in financial management. The other is the Coalville CAN secretary. At 22, he’s possibly the youngest secretary of a community benefit society.  

“One young man went to a heritage site, to learn how to manage land. He went on to get an apprenticeship with the local council. Another has gone back and completed a degree in architecture. One young woman wouldn’t come out of her house – she had huge anxiety. She’s now working at a local café.”  

When the ground floor tenants moved out of the same building, it gave Coalville CAN the opportunity to use that space to create more life-changing opportunities.  

“We set up what has now become a creative community hub, with a sewing room, repair bench, craft room, workshop and gallery that’s housed several exhibitions,” said Deana. “We’ve created a maker base to encourage members of the community to sell what they make.”

Quote mark
We’re building belief. It’s about making what’s invisible, visible. We know there are lots of people with plenty of skills and talents and we bring them together. We support people to take responsibility for what they want to do.
– Deana Bamford, Coalville CAN

To help set up their community benefit society, Deana and her colleagues turned to Co‑operatives UK’s Business Support for Co‑ops, delivered in partnership with The Co‑operative Bank.  

“It gave us some funding that enabled co‑operative advisor Ian Wilson to work with us. He took us through the options of setting up as a CBS. He also helped with our business planning and getting our rules sorted so we knew what we were doing.  

“Ian steered us through all of that and got us to the stage where we could register as a community benefit society. 

“And thanks to funding from Co-operatives UK, we also worked with Brian Titley from Co‑operatives Assistance Network in Bristol to create a spreadsheet tool. It helps you analyse a building and financially assess it for a community share offer to help with business planning.”  

Coalville CAN window display
Local people can create and sell what they make at Coalville CAN

Coalville CAN will soon be launching its own community share offer, with a target of £425,000. “We’re currently paying rent on the building and want to raise money to buy it. If we do that, it will mean there’s a space here that will be in the hands of the community forever. 

“We are hoping to develop two more floors. We want to turn one into a tech space. And the other will either be business support and offices or accommodation, depending on demand. We’re excited about what the future holds for Coalville CAN.”  

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