As part of our work to develop key sectors of co-operative innovation, over the last five years, Co-operatives UK has been instrumental in the growth of the ‘community shares’ model. This is an increasing trend in which local people pool their resources to save valuable local assets or start up new enterprises.
This type of investment has been used to finance shops, pubs, football clubs, community buildings, renewable energy and local food schemes, along with a host of other community-based ventures. More than just a financial investment, through community shares local people become owners of the enterprise and run it together for the good of the community.
Community Shares Unit
Co-operatives UK, in partnership with Locality, has run the Community Shares Unit (CSU) since 2012, providing information and support to potential investors, enterprises and advisors. The unit is supported by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and offers:
- A comprehensive directory of all enterprises considering or launching a community share offer, along with data on businesses which continue to operate after issuing shares.
- A series of helpful guides and resources on the practicalities of launching and investing in a community share offer, including the Community Shares Handbook, which offers established guidance for professional practitioners who provide advice on community shares.
- A new compliance mark to share offers that meet current standards of good practice set out in the Community Shares Handbook, providing the public with an independent way of checking the authenticity of a share offer and reassurance that it meets national standards of good practice.
- A dedicated web platform for community share offers called Microgenius. Microgenius is a way to buy shares in community-based projects easily and safely. Communities can use the website to run their share offer securely and painlessly, without the paperwork.
A growing trend
There have been over 250 share offers since 2010, raising in excess of £50m through more than 50,000 supporters. This form of finance has been instrumental to community enterprises up and down the country.
- In Manchester, the community established a co-operatively-owned football club, FC United. Members have raised enough money to build their own stadium, maintaining the club’s goal of being community-based and fan-led, rather than driven by profit.
- In Bath, a community came together to save one of the country’s most iconic pubs, The Bell Inn.
- Hastings pier was rescued by the determination of local residents and is now entering a second golden age in full community ownership.
- The local community set up an enterprise and raised investment to install solar panels on Warwickshire hospitals, increasing the use of renewable energy owned and managed by local people.