A pub in Bath; a football club in Manchester; a whisky distillery in Scotland. Each is unique - but all are united through community shares and a community ethos. That connection is now set to be strengthened through an initiative designed to provide the £1.4bn community business sector with a major shot in the arm.
Power to Change, the independent trust, has set up a new national peer network tasked with improving network models to help community businesses share ideas and plans - and inspire one another. With Power to Change research revealing that over two thirds of community businesses actively support the development of other community organisations, improved links and support could revolutionise the sector.
Co-operatives UK is one of the 13 organisations that comprise the Community of Practice – with each an expert in community shares and peer networking. Its Secretary General, Ed Mayo, said: “There are already more than 7,000 community businesses in England, each serving the needs of local people and recycling money back into the local area.
"We hear plenty of rhetoric from Whitehall talking about creating an inclusive economy – one that works for everyone. Well, for a real model of inclusivity take a closer look at the community business sector.
"There are many wonderful and inspiring stories from the world of community business. In Liverpool local people pulled together to save a 100-year-old bakery. Homebaked – this beacon of community action - not only sells pies, but also provides training, job opportunities and even affordable housing.
"Imagine if those stories, those ideas, those good practices – and peer support alongside - got to the right people right across the UK. Imagine how strong the community business sector could become. That’s what this Community of Practice aims to achieve and here at Co-operatives UK we are delighted to be playing a major role in this.”
In Derbyshire, the residents of Bamford saved their local pub from closure and successfully raised £263k through a community share offer. The Anglers Rest has been transformed into a local hub - incorporating a Post Office, café and more - and now has 330 members. And all profits are reinvested back into the community.
Sally Soady, a director member at Bamford Community Society, fully embraces the value of peer support. She said: "I have enjoyed passing on my knowledge and experience to other rural pubs and I am currently participating in The Community Shares licensed practitioner training. It's great to be able to promote best practice around community shares and to have the opportunity to learn from my peers as part of the Community Shares practitioner network."
Since 2012, Co-operatives UK has been leading the Community Shares Unit (CSU), in partnership with Locality, to support the community shares market which has seen more than 120,000 people invest over £100m to support over 400 community businesses throughout the UK. The CSU promotes best practice and has trained over 60 practitioners to award the Community Shares Standard Mark to over 45 share offers since it this quality mark launched in 2015.
The 13 Community of Practice organisations are:
- Community Food Growers Network
- The Company of Community Organisations
- Co-operatives UK
- Eden Project
- Impact Hub Brixton
- Octopus Community Network Ltd
- Plunkett Foundation
- Project Dirt
- Regen SW
- Social Enterprise Acumen CIC
- Supporters Direct
- Upper Norwood Library Trust