Power to Change, the independent trust supporting community businesses in England, has announced it will award up to £700k in support of new and emerging community businesses through the provision of one to one advice, peer learning and small development grants.
The Bright Ideas Fund, which opens next month, is open to community groups who have an idea for a community run business such as a community run shop, launderette, swimming pool, even neglected parks and playing fields but need help to start setting it up. The fund opens at a time when community businesses are flourishing in comparison to high street stalwarts that continue to struggle as UK retailers suffer a dismal start to the year.
Demand is expected to be high. Launched in October 2016, this is the fourth round of the fund that has to date awarded nearly £1.3 million to 89 nascent community businesses the length and breadth of England. Power to Change receives on average 13 applications for every award available with the most coming from the North West and London, the lowest from the North East and East of England. The trust expects to award up to £200,000 in business development support and £500,000 in grants this round.
Those accepted onto the programme receive one to one business development support and are invited to apply for a small grant of up to £15k to fund development and start-up costs, such as feasibility studies, legal and other fees connected with developing governance, taking ownership of a building or other asset, community engagement, business planning and more.
Sara Buchanan, Programme Manager for the fund at Power to Change said: “There’s never been a more pressing need for community run businesses. Every day we hear about high street stores closing and in many places boarded up shops have long been a reality for communities. This is a chance for communities to take back control. Any business can be a community business and there are almost 7,000 in England alone right now with a combined market income of £1.2bn. How they differ is that any profits flow back into the immediate community to deliver positive social impact for local people.”
In previous rounds, the Fund has helped communities save heritage assets, such as a grade II listed former council run swimming Baths in Balsall Heath, Birmingham which reopened last month and is operating with the support of 50 local volunteers. Karen Leach, Moseley Road Baths Action Group said: “The grant was perfectly timed and structured for us. Without it I doubt we could have succeeded to operate the community pool as we are now doing. Bright Ideas gave us the expertise for the initial business plan, then enabled us to ‘buy in’ more expertise for development and fundraising, as well as a small working expenses budget. Its flexible approach meant we could pick elements that genuinely helped us progress to this point, and that worked.”
The Fund also helped St Ann’s Development Trust get investment ready which led to them teaming up with the London Mayor to purchase a former hospital site in Haringey, ensuring that 50% of homes will be affordable and residents will be involved in every stage of the development process.
The programme is run by Locality, the national network for community organisations. Stephen Rolph, Head of Assets and Enterprise at Locality, said: “Every day we see the impact of local communities coming together to meet local needs and tackle challenges in their area. This new funding will enable many more organisations to unlock the power in their communities so that local people can shape their own futures, filling gaps in much needed services.”
The Bright Ideas Fund will reopen for applications on 26 June at 10am and close on 31 July at midnight.
The Bright Ideas Fund offers:
- Specialist support with creating a development planfor your community business
- Mentoring and visitsto inspire you and enable you to learn from peers
- Regional networking and eventsto learn from experts in the field
- The opportunity to apply for a grant of up to £15,000
Community pubs have a 100% survival rate while other pubs close every week. Community shops have a 95% survival rate compared to 41% for small UK businesses in general. Better business reports (2017) Plunkett