Our resolution for 2016: Unleashing community business potential

Power to Change is one year old today and with a strategy for 2016-2018 under our belt, we have clarified not just our ambitions and activities but also the kind of funding organisation we want to be: one that unleashes community business potential.

Community business Burton Street Foundation in Sheffield

Community business Burton Street Foundation in Sheffield

We know community business is a powerful vehicle for creating more prosperous, cohesive places that are positive about their future. So we want to support more community businesses to become sustainable during our ten-year life. We know we’re part of a funding ecosystem, providing support to community businesses for just one phase of their funding journey. Realising what the gaps or strains are in that ecosystem has helped us shape our grant programmes and approach.

As a grant maker we will sometimes take risks that others will not or cannot. Within our portfolio, we will support successful community businesses to keep growing their revenue and impact. But we also want to back those with great potential who have limited track record, and those who operate in more disadvantaged markets where creating a sustainable business can be challenging because the community has fewer financial and human resources to contribute.

Risks by their very nature do not always pay off and we are clear that not every organization we back will realise its plans. But we want to learn from failure too, to understand more about the circumstances under which community business can thrive. Whatever we learn, we will share with the sector.

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Community business Rekindling in Tottenham

Alongside business sustainability, we want to build the evidence for the positive impact that community business can create. By impact, we mean both the positive change the business creates for specific groups in the community, such as isolated older people or young people not in employment, education or training, as well as wider community benefits such as greater trust and cohesion between local people. It is this combination of specific social impacts and wider community benefits that makes community business unique.

To help build this evidence, we’ll actively support those we invest in to measure their impact in ways that are meaningful to them and proportionate to their stage of development: a lighter touch approach for those just starting out and more in-depth measurement for those with greater capacity and experience. Support for impact measurement forms part of our overall commitment to evidence and learning. That’s why we’ve invested 5 percent of our £150 million endowment in the Power to Change Research Institute, a small team that will work with academics, researchers and practitioners to look at the impact of our funding and of community business more broadly.

Selby boxing club part of Selby Trust community centre

Paulo runs Selby boxing club part of Selby Trust community centre

Ultimately, we want the support we offer our grantees not just to be a sound investment for us but to build their capacity for the entire funding journey, whether their next step is a community share issue, social investor or their high street bank. We want to align the data we ask community businesses to collect to that required by others so it’s easier for organisations to demonstrate their impact and  grow their credibility across the market. And we want to build referral relationships with other investors so that  together, we can blend the funding cocktail at source to support great community business ideas.

 

Next year, we’ll report back to you on how well we have done against our priorities. As part of that, we will be asking you whether our actions in 2016 put us on track to becoming the kind of funder we intend to be: one that works with others in the market to unleash community business potential.