A peek into the Booster Programme Panel

We have been astounded by the range of projects that have submitted their ideas to the Booster Programme over the last 12 months and we would like to share some of the insights from the Booster Panel meetings where we decide whether we can support the applications that have been submitted. From lidos to bookshops, skate parks to historic wool mills, we’ve read them all with intrigue and an appreciation of the dedication of the people involved.

The Booster Programme is a five year programme that has already been hugely popular just months after it was launched. Over a quarter of a million pounds of grant has been requested to support the launch of community shares offers and almost six million pounds of equity investment has been requested!

This is a great sign for how the community shares funding mechanism has struck a chord with community groups who want to create thriving and sustainable businesses with the involvement and support of their communities.

However, like all support programmes, we do not have infinite budgets and so we have had to whittle down the applications to the ones that most closely fit the Booster criteria.

The Panel is often asked about how we choose the projects to support and so we’d like to give you some top tips if you are thinking of applying.

The key things that we look at are:

  • Is the project intending to use community shares and does it meet Power to Change’s definition of a community business? This means that the business will be locally-rooted, accountable to the local community and trade for the benefit of the community as a whole. You can read more about this definition here.
  • Is the project in an area of deprivation or where the use of community shares is under-represented? We want to support communities, especially more disadvantaged groups, that are facing a series of challenges during the share offer which prevents them meeting their targets or proceeding with the venture due to external factors.
  • What will be the impact of the community business? We want to hear from community businesses that aim to have a highly positive impact on the local area, the local community and their user or clients. How are you getting lots of different people involved and coming together to make your communities even better places to live, work and play?
  • How viable is the business idea? We need to see that you have thoroughly thought through the business plan and have a good understanding of what you need to do over the next 10+ years to make it a sustainable and thriving business. You can apply for grant funding to get expertise to refine your business plan and how to make community shares funding a solid part of this, but we want to see that you have already made a lot of progress and you are very close to launching your share offer.
  • Is there any innovation? The Booster Programme is as much a learning programme as a funding programme and so we want to use this opportunity to develop our understanding of how community shares can be used in many different ways to support community development. We have provided some ideas about how you could build innovative ideas into your share offer in our guidance notes on Investment Propositions but you may have some more ideas of your own. We’d love to hear your ideas at any point, even before you submit an application, so get in touch.

So far we have supported 29 groups with over £200K of grants to help with their share offer launches and another £1.1M of equity invested into 18 community businesses across England.

We can’t wait to receive more of your applications in 2019 and to keep on boosting community businesses through community shares!

Alice Wharton
Booster Programme Manager
Co-operatives UK