How Power to Change is supporting the community business sector in response to Covid-19

We recognise that Power to Change’s mission is to support community business. Given that, our responsibility extends to the entire sector.

Vidhya Alakeson

CEO, Power to Change

Now more than ever, Power to Change’s mission to support community businesses in England has renewed importance. It’s still early days but already, community businesses across the country are responding with characteristic entrepreneurialism and compassion to the COVID-19 threat in their local area. And we’re working hard to understand how best to support them.

From tackling social isolation to continuing to provide vital local services, community businesses have a crucial role to play in the coming weeks and months. 68% of our 1,000 grantees are based in the most deprived areas and are supporting the people at the sharp end of this crisis: those in the poorest health and those in low paid, insecure jobs. Many have already started responding to their community’s needs in creative and caring ways.

In Hartlepool, The Annexe is providing local people with leftover textiles to turn into patchwork, with the aim of creating a huge quilt when we all get to leave our houses again. It might seem quaint to encourage people to turn to crafts but in fact it gives people a sense of shared purpose, when many have lost theirs in a new world full of uncertainties.

In Plymouth, Power to Change has commissioned Makers HQ, a community-run fashion sampling business, to make bunting from discarded textiles for our postponed Community Business Weekend. The open doors event may not go ahead for a while, but the bunting production is keeping people employed and housed, and enabling one member of staff to care for her father. Continuing to pay community businesses for services is something we should all be looking to do. Volunteering where possible is another, and many young people are stepping in to help.

There are hundreds of examples and many more to come, as the 9,000 strong community business market reacts to this crisis.

Despite these stories of hope, times are incredibly tough. On average, community businesses get 57% of their income from trading. More importantly given social distancing, we estimate on average 43% of their income comes from venue-based activities (e.g. cafes, shops, hiring out meeting space). Much of this income is drying up as people stay away. Some are rethinking their business models to provide home delivery services. Others are moving their community groups, like choirs, online. But for all this creativity and innovation, the sector remains vulnerable and a significant proportion have little in the bank to fall back on.

So what is Power to Change doing to support these vital, locally based, frontline organisations?

  • We are working with all our delivery partners like Locality, Key Fund, Centre for Sustainable Energy and Community & Cooperative Finance to understand what challenges their members and our grantees are facing and how these vary across community business sectors. This will help us develop a suitable emergency response and identify the different types of financial and non-financial support that might be needed. We hope to get this up and running in the next few weeks.

 

  • To focus our efforts, and those of our partners, on that emergency response, we are pausing our current funding programmes. New funding rounds will also be postponed. For those who have been through the assessment process but have not yet been awarded a grant, we will look at how best we can support them so that their effort is not wasted.

 

  • We’re keeping an eye on government announcements like the extension of Small Business Rate Relief and emergency grants that will be relevant to some types of community business, such as community pubs and shops. We’ll be updating this list of what support is available as new announcements are made. Read our latest digest of government support for community businesses.

 

  • We’ll be sending a weekly roundup of practical guides and support for community businesses to help them respond to the current crisis, whether that’s shifting community engagement online or rethinking their business models. And we’ll celebrate the creative ways they are helping local people. Sign up to our newsletter to get that straight to your inbox.

 

Finally, we recognise that Power to Change’s mission is to support community business. Given that, our responsibility extends to the entire sector. We will gather intelligence, work with partners, collaborate with other funders and government to do whatever we can to ensure that as many community businesses as possible carry on their vital work at this critical time.

 

Read more about the support available to community businesses from Power to Change in response to COVID-19.

With our delivery partners, Locality, we will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday 1 April at 10.30am: Managing your community business during the Covid-19 crisis. Sign up to attend.