“Levelling the playing field” by offering free resource packs for positive thinking, this community business is now trying to place town centre buildings in the hands of Coalville’s community.
“The simplest way of sharing things as widely as possible is by offering them for free,” says Deana Wildgoose, director of Coalville CAN. “We call it levelling the playing field.”
Since 2016 Th!nk FC, the catalyst for Coalville CAN, has been offering thinking resources and tools, both as free downloadable packs from their website, along with delivering courses out in the community at places such as schools and community centres. “The idea of the tools is that they are suitable for anyone,” Wildgoose says. “Any organisation, any family, any person will get something out of doing the tools. We work alongside people to better navigate through life. We don’t fix communities or people; we share ways to recognise and value the strengths and qualities within the community and its people.”
Coalville CAN have also been a huge source of employment for the community in and around the district of North West Leicestershire, hiring 55 young people via the government’s kickstart scheme. Some of which have gone onto more permanent roles, such as Harry Jerome now working as an apprentice fundraiser and connector. He was unemployed and feeling a little lost after dropping out of university. “I really needed work experience because I didn’t have any,” he says. “I came out of uni thinking I’ll work in a shop or McDonalds but this has given me work experience I’ve found way more helpful. It’s been better for confidence building and also really helped me get connected with people in the area.”
On top of that, it’s also helped Jerome figure out a career path. “Part of the struggle with uni was I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a career,” he says. “Now I’ve had this role I’ve realised that I definitely want to do something focused on community because it really does just feel like I’m actually doing something. It makes me feel proud of what I do.”
While the tools and resources offered by Coalville CAN can be used by anyone, they are also hugely involved with the community and future of Coalville. They are currently driving a movement to put the future of the town, and the buildings within it, in the hands of the community.
When Wildgoose found out about community benefit societies (CBS) she knew this was what was needed in Coalville. “I thought these things sound like they are the organisation that everybody should have in their community,” she says. “They are the ultimate democratic transfer of wealth potential. We thought if we could get a CBS going in Coalville that was run really well, and using some of the stuff that Coalville CAN has been developing, that would be awesome. And there’s only one way to do it: we could go around doing workshops or create tools and resources to share with people or we could just do it for real.”
They decided to go with the latter option and have now activated an asset-based community development model, which will take on assets of local value to hold in perpetuity for the community. All with the aim of using the spaces and places to create long-term community sustainability and wellbeing. Wildgoose says: “Coalville CAN will hold the contractual relationships, pool risks and provide services. It will support the development of new community projects and enterprises and enable the community to direct how money is spent, helping to create prosperity. It will support the re-imagining of the local town and high street – building on what is strong not what is wrong.”
The future plans for Coalville are bold, ambitious and ones rooted in community pride, with bids to take over town centre buildings already in place. “We want to put CBS’ on the map and we want to put Coalville on the map,” says Wildgoose. “We’re just looking to bring people together, connect people, and build belief that it is actually possible to place these buildings in the hands of the community.”