The Exchange CIC was founded in 2015 when 40 like-minded residents came together to develop a project that would benefit the people of the West End. They took over an empty shop unit as their project base; this became a gallery space and a hub for community action, creativity and learning.
Local artists began delivering free community workshops to build skills and confidence in exchange for the opportunity to showcase and sell their work. The hub has evolved into an asset for the whole community, with many local groups and organisations making use of the space. It is a popular meeting space, where people can spend time and share skills.
The Exchange CIC enrolled on Power to Change’s Trade Up Programme in 2017. Trade Up provides community businesses with a 12 day learning programme, delivered by the School for Social Entrepreneurs, as well as a grant of up to £10,000.
Jo feels that they have benefitted from the Trade Up programme’s emphasis on developing trading income. She says, “The trade up match funding element of the programme has enabled us to be far more free to try different approaches and test ideas… One key thing this programme has highlighted for me has been the flexibility of traded income compared to grant funding as it can be invested in developing the business model in a way that grant funding rarely can.”
How did they do it?
The Trade Up programme enabled The Exchange to focus on developing sustainable income streams and refine profitable aspects of their business whilst learning the value in diversifying streams in order to build resilience for the future. As such they have developed a bespoke and robust model putting them in a position of strength as they evolve, grow and move forward in securing a community owned space in their neighbourhood.
The freedom that the self generated traded income allowed for enabled them to commission architects and consultants freely as the funds raised gave the organisation and its community the freedom and control to make the decisions they feel are appropriate and beneficial. It has enabled The Exchange to explore community ownership in its fullest potentials. From decision making to securing local property in the context of developing an improved community led economic model on a hyper-local scale.
What is their social impact?
Feedback from service users and customers highlights the broad social impact provided by the Exchange. The range of courses and activities delivered have improved the skills, confidence, health and well-being of local people. With the skills developed, some residents have gone onto find paid work and employment opportunities, and set up their own creative enterprises.
For other residents, the centre has simply helped them meet other people from their community. In this respect, it is building social networks and reducing the experience of isolation. Service users also say that the Exchange has improved their perception of the West End area of Morecambe and the people that live there.
How is it community led?
The Exchange CIC hold regular well attended ‘soup’ events for the community to give feedback on the organisation’s work and discuss ideas for the future. They also undertake extensive local consultation to identify what programmes to run and what products to develop to best meet community requirements.