In times where places are hit hard and weakened by austerity and deterioration of the welfare state, it seems that the community businesses are a recent solution to the lack of government care for local people. However, community businesses are not a new phenomenon and nor are they just a plaster for a broken economy; over hundreds of years they have provided services by the people for the people, thus placing power and ownership into the hands of the community.

In his detailed and informed book, Steve Wyler, former Chief Executive of Locality, maps out the history and evolution of the many forms of community businesses. From local craftsmen and traders working initially for their own benefit but gradually engaging within their community to the businesses set up by immigrants as a ‘sign of the determination and growing confidence of these communities’. A pattern emerges showing that it is possible to harness civic engagement with entrepreneurial motive for social good and not just for private acquisition.


“If our history tells us anything it tells us that despite all change, the core impulse of community business, trading for good, remains valid and irrepressible.”

The story of community business is imperative for truly understanding the impact and importance of community business as a movement that creates an inclusive form of participation and empowerment from a grassroots level. In Our Hands serves as an inspiring and enthusiastic reference point to look back at the history of a local, now wide spread operation and to harness that radical spirit into the future of community business.

You can explore the contents of the book or order your own copy from Crediton Community Bookshop.


This is an extraordinary story of self help and mutual aid cascading down through the ages. In this wonderfully readable British history by Steve Wyler, a community business equation emerges. Practical action plus popular participation can multiply hopes and dreams.

– Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK

This readable book reminds all of us engaged in civil society that we truly stand on the shoulders of giants. In tracing our history in such an engaging and readable way, Steve Wyler allows us to rethink our future, and in particular to understand the power of mutual support and solidarity in difficult times.

– Julia Unwin, Independent Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society

This book reveals an inspiring history of people coming together and through innovation and enterprise creating solutions to tough social and economic problems. It’s a real source of hope in difficult times.

– Matthew Bolton, Citizens UK