The Community Shares Booster Programme is a new innovative initiative to support and foster community business across England.

By buying shares in a community business, the public can become more involved and engaged in the prosperity of the place they live in. Community shareholders are also taking a risk, but it is a risk they can help to manage. They can be loyal customers, and many are willing to be volunteers and activists, using their skills, expertise and knowledge – and passion – for the benefit of the business and the wider community. Community businesses are a means of taking action to address local challenges and control vital assets and services that might otherwise disappear.

Following a first wave earlier this year, a second window for applications is now open until 30th June 2016. Community groups seeking support should contact a community shares practitioner here.  It is also important that the group shows that it meets Power to Change’s definition of a community business, so have a look at the information here.

The programme is funded to the tune of £1 million by Power to Change and is being delivered through the Community Shares Unit (CSU), a partnership between Co-operatives UK and Locality. It is aimed at community businesses across all sectors, in which new and innovative models for community shares can be explored; particularly in more disadvantaged areas and sectors where community businesses are under-represented. In the first phase that has just closed, applicants included projects in heritage, housing, transport, farming and energy.

One of the groups that is being supported through the first phase of the Booster Programme is Friends of Stretford Public Hall. This is a heritage regeneration project based in west Manchester bringing back to life a building that is run by the community, for the community.

If successful then your community business may receive a small development support grant in advance of launching your community share offer. After that, your organisation will have access to match funding in the form of an equity investment by Co-operatives UK when the share offer goes live, as well as the prospect of further support after the offer has closed, linked to the investment.

For more information on the programme click here.