The future of Power to Change and what it means for the community business sector

Just as the country goes into lockdown for the second time, I want to share with you what is happening at Power to Change.

Vidhya Alakeson

CEO, Power to Change

When the word ‘change’ was baked into our name when we opened our doors in January 2015, we meant that as a pointer towards the transformative effect that community businesses can have in the places where they are based. On this occasion the word ‘change’ is appropriate to describe our organisation’s evolution. Let me lay out what that means for the community business sector.

In September, we launched our £5 million Community Business Renewal Initiative. This is only the latest of the programmes we have designed in direct response to the COVID-19 crisis. Since April, we have got out £7 million of emergency funding to the market, and an additional £9.5 million, with the help the National Lottery Community Fund through the Covid-19 Community Led Organisations Recovery Scheme. It’s a truism to say that this pandemic changes everything and it’s no less the case for Power to Change. We are re-purposing our organisation and the good news is that we intend to be around for at least the next five years to come for the benefit of community businesses.

Our original endowment was due to be spent by the end of 2022, at which point we were going to close Power to Change. But to wind up at the point where the sector really needs support and a champion and catalyst that can draw new resources into the sector, just feels wrong. Power to Change has helped bring £70 million into the community business sector from other sources since 2015 and we are talking to the National Lottery Community Fund, to government and to other funders to secure further funding for community business. We have set aside £30 million of our remaining endowment and are looking to raise another £20m million to take us to 2025 and beyond.

However, even with that additional funding, we won’t have the means to provide the same scale of grant funding that we have in our first six years. That means that there will no further funding rounds for our programmes for mature community businesses (Community Business Fund), for start-ups (Bright Ideas Fund) or community led housing schemes (Homes in Community Hands). That does not mean that we are abandoning those sectors or stages in the life-cycle; we will continue to advocate for them and attract other capital funders and investors in, using the learnings, expertise and networks we have built up over the years. And with those closures will come a smaller team at Power to Change, the shape and size of which we are working on now.

We are looking at this next phase of Power to Change as an evolution, as an adjustment to the realities of the extraordinary times we are living through. We are proud that the number of community businesses has nearly doubled to be 9,000 strong since we opened our doors. We are confident that not only will the sector weather this incredible storm but that it will grow again and be the bedrock of the recovery of local economies that this country needs. And we’ll be there to support it.