Helping community businesses be more resilient with Trade Up

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Power to Change's Trade Up programme has encouraged resilience in community businesses, but most still require further time and support to thrive in the long run – a role that funders can play going forward.

May 18, 2022

Mylene Pacot

Mylene Pacot

Senior Project Manager, Renaisi

Chloe Nelson

Chloe Nelson

Impact and Learning Manager

One of Power to Change’s three strategic priorities for 2021-2025 is ‘more resilient community businesses’. The Trade Up programme, delivered between May 2017 to March 2022, was designed to support the growth of community businesses. Renaisi’s latest paper explores whether the programme made community businesses more resilient.

Learnings from Trade Up

The Trade Up programme made community business leaders more resilient by helping them clarify their focus. It created space for strategic planning and organisational development,  developing their networks and providing them practical and emotional support. Trade Up also increased community businesses’ knowledge and confidence.

However, the report also found that while resilient leaders can strengthen their businesses’ performance, embedding their learning into their wider organisations can be challenging. This is due to time constraints, low wellbeing or high staff turnover, among other challenges.

While Trade Up fostered community businesses’ financial growth, some community businesses still had difficulties increasing their revenue. They continued to rely on grant funding. Some also struggled to get the necessary buy-in from external stakeholders.

Overall, Trade Up strengthened community businesses’ financial growth and durability, yet more support is required to ensure these changes are long-lasting.

The role of funders going forward

While different components of the Trade Up programme directly encouraged resilience, most community businesses will require further time and support to weather challenges and thrive in the long-run. Power to Change and other funders can play an active role in supporting them, particularly by:

  • Using their voice and reach to influence the wider sector to invest in and support the community business model.
  • Continuing to convene community groups and linking projects up with others in their sector or area in order to sustain active networks.
  • Offering flexible funding options, that can be tailored to community businesses’ needs at different points in their journey.
  • Supporting community business leaders and their wider organisation.
  • Providing holistic, long-term support which can be tailored to individual needs.

The future of Trade Up

What’s next for Trade Up? Together with the School of Social Entrepreneurs, Power to Change is building this learning into the next continuation of the Trade Up programme. This new iteration will support 40 early-stage community businesses with a 12-month cohort-based learning programme and £5,000 Match Trading grant.

Through this intervention, community business leaders will develop entrepreneurial mindsets, increase their ability to trade and gain the tools, skills and networks they need to build resilience and tackle big challenges at a local level. The programme hopes to develop a pipeline of young and diverse community businesses who will help support the continual growth of the sector.