We began the year with a paper exploring the funding landscape for community businesses, using data from 360Giving. Little did we know that we would use the data to coordinate our emergency response with other Trusts and Foundations. Behind the scenes we were also busy crunching the data we hold to identify the community businesses at greatest risk of closure following the Spring lockdown, which enabled us to get money quickly out the door to those most in need.
We pivoted our existing programme evaluations to facilitate real-time learning to help our Programmes team and delivery partners respond to the crisis. For example, as part of their evaluation of Bright Ideas, the Community Business Fund and Trade up, Renaisi ran regular reflective learning workshops with colleagues to report back on emerging need amongst community businesses. They shared their early insights in a couple of blogs – here and here.
Finally, alongside supporting the emergency response and the Community Business Renewal Initiative, we have been building the evidence base about the impact of both community businesses and Power to Change. We’ve published multiple evaluation reports – on housing, energy, business growth support, and match-trading, as well as learning papers on everything ranging from the challenges facing local communities to the value of peer networks. We have condensed this evidence into our organisational impact report, which we are looking forward to sharing with you in early 2021.
Commitment to research to make the case for the community business sector
In line with the changing global context, much of the research and policy activity in 2020 also pivoted to focus on Covid-19. The most striking insight is how community businesses have proved their resilience during this period with only 1% of closing for good and 89% adapting operations.
Outside of Covid-19, three areas of focus this year have been employment and skills, volunteering, and high streets. We discovered that community businesses support those who are disadvantaged from the labour market and support people into employment; 18% of employees in the research were not working prior to joining the community business. We also affirmed the value of volunteers to community businesses; the total value of volunteer time to the sector is estimated to be £210-£250 million.
We know that work to save the high street is imperative now more than ever and our report sparked a series of webinars where we welcomed high-profile panelists, including Danny Kruger MP and Professor Cathy Parker, and over 370 attendees across the three events. We are looking forward to continuing this work in 2021.
Finally, we summarised our entire research evidence base, bringing together key findings from 70 reports from 2015-2019. Over the course of the year, we have published 20 research and policy reports which have provided insight to the organisation about the state of the sector and the amazing things community businesses are doing.
In our final blog of the series we’ll be concentrating on how we’ve celebrated the community business sector this year.