How 2020 put our name to the test – pivoting programmes 

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In this blog series, we’re looking back at this difficult, unforgettable year and the many ways Power to Change had to adapt to support the community business sector during the pandemic.  

During 2020 we awarded our final Community Business Fund grants, offering £2.55m to 16 community businesses to support them to grow and become more financially sustainable. These new grantees include a community woodland, a water mill, a kitchen garden and a bike repair project. The Community Business Fund has been a flagship programme for Power to Change since it was first launched in 2016 and in total has seen over £32m awarded to community businesses across England.  

The Community Business Trade Up programme continued as normal, and supported 71 community businesses in 2020 with a ‘Match Trading’ grant of up to £10k, and 9 month learning programme where participants hone their business skills and gain feedback and support from others in roles like theirs.  

In 2020, after five years we reached a milestone, after recognising the inherent value of community energy in transforming local economies and tackling the climate crisis, Power to Change and our partners have committed over £45 million to community energy initiatives. 

Earlier this year, CORE Partners accelerated over £195,000 of community benefit funding to its community partners to help them tackle local issues arising from the Covid-19 crisis. They include emergency food provision in Devon with Yealm Community Energy, while Kent Community Energy has awarded funding to various grassroots charities working with local people on issues including domestic abuse, mental health, homelessness and those seeking asylum. 

In 2020 CORE solar farms saved approximately 8,000 tonnes of carbon, and powered the equivalent of more than 7,500 rural homes.

The Next Generation innovation projects have already shown great ingenuity and determination in progressing their projects despite Covid-19. Brighton Energy Coop have been exploring Electric Vehicle (EV) charging as an alternative way of generating revenue from solar panels, potentially making community-owned solar viable after the end of the Feed In Tariff in March 2019.

With our partners, Plunkett Foundation, we started the year with a plan for the More than a Pub programme – to support around 30 pubs into community ownership, with about two thirds receiving our loan and grant package. In addition, we were also to support another hundred or so groups in their journey towards ownership. We’re pleased to say that together we managed this, but also so much more besides. 

The community pub sector used their Facebook group as a peer-support network, sharing concerns, asking questions and developing strategies and providing mutual support across the UK. The last few months have proved even harder than the original lockdown for the hospitality sector, but we’re hopeful that there’s enough resilience in the sector for community pubs to continue their 100% survival and success rate.  

Highlights from the world of community-led housing include a £500k grant to CAF Venturesome, enabled a blended funding offer (grant and loan) to be part of their new Community Led Housing fund, that launched February 2020. Our funding for the Community Led Homes meant that the 26 community led housing enablers that are now established across England had access to ongoing support throughout the Covid-19 crisis, included weekly discussion forums that helped them in turn provide support to groups so their affordable housing project could progress. 

Along with Local Trust and Karbon Homes we have also funded the ‘No Place Left Behind’ commission into prosperity and community placemaking being conducted by Create Streets.   

This year also saw the Homes in Community Hands fund seeing work funded early on coming to fruition.  For example, Southmead Development Trust in Bristol received planning permission for their  ambitious Glencoyne Square regeneration project. This will deliver 300 homes, a health centre, a library, a youth centre, workspace and a range of other facilities. Our £87.5k grant in 2018 was the catalyst that got this project off the ground. Also in Bristol, at the same time we funded the beginnings of what is now Community Led Homes West community led housing enabler, whose work on policy led to Bristol Council inviting community led housing groups to bid for sites for community asset transfer for affordable housing this year. These are major steps forward for Bristol communities. 

In our next blog we’ll be looking at the impact of our place-focused programmes, and how we’re helping the community business sector embrace digital.