How can we encourage a more equitable community business sector?

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We are exploring a number of ways in which we can better reach and serve community businesses. From our research, it is clear that our sector is still failing to serve marginalised communities and that for too long, decision-making power has been withheld by funders and change is inevitably slow, inadequate or both.
27 Feb, 2023
Edward Walden

Edward Walden

DEI Manager

Rachael Dufour

Rachael Dufour

Impact & learning officer

From our grant practices through to recruitment of staff and even the language we use to describe the people we support, all areas of the organisation are up for scrutiny as we actively seek to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive. One crucial step we have taken is to get a wider picture and robust evidence base of the diversity of the community business sector and the organisations that we support.

How diverse is the community business sector?

In December 2022, we launched our Community Business Market Report, our eighth annual study of the sector. The report presents data from 1,015 community businesses about the diversity of senior leadership teams (including boards) and groups benefiting or using community business supports and services.

The key findings from our survey last year were:

  • Women and girls, young people, older people (aged 60 and over) and people who are economically or educationally disadvantaged use or benefit from community business services and supports the most.
  • On the other hand, people experiencing homelessness, ex-offenders and refugees and migrants are most likely to not use or benefit from community business services or supports.
  • Community businesses tend to operate in areas facing disadvantage: 48% of community businesses operate in the 30% most disadvantaged areas of England (IMD 1-3).
  • Community businesses operating in high areas of disadvantage are more likely to be run by people from minoritised groups: 34% of community businesses located in most disadvantaged areas of England (IMD 1) are majority-led by people from minoritised groups, compared to just 7% in the most advantaged (IMD 10).
  • Many community businesses are unaware if their leadership teams comprised of people who are LGTBQIA+, ex-offenders or long-term employed, or if people with those characteristics use or benefit their supports or services.

The questions used in the survey were informed by the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Data Standard and research conducted by the Arts Council in 2015/16.

You can find out more the diversity of the community business sector here. The anonymised data set is also available for download here, along with the survey questions.

What are we doing to work towards a more equitable sector?

Better data

Power to Change has collected diversity data in our grant applications and monitoring and evaluation for several years. However, the way we collect this data has been inconsistent and patchy. We are committed to improving data, shared openly to continue evidencing the barriers that exist and to improve the accountability of funding decision-making.

To get a better picture of the diversity of the sector and the community businesses we support, we commissioned Braw Data to establish a consistent ‘baseline dataset’ of the diversity of Power to Change grantees and the community business more widely.

This data will form the basis of future work as it helps us gain an understanding of where the sector currently is, the demographics of organisations and which groups tend to hold power. We can align this with grant application data to help us understand trends of marginalisation and compound marginalisation, for example, when a community business is unable to access funding because it has historically been unable to access funding.

More equitable funding

We commissioned Spark and Co and Locality to engage with community businesses and relevant stakeholders to understand the barriers faced by community businesses in accessing funding and support. The intention here is to “pass the torch” of exploring the ways in which funders are failing to serve marginalised communities to community businesses themselves; for us to be held to account by organisations we serve. For too long decision-making power has been withheld by funders, and change inevitably is slow, inadequate, or both.

Power to Change has already shifted our focus in funding towards equitable outcomes, specifically, making funding decisions that work to address existing inequality and work to lessen rather than deepen funding inequalities in the UK between majority-led community businesses and those led by people from marginalised communities. We are looking forward to being challenged by Spark and Co/Locality’s research and guidance on our next steps.

If you have any questions about our DEI work, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Read more about our DEI work:

Minoritised ethnic community and social enterprises 
Diversity dashboard data