Today a new project launches to define The Future of Community Business in the UK.
Community business has a long history – and could play an even greater role in the future, as no one understands a community better than the people who live there. In some areas, people are already coming together to solve problems for themselves, and we support them as they run businesses which help their whole community and recycle money back into the local area. Community businesses revive local assets, protect the services people rely on, and address local needs. They range from community shops, cafés and pubs to housing and social care; from village halls and libraries to community energy and transport services.
The number of community businesses in England grew by 5% in 2016 and by 9% in 2015.  As of November 2016, England was estimated to have 7,085 community businesses generating more than £1 billion income annually, employing 36,000 staff and engaging 200,000 volunteers.
Commissioned by Power to Change, the independent trust that supports community businesses in England, the project will take stock of the evolving and potential role of community business and define its future as part of a thriving civil society. It will explore the major social, environmental and economic challenges ahead, and consider how community business can help civil society respond to and overcome those challenges.
The project will be delivered by Forum for the Future in partnership with Goldsmiths University and Steve Wyler, former Chief Executive of Locality. To ensure that the resulting vision is of, by and for community business, a wide range of organisations in the sector will be involved including Locality, Plunkett Foundation, Co-operatives UK and Social Enterprise UK, as well as community business leaders.
Richard Harries, Director of the Research Institute at Power to Change, said: “At a time when many parts of the UK face cuts, neglect and social problems, community businesses are helping local people come together to take control, and make sure their local areas survive and stay vibrant. They are an essential ingredient for civil society to flourish in the UK.”
Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, said: “Civil society is motivated by today’s needs and tomorrow’s hopes. If we are not visionary, we are nothing.”
The project runs alongside and will build upon the Civil Society Futures Inquiry, a national conversation about how English civil society can flourish in a fast changing world. The two-year Inquiry is led by Citizens UK, Goldsmiths, openDemocracy and Forum for the Future, with research support from NCVO. It is guided by an independent panel chaired by Julia Unwin, former chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Notes to Editors
Power to Change is an independent trust, whose funding is used to strengthen community businesses across England. At a time when many parts of the UK face cuts, neglect and social problems, we are helping local people come together to take control, and make sure their local areas survive and stay vibrant. Our endowment comes from the Big Lottery Fund. www.powertochange.org.uk
The Big Lottery Fund uses money raised by National Lottery players to help communities achieve their ambitions. From small, local projects to UK-wide initiatives, our funding brings people together to make a difference to their health, wellbeing and environment. Since June 2004 we have awarded £8.5 billion to projects that improve the lives of millions of people.
Forum for the Future is an independent, international non-profit with a 20 year track record in driving sustainable development. Our purpose is to accelerate the big shift to a sustainable future by transforming whole systems. We act as an expert catalyst; we combine futures and system innovation tools to identify areas of high change potential, and work on them with pioneers who are ready and willing to create new ways of doing things.