Impact & Learning Officer
In March 2023, Government announced that a Community Wealth Fund would become the fourth funding cause within the Dormant Assets scheme. The Fund aims to strengthen social infrastructure in places with high levels of deprivation and empower communities to identify and act on local priorities. This is something that we, along with hundreds of other civil society, private and public sector organisations have been calling for, to deliver long-term, community led funding to the places that need it most.
Government has since announced that £87.5 million of Dormant Assets funding will be allocated to a Community Wealth Fund in England, to be delivered by the National Lottery Community Fund, and opened a consultation on how this funding should be delivered. Our response to this consultation draws on our evidence of delivering place-based funding and backing community business.
Power to Change’s position
Since 2015, our work at Power to Change has shown the transformative impact of community business in communities experiencing high levels of deprivation, where the market has failed to deliver what local people need and want. We have seen how community business works to provide the social infrastructure and create the social capital which strengthens communities and makes them resilient through challenging times. We have identified some key principles, backed by our evidence, that would enable the Fund to transform communities through patient and flexible funding, and through the power of community business.
The Fund should deliver long-term, flexible funding that enables communities to control investment and plan for the long term. Funds should be delivered through long-term (around ten years) endowment-style funding pots. Funding should be unrestricted. Giving smaller pots of funding to more communities would help to spread the impact of this fund across more of England.
Funds should be distributed to both communities with no social infrastructure and communities which are disadvantaged but have some existing community institutions – including community businesses. These could play a convening role in developing social infrastructure. Support should be embedded in the programme to help communities to develop their confidence and capacity.
Funding should go beyond small towns with a population below 20,000 to address pockets of deprivation in and around larger cities, and in deprived rural and coastal areas. These are present across all parts of England. Centralised and competitive approaches to funding disadvantage communities who need support most acutely, so we welcome Government’s plans to allocate the Community Wealth Fund based on need, while maintaining a geographic spread across England.
Communities should be free to determine the best ways of meeting local priorities, and what those local priorities should be. Peer networks could play a valuable role in supporting communities to decide on the interventions they wish to pursue, and using networks of existing community businesses and community anchor organisations would help to bring resources closer to communities.
Grasping the opportunity
Community Wealth Funds could help communities that are typically overlooked for investment to leverage more resources and opportunities, be that through funders, private business or their local authority, in the form of Levelling Up funds or asset transfers. It’s also an ideal opportunity to test how communities could use new powers alongside funding to have more of a say in what happens in their place – like the powers outlined in the Community Power Act.
We know from our work that when place-based funding is delivered in the right way – in a patient manner, to local organisations equipped with the support and freedom to deliver what matters for their areas – that it can create tangible benefits for local people and communities resilient to the challenges ahead of us. As the Community Wealth Fund develops, we will continue to advocate for these principles to be at its core, and for a role for existing community businesses in delivering on the opportunity this fund presents.