Power to Change – which supports communities to create better places through business – has secured £20milllion in funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. The money will enable the organisation to remain open to help community businesses navigate the Covid-19 recovery and build on its six-year legacy, which has seen community businesses in England more than double to 11,000.
Run by local people, trading for the benefit of local people, community businesses are for-profit organisations that provide the services that neighbourhoods need to make them thrive. Community businesses are diverse and can range from community cafes, shops and pubs through to libraries, lidos, community growing schemes, green energy projects and community housing.
This new injection of capital, from the largest funder of community activity in the UK, will enable Power to Change to continue its work to support and grow community businesses for at least five more years. The organisation, which was created as a time-limited spend down trust, had been due to close in 2022. However, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted just how vital community businesses are to supporting local places, particularly during a crisis. They will be equally as important during the recovery, as the country seeks to ‘level-up’ and will need to be build resilience and capacity to manage future social and economic shocks.
Community businesses are the building blocks of the nation’s economy and are vital to the success of our recovery from the pandemic. They make places better by helping to retain local wealth and prosperity, with 56p of every pound spent in a community business stays in the local economy. For people furthest away from the job market, they create good local jobs and training opportunities – community businesses employed 37,000 people in 2020.
Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change, said: “The huge variety of ways community businesses stepped up to support local people during the pandemic was truly inspirational – they ensured no one was left behind. As we move through the recovery, it’s vital that we do everything we can to help these businesses navigate what will be a tricky path so they can remain viable for their communities.”
Power to Change will launch its new business strategy in spring 2021. While it will still continue to invest in community businesses, it will focus on strategic interventions and partnerships designed to strengthen the sector so it is future fit to meet the challenges ahead.
“This new National Lottery investment, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, will enable Power to Change to strengthen the resilience and capacity of community businesses, so they can help rebuild our local economies and tackle the big challenges and inequalities people are facing right on their doorsteps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” added Vidhya.
Elly De Decker, England Director at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “A year of crisis has meant community organisations and businesses in England have faced financial difficulties due to Covid-19. As the largest funder of community activity in the UK, we know community businesses are rooted in their local communities and make a big difference to local life and people.
“We are pleased to award a further £20 million to Power to Change, to enable them to continue to support community businesses and help rebuild local economies, using funding made possible thanks to National Lottery players.”
National Lottery players raise £30 million each week for good causes throughout the UK.
News of the new National Lottery investment comes as Power to Change publishes its report Community business: The power on your doorstep outlining the impact the organisation has had on communities over the last six years with its initial National Lottery investment.
Power to Change has:
- Grown the market: the number of community businesses in England doubled, from c. 5,500 to c. 11,300.
- Provided support where it’s needed most: invested £86m in community businesses. Two-thirds of this money went into the 30% most deprived areas.
- Put assets in community hands: helped community businesses raise an additional £19m to keep local assets in community hands. There are now 6,600 community-owned assets across the country.
- Improved financial resilience: improved business models and revenue streams. For example, participants in the Trade Up programme generated £13,584 more in trading income than a control group.
- Improved operational capacity: enabled community businesses to create voluntary opportunities and jobs for local people, many of whom are likely to experience exclusion from employment and/or challenges with their physical or mental health.
- Strengthened capacity and skills: enabled community businesses to improve their business models, better plan, build their networks and strengthen their skills.
- Built new opportunities: leveraged an additional £70.3m into the market, in the form of grants, community shares, crowdfunding and social investment.
- Supported priority sectors: tripled the number of community pubs in England, invested £40m in community energy and built 889 community-owned homes.
Case study: Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre
When Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre, a plant nursery run by Haringey Council, closed its doors in 2017 a group of local people stepped up to take over the running of the site rather than see it sold. With its landmark glasshouses and resident terrapins, koi carp, and tropical plants, it was much loved by the local community and dubbed ‘mini-Eden’.
Today, following investment from Power to Change, Wolves Lane is thriving community business delivering an innovative food growing hub run by the local community in partnership with the Ubele Initiative, Crop Drop and OrganicLea. It’s commercial activities, including a popular veg box scheme, supports initiatives designed to support community inclusion and cohesion projects.
The site has remained in operation throughout the pandemic, although the business has focussed its priorities and adapted its services to meet the current needs of the local community during the crisis. Crop Drop, which runs the site’s veg box scheme has experienced a 30% surge in demand during the first lockdown in spring 2020 and which has largely been sustained.
The business has also launched the Meal Project, producing 300 meals a week for local people who need access to prepared meals. The business received emergency funding to kit out a kitchen to deliver this project.
Rachel Dring, Managing Director at Crop Drop, said: “The income we generate through the local organic box scheme enables Crop Drop to contribute our time and resources towards developing the community work at Wolves Lane Centre. Since Covid-19, as a group we’ve been able to set up a meal project and food growing initiative that donates nutritious meals and fresh produce to the most vulnerable in our community. Volunteer-led plant sales have helped local residents grow their own and put love and care into their gardens over lockdown while also helping to raise much needed funds for the Palm House.”