Tackling cost-of-living and climate resilience through the Resilient Communities Fund

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Community businesses are at the forefront of addressing the cost-living crisis and local impacts of climate change. The Resilient Communities Fund acted at pace to support them. Here’s what we learned.
17 Jun, 2024
Chloe Nelson

Chloe Nelson

Insight Manager

In 2022, the cost-of-living crisis was fast emerging as one of the toughest challenges facing community businesses. Recognising the interconnectedness between the climate crisis and rising energy and food bills, we launched the Resilient Communities Fund to help communities weather the economic crisis and invest in green solutions, so that they could emerge stronger, and better prepared, for the climate transition.  

 The £1.3m grant funding was paired with capacity support programme for community businesses, delivered in partnership with the Social Investment Business and the Centre for Sustainable Energy. 

New Local’s review looks at the fund’s impact on community businesses, their impact on local people, and learning for funders to support community businesses in future. Today, we’re publishing their final report.  

What we learned:

  • Community businesses are at the forefront of addressing the local impacts of the climate crisis. They deliver energy efficiency improvements, support local people with the impacts of the climate crisis, and implement sustainable practices. The fund has helped safeguard local business, protect jobs and services, and build financial headroom.  

This review finds that investing in and partnering with community businesses can be an effective and cost-efficient way of delivering on multiple outcomes and priorities, particularly in marginalised and deprived communities.”  

  •  The flexibility and simplicity of the fund was critical to its success and impact. The fund provided flexible support to community businesses, trusting them to use the finance in ways that they deemed would deliver the most impact. 

This empowered community businesses, freeing them up from funding restrictions and day-to-day challenges and allowing them to tackle immediate financial pressures and simultaneously plan for longer term resilience. 

  •  However, community businesses and the communities they support, are highly susceptible and exposed to climate change. To continue building toward environmental sustainability, further support is critical, especially flexible financial support for future energy saving initiatives, along with technical bespoke advice. 

Many [community businesses] have higher than average energy bills, given they own and tend to operate out of older, inefficient buildings, combined with an increased demand for their services which can be energy intensive (eg warm spaces, food banks). 

Here’s evidence that when given timely and appropriate access to finance, community businesses can have an outsized impact. Financial support enables community businesses to tackle immediate financial pressures and continue to support their community, as well as planning for long-term resilience against economic challenges and, critically, environmental challenges, which are among the most pressing issues of our lifetime. Backing and investing in community businesses is an effective route to achieving broader societal changes and sustainable solutions.  

We’re continuing to partner with funders, social investors, community business, and government at all levels to make sure communities have the power to change what matters to them. To join us on this journey, please get in touch.