Financial Innovation Manager
Since 2017, Power to Change has been working with the School for Social Entrepreneurs on the Community Business Trade Up (CBTU) programme to support community businesses to build their trading income, reduce grant dependency and develop more entrepreneurial mindsets. Through using a unique combination of match traded grants and a 12 month learning programme, the programme is helping to create a stronger and more sustainable sector.
Changing mindsets and building resilience
For many participants, CBTU has been transformational. It is not often leaders of organisations get given the space to grow and develop, even less so in organisations predominantly led by impact. This, alongside incentivising community businesses to build their trading income, has helped hundreds of participants to build their organisational resilience.
Take the Birch Collective for example, a community business that helps 16 to 25 year olds experiencing mental health issues and social isolation in Bristol, and a current CBTU participant. Before joining the programme, the Birch Collective generated 98% of their income through grants and donations and just 2% through trading. Now, this proportion of income through trading has leapt to 33%. The programme has given them the time and space to ask the big questions of their community business:
“We set out firmly focussed on impact and offering services for free and now we are having to hugely revaluate the sustainability of relying on our impact to support us via grant funding. I wish I’d considered monetising some aspects of our work from the outset, forming a better balance and platform from which to grow.” Tim George, The Birch Collective
Evolving the funding programme as we learn more about the needs of the sector
Over time the programme has grown and evolved to respond to the needs of the community business sector. The participants themselves shape the programme content each year, and it is delivered across four regions in England, presenting the opportunity for community business leaders to meet and network with their peers.
However, it’s no secret that for many years marginalised groups in England have been historically underfunded, and underrepresented in society. This was an uncomfortable truth that many funders have come to terms with in the past few years, and Power to Change with its CBTU programme were no different.
In late 2021 and early 2022 we began a redesign process with the aim of beginning to redress this inequity. To support building a pipeline of a more diverse community business sector, we repurposed the programme to be aimed at earlier stage organisations, and in the 2022 cohort, we loosened our community business definition to include applicants showing the right ‘direction of travel’. We have also tried to make the application process more accessible. The application guidance has been shortened, there is dedicated support available for filling in applications, and we are welcoming parts of the application to be completed by voice recording. Although we are making progress in ensuring our funds are more inclusive, we recognise that this is an evolving progress and that there is still a long way to go. (You can read more on this in the report and blog by Spark Insights and Locality on marginalisation in the community business sector here).
What’s next for CBTU?
It looks to be an exciting year for the programme. We have welcomed The Dulverton Trust onto the programme, who we will be working with to broaden our reach and further our collective aims of supporting communities across England.
We will also continue to adapt the programme as we respond to the needs of the sector, and are hoping to welcome a real mix of community businesses in 2023. Community businesses present a real opportunity for communities to respond to the challenges, and opportunities, their area faces, and CBTU can be the spark that kickstarts that movement to more community power.
The applications for the next round of the programme are now open, with a deadline of Monday 26 June.