Powering up

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Is your community business digitally strong? Financially resilient? Diverse, equitable and inclusive?

If you need support with one or more of these issues, then the new Powering Up programme could be for you!

Technical expertise

Professional development

Wellbeing support

Delivered virtually to community businesses across England*

Read the guidance and apply below

*We will be prioritising support to community businesses in the most deprived areas of England, as well as organisations that are supporting, or are led by, disabled people and communities experiencing racial inequity. 

What is a community business?

About Powering Up

Powering Up is a programme for community businesses who need support shifting from an emergency mindset to investing in future planning. Our ambition is to support you as community business leaders, and your teams, as you embark on developing or growing your organisation. Powering Up supports community businesses in the key areas of digital growth, zero carbon and sustainability, and financial resilience, with a cross cutting theme of diversity, equity and inclusion.

The initial phase of the programme focuses on community businesses looking to learn how digital skills could help their business develop and grow. Other support areas will be included in the programme during 2022. The Powering Up programme will run for a total of four years with multiple rounds of funding.

The tailored support package for community businesses is worth up to £20,000 in total, and includes:

  • Paid access to support providers (up to £9,000) who are brokered in to meet the specific needs of your community businesses over a 12-month period.
  • Professional development and wellbeing support (up to £3,000) such as leadership coaching, peer mentor, and mental health support. This support can be drawn down over the 12-month period of support.
  • An £8,000 unrestricted grant to support you as a community business leader, and your team, to engage in the required support of the programme. This could be to cover your time, back fill a post, purchase essential equipment, or cover other expenditure that enables growth of your community business.
How does support work?

If your application to the programme is successful, you will be assigned a Community Business Connector who will discuss your needs with you in more detail and help you create a tailored programme to develop and grow. You can take a ‘mix and match’ approach to the support you choose to access, and you only need to give an initial indication of your support needs in the application form.

In addition to the organisational diagnostic facilitated by one of our Community Business Connectors, successful applicants also receive direct support to progress their business. This includes technical support to your business as well as professional development support for community business leaders and health and wellbeing support for individual staff or teams.

Who is eligible to apply?

The programme is open to any community business operating and registered in England to apply. You must also:

  • Be a community business that has been trading for one year or more which can provide accounts as evidence.
  • Be able to dedicate a minimum of 12 days (over the next 12 months) of your time or a team members time to engage with the support being offered in this programme.
  • Looking for support to improve how your business uses digital to develop and grow.

Power to Change will be prioritising support to community businesses in the most deprived areas of England, as well as organisations that are led or predominantly working in communities with a high percentage of minoritised ethnicity. If demand is above capacity, we will prioritise:

You can also use our eligibility checker to see if you are eligible to apply.

Programme support partners

Direct support may be provided by one of our national delivery partners: Locality, Plunkett Foundation, Cooperatives UK, Eastside Primetimers, the Ubele Initiative and Catalyst. Each of our partners bring expertise, knowledge and experience to address the needs you identify with your Community Business Connector.

Direct support is generally provided by one of our existing partners. However, if you wish, you may also request to use a local or known service provider, particularly if you already have a successful working relationship that you would like to continue. Regardless of which service provider you choose, Power to Change will pay the provider directly, according to our standard invoicing procedures.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

The new Powering Up programme has diversity, equity and inclusion as a cross-cutting theme to ensure it is integrated into all aspects of the programme. Successful applicants can show how diversity, equity and inclusion practices are embedded into their organisation and how this will be enhanced by their plans for the Powering Up digital support.

Or, diversity, equity and inclusion may be an area of organisational development which you are seeking support in. The Powering Up programme will allow you to explore how you are going to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into your community business’s accessibility, leadership, reach, engagement, skills development, representation, partnerships, and community knowledge.

Digital support offer
  • Support to develop your approach to digital to help make the services your business provides for the community more efficient, effective, widely available and profitable.
  • Support to transform any and all aspects of your business and the experience of the users you serve, as well as the people and facilities that help you do that.
  • Help to use design-thinking techniques which enable you to move to a new digital offering, including moving service delivery and income streams online.
  • Website optimisation and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) improvement.
  • Support to improve or embed booking, resource management, event or relationship management systems.
  • Support with systems and processes to improve Knowledge and Information Management.
  • Learn from peers and others on how to use digital tools in order to repurpose (elements of) this for your own community business for a quick and cost-effective solution.
Financial and business support offer
  • Business skills advice.
  • Human resources advice on topics such as employment, redundancy, working arrangements, etc.
  • Health & safety advice on topics such as Covid-19 compliance, safe and secure buildings, staff and visitors management, etc.
  • Financial planning support, including managing cashflow and debt within the business.
  • Business planning in changing times.
  • Change/crisis management.
Professional development and wellbeing support offer
  • Coaching for personal and professional development.
  • Leadership team coaching and support.
  • Peer to peer mentoring – provided by community business leaders.
  • Resilience and wellbeing – provided by partners such as Bird.

Please note: If you require any assistance completing your application form, please contact our Community Business Connectors via: cbconnectors@powertochange.org.uk and leave your name, organisation name, contact phone number and some information about your request. 

Meet our Community Business Connectors

There are four Community Business Connectors supporting the new Powering Up programme. Their role is to support you with your initial application, to explore your organisational and professional development needs to help you think through and prioritise your support needs, and to connect you with the right support provider.

They will start their support by undertaking a detailed diagnostic with you. In partnership with the Community Business Connectors, you will then create a business development support plan. Community Business Connectors will work with you for a 12-month period, to guide and support whilst you move through the different sections of support on offer.

Simon Borkin

Simon Borkin

Community Business Connector

Simon has worked in the co-operative and community enterprise sector for over a decade. He led Co-operatives UK’s community shares work before setting up as a freelance consultant, researcher and practitioner.

He’s also a trustee of Stretford Public Hall, Manchester, a community co-operative that owns and runs a heritage building as a multi-purpose venue.

Steve Conway

Steve Conway

Community Business Connector

Steve is a community practitioner who has supported social enterprises and charities through asset transfer, business planning, and income generation, as well as provided training and senior consultancy on asset management governance, policy and process. As a person of dual heritage, Steve holds a passion and professional interest in equity and equality and has extensive experience supporting Refugees & People Seeking Asylum and Black and Minoritised Communities achieve their goals, ambitions and find a home in the local community.

Carole Donnelly

Carole Donnelly

Community Business Connector

Carole has returned to Power to Change after supporting the Pilot for Powering Up in 2020 as a Link Worker. Carole has over 30 years’ experience in community business development, social enterprise and social housing. Carole is passionate about supporting community businesses to grow and achieve sustainability. Carole is an award winning social entrepreneur, a double Fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs and has helped to develop the Social Economy as the former Co-Chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Sona Mahtani

Sona Mahtani

Community Business Connector

Sona brings her experiences of leading a Black and Minoritised community led business for 11 years, where she once volunteered for 18 months. She has supported over 420+ organisations in a 25 year career and developed community networks after many years in key roles with socially enterprising organisations working with a focus on HIV and AIDS, training and employment, homelessness and community development. As Director of Beyond Just Now, her own consultancy, Sona is also currently developing an organic hobby farm, creative retreat and eco-hub in France.

It was very helpful as we were starting to look at our business modelling and this process helped me focus on what we wanted to work on, helped us narrow down our thoughts and think about the strategy.

Powering Up grantee

Our Community Business Connectors undertake an in-depth diagnostic exercise with your community business as part of the programme, which takes approximately 2 hours, plus they will ask you for a variety of documents to help with the diagnostic. This process enables our Community Business Connectors to gain a greater insight into your community business and to fully understand how this new Powering Up Programme will help your business development.  Many of the community businesses that have already undertaken a diagnostic business review have indicated that it was useful or very useful use of their time.

Application process

The first round will open on 10 November with a focus on the digital support. It will close on 13 December. We anticipate supporting up to 25 community businesses in this round and successful applicants will be informed on a rolling basis. This support will cover a 12-month period to enable community businesses and community business leaders to gain the most out of the support package.

Further rounds will open in 2022.

Stage 1: Complete the eligibility checker

To apply, you’ll first need to fill out our online eligibility checker to indicate whether you meet the eligibility criteria and your suitability to the programme. Answer the questions and submit the form and we will email you at the address you give us to let you know if you are eligible. If you are eligible for Powering Up, the email will include a link to your unique application form.

Stage 2: Submit your unique application form

Once you complete the eligibility checker, you will receive an email a link to your unique application form. The application questions will cover:

  • Are you a community business?
  • What challenges are you currently experiencing?
  • Do you have any plans in place to meet these challenges?
  • Where do you feel you could use some support with digital knowledge and skills?

This application will be assessed and scored by our in-house team. Our team will then decide whether to recommend your application for inclusion in the next panel.

Stage 3: Review by decision panel

If we decide to recommend your application for funding, it will be taken to our decision panel. The panel will decide whether your organisation will receive support and funding. All decisions are final and we will let you know the outcome of your application by 5 January 2022.

Stage 4: Meet your Community Business Connector

If you are successful, you will be allocated a Community Business Connector and they will be in touch within 5 working days of you being informed of your successful application. Your community business connector will then send you a simple form to complete our due diligence checks to allow us to issue you with your unrestricted grant. Your Community Business Connector will be supporting you from this point onwards.

Stage 5: Support planning with Community Business Connector

Successful applicants will be allocated a Community Business Connector to start initial conversations and complete a diagnostic or undergo a discovery phase to understand their specific support needs.  This can be via a Zoom/Teams call or telephone call and can last at least 2 hours.

You as the community business leader, together with your Community Business Connector, then co-produce an initial business development support plan (including professional development and wellbeing support) and start to broker in the relevant support providers.

Stage 6: Work with your support provider

You as the community business leader will begin to work with your support provider. Your Community Business Connector introduces and hands you and your community business over to your support providers. Community Business Connectors will still be available throughout the duration via an online support system.

You as a community business are then on the Powering Up programme for 12 months. While you primarily work with your support providers, your Community Business Connectors is still on hand for support throughout the 12 months, even if support budget has been used. You as a community business can come back into the programme and get additional support, until your business support budget is completely drawn down within the 12-month period.

Stage 7: Feedback and evaluation

Once the support package has been delivered, the Community Business Connector or an independent provider will arrange a call to review the support given and invite your feedback.

Get started with our eligibility checker

Helpful resources

To help you decide whether to apply to this programme, and to support you in developing your application, please review the following resources.

Tips on how to apply

Watch an interview with Community Business Connectors Carole Donnell for some tips and tricks for applying to Powering Up.

Watch our introductory webinar

Learn more about the Powering Up programme in this webinar, including our eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Review the application questions

The main questions we ask applicants to help you prepare for your application.

Diversity, equity and inclusion guidance

Review the standard questions we ask on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Check our due diligence guidance

Standard questions we ask on due diligence.

Check your eligibility

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How does this round differ from the pilot?

We learned many lessons from the first Powering Up pilot we launched November 2020 and have taken that learning into developing our new offering to support community business to grow. At Power to Change, we are applying some of the lessons learned from the pandemic so we can focus on resourcing those gap areas where community businesses have told us developmental support is needed to help shift gear towards a meaningful recovery.

For example, with our wellbeing support we learned from the pilot programme and increased the support available for individual leaders and team building. We have also increased the time available to draw down this support.

How does this differ to what other organisations offer?

There is a diverse range of support out there for community organisations, some of which can benefit community businesses. The aim of the new Powering Up programme is to provide a tailored support package to increase community business leaders’ knowledge, to provide wellbeing support and to build peer relationships to boost recovery across the sector. On offer is a mix of technical, professional & personal development, including health and wellbeing support which you can access following an initial diagnostic of your support needs by a Community Business Connector.

Why digital?

Powering Up offers community business leaders access to the professional expertise and financing to explore and implement new solutions to their digital problems. Power to Change is working with our partners at Catalyst to design digital support offers that best meet the needs of community businesses.

A key lesson from the pandemic is that digitally equipped and skilled organisations adapted and were more resilient. You might have made a start with changing how you use digital tools over the past 18 months yourself but are unsure where to go next. Or, maybe you feel you and your business are lagging behind.

When defining digital, we are thinking about the culture, practices and technologies of the Internet-era. This can include how you approach communications and engagement using digital tools. It can also be challenges using the computers and devices you use (hardware), or the applications and systems you have in place (software).

It may be that your systems need review, and that you would be able to reach more people in your community if you had a greater online presence/service. The internet at your location might need investment. Or, it could be that online trading would unleash goods and services into the marketplace to build the financial resilience of your business. Our Community Business Connectors will work to understand what your digital challenges are and explain our support offer to learn and gain insights on how to best support you.

Why health and wellbeing?

People are at the heart of what makes community businesses dynamic, and their health and wellbeing is vital to the purpose and continuity of the sector. A key part of the Powering Up programme is addressing the challenges, stresses and strains which you as a community business leader as well as your teams are facing.

The programme will enable community businesses to access wellbeing support such as peer mentoring, 1:1 or team leadership coaching, and personal development coaching. This support is to ensure that the people driving the transformation of the digital, financial and sustainability agendas are well supported to achieve their goals.

How will it work?

The aim of the new Powering Up programme is to provide a tailored support package to increase community business leaders’ digital knowledge and expertise, provide wellbeing support, and build peer relationships to boost recovery and enable strong and sustainable growth for community businesses. On offer is a mix of technical, professional and personal development, including health and wellbeing support which you can access following an initial diagnostic of your support needs by a Community Business Connector.

Who are the programme partners?

The new Powering Up programme is led by Power to Change with the support of partner organisations, currently including: Locality, Plunkett Foundation, Cooperatives UK, Eastside Primetimers, the Ubele Initiative and Catalyst. However, we do have the option to add to the pool of experts depending on the diagnostic conversation with your Community Business Connector.

Is my organisation a community business?

We feel there are four important features of a community business that set them apart from a social enterprise, a voluntary sector organisation or a private business:

  • Locally rooted
  • Accountable to the local community
  • Trade for the benefit of the local community
  • Broad community impact.

For this programme, you must also be an incorporated community business registered and operating in England. For further information, see our page on What is community business?. You can also use our eligibility checker to see if you are eligible to apply.

If you are still unsure, please email cbconnectors@powertochange.org.uk to get further support.

Who can I contact with specific questions?

For any further information, advice, or guidance during the application process, please email cbconnectors@powertochange.org.uk to get further support.