Powering up

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Supporting community business leaders to develop and grow their leadership skills and their organisations.

The current round of Powering Up is now closed.

Please check back later for information about future rounds.

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

The current round of Powering Up is now closed.

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.
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:

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.

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.

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 current round of Powering Up is now closed for applications. Further rounds will open in 2022. Please check back in late January 2022 for more information.

Helpful 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.

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

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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.

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.

Who are the programme 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.

How do I know if my organisation is 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?.

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.