Co-operatives UK joins national network to boost community businesses

A national peer network has been set up to help the UK’s growing number of community businesses support each other and share ideas. The Community Business Peer Network Programme was...

A national peer network has been set up to help the UK’s growing number of community businesses support each other and share ideas.

The Community Business Peer Network Programme was set up by independent trust Power to Change, which supports the UK’s £1.4bn community business sector.

Co-operatives UK is among the 13 organisations making up the network, which aims to improve links between community businesses.

Secretary general Ed Mayo said: “There are already more than 7,000 community businesses in England, each serving the needs of local people and recycling money back into the local area.

“We hear plenty of rhetoric from Whitehall talking about creating an inclusive economy – one that works for everyone. Well, for a real model of inclusivity, take a closer look at the community business sector.

“There are many wonderful and inspiring stories from the world of community business. In Liverpool local people pulled together to save a 100-year-old bakery. Homebaked – this beacon of community action – not only sells pies, but also provides training, job opportunities and even affordable housing.

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“Imagine if those stories, those ideas, those good practices – and peer support alongside – got to the right people right across the UK. Imagine how strong the community business sector could become. That’s what this Community of Practice aims to achieve and here at Co-operatives UK we are delighted to be playing a major role in this.”     

Related: Community Shares Wales launches

Co-operatives UK, the umbrella body for UK co-ops, said the network would allow successful ventures like the Anglers Rest, a pub in Bamford, Derbyshire.

This was saved from closure by locals with a £263,000 community share offer and turned into a local hub, including a Post Office and café, with 330 members. All profits are reinvested back into the community.

Locals saved the Angler’s Rest as a village hub with a community shares issue
Locals saved the Angler’s Rest as a village hub with a community shares issue

Sally Soady, a director member at Bamford Community Society, said: “I have enjoyed passing on my knowledge and experience to other rural pubs and I am currently participating in the community shares licensed practitioner training.

“It’s great to be able to promote best practice around community shares and to have the opportunity to learn from my peers.”

The initiative follows Co-operatives UK’s work with the Community Shares Unit (CSU), which it has led since 2012, in partnership with community network Locality.

The CSU has supported the community shares market, with more than 120,000 people investing over £100m to support over 400 community businesses throughout the UK. It promotes best practice and has trained over 60 practitioners to award the Community Shares Standard Mark to over 45 share offers since 2015.

Locality joins Co-operatives UK in the new network alongside  Community Food Growers Network, the Company of Community OrganisersEden ProjectImpact Hub BrixtonOctopus Community Network LtdPlunkett Foundation, Project DirtRegen SW, Social Enterprise Acumen CIC, Supporters Direct and Upper Norwood Library Trust.

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