The Co-op Foundation and Co-operative & Community Finance have partnered up to develop a new programme of grants and social investments to support community-run enterprises in disadvantaged areas across the UK.
The project will initially be piloted on four areas of community life: community centres, housing, transport and green spaces. A revolving loan fund, Co-op & Community Finance has been providing loan finance for co-operatives, employee owned business and social enterprises since 1973.
As part of the collaboration, the Co-op Foundation has appointed Co-operative & Community Finance as its advisory partner, from a shortlist of six organisations.
The Co-op Foundation was set up by the Co-op Group to complement its other community work across the UK. It has set three goals for the next three years – championing young people’s ability to contribute positively to their communities, investing in disadvantaged communities’ capacity to overcome social, economic or environmental challenges and building a reputation as a trusted charity with a co-operative difference.
The project will see a small number of community-led enterprises based within the 20% most deprived areas of the UK receive a tailored package of grants and loans or equity finance. Once piloted, the programme is likely to be rolled out on a larger scale across the UK.
Jim Cooke, head of the Co-op Foundation, said: “This programme aims to put communities in control, helping them run their most valued places, spaces and services more sustainably.
“By offering groups the right mix of grants and investment, we hope to help them develop enterprising solutions to local challenges. Co-operative & Community Finance’s track record of lending to social businesses in disadvantaged communities made them the ideal partner to help us shape and deliver this work.”
Tim Coomer, business development manager of Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Co-op Foundation to support projects that are making a difference in disadvantaged communities.
“During the six-month pilot we will be developing systems and identifying groups that are in a position to accept and make immediate use of the finance.”