Community projects in England will share a £1m windfall thanks to a match-funding initiative from Big Lottery-backed independent trust Power to Change.
The Community Shares Booster, delivered by apex body Co-operatives UK, has seen 17 groups receive over £1m in equity investment since December 2017. It invests equity of up to £100,000 to match community shares investments into societies that can demonstrate higher than average levels of community impact, innovation and engagement.
The latest scheme to benefit is Projekts MCR skate park, which occupies a previously disused space under the flyover section of Manchester’s inner ringroad. It forms a vital community hub, providing a safe place for people young and old to build their confidence, make friends and be active. They run female-only classes, adults’ classes and reach over 3,000 children a year through skateboard coaching classes.
John Haines from Projekts MCR said: “Over the last five years skate park attendance has shot up and so we recognised a need to expand, launching our first ever community share offer with an initial target of £50,000 to add more skate space, energy-saving LED floodlights and expand our spectator space.
“In the end we raised £132,000, including match investment of £67,194 from the Booster Programme, smashing our target. As well as the funding, through the share offer we’ve built a group of committed supporters who really care about the skate park and our work, because they have a stake in it. We cannot thank them enough.”
Community shares are a popular approach to raising finance, with local people investing often small sums of money to become co-owners of vital local enterprises – from pools to pubs, community housing to heritage buildings.
The Booster Programme has helped communities across the country to own, develop and save much-loved spaces and buildings including Nenthead Chapel in Cumbria, Stretford Public Hall in Manchester, Sutton Community Farm in London and Jubilee Pool in Penzance.
More than 4,350 people have raised over £2.2m in community shares in share offers supported by the booster, some of them investing as little as £20, with over £1m in booster equity investments topping up the funds raised locally.
Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, said: “Investing over £1m via the booster programme is an important milestone, and it shows that, with the right support, communities relish the opportunity to look after the places that are important to them.
“Community share offers can only be run by co-operatives or community benefit societies, as through their investment they become members who own the asset and have a say in decision making. We are seeing a rise in this type of organisation being formed as more and more people take control of community life.”
Sara Buchanan, joint head of open programmes at Power to Change, said: “We believe community businesses can change lives and transform places for the better. This incredible milestone in the booster programme demonstrates how powerful community shares can be and we’re delighted to be able to support so many of them in this way.”