New role at Community Shares Unit to help drive democratic ownership

John Dawson, who takes up the role in January, previously worked at Power to Change and Locality

The Community Shares Unit has created a new role, head of market investment and development, to drive investment in the sector.

John Dawson takes up the role in January to secure further funding for the community shares sector and open up community ownership to new audiences across the UK. 

The Community Shares Unit is a partnership between Co-operatives UK, Locality and Plunkett Foundation, set up in 2012 to support community ownership of vital buildings, spaces and services. In the last decade, over £180 million has been invested in 480 vital community businesses and spaces using the community shares funding model. 

Mr Dawson joins from from Power to Change, where he’s currently head of social investment, and his previous roles in the community business sector include development manager at Locality. 

Co-operatives UK says community shares are “an accessible way for people from all backgrounds to invest in a project or cause they believe in.

“It gives people an equal stake and a say in what matters to them – and investment amounts can start as low as £10. Community shares have saved community pubs and shops; created homes for the homeless; helped fans own their football clubs; and even helped a community build a skatepark. There are community-owned distilleries, hydro-electric power plants, pools and harbours.”

James de le Vingne, head of the development Unit at Co-operatives UK, added: “Community ownership via community shares has been one of the biggest democratising forces in our economy of recent years.  

“There is huge power in this funding model, and that’s why we’ve created this crucial role to bring in other institutional funders into the community shares market, to take it to the next level. Next year is going to be a big year for community shares and John will be a driving force behind it.”   

John Dawson

Mr Dawson said: “I’m looking forward to playing my part in enabling communities to take control of the spaces and services that are important to them. 

“The government has recently launched a £150 million Community Ownership Fund, which requires groups to find significant match funding. The Community Shares Unit has a pivotal role in securing essential funding to ensure community groups have access to the development support and capital they need – and we want to hear from funders who want to support this new wave of community ownership.”

Through the Community Shares Booster programme over £3m has been invested into share offers, with significant investment from Power to Change, a key partner of the Community Shares Unit.  

This year, 17 community run co-operatives received over £800,000 in matched in investment through the booster programme using funding from partners including Power to Change, the Architectural Heritage Fund, and the Greater London Authority.