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Communities given the Power to Change

22 January 2015

The Power to Change is a new, independent charitable trust, set up to support community businesses across England. As the trust officially opens today, Chief Executive, Vidhya Alakeson, tells us what this means for communities up and down the country.

Vidhya Alakeson

Vidhya Alakeson

As the country slowly emerges from a long period of economic decline, many communities have yet to recover. Shuttered up shops, a boom in high street lenders, a lack of quality jobs and cut backs in local services have made life more difficult and reduced the opportunities to get on. Although growth has now returned and unemployment continues to fall, the turnaround has yet to be felt by many areas of the country.

Against this rather bleak background some communities have refused to sit back and watch their local areas decline. They have joined forces locally to set up their own community businesses to address the challenges they face. Whether the problem is lack of access to fresh food, an absence of places where the community can meet or a once a day only bus service to the nearest town, community-led businesses are providing the solution. And with it they are transforming local places by creating jobs, reinvesting local wealth and making communities stronger.

The Power to Change has been inspired by the impact of these community businesses already operating all over the country. From the community shop and pub to community broadband, energy and transport, this growing economy bridges the traditional public and private sectors to offer a new approach that is needed now more than ever.

Lyvennet Community Pub - Butchers Arms celebration

Lyvennet Community Pub

Officially established today, the Power to Change aims to support existing community businesses to grow; encourage new community businesses to start up; and enable leading community businesses to take their expertise to new sectors and new places. We will invest £150 million of Lottery funding over the next 10 to 15 years in unlocking more of this economic and social potential, combining the strengths of enterprise with the passion and drive of local people.

As a new organisation, we want to learn from existing best practice and to work closely with local people to understand what they need and how we can best support them. We will combine financial support with access to the best quality expertise. We want to act as a catalyst in this emerging market and multiply our impact tenfold by working with others who share our passion for community business. We will learn as we go and collect evidence of the impact that those we support are making.

Over the lifetime of the Power to Change, we want to achieve a transformation that makes community business ‘business as usual’. Much as people shop today for organic or fair trade products, we want consumers in the future to positively choose community business products that support their local area. The growth of community shares and crowd funding shows the public appetite is there for this approach. We want our investment to take these trends to scale and leave a lasting legacy. We are committed to working with communities of all kinds across England to make this change happen.

The Power to Change has been set up with a £150 million endowment from the Big Lottery Fund. If you’re a community business and would like to find out about the support available, please visit www.thepowertochange.org.uk

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