How do community businesses impact people and places?
Power to Change commissioned Renaisi to evaluate three programmes supporting community businesses in different stages of their life cycle to thrive and create resilient communities. Here we share our insights on how community businesses across the programmes have impacted people and places.
Power to Change aims to create better places. It believes community businesses are a critical enabler for reviving local assets, protecting the services people rely on, and addressing local needs. Their Bright Ideas programme supports start-up community businesses with set up, planning, and seed funding support, while Trade Up and Community Business Fund provides more mature community businesses with growth funding and strategic planning towards growing their income and financial sustainability.
Bringing together our research across the three programmes, evidence confirms that community businesses are uniquely placed to deliver social impact; they have a deeply rooted understanding of community needs, and their organisational culture, values, and nature of existence help realise a significant impact on people and places.
Community businesses have helped achieve:
- Reduced social isolation by providing places for people to go, opportunities for volunteering and learning new skills, and improving mental health.
- Improved health and wellbeing by building connections with others, improving feelings of belonging, engagement in meaningful social activity, and increasing confidence and community wellbeing.
- Increased employability by creating local jobs and training opportunities, supporting those likely to experience exclusion, and by increasing confidence.
- Improved access to services.
- Greater community cohesion, by creating a sense of purpose and contribution, and sector- level cohesion through collaboration and partnerships.
- Greater community pride and empowerment by providing opportunities for local people to actively participate in community initiatives.
- Improved local environment, by regenerating derelict building or spaces, or by directly maintaining the local natural environment.
Community businesses also worked across multiple sectors to holistically address the different needs of their community, meaning that outcomes achieved were rarely mutually exclusive, often interconnected, and were not limited to the seven listed above (other outcomes include: education, childcare, heritage and animal welfare). This also meant that many community businesses found it difficult to measure the social impact of their work. You can read more about how community businesses impact their communities, and how long-term impact on place could be achieved in the learning paper.