In the last five years, over 120,000 people have invested over £100,000,000 in community shares to support around 400 community businesses throughout the UK, including the Anglers Rest community pub in Bamford. Petra Morris, Project Officer at Co-operatives UK who run the Community Shares Practitioner Network, caught up with Sally Soady, Company Secretary of Bamford Community Society to find out what it’s like to be part of the network and how you can join.
Petra: Hi Sally. How much did you raise through your community share offer to save your community pub?
Sally: We raised £263,500 through a community share offer to purchase the Anglers Rest in 2013 and this year we’re running an open share offer. This 150-year trading inn lies in the centre of Bamford, a village at the heart of the most visited area of the Peak District National Park.
Petra: What made you join the Community Shares Practitioner Network?
Sally: After having successfully gone through the community share offer, I gradually found myself advising other community owned pubs with their community share offer and hosting study visits. I realised there were things that I would do differently next time, and wanted to learn more in order to better inform others. So I joined the Community Shares Practitioner Network, a community of over 100 practitioners providing advice and guidance to communities undertaking share offers.
Petra: Who is part of the network?
Sally: Practitioners have a wide variety of backgrounds, but all are experienced in community share offers. They might be board members, technical advisers, business plan developers or share offer document writers. Some are experts in a particular trade sector, knowledgeable about society law, or experienced in community engagement. Whatever their background, experience and expertise, they are all committed to developing share offers that meet national standards of good practice. It’s great being part of a community of like-minded practitioners and being able to network and share best practice.
Petra: In 2015, the Community Shares Unit (CSU) introduced a license for community shares practitioners which allows them to award the Community Shares Standard Mark. You’re on your journey to becoming fully licensed I believe?
Sally: Yes, I participated in the community shares licensing training programme from November 2016 to March 2017 and gained a better understanding of the philosophy behind community shares. The knowledge has been invaluable in helping me guide our Community Benefit Society through discussions around share withdrawals and paying interest and we’ve successfully applied for support through the Community Shares Booster programme to develop an open community share offer. I’m now much more confident about supporting other community businesses with their community shares offers by using the Standard Mark and taking part in peer reviews and training to become fully licensed.
The next training programme for community shares licensed practitioners is due to start in November 2017 so if you have undertaken a community share offer, are looking to build on your current experience and promote good practice, find out more here.
Petra Morris is a Projects Officer at Co-operatives UK. Petra is responsible for helping to deliver support programmes which have benefited hundreds of co-ops and community businesses including the Community Shares Practitioner Network (CSPN). Petra is also part of the People’s Community of Practice (CoP) funded by Power to Change, the independent trust supporting community businesses in England. It is supporting 13 community business peer networks over 18 months.
We are also happy to announce that we are able to offer a limited number of training bursaries via the Peer Network Programme which is being funded by Power to Change, the independent trust supporting community businesses. The bursary is for freelancers and individuals from organisations with limited training resources who are actively involved with community businesses.
By Nick Gardham, Chief Exec at The Company of Community Organisers
Chief Exec Nick Gardham responds to the much asked question “So what actually is community organising?”
I regularly get asked by friends, family members and those that I speak to, “So what actually is community organising?”. I tend to have a stock reply; “It’s about listening, bringing people together and supporting them to take action on the things they care about most”. This tends to get one of two responses which are;
Response 1 – That sounds interesting – how do you do that?
Response 2 – Oh, we do that too!
The problem I then find myself in is that I either
(a) spend my time telling stories of amazing community organising activity from the network but not actually saying ‘How’, or,
(b) trying to explain to people why what we do is different! After all, it is different…
But what makes it different, what makes this unique and most of all how do we make that clear to people?
Recently, I sat down with some of the staff team at COLtd to look at a framework that was created by community organisers and programme staff as part of the Community Organising Programme. This was the first attempt at the end of the Programme at creating something that was for The Company of Community Organisers.
It was good, but we felt it didn’t tell the whole story. Or indeed reflect what is happening now or what we have learned about community organising over the past six years.
We needed something that told the whole story from reaching out on to the street for those very first encounters all the way through to effecting change at the systemic level. As well as telling the story though, we wanted something that would help guide and assist those new to community organising and those who are experienced with their community organising journey. But also, we needed something for our organisation so that we too can embody the community organising approach in what we do as an organisation. Something that will enable all of us to understand where we are and where we are going whether as individuals or organisations. Something that challenges us to ask whether we are genuinely going through all the steps (although not necessarily in a specific order) that are required to create genuine social change.
What we are now launching isn’t a self-assessment toolkit or a checklist. It is simply what we see as the community organising process, summarised on one page. A framework to underpin all our training. A map to stop us losing our way.
So when I am next asked, “what is community organising?” I won’t be saying, “Let me tell you”, I’ll certainly be saying, “Let me show you”. And then when I hear “Oh we do that”, I can assert, “Great, where are you on the journey and what change are you wanting to see?”
Follow this link to see the full version of the Community Organising Framework
by Georgina Wilson
Georgina WiIson recently attended our Networks & Coffee event. She explains how practicing collaborative leadership can help people build supportive peer networks.
Leadership = Power?
As leaders, we are so often taught that leadership looks like power. We’re taught that we have to claw and fight our way to the top of the heap and then command everybody once we get there.
But, from my experience working with leaders and community groups to lead positive change, I’ve learned that it’s just so much more special and so much more effective to collaborate with our peers. As individuals, we can’t possibly know everything. But as leaders, it’s tempting to pretend that we do.
A different kind of leadership...
Here’s the thing: the moment we start admitting that there may be people on our teams and in our networks that have a skill we don’t is the moment we start being more effective agents of change. Groups tend to be far more successful when they admit that there may be someone on the team who does something better, just like there are things I do better. It’s all about recognizing the unique skills in our team members and acting on them.
Recently, I attended Power to Change’s Networks & Coffee event facilitated by Shared Assets and The Social Change Agency. We looked at some of the reasons why networks making social change are struggling. One of the key elements of this conversation was that to be successful change agents, we should tap into the power that exists in simply coming together and growing together.
How do we get there?
This is something I am personally trying to emphasise in the project I’m leading called “Lead Positive Change.” We have had several events called “how change-makers can lead positive change,” and what was key there is that we created the space to learn and grow from one another.
I also wondered why we thought it was okay to try and create alone, to really try and strive without collaboration. So with my business, BUD (Businesses Under Development), I’m taking a unique approach by supporting leaders of positive change through teaching a participation based approach.
We want to create so much collaboration and partnership that people truly feel valued, and to encourage the idea that each individual can truly contribute something incredibly important. On a personal level, I want to work with other people and I want to share my skills with them and learn the skills that they have. We want groups not only to learn how to collaborate, but to gravitate towards collaboration. We want people to start seeing it as both appealing and natural.
What I have learned, and what I want others to learn, is the importance of understanding and respecting one another. I want individuals to gain experience outside of themselves. And I want people to see how when you put two people next to each other, you can create something that has never before existed. Collaboration is a fusion of ideas and skills and networks that turn into something new and beautiful. To me, it is one of the coolest concepts in the world and I want others to see it as well.