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If ‘take back control’ is the mantra of the moment, then we need a framework to enable people to be able to do just that. Could community businesses be a shining light and one part of the puzzle in the journey to truly giving back control to local communities?

Over the last few days in the UK we have seen some seismic shifts in the way the UK political landscape looks, and will look, in the coming months and years. The EU referendum was a shocking result for some, and not particularly shocking for others. It has been noted by many, that views on how much ‘control’ and ‘power’ you have over your own life, and how willing you are to change your current situation for the unknown, is largely based on your age, socio-economic background and where you live in the UK.

The austerity faced by people across the UK has had a disproportionate impact on some communities. Some people in those places have chosen to use their voice in the only way they knew how, with their vote. Other communities have chosen to face the austerity impacts and community challenges head on, by starting their own community businesses.

One thing I am sure about is that I cannot predict the future. What I want to do is introduce a shining light, an example of where people in England have already been ‘taking back control’ of their local communities, for the benefit of EVERYONE. Now, more than ever, communities will need to have frameworks and opportunities that allow them to positively and proactively ‘take back control’. As we have seen from the current situation, it’s great to have an idea and desire to do something, but without proper leadership and a plan of action or identification of the steps needed to get there, we have no more of a chance of taking back control than we had yesterday.

We’re excited at the RSA to be working with Power to Change, RIO and Sheffield University Management School to work with community business leaders in the South West. The programme will support them to develop their leadership capacity so they can continue to have positive impact in their communities.

Twelve business leaders from ten community businesses including a Gloucestershire village shop, a Grade II listed community-owned arts venue in Falmouth, and a community energy company in Plymouth have been selected to take part in the six-month programme.

The South West has a thriving community business sector, and the finalists, which include the Onion Collective, leading the regeneration of the coastal town of Watchet in West Somerset, community-run Crediton Community Bookshop, and the Pantry Partnership, a community organisation that runs cooking workshops to improve the wellbeing of its Salisbury residents, reflect the diversity of the community business sector.

Across England, community businesses grew by 9% in 2015 to over 5,650, generated income of £900m to help make local places better, and worked with over 170,000 volunteers. This new leadership programme takes a new approach that aims to help the sector grow even further.

I am excited by this programme and the potential of community businesses in the future, as they offer the most democratic approach to transforming communities and provide a framework and approach that local communities could use to positively take back ownership and control of their own communities.

If you have no idea what a community business might be or whether there might be a community business near you, then this weekend is your chance to get involved in community business open weekend. Take a look at the Power to Change website and follow #HandsupforCB on twitter.

For more information about the programme visit The RSA Leadership Programme webpage and follow the twitter hashtag #CBLeaders to follow the programme. 


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