Big Lottery launches £150m community business trust

The Big Lottery Fund has today awarded a £150m endowment to a new independent grant making foundation set up to support community businesses in England.

The Power to Change foundation will be the largest trust of its kind in Europe and will provide funding and other kinds of support, such as training, to help people set up new or run existing enterprises. 

The trust's CEO is Vidhya Alakeson, who previously worked for NHS England, the US Department of Health and Human Services in Washington DC and the UK prime minister’s Strategy Unit.

Alakeson told Pioneers Post: “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 trust describes a community business as "a charity, social enterprise, cooperative or company which does not operate for private profit, instead re-investing its resources so that the business is sustainable and the money is recycled locally".

It lists local libraries, leisure centres, community shops and pubs as examples of the types of enterprises it will fund and support. It also cites community-owned football club FC United of Manchester as one of the enterprises which inspired its launch.

The £150m of Lottery funding will offer a range of funding and support programmes such as community share schemes, which will be rolled out later this year – in the meantime Power to Change will operate an initial grants programme.

Big Lottery Fund England chair Nat Sloane, said: “As a funder, we believe people should be in the lead in improving their lives and communities. We want our grant-making to support the skills, assets and energy of local people and the potential in their ideas.”

The launch of Power to Change coincides with the publication of a new report from Social Finance, which finds that there are around 4,500 community businesses in England and Wales, with a combined income of £800m a year and assets of £1bn. 

It also finds that these community businesses employ around 24,000 staff and engage nearly 120,000 volunteers.

Alakeson said: "Over the lifetime of the Power to Change, we want to achieve a transformation that makes community business ‘business as usual’. 

“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.”


For more information about the Power to Change and for further information on which businesses are eligible to apply for funding, click here.

Header image: FC United fans. Photo credit: Matthew Wilkinson