A million reasons to celebrate the first year of Community Shares Wales
By Carly McCreesh, Project Manager, Community Shares Wales
Well, what a quick year that was! It only feels like yesterday when we were drudging along the wet fields of Riverside Market Garden, joined by our launch guests and celebrity friend Michael Sheen.
A lot can happen in a year, and like any new project the first year of Community Shares Wales has definitely been a whirlwind.
Claudia and I have been racking up the miles along the M4 and further afield, meeting groups and spreading the community shares word. We have met with 64 groups, each with their own goal to make the community a better place and involve their community in shaping and influencing how they make positive change. We have met such truly amazing and inspiring people over the last year who have definitely made our jobs enjoyable, worthwhile and entertaining.
The year began with us running a series of introductory training sessions to community shares, to groups who had never heard of community shares or those who wanted to learn more. This worked well and allowed us to get our faces out and about in communities and developed a healthy pipeline of projects.
The range of understanding and experience about community shares has been vast and we’ve seen more developed knowledge in certain areas, such as West and North Wales and specific sectors such as pubs and energy. It was not surprising to the team that this is where we have seen our first three share offers.
If I had a pound for every time we’ve been asked “why community shares instead of funding or loans?” I’d be preparing my retirement in the Maldives after this project finishes. Quite simply, my answer is community shares encourage “real active community participation” that is bound by financial investment, driven by their philanthropic and social values. Community share schemes see an increase in turnover, volunteer numbers, innovation and sustainability as they are better connected to their membership base who have a vested interest in the success of your venture.
We have delivered training to 148 people over the last year and 90% have reported an improved/better understanding of community shares as a result of this. We have also run study visits to other schemes that have delivered community share offers, as we believe there is no better opportunity to learn than hearing it from the horse’s mouth and having the ‘warts and all’ version. This has proved invaluable to Le Public Space, for example, as it is building its network with like-minded pubs and venues.
We are over the moon to have supported three share offers, namely Gower Regeneration, Le Public Space and Carmarthenshire Energy to launch their share offers – all are closing either at the end of October or beginning of November. A quick plug…… it’s not too late to invest in any of the schemes and all are offering generous interest rates. Get in touch if you want further information.
In terms of project delivery, we’re hitting all of our targets as expected by the Big Lottery Fund. This is great and shows the value of a scheme such as this to untap new finance and markets, which potentially would never have been maximised. We will be undertaking a review of our first year operations shortly and will evidence the benefit of the scheme to date.
Some headline stats for the project to date are as follows:
- 3 share offers launched, raising almost £1m for community ventures
- 163 people trained up to have a better understanding of community shares
- 80+ volunteers now supporting community schemes
- A Welsh practitioner network put in place to support groups looking at community shares.
If having read this blog you think you have a community scheme which could be supported from community shares, either have a look at the Community Shares Wales website at www.communityshares.wales.coop, where we have online resources and a toolkit to support groups, or get in touch with the team on 029 2080 7149.