Thriving community businesses provide economic and social boost despite the pandemic
From a report by Power to Change
Community businesses can be any type of business that trades products and services such as shops, transport, farms, hubs, pubs, gardens or leisure centres. They are run by local people and trading for the benefit of the community to which they are accountable. They make positive impacts in their community and exist to help make places better. They are part of a growing movement of communities taking back control of their local areas through business – buying the last pub in the village, running their local football club, saving their public halls and local libraries.
While many businesses have struggled during the pandemic, research at end 2021 shows that the resilient community business sector has reported increased demand for services in response to COVID-19 and adapted their offer to meet this demand.
The annual Community Business Market Report for Power to Change, showed that the median total annual income of community businesses increased to £130,000 this year (an increase of £20,000). The report also showed that these businesses have responded to the pandemic by evolving their services to meet their community’s needs: three-quarters (76%) now offer more than one service to their community – a rise of 13 percentage points.
The pandemic caused a marked increase in demand for their services, particularly for wellbeing services. Three quarters (75%) of community businesses offering food provision saw demand rise, 80% saw a rise in demand for their financial advice, 78% for their health and social care services and 88% for mental health support. Two-thirds (66%) of community business now expect to develop new partnerships or collaborations in the coming year to deliver goods and services.
Community businesses are focal points for communities, as well as trading entities. Nearly all community businesses surveyed say they positively impact the lives of local people, which helps explain why local people valued them during the pandemic and why they were resilient to economic shocks. The outcomes on which the most community businesses made an impact were reducing social isolation (95%), improving health and wellbeing (95%), increasing community cohesion (97%) and increasing community pride and empowerment (95%).
Community businesses also offer important routes into employment. Three in five (58%) said they had employed at least one person in the last year who had never been in paid employment before.
At a time when many high street buildings are standing empty, they provide the optimal location for commercial and community activities for community businesses. The report showed that one in five (22%) businesses surveyed is expected to make use of vacant buildings within the next 12 months.
The report also found that community businesses are actively responding to climate change. Seven in 10 (72%) said they had some impact on improving their local environment in four main areas: food growing and provision (40%); improving buildings (37%); improving or protecting the natural environment (37%); managing waste/resources (32%).
Community businesses were nearly four times more likely to be led by people from minoritised ethnicities (19%) compared with the UK’s small and medium enterprises (5%). More than two in five community businesses have people from minoritised ethnicities and/or aged 35 or younger in senior positions.
Read the full report here.
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