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A free event aimed at encouraging Cumbrian social enterprises and co-operatives to raise money using community shares will take place on Wed 28 March at the Penrith Players Theatre.
The day-long event is being organised by Alston-based broadband co-operative Cybermoor which itself has raised £10k in four weeks via community shares to upgrade internet services in Alston Moor. Cybermoor hopes to secure another £90k by 31 March.
Event participants will gain practical advice on how to set up a community share offer and drive take-up, the pitfalls to avoid and the administration involved. Social entrepreneurs who have successfully raised finance this way will share their experiences.
A number of Cumbrian co-operatives and social enterprises have successfully secured large amounts of capital by issuing community shares. Rather than turning to private investors, communities have invested in themselves. Local people pay small sums, often as little as £100, to buy a share and have a say in how local firms operate.
This type of ethical investment can offer better rates of return than high street saving accounts. Community share schemes also enable local communities to use their collective power to save businesses and take over local authority assets that would otherwise close.
Daniel Heery, Project Manager at Cybermoor Networks said: “Community share schemes are popular in Cumbria because of the challenges involved in making rural businesses succeed. Conventional companies can struggle to generate enough income and investment due to the region’s sparse population. Alternative finance schemes such as community share offers spread the investment and the risk across the community, helping rural businesses to survive.”
Examples of successful community share schemes in Cumbria include:
Baywind Renewable Energy, Barrow in Furness: Raised £2m through share offers between 1996-99 to buy wind turbines at two wind farms in Cumbria. Baywind was the first UK co-operative to own wind turbines and has 1,300 share-holders.
The Old Crown pub and brewery, Hesket Newmarket: Britain’s first co-operatively owned pub. In 2002 58 people clubbed together to buy the micro-brewery. In 2003 another co-op of 125 members raised finance via community shares to buy the pub.
Nenthead Community Shop, North Pennines: After the post office and last shop in the village closed in 2006, over 100 residents bought community shares at £10 each to raise £9k. This money was used to re-open the shop and post office in November 2007.
Picture shows Fox & Hounds Inn, Ennerdale: A community share offer raised £82,250 from 174 local investors. The pub opened in April 2011 after villagers purchased and renovated it in just six weeks.