10 Ideas for Change: Community finance

The Evergreen Co-operative in Cleveland, Ohio, the inspiration for Preston Council’s community wealth-building initiative

Finance is at the heart of local change. The most resilient local economies are those in which money flows around a community, through progressive procurement and support for local services and businesses. Here’s ten of the best ideas from around the world for helping keep finance local:

1. Launch a small business fund connected to a time bank.
The Arroyo SECO community revolving loan fund is the first small business micro-loan programme funded and managed by a time bank. Recognising the fact that many small businesses were setting up as a result of the skill shares and exchanges within the time bank network, it decided to offer loans to members running or setting up small businesses and co-operatives. Loans range from $500-5000 and are aimed particularly at women and those in economic distress as well as ventures that fit with the time bank ethos. The loans are paid through the time bank’s credit union partner, with loans fees paid in time credits to the time bank.

2. Set up a Community Wealth Creation initiative.
Working with the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, Preston Council is researching how much of the procurement spend of institutions – including Preston College, the University of Central Lancashire and Preston Council itself – actually stays in the local region. It aims to work with these ‘anchor’ institutions to increase their local purchasing power, protecting and keeping jobs in the local community. For more info: click here.

3. Build partnerships between housing associations and affordable credit providers.
My Home Finance is a social enterprise set up by the National Housing Federation to tackle the use of payday lenders by those unable to access mainstream finance. It is supported and funded by a partnership of housing associations as well as corporate and other partners. It began with a number of high street shops in the west midlands offering basic bank and savings accounts and small amounts of credit and has since expanded to the north west and south west of England.  Somerset-based housing provider set up a partnership with Somerset Savings and Loans last year.

4. Create a local investor network.
The first Local Investment Opportunity Network (Lion) was set up in Port Townsend in Washington. A Lion network is a group of local citizens who come together to help fund and support local businesses. They are now spreading across the US.

5. Turn post offices into community enterprise hubs.
The RSA has proposed that post offices use their position at the heart of the community to become hubs for local enterprise. These community enterprise hubs could see the post office offer business support and an outlet to maker communities, support local training and employment and run local clubs and events to help tackle social isolation. The Post Office has already helped subpostmasters to become more entrepreneurial through its community enterprise fund. To read the report click here.

Clare Goff

Clare Goff

Clare Goff is editor of New Start magazine

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