Picture of Suzanne Orchard

In our latest blog article, we catch up with Suzanne Orchard, Specialist in our team at Co-operative Development Scotland to find out about our recent webinar Community Business: Making it Easy.

Community Business: Making it Easy is a partnership between Co-operative Development Scotland, the Plunkett Foundation and Community Shares Scotland to raise awareness of community business and the available support in Scotland. The partnership creates a one-stop-shop for community business and promotes the collective support package available to ensure a straightforward, streamlined service for clients.

In addition to the support, we enjoy hosting intro webinars where we give the opportunity to community groups at any stage of their journey to hear from a selection of inspirational speakers who have already launched or are well on the way to running successful community businesses.

Community business is a growing sector and that was demonstrated by the interest in the community webinar. This is the third of this type of event run by the partners and it’s heartening to see a continued and growing interest from community groups and that this coincides with an increase in enquiries. There is an appetite for change, likely fuelled by the challenges of the last few years and increasingly communities are coming together to take control of the opportunities around them and anchor wealth locally.

The speakers who joined us to share their inspiring stories included The Dunbar Bakery, Old Forge Inn, People Powered Retrofit and Projkt MCR. The Old Forge Inn and Dunbar Bakery are perfect examples of community co-ops and the kind of projects that are gaining momentum in Scotland, but what struck me on the day was the variety in the case studies. The Old Forge Inn and Dunbar Bakery both enrich their community by providing important assets to that community but also employment opportunities. People Powered Retrofit showed us something less common in Scotland where they are working to help householders in Manchester retrofit their homes to reduce energy bills, cut carbon emissions and improve their health and Projkt MCR, a community owned skate-park have created an amazing resource for the locals but also tackles issues such as inclusion and neighbourhood safety. The scope and the potential for businesses created and lead by the communities that benefit from them, is significant.

You can watch the full video of the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKZdeHu5L9E

Image showing community shop

All the case studies spoke of their experiences, both the positive and some of the difficulties they faced along the way. Whilst co-ops are resilient and more likely to survive periods of economic downturn than other businesses there are always challenges that can arise from funding to structuring the organisation to community engagement. One of the resounding messages was that there is a vast network of support out there and organisations like CDS, Plunkett and Community Shares Scotland are able to help.

Find out more about the support available here: https://communitysharesscotland.org.uk/making-it-easy/