The prospects for Community Businesses

New report reveals that community businesses are more confident, diverse, and optimistic than other third sector organisations

Community business in England and Wales: new findings from Third Sector Trends is the latest instalment in the Third Sector Trends study which has been running since 2008 in the North of England. It is published by Durham University in collaboration with Power to Change, Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, Barrow Cadbury Trust and Millfield House Foundation. You can read the rest of the 2022 series of reports here.

This year, the report is based on over 6,000 responses from third sector organisations across England and Wales. The key highlights from the report are that compared to other third sector organisations, community businesses.

– Are more confident about increasing their earnings, growing their business, and working collaboratively.
– Are more likely to support minority ethnic communities.  
– Have stronger engagement with and commitment to local social and public policy development, especially in more economically deprived places.  
– Have more informal, complementary, or collaborative relationships   Have greater diversity of organisational leadership.  
– Are more optimistic about the future.  
– Are more likely to be investing in training, digital skills and staff development for staff and volunteers. 
– Achieve greater social impact by increasing employability, tackling poverty, improving access to basic services and empowering local communities.

Professor Tony Chapman, author of the report and Third Sector Trends said that one of the most positive aspects of the report findings isthe eagerness of community businesses to work with other organisations from within their own sector or with private firms and public bodies, in both structured partnerships and ‘complementary’ informal ways.”

He also reflected on community businesses strong investment in local policy and practice initiatives: Most join in with stakeholder events or respond to stakeholder consultations and enter strategic debates which are orchestrated by local public and health sector agencies. And many community businesses do not just react to local initiatives, they also commit to initiating debate or action to tackle local issues.”

In May, the Community Foundation Tyne Wear and Northumberland launched the Third Sector Trends 2022 report at an event in London. Stephen Miller, Director of Delivery and Impact at Power to Change sat on the panel. Reflecting on the discussion at the event and the report findings, Stephen shared that it was interesting and reassuring to see that a lot of third sector activity is correlated to levels of deprivation. We know from our own work that majority community businesses are also operating in the most deprived neighbourhoods.”  

Stephen also said, as entrepreneurial organisations, community businesses are also good at raising and managing their own income, generating wealth locally, and helping to retain it in their own economy. Community businesses are better positioned than many other third sector organisations in terms of their long-term resilience and sustainability”.

The report is available here:

This is the third report in a series of reports on Third Sector Trends for community business. The previous report in this series based on the 2019 Third Sector Trends study which was published in 2020 revealed that community businesses were more financially independent, generated more income and were more invested in shaping social and public policy to improve their local area than other types of third sector organisations. You can also read the first report in the series published in 2018 and based on 2016 survey responses here.