Its all systems go at Community Shares
Tiziana O’Hara has been in touch to tell us about the exciting times happening with the Community Shares, Ready! project…
It’s been all systems go at the Community Shares, Ready! project, delivered by Cooperative Alternatives and funded by Building Change Trust, as the first share offer supported by the programme was launched in January.
Down To Earth is Northern Ireland’s first Woodland Burial service and they identified an ideal site in the Lecale district of County Down. There are more than 250 locations in England, Scotland and Wales offering woodland burials but none in Northern Ireland.
The share offer was launched on 23rd January 2015 and is open for three months. The aim is to raise £40,000 with shares sold at £1 each and a minimum investment of 800 shares. If desired, the withdrawable shares can be cashed in to purchase a burial plot on the site, in due course.
The group had initially applied for grant funding but had not been successful as it was a new start for a concept that was untested in Northern Ireland.
They had done their research and knew that people were interested in this idea and so decided to form a Community Benefit Society and raise capital through a Community Share offer.
This finance will be used for the planning and development of the site including intense survey work, ecology testing and eventually landscaping work to put in paths and tree planting.
The Community Shares Ready project team – Tiziana O’Hara and Jo Bird assisted the group with developing the society, organising pledge events and writing the share offer.
A case study for the Share Offer has been prepared and is posted on www.coopalternatives.coop and a short video about Down to Earth’s journey to raise finance is currently being developed.
Plans in the Pipeline
A second share offer for a local solar power cooperative is also in the pipeline and will hopefully launch in early spring. The new Community Benefit Society, called Northern Ireland Community Energy or NICE in short, will provide free PV installations to community centres, charitable organisations and social enterprises to lower their electricity costs.
NICE are currently recruiting roof-providers and if any of the organisations mentioned above are interested, please get in touch with Co-operative Alternatives as soon as you can.
The project team has been focusing on marketing and communications and have planned two workshops at Social Enterprise Hubs. They will be involved with CO3’s annual conference in February.
Tiziana is also speaking to students at the Ulster Business School in Jordanstown who are studying a module on Advanced Diploma in Social Enterprise.
“I believe that it’s really important for these students look at all the different ways to do business, and to consider the advantages of a cooperative model and alternative models for raising finance. The great thing about a share offer is that you have a core customer base that is invested in your business,” Tiziana said.
To help increase awareness of Community Share Offers, the team has produced new marketing materials using a new look graphic and has updated the website with clear information about Community Shares explaining what they are, how they work, and the types of community enterprises that are best suited to an offer.
The website also includes a number of case studies on other share offers both in the UK and here in Northern Ireland. “We feel it’s useful to understand how it has been successful in other places and then look at what we can do to increase awareness,” Tiziana added.
Make sure to keep up to date with all the latest Community Shares activity by following them on Twitter at @commshares.