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February 9, 2011

Investing community wealth

Over the next few years, we can expect to see a huge increase in the number of community owned renewable energy projects. Some of these will generate very large amounts of cash for their community’s wider benefit  – millions of pounds in some cases.  This raises some interesting questions in terms of how and/or where these communities should invest their new found wealth. Community Energy Scotland and Scottish Community Foundation have just published some initial guidance

A landmark report commissioned by Community Energy Scotland and the Scottish Community Foundation shows just how successful community groups can be when they lead local development. It suggests that there could be a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for community groups to secure funds through renewable energy developments – funds that could be used to replicate the successes of pioneering community development groups from across the UK. 

Investing for Community Benefit details 10 case studies of community groups which have successfully pioneered and driven local development. It shows that with clear vision, strong partnerships and a real sense of community need, community groups can achieve radical improvements in their community’s prospects. For example:

•         The Goodwin Trust, Kingston upon Hull, with an asset base of £10m and 300 staff, began when a small group of housing estate residents took over a small vacant shop in the estate. It is now a major service provider on health, young people, economic development and community safety issues;
•         Fyne Homes, a registered social landlord operating in Bute, Cowal Mid Argyll and Kintyre in Scotland, began as a small community housing association in the 1970s. It now operates a number of subsidiary organisations which focus on recycling, market gardening and a low carbon initiative, with total group assets exceeding £95m.

In the case studies presented, each group has secured assets or revenue which they have then invested in local development measures. The cases illustrate a range of development strategies, with groups investing in, for example, local service provision, land and property assets, renewable energy development and local business start-ups.

The report was undertaken by the consultancy arm of the Development Trust Association Scotland, with grant funding provided by The Scottish Government. 

The full report can be read here and a summary here.