Re-Imagining Finance for Community Projects & Businesses

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Need funding to start your community business but not sure where to start? Our event Re-Imagining Finance for Community Businesses and Projects, held last week at the Impact HUB Brixton, generated quite a few ideas that are worth exploring.

The event was part of our How to successfully lead a community project course, which includes a rich variety of online and offline leadership training. Our amazing guest speakers for this event were: Deborah Smart from Social Investment Business, Sarah Henderson from Echo, Jes Bailey from Crowdfund 360, Georgina Wilson from BUD and Reetu Sood. With great opportunities for networking, nibbles and even balloons we had a great evening, reflected in the comments we received, such as “really useful info, really inspired and great vibe, I feel like I can keep going.”

There were plenty of practical tips and ideas for anybody who’s starting up a community project or business and needs to get over the initial hump of lack of resources. Here are a few of them:

  1. If you’re considering applying for grant funding and you have any doubts or questions about eligibility, pick up the phone. Funders love talking to prospective grant applicants and the big grant-makers always have a contact number on their website.
  2. Crowdfunding campaigns are a great route to funding as long as they are designed properly. A campaign should last 30-35 days maximum, and before you start you should have an engaged social media community and mailing list – you need a high proportion of recipients who actually open your newsletter email as well as a good number on the list. Also, don’t forget to give examples of your track record in the communications – successes you’ve had on previous programmes or pilots. If you haven’t done a pilot? Do one!
  3. You might think you need funding to get that shiny website designed, but you could also do it by trading your time and skills. Echo is a community where people trade using time instead of money with a handy exchange rate of 1 hour = 1 Echo. A quick brainstorm around the table showed us that we all do have useful skills to offer, even if you may struggle at first to think what they are.

The workshop was a great opportunity to begin these conversations, and the participants on the How to successfully lead a community project course will be able to tap into vital peer-to-peer support. Click here to find out more about the course.

The Power of Collaboration for Leaders: Unlocking Networks

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The Power of Collaboration for Leaders:

 

As leaders, we are so often taught that leadership looks like power. We’re taught that we have to claw and fight our way to the top of the heap and then command everybody once we get there. But, from my experience working with leaders and community groups to lead positive change, I’ve learned that it’s just so much more special and so much more effective to collaborate with our peers. As individuals, we can’t possibly know everything. But as leaders, it’s tempting to pretend that we do.

 

Here’s the thing though: the moment we start admitting that there may be people on our teams and in our networks that have a skill we don’t is the moment we start being more effective agents of change. Groups tend to be far more successful when they admit that there may be someone on the team who does something better, just like there are things I do better. It’s all about recognizing the unique skills in our team members and acting on them.

 

Recently, I was at an event with Unlocking Networks  in which we looked at why some groups making social change are struggling. One of the key elements of this conversation was that to be successful change agents, to be a strong organisation, we should tap into the power that exists in simply coming together and growing together.

 

This is something I am personally trying to emphasize in the project I’m leading called “Lead Positive Change.” We have had several events called “how changemakers can lead positive change,” and what was key there is that we created the space to learn and grow from one another. This made me wonder when we thought it was okay to try and create alone, to really try and strive without collaboration. So with my business, BUD (Businesses Under Development), I’m really trying to change this way of thinking, trying to take a unique approach by supporting leaders of positive change through teaching a participation based approach. We want to create so much collaboration and partnership that people truly feel valued, and to encourage the idea that each individual can truly contribute something incredibly important. On a personal level, I want to work with other people and I want to share my skills with them and learn the skills that they have. We want groups not only to learn how to collaborate, but to gravitate towards collaboration. We want people to start seeing it as both appealing and natural.

 

I’m working on a series of workshops about how to successfully lead a community project (you can register for one here), and one of the things that worried me the most about it was that I knew not everybody could afford to take the course. Of course, it is a businesses so I can’t just offer it for free because that would make it unsustainable. I did decide though that I could have people offer their skills, their knowledge, their networks, so that they could learn and grow from me and I could learn and grow for them. I’m also offering a free course on how to Successfully Launch Your Community Project. That’s how valuable I think peer-to-peer collaboration truly is. 

 

What I have learned, and what I want others to learn, is the importance of understanding and respecting one another. I want individuals to gain experience outside of themselves. And I want people to see how when you put two people next to each other, you can create something that has never before existed. Collaboration is a fusion of ideas and skills and networks that turn into something new and beautiful. To me, it is one of the coolest concepts in the world and I want others to see it as well.

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