Community shares are a growing option in Wales for local people looking to create big opportunities in their community. From financing community facilities and sustainable energy sources to buying the local shop or pub, the chance is there for the entire community to come together and take pride in their home.
So what are they and how are they unique? Community shares work like other large business, but rather than buying a part of an existing company, it’s local people giving money towards a share in a company they’ll start and own. Community shares and cooperatives ensure that the venture is truly one for the community by offering a “one-member, one-vote” policy, meaning however many shares an individual buys, everybody in the community gets the same right to a vote and a voice.
And the benefits? One of the toughest issues when starting a business or company is finding the capital for the initial investment. Community shares can overcome this barrier by pooling together the resources of the community towards a shared interest. Since the focus is on the local community, that’s who benefits. The money invested in a share is used by the company to fund the venture including start-up costs and running fees.
But community shares aren’t a charitable donation. The money raised is an investment and, as with any crafty investor, the community can expect a return as soon as the business is on its feet. A thriving example of this is the on-going success story of Awel Aman Tawe in the Upper Swansea Valley. With focus on improving the local environment, creating local jobs, and returning profits to the community, the organisation has been raising funds, from as little as £50 per investment, to build a wind farm and offer a 5% annual return. The wind farm was completed ahead of schedule and the turbines commissioned on the 25th of January, 2017, with the ambition of offering the rewards and benefits to local people and saving a massive 236,000 tonnes of CO² over 20 years in the previous coal-mining valley.
It’s even gained the support of a number of famous faces including ex-Wales rugby union international Paul Thorburn who said, “I harnessed wind energy to help some of my goal kicking attempts on the field, and to now see the benefits returned to the local community from this resource, is incredible.”
Though quickly growing, community shares aren’t a new phenomenon and almost a 120,000 people have invested over £100m since 2009 in the UK. If you’re interested in investing in a community share or starting a venture for your own community, more information can be found on the Wales Cooperative website by following http://wales.coop/.