Community shares are ‘viable option’

Larne community groups, charities and social enterprises are being encouraged to consider community shares as a means of financing new social projects.

Tiziana O’Hara, from Co-operative Alternatives, said: “In a time of public sector cuts, when start-up capital and grants are increasingly hard to come by, community shares are a viable option for enterprises supporting a community need.

She said help is available to any organisation wishing to learn more about launching a share offer.

“There are many organisations in Larne working for the betterment of society that could benefit by the community share option. We at Co-operative Alternatives offer free support and tailored training to any group wanting to explore this option.

“We can introduce you to organisations that have gone down this route, help with business plans and community engagement strategies and will help you write the share offer document – any practical advice and expert guidance that is required.”

Co-operative Alternatives was commissioned by the Building Change Trust in 2013 to run its “Community Shares, Ready!” pilot project to increase awareness of community shares in Northern Ireland.

Tiziana, who manages the Community Shares Ready! Project, added: “Because members of the community are literally buying in to the business, they have a vested interest in the enterprise and are incredibly supportive of it. It gives many businesses a ready-made customer-base.”

Community shares are the sale of shares in enterprises that serve a community purpose. The shares are bought by members of the public who want to invest in a local enterprise that meets a community need and expect a modest return in investment.

A number of organisations in Northern Ireland has already begun to realise the potential of issuing community shares to raise capital to start or grow their businesses.

These include Drumlin Wind Energy, which raised £3.9million with two share offers and Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE) – a new solar power collective, plans to launch in the spring.

Brewery share offers have proved popular in Northern Ireland with Lacada Brewery in Portrush and Boundary Brewing in Belfast both putting out share offers. Boundary Brewing has just ended its community share offer, raising £100,000 in just eight days. Lacada closes its offer in March with an aim of raising £60,000.

Another company, Down to Earth NI plans to develop Northern Ireland’s first woodland burial site in the Lecale District of County Down. Its share offer was launched in January with the target of raising £40,000.

For more information about community shares, go to: www.coopalternatives.coop or email Tiziana O’Hara on tiziana@coopalternatives.coop or call her on 07858 317634.