More than £360,000 raised as Northern Ireland embraces Community Shares

Northern Ireland is embracing the concept of community shares with four enterprises raising more than £360,000 for community-based projects in the past eight months.

The figures were revealed by Belfast-based organisation, Co-operative Alternatives, which is hosting a special ‘Showcasing Community Shares’ event  to spread the word about this innovative method of raising finance for community projects.

Jo Bird of Co-operative Alternatives said the lunchtime event at the headquarters of Belfast- based co-operative Boundary Brewing shined a light on the benefits of community shares.

“This was a great event for organisations wanting a crash course on community shares. We heard from representatives of the local co-operatives who have launched successful share issues, including the Boundary Brewing Co-op, Northern Ireland Community Energy (NICE), Lacada Brewery and Down to Earth NI.”

Speakers will also include a representative from the Building Change Trust, an organisation set up to develop Northern Ireland’s voluntary and community sector, which has supported the Community Shares Ready project.

The event also included Co-operative Alternatives AGM. Co-operative Alternatives is itself a consortium co-operative. Membership is open to any person or organisation who wishes to use its services.

Tiziana O’Hara from Co-operative Alternatives added that with the ever-increasing threat of public sector cuts, community shares were a realistic option for enterprises supporting a community need, adding that Co-operative Alternatives offers support to any organisation wishing to learn more about launching a share offer.

“We can introduce you to the 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.

Ms O’Hara, 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.”

For more information about community shares go to: www.coopalternatives.coop or email Tiziana O’Hara on tiziana@coopalternatives.coop or call her on 07858317634.