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MBS supports community shares drive

 MBS has completed a scoping study into the reach of community share offers across the UK on behalf of the government-backed Community Shares Unit (CSU).

Such schemes are typically used to finance shops, pubs, heritage sites and other ventures, and research has shown that increasing numbers of people are investing in such projects, driven by a desire to generate social and environmental benefits in their local community.

MBS was first approached to help the CSU by alumnus Simon Borkin who was keen to tap into MBS’ research strengths. Simon joined Co-operatives UK, the national trade body that promotes co-operative enterprises, to lead the work of the CSU in 2012.

Kate Barker, senior lecturer at Manchester Institute of Innovation Research at MBS, secured funding from the Economic and Social Research Council to support the collaboration, and research assistant Lisa Dale-Clough also joined the team.  The School worked with the CSU analysing data on who is investing in the emerging market, how they are investing, and precisely why.

MBS also helped the CSU undertake benchmarking to develop best practice and training for CSU advisers, and collaborated with the University of Cambridge to devise survey questions on community shares for NESTA’s recent national report Understanding Alternative Finance. That report found that more than £30m is likely to be raised through community share offers this year, and highlighted the strong social motives of community shares investors.

Barker and Dale-Clough say it is notable how fast the CSU market is growing, but what is also striking is investor motivation.

“What we discovered was that people investing in community shares were not actually that worried about financial gain. The social element to their giving was far stronger,” says Dale-Clough. “The whole ethos of these schemes is very much about local socially and environmentally motivated co-operation.”

One scheme is F.C. United which was launched in 2005 by fans in order to provide affordable football for all. The team has never had its own ground and is currently building a football stadium and community facility in north Manchester which will be part funded by an issue of community shares.

MBS is now looking for research collaborators and opportunities to develop further research into the market, while it is also running a workshop on December 15th to bring together researchers, practitioners and regional stakeholders. For further details contact kate.barker@mbs.ac.uk or lisa.dale-clough@mbs.ac.uk.