1.4.5 Established social enterprises

There are more than 6,000 societies in the UK that are over 10 years old, but only 40 or so of these societies have ever issued significant amounts of withdrawable share capital. Very few established societies actually use the full scope of their legal form to engage the communities they serve, and it may well be that very few of these societies fully appreciate the capability their legal form offers for simultaneously raising investment capital and engaging their communities.

There are approximately 68,000 social enterprises in the UK. According to a recent survey by Social Enterprise UK, their most commonly held objective is community improvement, cited by 25% of respondents. However, only a handful of these social enterprises have taken advantage of what community shares has to offer in terms of capital finance and community engagement. The vast majority of social enterprises are structured as registered charities or community interest companies limited by guarantee, neither of which can issue share capital. However, as Section 3.6 explains, both of these types of organisations can be converted into societies without any change to their objectives.

The long-term market potential for community shares is substantial. Even if only half of the current stock of social enterprises that see themselves as serving their community were to adopt community shares in the next ten years, there could be as many as 8,500 community-financed enterprises by 2026.

If you have any questions or suggestions for new information you would like to find in the Handbook, contact the team by email at communityshares@uk.coop