The Community Business Trade Up Programme

Helping you to improve your local area

Applications for 2020 are now closed. Register interest below to receive further updates for the next programme 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Good news – we’re still going ahead with this programme! Don’t worry, activities will happen online or by phone, not in person. We have suspended in-person activities for the time-being, in line with government guidelines. Instead, we will deliver learning online, and adapt content to suit your needs during these challenging times. (If you can’t access online learning, we’ll try to find another format that is accessible for you.) Please bear in mind that some of the info below may suggest in-person activities. We will update this as soon as we can – thanks for bearing with us during this busy time.

This programme is for people running projects and organisations that exist to improve a local neighbourhood, village or town.   It’s for community leaders who want to start or improve their trading activity, but re-invest profits to benefit their local community.

Running organisations and projects like these is different from running other types of business. So this support programme is designed to help people gain the head-space, support network and funding needed to grow a stronger, more sustainable community business.

Key benefits

  • A free learning programme, to help you develop your income and impact
  • Up to £10,000 in Match Trading grant
  • An opportunity to meet regularly with other people running organisations like yours, so you can help each other out

Register interest here

    We promise to only contact you about this programme, in line with our Data Protection Policy.

Programme objectives

  • Grow a stronger, more sustainable community business or project
  • Increase your income from trading and sales
  • Benefit from time to reflect and map out next steps
  • Improve your leadership and business skills
  • Build a support network of other people running organisations like yours

Photo and quote from Jenni Gwiazdowski, a student of the programme, reading: "A lot of the learning is just being able to talk to people who get what I'm going through"

More about the programme

The Community Business Trade Up Programme is run in partnership with Power to Change. Together, we have already supported more than 200 community businesses and other projects improving their local area.

Community businesses on this programme typically increased their income from trading by 92% in one year.

Here’s what people on the programme have to say:

Is this right for you?

This programme is for community businesses across England who want to grow by increasing their sales (trading). This programme could be right for you if you are working towards these criteria:

  • Locally rooted – your organisation exists to benefit your local neighbourhood, village or town; your local area is at the heart of what you do
  • Accountable to the local community – you consult local people about what you do, and communicate with them
  • Trading for the benefit of the local community – you want to increase your income from trading by at least £10,000 in the next year, with profits re-invested to benefit your local community
  • Making a broad community impact – what you do engages different groups of people from your local area


What will I learn?

The course is a transformational experience that will push, challenge and support you. It will give you the confidence and skills to create the impact you’re aiming for.

We will cover themes, support and skills areas that growing community businesses need to develop. These are likely to include sessions such as:

  • Product development and pricing
  • Marketing, branding and sales
  • Building a diverse and sustainable income  mix
  • Social investment
  • Winning contracts
  • Negotiation and pitching
  • Developing a realistic and useful business  plan
  • Social impact – measurement and   evaluation
  • Building community engagement and   accountability
  • Building a staff and volunteer team
  • Leadership and management
  • Confidence and resilience
  •  Financial management (budgeting, financial  accounting, management accounting,  cashflow)
  • Legal and tax requirements

You’ll be in a group of around 10 other people at a similar stage to you, from all backgrounds. You’ll form an ‘action learning set’ that helps you reflect and develop in a trusted circle. These trusted relationships with peers are really important to our students: 19 in 20 students stay in touch with people they met at SSE after they finish our programmes.

Our learning programmes are very different to traditional teaching. We’re not about essays and academia. We believe in learning from other people’s stories. We’ll introduce you to experts to help you develop new skills. You’ll build a network of peers and professionals who can support you.

How do I apply?

We’ve closed our applications for 2020.  Register your interest above and we will email you when applications open again.

What counts as a "community business"? Am I eligible?

People on this programme run a really broad range of organisations, projects and businesses – including community centres and hubs, cooperatives, pubs and breweries, farm and food projects, clubs, venues and spaces, swimming pools, woodlands, and even a laundrette!

They call themselves lots of different things, but they all count as community businesses because they put their local community at the heart of what they do.

Read this blog about some of the people on the programme.


What are the locations and dates?

This programme runs over 12 days.

Learning days usually fall in one or two-day blocks, about a month apart. You can use your grant to cover travel costs.

You can choose your nearest location when you apply.

What if I have accessibility needs, or cannot afford travel or childcare?

Please talk to us about this. There is a separate small fund held by the SSE to enable students who have particular needs such as support with childcare, travel costs, or other issues to access the programme. We are keen to enable people with disabilities and other access issues to come to our programmes. This will be negotiated individually with participants. If you do have specific needs and are concerned about this, please contact us to discuss.

How does the grant work?

We want to support you to increase your income from trading and sales.

So as part of this programme, you have access to a Match Trading grant of up to £10,000. The Match Trading grant matches increases in your income from trading and sales, pound-for-pound.

Check out the video below, and read more about how Match Trading supports social entrepreneurs to increase their sales.

Match Trading™ was developed by the School for Social Entrepreneurs with the support of pioneer partners Lloyds Banking Group and the National Lottery Community Fund.

Is all this really free?

Power to Change is fully funding this programme, so there is no cost to you, and it is providing grants of up to £10,000 (a grant is money you don’t have to pay back). Power to Change is an independent charitable trust endowed by The National Lottery Community Fund. Its aim is to support community businesses in England to create better places.

Can I talk to someone to find out more?

Power to Change has suspended all current funding programmes, including Community Business Trade Up, as it is focusing its attention on supporting community businesses affected by COVID-19. All future rounds of this programme are currently paused.

Photo and quote from Sara Marsh, a student of the programme, reading: "The Match Trading grant has been brilliant, it's allowed us to make investment that we're still benefiting from."


Power to Change community business logo