Power to Change to cut staff under new ‘streamlined’ strategy

13 Oct 2020 News

Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of Power to Change

Community-business funder Power to Change will shed up to half of its staff under a new five-year strategy.

Power to Change was established in 2015 to support community businesses in England, with a £150m grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.

The foundation had intended to spend-down its endowment and close after seven years, but now has plans to continue beyond 2022 as a “more streamlined” organisation.

A different way of working

Vidhya Alakeson, the chief executive of Power to Change, told Civil Society News that the changes will mean “around half the staff team” leaving the foundation. It currently employs 50 people and has offices in London, Bristol and Sheffield.

No roles have yet been identified for redundancy.

Changing

Alakeson said Power to Change will work “in a different way" and will become "more streamlined and agile”. It will be “less of a large-scale funder and more of a sector-development organisation that has funding to deploy”, she said.

The organisation will cut back on making major capital grants, she added.

Power to Change supports community businesses in England, which are trading organisations rooted in and accountable to their local communities.

Pandemic is an 18-month crisis’

Alakeson added that the next year and a half will be focused on providing emergency support for community businesses, to help them cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

She said: “In light of Covid-19, we felt it was not the right time to wind-up an organisation which existed to support and grow community business.

“The sector has been incredibly resilient in this first wave of Covid-19, but the reality now dawning is that this crisis is much longer than anyone anticipated in March. This is not a six-month crisis, it is more like an 18-month crisis.

“Therefore, to wind-up at the point where the sector really needs that support and a champion, and a catalyst which can draw new resources into the sector, just felt like the wrong timing.”

Seeking further funding

Power to Change has £30m left of its endowment, and is hoping to raise another £20m towards its five-year strategy.

Alakeson said that the funder has been talking to NLCF and government officials about potential future funding, as well as “other lottery distributors” and major foundations.

Power to Change has helped bring £70m into the community business sector from other sources since 2015, she said.  

Government plans

Last month’s report into the future of charities, commissioned by the prime minister and conducted by Conservative MP Danny Kruger, recommended Power to Change for £150m of funding to administer an expanded Community Ownership Fund.

Alakeson said that she was confident that the government would “focus on community-led development alongside the more traditional approaches to regeneration”.

On whether her organisation could secure funding as part of that work, she said: “We can only make the best case for Power to Change. It is then somebody else’s decision as to how it gets done.”

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