Innovation Fund Grant
In our first share offer we raised less than our target, which led us to think about why this was. Possible causes of this were thought to be that Oldhamers may not be familiar with share ownership, and may not have large financial savings.
To investigate barriers to engagement with Oldham Community Power, we successfully applied to the Greater Manchester Community Energy Innovation Competition 2016 to support research into how to reach out to those with no history of investment. We were awarded £5,400 and were appointed Quantum Strategy and Technology as a partner to support us in this research.
Research was carried out using several focus groups and a questionnaire. Focus groups included participants from community group leaders, district coordinators, and members of the public, while the questionnaire was handed out to members of the public.
A sample of responses received from the questionnaire and focus groups are recorded below:
What would encourage you to join Oldham Community Power?
“I want to join a scheme run to benefit the community, not run for profit!”
“I want to belong to a society that is fully inclusive!”
“I would be encouraging to see panels on buildings local to me!”
“To have a say in how the schemes are progressed”
“It’s a long term ethical investment!”
“Doing your bit for the environment!”
“It is run by the local community and the council are involved.”
What are the barriers to you joining Oldham Community Power?
“It is a discouragement, not able to get money back for 20 years!”
“Risks, uncertainty of returns.”
Opinions on payment by Instalments
“Paying in instalments gives opportunity to everyone and gives community feel!”
“This would help people on low incomes who still want to support their local community project to invest.”
“Would maybe benefit others.”
Opinions on paying interest to shareholders
“I don’t understand all this about interest!”
“Make the meaning of IRR clearer!”
“Given the state of banks 4% seems fair.”
“Interest would not be the only reason to invest.”
Opinions on sharing income with other community schemes
“Some may have philanthropic as well as economic reasons to invest.”
“This seems appropriate, so my money helps develop the community through more projects.”
Ideas for increasing engagement with Oldham Community Power
“Why not put member’s names on panels?”
“Members to get discounted with Oldham Community Leisure OCL reduced rates?”
“To help people save, interest to be credited to account at credit union?”
“Schools, through children, encourage parents to become members?”
“Councils to encourage tenants to become members?”
“Let businesses advertise they are a member of OCP?”
“Give back to communities, especially linked to fuel poverty?”
The feedback received from the research has let us make some major improvements to the second share offer currently live:
• The wording has been strengthened to illustrate the wider benefits of the scheme, and we have emphasised the benefits of membership of the scheme rather than just the interest that can be earned by members.
• Payment by instalments is now offered as an option.
• Talks and visits are being planned and attended, now structured around informal discussions and ‘meet the directors’ rather than PowerPoint presentations.
Many thanks to the Greater Manchester Community Energy Innovation Competition and Quantum Strategy and Technology for their invaluable support.