Lottery £1.4 Million to Inspire Social Enterprise in Rural Communities

Lottery £1.4 Million to Inspire Social Enterprise in Rural Communities
Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund is today announcing almost £1.4 million in funding to develop an innovative learning campaign that will inspire rural communities across the UK to set up social enterprises.

Building on the success of the Village SOS programme the Fund’s new investment will see the launch of The Village SOS Learning, Outreach and Engagement Campaign, an innovative two-year learning programme led by rural network Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) working with a nationwide partnership of eight organisations.


The campaign will provide an educational network for rural communities, enabling them to develop sustainable business ideas to start their own social enterprises such as setting up a shop, saving a local pub or opening a cinema. 


Creating a central Rural Hub, the campaign will match each new enterprise with a trained mentor and a local grassroots support organisation, who will offer support and advice ranging from how to plan a project to building a brand. 


The focus of the campaign will be a community to community learning network, which will see volunteers from social enterprises across the UK become mentors to share the secrets of their success.


A champion of rural regeneration, the Big Lottery Fund created Village SOS, an innovative funding programme that put a spotlight on village community projects and sought to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities that people living in rural areas across the UK face, inspiring people to get involved and make a difference in their communities. 


Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund Chair said: “Village SOS achieved great things in far flung places across the UK; and it taught us a lot about the needs of rural communities. Many want help and guidance – as well as funding – to fulfil their potential. I wish ACRE and their partners every success as they use our funds to make life better in places that are too often overlooked."


ACRE Chief Executive Janice Banks said: “The ACRE Network and its Village SOS partners are trusted local voices with a great track record of helping rural communities to find innovative solutions to the unique challenges they face. 


“Village SOS is all about communities helping each other and our approach will ensure that communities thinking about setting up a social enterprise will learn from and be inspired by someone who has been through it themselves and made a real difference to village life.”
The grassroots support in England will be provided by ACRE’s Network of 38 rural community councils; in Wales by Wales Council for Voluntary Action; in Scotland by Senscot and Forth Sector; and in Northern Ireland by Rural Community Network.


The campaign will be supported by a national expert panel, plus a new Village SOS website and will begin with a three-month research project to identify good practice and case studies from the first phase of the Village SOS campaign, launched in 2010, which saw 161 innovative village projects come to fruition. 


The research will assess the demand for support for new enterprises and map what is available across the UK so that projects are directed to the best sources of advice and funding. It will include an online survey of a wide range of organisations to find out who might get involved in community enterprises – from parish councils and schools to broadband campaigners and social groups, such as Young Farmers and the WI.