Fifty years of friendship and finance – meet Ed Powell

Today in our series of conversations with friends of ICOF, we meet Ed Powell, Director of Community Shares ICOF limited.

‘I’ve been involved with ICOF through Community Shares ICOF Ltd for the last two years. Before that, I’d worked for the Co-operative Group for around fifteen years, who helped to fund it originally, and came onto the Board first as a co-opted member, and then the Director.

Part of my involvement in the Co-operative Group had been around looking at co-operative development in the UK, and supporting collaborative partnerships, both domestically and internationally with the Co-operative Group. So it was an obvious extension of that to look at opportunities that supported the co-operative movement and community businesses to grow. And that’s how I found out about community shares.

That background with the Group gives me a broader lens, beyond cooperatives into community businesses, beyond the legal sense of cooperative structures to culture – businesses having that sense of spirit of mutuality, and communities coming together. Being able to invest in expertise locally, to support them to make a change where they are is a fantastic thing.

I’ve joined ICOF during the pandemic and it’s brought a lot of things together that I’ve worked on. Seeing how community businesses get funding has been really interesting and it is really important. Particularly for cooperatives, access to capital is a real challenge. We can see that recently in some of the recent stories around John Lewis. For very local coops, actually having opportunities to be able to fundraise and to have the investment from people within the community means there’s not just a financial investment, it’s an emotional investment, an investment of care. Things like the Port Bannatyne Development Trust and the Stokes Croft Land Trust – they’re grounded locally, they are actually making a real difference to their communities, but also the communities are also choosing to invest both money and their emotional energy there time into them as well.

This is a wonderful celebration to wish ICOF a very happy birthday, and to see all the investments that ICOF have made, supporting communities and enabling communities to lift themselves up. The power of ownership is just as important now, as it was 50 years ago. So I look forward to the next 50 years!