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This impact report aims to understand and assess the impact of The Totnes REconomy project over the last 6 years, between 2012 to 2017. The project is located in Totnes, Devon, UK, a market town with a population of about 8,500 in the town and about 23,000 for the town and district. The report will look at the economic, social and environmental impacts of The REconomy Project, the extent to which it has achieved its aims, and share some of the lessons learned and insights for moving forward.
The Totnes REconomy Project has been running since 2011 with practical aims to develop more opportunities for young people to create livelihoods and for everyone in the community to have their needs met in ways that are ecologically sustainable or regenerative, fair and inclusive, and that contribute to the resilience of the community. The premise for activity is that if we want a new kind of local economy that can deliver on these aims, we must create the conditions for new economic actors, relationships and models to emerge and thrive. We believe we can create these conditions by focusing on four areas of activity: 1) catalysing a new entrepreneurial culture, 2) mobilising local social and financial capital, 3) building an ‘enterprising ecosystem’, 4) weaving networks of ‘new economy’ organisations and activists.
We conducted this study to try to measure our impacts in these areas. What we have found is that through our three principal projects, the Local Entrepreneur Forum, the REconomy Centre, and the Local Economic Blueprint, we have had positive results in all of these areas.
The Totnes REconomy Project has directly helped to raise over £83k of financial support from local citizens for 27 enterprises, creating 5 new full time equivalent jobs. Beneficiaries have reported that access to hundreds of thousands more financial support and creation of many more jobs have been indirect results of the Totnes REconomy Project’s activities and relationships. These local enterprises turnover about £1.3, spending over £870k on local payroll and procurement. These factors make a positive contribution to building community wealth. Furthermore, these firms also pursue social and environmental aims which also contribute positively to an inclusive, fair, sustainable and resilient local economy.
The Totnes REconomy Project is catalysing the emergence of a community supported entrepreneurial culture and ecosystem. Since 2012, there have been over 720 participants in the LEF and over 100 members of the REconomy Centre; 27 enterprises have pitched for support – many now support and collaborate with each other. After 6 LEF events, 170 people have played the role of investor, including 24 from these pitching enterprises. Over 150 enterprise workshop participants and hundreds of hours of volunteer support have been logged at the REconomy Centre. Trends are positive for increasing numbers of ‘investors’ and enterprises applying to pitch. These indicators all point toward a normalising of these activities in local community life.
The LEF and REconomy Centre have become important institutions in the local enterprise ecosystem, offering clear and accessible pathways for entrepreneurs to start new enterprises, or existing enterprises to access support or expansion capital. As a result of their positive impacts, new and/or more impactful roles for local political actors, schools, landowners, and NGOs in this ecosystem have been enabled. This brings to life a ‘community supported entrepreneurism’, a kind of community enterprise incubation system.
In short, the impacts of the Totnes REconomy Project, through its principal projects, have been positive and increasing. The study, below, brings to light more detail and context, allowing the reader to gain a more in-depth understanding of how and why these projects are working, as well as their limitations. The study creates a foundation for understanding the opportunities for improving the effectiveness of these projects, as well as the potential for new projects and programmes.
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