When I lived in Kenya, my friend, Kamau, needed to raise funds to purchase the storefront where he operated his grocery business.  Even with a distant relative in the local bank, he could only borrow half the funds he needed.

I offered to help some, but my contribution wouldn’t come close to covering the other half.

Kamau shook his head.  “Save it for the Harambee.”

“The what?”

Harambee means “all pull together” in Swahili.  The first Kenyan president adopted it as the national motto.

Kamau explained it this way, ” I need to purchase the storefront so that I may continue providing for my family. I cannot afford the purchase price, so I will appeal to the public for help.”

Over a hundred people showed up for the event. There was plenty of food and chai. One by one people walked up and donated. Kamau acknowledged them by name.  He came close to his goal.  And some relatives helped him with the remainder.

They don’t legally own equity in his business, but they probably won’t go hungry.

This sort of all pulling together is catching on in Western countries. Its a bit more formal, but groups like Community Shares are leading the way.

Extracted from: http://www.communityshares.org.uk/find-out-more/what-are-community-shares

Community shares can save local shops and pubs, finance renewable energy schemes, transform community facilities, support local food growing, fund new football clubs, restore heritage buildings, and above all, build stronger, more vibrant, and independent communities.

Extracted from: http://communityshares.org.uk/resources/handbook/equity-social-enterprises

1.1 Equity for social enterprises

The term “community shares” refers to non-transferable, withdrawable share capital; a form of equity unique to co-operative and community benefit society legislation. This body of corporate law provides many of the same features as company legislation, such as corporate body and limited liability status, but it also has some unique features, especially in its provisions for members and share capital.

Community shares are an ideal way for communities to invest in enterprises serving a community purpose. The remainder of this section explains how community shares work and why co-operative and community benefit society legislation is the preferred legal form for community shares, the business model underpinning community shares, and the many starting points for community share initiatives.

Extracted from: http://www.communityshares.org.uk/standard-mark-0

The Community Shares Standard Mark is awarded by the Community Shares Unit to offers that meet national standards of good practice.

These standards ensure that:

  • The offer document and application form are easy to understand
  • You are provided with all the facts you need to make an informed decision
  • The facts are supported by the annual accounts and/or business plan for the society
  • Nothing in the documents is purposefully incorrect, confusing or misleading

Societies are asked to sign a Code of Practice requiring them, among other things, to give the public a right of complaint to the Community Shares Unit.

Photo by khym54

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