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Posted by Sarah Brown on 26 Apr '13

Community Interest Companies - are they coming of age?

Community Interest Companies are in the news doing all sorts of things in all sorts of places. Its encouraging social enterprises are becoming so newsworthy if people understand that CICs are social enterprises that is

Just looking in the news over the last 24 hours there have been a range of Community Interest Companies (CICs) mentioned across the breadth of the country and across a range of activities. It shows the critical nature of social enterprises in much of what is happening in the current economy though often the news article does not mention social enterprise. I wonder how many people actually know what a CIC is?

In Buxton the town team has formed a community interest company, turned an empty shop into the Green Man Gallery and is about to register another building in the town as a community asset, taking forward some exciting plans to ensure local people are able to benefit. This is all part of the Mary Portas initiative.

In Wiltshire Norman Court will reopen as a Montessori Day nursery and independent school from autumn 2013 and is a CIC.It is set within a 2,000 acre estate and woodland. Initially the school’s development will see the launch of a co-educational Montessori Day Nursery and Infants Department in the autumn of 2013. The year-round day nursery will care for children aged from six months to five years. Children will then be able to go on to the infants department in the independent school or can transfer to other local schools. The school will then expand year-on-year to cater for about 300 children up to the age of 18. It will be an independent fee-paying school, however it will accept early education funding for two, three- and four-year-olds. The focus will be on a well-rounded education combined with outdoor learning and a strong focus on sports.

Adge Cutler, the Somerset writer who immortalised the county in song in the 60s and 70s, has entered cyder-space.

The first biography of the West Country legend and former Wurzels front man is now available to download as an e-book, enabling Kindle and I-pad users to travel back in time to an era of smoky jazz clubs, narrow ties and long playing records. The book – first to be published by new community interest company Bristol Books – reveals how some of Adge’s most famous songs came about, details his jobs, from helping to build a power station to roadie for Acker Bilk, and examines the events of the weekend he died on his return from a late-night gig in Hereford.

In Gravesend in Kent a cafe where customers pay what they can afford - or what they think a meal is worth - officially opened for business today.The Bench Cafe is also taking on 16 unemployed people who want to get a job in catering. The new community scheme has been made possible thanks to the Communities Food Community Interest Company, and cash from the European Social Fund.

In March 193 new community interest companies were registered. The 2012 annual report indicates over 3000 active CICs and interestingly 590 dissolved. I still hear anecdotal concerns about the quality of the supervision in comparison to the demands of companies house and the Charity Commission but the CICs we are working with are doing great work achieving social impact and making money examples Legacy Sports and Rhubarb Farm - all you could ask for from a social enterprise.

Of those in the news I am particularly intrigued by the school as previously private schools have tended to be charities - is this a sign of things to come?

If you are thinking about legal structures we have been working with several organisations recently who are considering what is optimum for them in terms of funding, liability, community involvement etc, so give me a ring if you want to chat about what might work for you Sarah 01709 810080