Our social loans have transformed community spaces in Sheffield  

Two men standing talking between bikes and bike racks

I really enjoy visiting our partners up and down the country to see the incredible work they do firsthand. It’s great to see the innovative ways they’re collaborating with their local communities – something which was evident on my last visit to Sheffield to visit our partner, Heeley Trust.  

My day started with Sarah and Ella from the Foundation team amongst the vast array of bicycles and paraphernalia in ‘A Different Gear’ bike shop and repair workshop, to meet Andy, the CEO of Heeley Trust. Heeley Trust run this, and many other spaces across the community. 

They have been working with local communities in Heeley, Sheffield for the past 26 years, starting with the transformation of a patch of derelict land into Heeley People’s Park. 

The Trust works in a unique way, developing social enterprises that earn an income. They then reinvest that income into maintaining the People’s Park and delivering community work all over the Heeley area.  They work co-operatively with people in the local area to improve public spaces, secure buildings and other assets, building a community that benefits everyone. 

Combined social loan and grant funding 

We set up our Loans for Community Spaces Fund to support organisations who own or manage community spaces to invest in their longer-term financial stability. This included building sustainable income streams, which is something Heeley Trust was experienced in. 

In 2018, we provided crucial match funding to them, awarding a total of £90,000. This was made up of a £50,000 interest-free loan and £40,000 grant as part of our Loans for Community Spaces fund. 

It was great to hear from Andy how our first investment in them supported them to develop the Recycle Bikes business that would then earn income to support the People’s Park. They completed repayments on the loan in January 2024. 

In 2021, we awarded them, and all other loans partners, a £10k grant to support their financial recovery from the Covid pandemic. The flexibility of this grant was integral – partners were allowed to use the support for whatever they needed to help their organisation recover from the impact of the pandemic. This meant they could continue functioning at a very difficult time across the charity sector.  

In 2023, we provided Heeley Trust with an additional interest-free loan of £50k so they could reduce their overall debt, putting them in a stronger financial position. As a flexible funder, we’re always keen to help our partners where we can so they can continue to support those they work with. With Heeley Trust’s model, we know that they are building the future communities we want to inspire across the UK. 

Putting the people of Heeley at the heart of projects 

The Trust has been able to make such a positive difference by harnessing the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm of people in Heeley. They believe in respectful community development with and by local people, not for them as passive ‘beneficiaries’, which really struck a chord with me.  

We agreed that it’s important to have long-term support for an intergenerational approach to community development so young people can also be involved in community development like this. This is one of the reasons why we have moved to a more long-term funding approach here at the Foundation.  

Community spaces are more than a sum of their parts 

We finished off our day at Sum Studios, a building that Heeley Trust took on as an ‘asset transfer’ from the local authority. It had been left empty and was completely derelict at the point the Trust took it on. The building has since been skillfully renovated and is now home to many local small businesses. Andy told us that they named the building Sum Studios because its purpose is to be more than the sum of its parts. It’s not just space for small business, but a space to develop community wealth and encourage people to value their neighborhood again after years of under-investment.  

The Heeley Trust is a brilliant example of how our partners are unlocking the power of their local communities, as set out in our Future Communities Vision. Residents have most at stake in their local communities. Through collaboration with them, Heeley Trust have created some truly wonderful spaces, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.  

If you want to hear more about the amazing work our partners are doing, sign up to our blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *