Renaisi and Power to Change have a long-standing working relationship, shared values and shared investment in improving communities. For many people in England, pubs are a core part of their community. This evaluation project allowed us to look at this unique part of what can help a place to flourish.
‘Renaisi’s More than a Pub Phase 1 evaluation has provided us with invaluable insights into who the programme has reached and how well it has worked. The findings assisted us in setting the priorities for phase 2. We are looking forward to working with Renaisi in this next phase of the programme. In particular, helping us understand the social impact of the programme and the community pub model that we have been supporting.’
Tom Barton, Programme Manager
Renaisi was commissioned in October 2016 to lead the evaluation of the More Than a Pub programme. The purpose of the evaluation was to:
Our evaluation was developmental, designed to respond to the developing needs and interests of both the More Than a Pub programme and Power to Change more generally, and to provide timely insight to inform the ongoing development of the programme.
We use a mixed methods approach, which included quantitative data analysis (application forms, Advisor reports and public datasets such as the Indices of Multiple Deprivation) in combination with qualitative analysis (interviews with employees, trustees, members, customers and visitors of 12 community-owned pubs).
In addition, some work on comparison was undertaken by our partners at Social Enterprise UK, and is reported separately [link to report].
Phase one of the More than a Pub programme provided lots of learning for Plunkett, Power to Change and the community pub sector.
The relevance of place
A typical pub engaging with the More than a Pub programme was:
However, with few exceptions, the programme has not supported urban pubs in areas of high deprivation, high unemployment and scarcity of local services, for example isolated urban estates. This is because communities in these areas have not engaged with the programme at all, rather than because they were less likely to progress.
The importance of people
In our visits, and anecdotally, we found that the typical composition of the Steering Group organising the process of purchasing the pub is highly skilled professionals, often retired. This demography reflects the dominant demography of the types of places that are predominantly represented in the programme. However, it also reflects the difficulty and challenge involved in negotiating the process of purchasing a community-owned pub, which almost always requires resources including specialist skills, (the promise of) financial investment, and a significant investment of time.
Not having the “perfect combination” of resources doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to open a community-owned pub. While rare, a minority of pubs supported by the programme were able to successfully open without the “perfect combination of resources”. These were usually led by a small number of exceptional individuals with a determination to succeed despite the odds being against them.
Buying, and opening, a community-owned pub takes a long time.
The process of buying and opening a community-owned pub was long winded, and included galvanising the community, raising the funds and convincing the owner to sell to the community. Each stage created different challenges, and the particular situation of each pub was very different.
Opening a pub, and running a pub, are very different
The skillset required to buy, and open a community pub, is very different to the one needed to run it. Many pubs that had successfully opened went on to have challenges around running a pub as a business, dealing with staffing challenges and changes to the committee.
Community-owned pubs can be more impactful where they create opportunities for people who would otherwise be excluded, for example by offering employment to people who would otherwise struggle to access the jobs market, and providing social activities for people who would otherwise be isolated.
Much remains to be understood about the impact of community-owned pubs over time: most community-owned pubs supported by the programme are at a very early stage of development, and therefore it is difficult to determine their longer-term impact on communities at this stage.
There is also much to learn about how community-owned pubs develop as businesses, and whether they are able to remain financially sustainable where other forms of ownership have failed. These types of questions can only be addressed in the years after this phase of the programme has come to an end.
Renaisi has been recommissioned by Power to Change to evaluate the next phase of the More than a Pub programme.
Funded by Power to Change and delivered by Plunkett Foundation, the second round of the programme will build upon the learning and success of the first phase. Adaptations include:
We look forward to assessing the impact of the changes to the programme on community-owned pubs and the wider sustainability of the community pub market.