Community Exchanges are regular, community - led events that bring people together, provide services and information and reduce social isolation. ACT has produced guidance for communities looking to start up their own Exchange and between 2009 and 2011 was able to provide start up funding to groups.
Crosthwaite Exchange started in 2006 in response to the closure of the village shop and Post Office. Bolton Exchange opened for the same reason in 2008. Since then a number of other Exchanges have opened in Cumbria, with support from ACT and funding from NHS Cumbria and North West Together We Can. In most cases they have been established to bring the community together rather than in response to a specific event such as a shop closure. Many communities already have coffee mornings, village hall pub nights and other events to bring people together, which fulfill some of the same purposes as an Exchange.
We have defined a Community Exchange as a project which:
- Brings the community together, particularly people who might not otherwise meet.
- Reduces isolation for residents who may feel "cut off" from the community.
- Provides services (i.e. an opportunity to shop, socialise, access health care or learn about public services)
The Community Exchange Toolkit brings together a series of guidance sheets, a case study about Crosthwaite Exchange and an example Constitution for a new group setting up. Nicholforest Exchange written Case Study and Video interviews with Crosthwaite Exchange, 'The Vic' Community Cafe in Culgaith, and Bolton Exchange, are also available on disc, on request from ACT.
Groups looking to start an Exchange, or Community Cafe might also find other ACT Guidance Sheets and Workbooks useful, covering topics such as establishing a group, sustainable funding, writing a budget, and working with volunteers.
Crosthwaite Exchange have also written a Guide to establishing an Exchange in your area.