Community Exchanges are regular, community-led events that bring people together, provide services and information, and reduce social isolation. ACT has produced a Toolkit for communities looking to start up their own Exchange.
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 Community Exchanges have started in village halls across Cumbria, with support from ACT and funding from various partners over the years.
In most cases the Exchanges 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 fulfil some of the same purposes as an Exchange. We have defined a Community Exchange as a regular, community-run activity 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 information, health care or learn about public services)
Community Exchanges can also be Warm Hubs, providing a warm, safe space, hot refreshments and warm welcome to everyone, plus access to energy advice and support
An existing Exchange can quickly respond in an emergency to provide a warm, safe place for residents to gather, receive refreshments and access information about the situation, such as a mass power outage or extreme weather event.