Catalysing community action through the Co-operative Oldham Fund – Oldham Council

Posted on 19th May, 2014

Oldham Council has created a sustainable source of funding to help drive social action and community initiatives in the borough.

What is the COF?

The Co-operative Oldham Fund (COF) works to grow local voluntary, community and faith organisations across the Borough, providing grants to help deliver innovative community initiatives that generate lasting and sustainable benefits for local people.

The overall objectives of the COF are to;

  • Promote voluntary social action and a culture of volunteering in Oldham.
  • Promote co-operation and collaboration within and between local communities.
  • Promote equality of opportunity and inclusion across the Borough.

It is based on five core principles:

  1. Sustainability: It’s a sustainable funding pot, replenished from fundraising, interest from the investment of dormant trust funds and contributions from donors.
  2. Collaboration: It brings together key partners from the public, private and third sectors.
  3. Innovation: Supports projects that experiment with new approaches to familiar problems.
  4. Added value: Seeks to bring added social, economic and environmental benefits to communities, such as offering match funding.
  5. Focused: The COF is focused on key themes; promoting health and wellbeing, helping unemployed people into work and championing independence and resilience within communities.

How does it work?

The COF was established in 2013 from dormant trust funds held by Oldham Council, to create a sustainable source of funding, currently worth in excess of £1m. The COF is managed entirely by Voluntary Action Oldham (our principal partner in the voluntary sector), who provide support to residents who wish to apply. VAO also manage the advisory panel that reviews applications and allocates the grants to successful organisations. The panel is made up of local elected members and youth councillors as well as partners from all sectors including business leaders, housing associations and the voluntary sector.

The COF offers smaller grants of up to £1,000 to help mobilise grassroots community activity as well as making larger project grants available, of up to £10,000 to implement wider community initiatives

What makes the COF unique?

Helping to drive the creative solutions that local people want to see, the COF is a truly co-operative initiative that asks those who’ve benefited from grants to give something back. A core principle of the COF is sustainability; asking organisations to reciprocate the support they receive and put something back in to their community. This could be fundraising, volunteering or encouraging others through sharing their experiences via a blog or training.


The flexible nature of the fund provides not only an opportunity to inspire innovation in addressing long standing issues, but also seeks to add value to those established community enterprises that are delivering positive outcomes for the community.

How have we made a difference?

The COF has already made a tangible difference to communities across Oldham and supported a range of projects such as;

  • Setting up a multi-agency food share project
  • Supporting a community cabin internet hub to help digitally excluded residents
  • Setting up an interfaith group to tackle drug abuse and gang violence
  • Establishing an outdoor project for families and kids to grow plants and vegetables
  • Running armchair exercises for elderly residents
  • Providing support for local job seekers to transition into self-employment
  • Offering coaching and football in an area with high levels of 16-18 year-olds
  • Running a programme supporting cancer sufferers getting back to work

To discuss the Co-operative Oldham Fund, please get in touch with Clare Taylor from Voluntary Action Oldham’s grants team, who can be reached at: [email protected]. You may also visit the following web page: