Cigales – investing in local community enterprises and initiatives

Cigales is the French for cicada

Close but no Cigales

You almost certainly won’t notice them when you go on holiday to France but there are almost two hundred of them throughout the country. They can be found in cities, towns and some of remotest villages deep in the French countryside.

While Cigales is the French for cicada,  in this context it is a neat acronym for a Club d’Investisseurs pour la Gestion Alternative et Locale de l’Épargne Solidaire

A CIGALES “ est un club de financement citoyen qui investit dans de petites et moyennes entreprises, coopératives, associations de son quartier, de sa ville, de son département ou de sa région. Outre l’aide financière, les membres du club apportent leurs compétences, expertises et réseaux.”

I don’t think you need to be a French linguist to realise that Cigales are about a small group of people coming together to invest some of their savings and expertise in supporting small local enterprises and community action. It’s a well-established movement in France that has been developing since the 1980’s.

Some of us have been exploring how the concept could work in the UK – especially in more rural areas. We think the Cigales model, suitably adapted, could fill an important gap in the social investment market – engaging individuals with modest but valuable financial resources to invest in and engage with really local enterprises and initiatives. The big national social investors generally want to put their money into fairly large projects and in fact the management and administrative costs of setting up new social investments makes supporting small scale projects uneconomic. So far, and disappointingly national organisations haven’t really grasped the potential of CIGALES in this country.

But I think Cigales could play a really important role in enabling community projects and enterprises to tap into the (often hidden) financial and skills assets that reside in their local population. Think Credit Unions but with the focus on being a finance and investment vehicle geared to small local enterprise and community initiative rather than individuals. Community Shares schemes, commonly used for community-owned pubs, shops and renewable energy projects, especially in the South West, are in a similar space to CIGALES but have a pretty rigid and prescribed structure. The great advantage of CIGALES is their flexibility and simplicity, providing a vehicle for different types and levels of financial investment according to local circumstances.

So, for example a Cigales could invest in a local care charity wanting to develop a paid for home care service; a community transport service needing to expand its vehicles fleet to serve a wider range of people; or a village hall planning to improve its building to provide a better local facility and generate greater hire income.

Anyway – you probably get the idea. If you want to find out more get in touch or take a look here , though you may need to brush up on your French, and here