Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Monday, 2 November 2009
Monday, 19 October 2009
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Thursday, 1 October 2009
to produce health, social or educational benefits" In the UK, this is best shown by care farms, that provide a wide range of experiences on farms to benefit people faced with such issues as addiction, learning difficulties and many more areas. You can find far more out at the National Care Farming Initiative, a really inspiring organisation.
Plunkett was asked to out this work in a wider social enterprise perspective. To do so, I suggested that there were three main categories of enterprises involved. The first was those, such as care farms, based on existing agricultural businesses. The second was enterprises established to deliver green care, such as Walton Lea. The third was existing social enterprises who could add green care, but weren't set up to do so. I suggested, for instance, that Fordhall Farm was, in essence, providing green care for all. My main argument was that this third category, if rooted in community ownership, could offer not only a route from social exclusion, but also a route back into social inclusion.
Another plea was to recognise that many of the development needs of green care enterprises were close to community enterprises and it was important not to reinvent the wheel.
What inspired me most was the group's determination to provide evidence of the impact of giving an individual a green care experience. This could be a powerful tool to help convince policy formers and I wish them every success.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Monday, 27 July 2009
Monday, 20 July 2009
The contrast between the two worlds was very obvious this week with the publication of "Working Together for Older People in Rural Areas" by the Social Exclusion Task Force. Here was a report full of excellent analysis of the challenges faced by the growing population of older people in rural areas. The argument was compelling and the need to change obvious. But when it came to solutions, where were the social enterprises? It was the same tired approach that Government alone can solve problems.
Rural social enterprises know that this is not the only solution. They offer a way for older people to remain active in their communities long after the days of paid employment are over. The average village shop has a team of 70 volunteers helping to keep the shop, and the village, alive. Each of those volunteers is interacting with their community in a way that increases their health opportunities. Other enterprises will produce health outcomes, such as access to services which the mainstream has abandoned.
The SETF report is one of many that fail to show social enterprise as a valuable alternative to the options of public or mainstream business solutions. Some of the fault for this lies within the sector where we have presented ourselves as a problem on a long list of problems, rather than as a solution which can be more effective in some areas than the alternatives. As community after community is finding out, it is a solution which policy formers ignore at their peril and their cost.
Monday, 13 July 2009
The New Zealand Government has held a breakfast at the show for decades. Once I'd survived the shock of lamb chops, venison and seafood for breakfast, the speeches started. First up was the New Zealand Minister of Agriculture, the Hon David Carter MP. He spoke of his country's pride in farming. He spoke of how much food mattered to them. He spoke of how they would tackle the role that agriculture plays in climate change. All of this was done with a clear sense of pride in his country's agriculture. It was the most positive political speech I'd heard on agriculture.
Next up was Sir Henry van der Heyden, chair of Fonterra Co-operative Group. Once again, it was a speech that brimmed with optimism. He was proud to be a farmer, excited by what was happening now and confident about the future.
Here was a fantastic lesson for all who communicate about farming issues in the UK, Government or industry. The lesson was that people listen to positive people. The public has, for too long, switched off to the downbeat messages from our world. The New Zealanders shared a glimpse of what the impact is when we sell our issues standing on the front foot.
Monday, 6 July 2009
Monday, 29 June 2009
That moment came at Co-op Congress (Co-operatives 2009 in new money). Jo White from Co-operative Futures and I were running a workshop to share the launch of the Co-operative Development Network with delegates. Rather than just launch into a stand-and-deliver lecture, we asked the audience to share in groups all the co-operative eneterprises that they'd be proud to see formed over the next ten years. It was only a warm-up activity, but the passion it unlocked was incredible. Groups filled up flipcharts with incredible ideas (many of them designed to tackle rural issues) and could have filled many more.
It showed how much could be achieved if we could line up the right resources. Jo shared the current barriers and I introduced the new network which will see a wide range of organisations committing to work together to create new co-operatives and support existing ones.
Working at the front, the energy from the audience was incredible and Plunkett looks forward to helping making some of those flipchart ideas become real.
Monday, 22 June 2009
Monday, 15 June 2009
Monday, 8 June 2009
Monday, 1 June 2009
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
I spent a fascinating afternoon in Oxford at a conference for Church of England officials on using church buildings for community benefit. There was a real commitment there and some great examples of projects.
My talk was on using church buildings (and land) for community owned enterprises, with co-operative examples from Jamaica and Ireland as well as the UK.
I laid down two challenges. Firstly, don’t just see this as a property issue. Church communities have as much to add as people as the building that they bring with them. Their values are also a major strength, as long as they accept the values of others as well.
Secondly, realise how much expertise is out there already. I suggested that 80% of the challenges they would face were the same as any other rural community-owned enterprise. Avoiding wheel reinvention could save a lot of their energy.
The event gave me a great deal of hope and I look forward to following it up with a meeting with the Churches Conservation Trust.
Monday, 11 May 2009
If ever I needed a boost to get up in the morning, it could come from Mells. There was the sheer pride (and relief) that the community had saved their local store. But this was tempered with the knowledge (and determination) that there was so much more that they could do (and I'm sure will do). If we could bottle those feelings then this movement will grow even faster.
Monday, 4 May 2009
Monday, 27 April 2009
One of the highlights of my first week was attending the AGM of the Fordhall Farm Community Initiative. Fordhall Farm is a rare example of combining three aspects of rural social enterprise in one place.
The first aspect is HOW the farm was saved. The story of how the farm, on which Arthur Hollins helped pioneer the modern organic movement, was saved by his son and daughter through enlisting the support of thousands of people to create the Fordhall Farm Community Initiative has been well documented. The story is best read in Ben and Charlotte Hollins book, The Fight for Fordhall Farm.
Inspiring as this is, what is now becoming clearer is the second aspect, namely WHAT it is that they were fighting to save. Fordhall was always about more than saving one farm. I thought that this best shown in the recent BBC documentary on The Farm of the Future. In that, Charlotte waxed lyrical not on the structure of the Farm’s ownership, but how its pasture had been developed to support a very different way of farming. Their plan for the future is focused on making the vision visible to a wide range of people.
Then there is the third aspect, which few have achieved and which Fordhall is becoming a master of. That is using the HOW to achieve the WHAT. Put simply, it is using its ownership structure to generate a level of engagement that others can only dream of. How many other farms can boast of volunteer days sold out months in advance, demand outstripping supply for its products, open days heavily supported and a dedicated band of people helping with administration for the love of the farm?
I think that all rural social enterprises could do with spending some time thinking how they could develop those three aspects for their enterprise as powerfully as Fordhall has done.
Monday, 20 April 2009
It took considerably less time for me to be sure that Plunkett is the place to be. This is an organisation whose time has come. The solution that it offers for rural communities to take ownership of the services they need most could have been made for the time we live in. With seven community owned village shops opening in just five weeks, there is a real sense of the tide turning. It is our role to make sure that as many rural commuities as possible know about what can be done, believe that they can do it themselves and are then supported to make those dreams real.
The Plunkett team put in a fine performance in the race with two of us running a faster time than Conservative leader David Cameron. I'm sure that our performance over the coming weeks and months will be equally impressive.