Peter Couchman is the Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation.

The Plunkett Foundation is the organisation which promotes and supports co-operative and social enterprises in rural communities both in the UK and internationally. It provides support, networks and knowledge which offers practical solutions for rural communities that helps to create thriving places where people live and work now and in the future.

Monday, 8 June 2009

DFB: A (Sir Horace) Plunkett Perspective

One of the great tools that we have at the Plunkett Foundation is to analyse any event from the perspective of what would Sir Horace have made of it. There's no doubt that he would have had strong views about the demise of the Dairy Farmers of Britain co-operative.

He would have been saddened that its passing attracted little coverage outside of the business and farming press. Saddened even more at the lack of concern for farming families who lost one-twelfth of their annual income at a stroke, a chunk of their savings and left many facing cashflow problems, often from the very banks that their own income tax payments had been used to bail out.

He would also have been saddened by the lack of understanding in the coverage. One describing the farmers as "employed" by the co-op, another saying that there was no difference in co-operatives and companies.

But his greatest sadness would have been that he had told the world long ago how such problems could be prevented. He had made it clear that co-operatives could only fulfill their potential if they remained rooted in the communities that created them. He saw time and time again that a move away from this was the first step down the path to failure. 

Sir Horace, however, always hoped. He hoped that one day the farming community would turn to face the communities it came from rather than the city bankers and business consultants. He'd hope, once again, that this time the lesson would be learned.

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