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.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Green care and community ownership

Fascinating trip this week to speak at a Green Care conference of academics looking at Green Care and agriculture. Green Care is a very broad church but can be defined as "to use nature

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.

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