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.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The End of the Beginning

Rural community-owned enterprise is on a roll. A banner headline in the Sunday Telegraph proclaims "The Rise of the Archers Co-operative". The best part of a million people tune in to hear the residents of Ambridge discuss how to save their village shop through community ownership. In the real world, store openings are at record levels with many more in the pipeline. It's a great time to be at Plunkett, but let's not get carried away.

The boom in community-owned village stores is fantastic news, but we still have a long way to go in rural community-ownership. The shop is just one way a rural community can tackle its needs. There are many others: pubs, church space, transport, energy, broadband, housing, healthcare...the list is huge. But most of these are still only just emerging with a few brave pioneers developing models which have yet to catch on in the way that shops have done.

This week sees the formal launch of our project with the Community Transport Association on rural community transport supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, so there are steps being taken to broaden the range of enterprises. But it is still an uphill struggle to secure support for these emerging forms of community-owned enterprise.

So while we rightly celebrate the success of village shops, let's also redouble our efforts to support the next wave of rural community-owned enterprises ...and the next..and the next.

Finally, a solution to a social dilemma you face. You'll want to celebrate Social Enterprise Day on November 19th, but you also want to celebrate the fact that it is World Toilet Day as well. Problem solved: raise a glass to the incredible people of Lanreath in Cornwall who created their community-owned village shop from their local toilet (see the older blog "Convenience Retailing").

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