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, 2 November 2009

Mutual friends

I was delighted that Plunkett's work has been recognised in this year's Mutuals Yearbook, which case studied one of the village stores. The yearbook is produced by Mutuo, the impressive think-tank which promotes the role of mutuals.

This recognition was extended to an invite to speak on membership at the annual Mutuals Forum alongside the Eaga Partnership and Luton & Dunstable Hospital Foundation Trust. What could our shops teach such a gathering of major mutual organisations? Quite a lot was my argument.

The freshness and vitality of our recently formed mutual enterprises meant that their members were doing many things that some older mutuals may have forgotten that members could do. Things such as:
Belief - The members had to believe that creating and sustaining the enterprise was possible, often against impossible odds, because they believed that there was no alternative.

Enterprise - Village shop members were directly involved in shaping the fundamentals of their enterprise and often had to find innovative solutions to problems themselves.

Skills - Many of them shared their own personal skills with the enterprise as it was run on a volunteer basis.

Team work - They knew that they either supported each other or their mutual would fail.

Customer service - This was their main focus as they would stand or fall on it.

In the discussions afterwards, I responded to a query of whether this only applied to smaller mutual. No, was my response, because we had seen similar passion in campaigns on international issues, such as Jubilee 2000. We live in a world where more and more people expect to be able to shape the services they receive. People who saw such work as a campaign not a membership. The challenge to all mutuals was to find what it was that they did that could unlock such a passion in their own organisation.

So we are delighted to be recognised as part of the mutual sector and look forward to sharing our knowledge and learning from others within it.

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