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, 11 January 2010

Community Food Enterprise

It is wonderful what a diverse range of enterprises are playing a role in shaping the local food sector. But it is also a source of confusion as people of struggle to make the connection between, for instance, community supported agriculture and a farmers' market.

So I was interested to see a US attempt to bring these all together under the banner of Community Food Enterprise. The project looks at such enterprises around the world and makes a powerful case for what they can achieve. With funding from both the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it has certainly attracted support. They define a Community Food Enterprise as being an enterprise, being involved with food, having local ownership (defining this as 50% plus) and being locally controlled. I'm sure that many of us would season this definition to taste, but it is a good starting point.

The report covers a wonderful range of enterprises around the world. The most striking is the Cabbages & Condoms restaurant in Thailand, but many others are even more co-operative.

The report makes an inspiring read about what can be achieved and, equally important, understood if we can find a common language to talk about food and community enterprise.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Quick off the mark

Congratulations to the Rural Services Network for being so quick of the mark in launching its manifesto on the first working day of the New Year. It makes fascinating reading to see the wide variety of needs identified by the Network's members, including ourselves. It also shows the huge challenge that whoever forms the next Government will face given the state of public funding.

The challenge with a manifesto is that they always look lopsided as they have to be about what the Government should do, when we all know that life if never as simple as that. Plunkett is an inspiring place to be because we see the power that ordinary people can unlock by deciding what they can achieve together rather than waiting for Government.

The Manifesto has, in my view, captured the vital link between these two positions. It has a strong commitment to support community-led planning. The work of so many rural community councils in developing this approach has been one of the inspirations in rural development in recent times. Done well, it helps all to see what needs to be done and who is best placed to do it. The more plans that link community desire with community ownership and social enterprise, the broader the range of issues we will all be able to tackle in 2010.