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, 25 May 2010

Community retailing North and South of the border

It was a huge pleasure last week to go up to Scotland for the AGM of the Community Retailing Network. CRN has been doing great work in Scotland to support community-owned since 2004. We've been discussing some time about how CRN and Plunkett could work closer together and last week was an important step forward. I joined its board together with our trustee John Don and we hope that our members will put a CRN Board member onto the Plunkett Board at our AGM.

There is tremendous potential benefit for both countries. Although both have community-owned shops, they are two quite different traditions. Scottish shops tend to be larger and further away from the competition, with the logistics of this often solved by a close working relationship with the Co-operative Group. English stores are more numerous and will often face strong local competition. This has often resulted in some leading edge retailing and marketing to create a real co-operative difference.

Each can learn from the other and it is going to be fun having time to explore this together.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Up for the Climate Challenge

It was an exciting day last week when the Making Local Food Work conference in Manchester saw the launch of the new report "Local Food and Climate Change".

Everyone involved in local food has had to put up with years of being told that research showed that our contribution to tackling climate change wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. Some even claiming that multiple retailers were better placed.

The report throws down a challenge to the sector that we can make a huge difference, but only if we focus on what needs to be done.

But the challenge to policy formers is even greater. They need to recognise the community action is one of the building blocks for tackling climate change. They need to see that we are better placed to bring people together by changing their views one community at a time.

And, at long last, the local food movement can hold its head up high on what it can do through the amazing range of people, projects, enterprises and communities that are part of it.