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.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

This is not a shop

One of my fond memories of last year was meeting the chair of a shop that I'd been to the launch of. It was a great shop, much needed, and had been opened against all the odds. He spent several minutes pouring out all the had improved in the village thanks to their work. Then, suddenly and in mid-sentence, he stopped himself as he realised that he hadn't mentioned the shop once. He paused and said "It's not about running a shop, is it?" I replied, "It never was, we just didn't tell you at the time"

That magic moment when community organisers go beyond solving the immediate problem to seeing that this the way to see all your community needs and challenges as being in your own hands to solve happens so often. Sometimes it can take years to come. So I was delighted last Saturday when I visited Trefeglyws in Wales for their official opening. I congratulated them on the shop only to be told "this isn't a shop." They were right at two levels, alongside the shop were a petrol station, cafe, meeting space and more. But at a higher level, they were right too. It was a vision of what their community needed and a vehicle for constantly refreshing that vision in the future. The Cwm Trannon Community Co-operative was a great inspiration that it is possible to start with that level of vision rather than hoping it comes in the future.

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