It has been quite a year and huge thanks are due to everyone who has played a part in taking rural social enterprise forward this year. The tradition is to look ahead to the coming year, so here are my five wishes for our work next year.
1) Yet more community-owned shop openingsThis year has seen a record 33 stores opening. The pipeline looks great for 2010. I hope that we have turned a corner so that this is simply the natural way that rural communities save their retail services.
2) The shops become a sectorOne of the highlights this year has been the development of the Community Shops Network, which enables the shops to share ideas with each other. My hope is that this leads to a real sense of belonging to a shops movement with a wide range of initiatives spinning off the network.
3) Rural social enterprise gets the support it deservesHowever successful the shops have been, there is no room for complacency. The reality that too many great ideas in rural communities never get to become sustainable enterprises because of the barriers they face. I hope that our Right to Try campaign helps to create the support those communities deserve.
4) The rise of Community Food Enterprise is recognisedAs discussed in previous blogs, the local food sector is changing dramatically. More and more communities are playing a role in ensuring that they have access to great local food. As the number grows, these are starting to form local food systems. With food rising up the political agenda, I hope that 2010 is the year in which people realise that they can no longer see the food sector as just farming and food companies, but that communities have a vital role to play as well.
5) Rural co-operation begins to be recognised as a vital part of international developmentThe great news this week was the U.N.'s decision to make 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives. Plunkett is beginning its work of ensuring that the role of rural co-operation is recognised with this. Rural co-operation is more than just food; it is every form of human need. I hope that 2010 will see use starting to build towards the great opportunity that 2012 will offer.
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our Plunkett Perspective readers.