Plunkett Foundation, which supports rural community businesses, has released a five-year strategy to build on and extend its work.
A statement from the organisation said: “We are not proposing a major shift in whom we seek to help or what we do, but we aim to be more focused and to target our resources and efforts more clearly and effectively.”
It said the 2018-2022 plan would continue to focus on growing the rural community business sector; to encourage its development more widely; and to spread understanding and awareness of the role it plays in supporting the wellbeing of rural communities.
This includes a widening of the concept of ‘community businesses’ to reflect the broadening use of community ownership, so that it can support a greater range of community ownership solutions.
And it has set out five key objectives:
- Growing the sector: Helping more rural communities succeed in opening community businesses and ensuring those already trading have the support they need to thrive.
- Extending its relevance and reach: Ensuring the community business model and the support available are relevant and accessible to communities in all parts of the UK.
- Increasing social impact: Helping prospective and existing community businesses to focus on the social impact they will have on all those living and working in their communities.
- Creating an enabling environment: Advocating rural community business throughout the UK and championing their cause to create a supportive policy, funding, and advisory landscape for them to operate in.
- Improving Plunkett’s sustainability: Ensuring the long-term survival of the service and the wider rural community business movement.
The strategy aims to deliver these objectives in four ways.
First, it will offer a practical support service. The community business team aims to be the go-to place for rural communities setting up and running all manner of community businesses, says Plunkett.
There will also be a range of engagement activities to champion community business, led by Plunkett’s engagement team, who have responsibility for communications and awareness raising activities, consultation and lobbying, and developing good working relationships with a range of external stakeholders.
In the longer term, Plunkett wants to establish an information and innovation hub to gather and share intelligence and expertise on the rural community business sector and underpin its own activities. But the strategy adds: “While we shall continue to carry out our current intelligence gathering, such as the Better Business reports, the setting up of the hub will depend upon securing the necessary resources.”
Finally, it aims to make its operation more efficient “through attracting high quality people, as trustees, staff and volunteers, through effective governance and efficient operations and financial management”. It adds: “Achieving our strategic objectives is dependent on having the right people and systems in place to enable us to be an excellent employer and to provide a first-class service. Securing sufficient resources over the strategy period and beyond and putting Plunkett on a more stable financial footing is a high priority.”
The introduction to the strategy says: “Plunkett is proud of its roots … For almost 100 years, it has supported rural communities to thrive through community business and to improve the quality of life for all.
“Today, it represents the interests of over 500 rural community businesses that it has helped to establish and a further 400 in the process of setting up, as well as those who are just starting on the path.”
It adds: “For the last few years, we have focused on growing the rural community business sector, specifically through piloting new community business models and targeting those areas, both geographic and sectoral, where the model was less developed. We have launched successfully a number of new programmes aimed at raising awareness and pioneered community ownership among a wider range of sectors, including pubs, woodlands and health care.
“In particular, we have sought to reach areas where Plunkett was less known, including the devolved nations, the north of England and specific English counties, such as Lincolnshire.”