A new network, led by our partner Plunkett Foundation, is bringing together co-operative retail societies to boost the resource and expertise needed to help the growth and resilience of the rural community-owned business sector.
Community-owned businesses are an increasingly popular form of co-operative that encourages local communities to work together to save much loved assets and services, such as a local village shop or village pub. Plunkett Foundation is the national organisation that offers bespoke business advice free of charge to those rural communities looking to set up and run a community-owned business.
The practical business support for community-owned businesses is at the core of what Plunkett does, and the 750+ businesses Plunkett has supported to open represents 10% of all independent co-operatives in the UK.
The network has 3 core aims:
- Raise an annual financial contribution towards Plunkett’s free community business service which would be used to support start-up and existing community-owned businesses (co-operatives)
- To utilise Co-operative Retail Societies’ knowledge, expertise and networks for the benefit of smaller community-owned businesses (co-operatives)
- To convene to explore practical ways of supporting community-owned businesses together or independently
Inspired by Principle 6 of the International Co-operative Alliance, Plunkett initially approached Co-operative Retail Societies with an invitation to engage with this collaboration given the importance of enabling the transfer and support of co-operative expertise between large and small co-operatives.
Since the start of 2022, the network has helped Plunkett to support 53 new community business groups to open and provided nearly 6,000 hours of support to the community business sector.
Founder member, Pete Westall, Chief Values Officer at Midcounties, said: “Being part of this new network means we are playing a lead role in ensuring the right business support is reaching rural communities embracing the co-operative model as a solution to the challenges that they face.
"Supporting this new initiative has enabled us to not only play an active role in delivering co-operative advice more widely, but to also achieve even more impact against our strategy. We are proud to be part of a collaboration that promises continued innovation and exchange of co-operative knowledge.”
Given that the majority of Plunkett’s focus is on co-operative businesses involved in the production, processing and retailing of food and drink, Co-operative Retail Societies are fundamental to the success and growth of the rural community business network and in helping new start community businesses to flourish and become more resilient trading businesses.
It's brilliant to see so many of our retail society members involved in the network, including Midcounties Co-operative, Central Co-op, Southern Co-op, Radstock Co-operative and The Co-operative Group. Participation remains open and Plunkett welcomes all conversations with UK co-operators with an interest in supporting this initiative.