A new strategy to grow the community business sector has been launched today by the Plunkett Foundation. The five year strategy aims to grow the number of rural businesses in community-ownership, across the UK by 20% by 2026. Increasing them in number from 627 to 752 trading rural community-owned businesses in that period.

Plunkett Foundation is a national charity with a vision for resilient, thriving and inclusive rural communities. To achieve this, it supports people in rural areas to set up and run a wide range of businesses which are owned by, and run for local communities. The charity represents a network of community-owned businesses in rural and urban areas throughout the UK, from shops and pubs through to woodlands, farms and fisheries.

Community businesses play a critical role in safeguarding essential services in rural communities on which people depend. They are a vital sources of employment in rural areas, benefitting people who would struggle to find mainstream employment such as those with caring responsibilities, people with health issues or disabilities, young parents, older people transitioning into retirement or younger people looking to gain experience and qualifications. They are highly inclusive and participatory social hubs, and as such, address a wide range of issues affecting today’s society, including isolation, loneliness, mental health and wellbeing.

James Alcock, Plunkett’s Chief Executive, explains: “In these unprecedented times, with a current cost of living and energy price crises following two years of a global pandemic, community businesses are on the frontline and playing a vitally important role at the heart of their communities. In our new strategy we want to support the network of existing community businesses and to look to the future by increasing the number of businesses and reaching out, in partnership with others, to areas that have the most potential for growth, including: Scotland, the Northeast England and the Midlands.”

To achieve the stated ambition of sector growth, Plunkett Foundation has set our 5 key objectives to be delivered by 2026. The first three objectives commit to growing the size, reach and impact of the rural community business sector throughout the UK. The fourth objective is to further efforts to represent and raise the profile of the rural community business sector through proactive communications, research and public affairs. The final objective is to continue strengthening Plunkett’s own resilience and social and environmental responsibility through good governance, financial sustainability and investing in our people.

As a membership organisation, Plunkett places members at the heart of the organisation, representing their issues and needs with government, helping to create a supportive environment in which to trade and building a vibrant movement where communities can learn from and help each other.

Stephen Nicol, Plunkett Foundation Chair said Community businesses have shown remarkable resilience in challenging times. By bringing people together they have a hugely positive impact on all, including the most disadvantaged, within our rural communities. We want to see more people benefit from their essential work and will work tirelessly in this new strategy period to grow the network of community-owned businesses across the UK. Our ambition is to ensure that rural community businesses are part of a wider movement of change whose future is shaped by our members.”

Download our five year strategy: 

Short summary

Full strategy