In his end of year blog, James Alcock, CEO states that there are lots of positives from 2023 for our movement to build on, as Plunkett remains committed to it’s current strategy to grow the sector.

Ahead of the official return to work on Tuesday, January 2nd, I wanted to wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year!

Whilst a new year is always a time to think about what we might do differently in the year ahead, it is also a time to reflect and think about our achievements. For me personally, there were many Plunkett highlights in 2023 and I’ve summarised these in my end of year blog, as follows.

James and the Plunkett team on a visit to the community-owned Red Lion at Northmoor.

James with Paula Barker MP, Annoushka Deighton from Stretford Public Hall and Emma Foody from the Coop Party at the Labour Party Conference 2023.

James and Claire host colleagues from Locality and the Australian Centre for Rural Enterprise at the Plunkett offices.

The first was the great strides being made representing our members and the wider movement in all four nations via our Information Hub. 2023 really was the year when all aspects of this work was gaining in confidence and generating impact. From the re-launched Better Business research publishing our knowledge across all forms of rural community business; through to the continued development of Keep it in the Community  database and subscription service for local authorities; attendance at the party conferences in England ahead of a likely general election in 2024; and advocating for a Community Right to Buy UK-wide, and unlocking investment into our sector via the release of Dormant Assets funding.

Secondly, was the rolling out of corporate partnerships in a bid to diversify our income and grow our impact. This included working with a number of house builders, strategic land promoters, housing associations and local authorities with an aim to incorporate community-owned facilities within new developments. We were delighted to launch a new partnership with Co-operative Retailers and Co-operatives UK aiming to utilise the knowledge, networks, and expertise of larger co-operatives for the benefit of small independent co-operatives. There were also several individual corporate partnerships developed which supported us with donations, sponsorships, volunteering, fundraising activities and other in-kind support. The Rural Community Business Awards in November was a fantastic example of these partners coming together to celebrate the sector.

Thirdly, we launched our universal business support service with the continuation of programmes at the core of our business service. We were delighted to be involved as one of the support providers for the UK Community Ownership Fund which has proved a valuable opportunity to grow our operational reach in geographic areas where community ownership has been less prevalent. We also held Facing the Future Together – our first time national conference for a number of years.

Looking ahead, there are no major shifts to these core activities. We are mid-way through our strategy period which aims to grow the size, reach and impact of the rural community business sector, so it is very much ‘business as usual’ but accelerating some of the ways to get there.

For example, we are looking forward to advancing our commitment to promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in rural areas through brokering employment, volunteering and training for people who are typically excluded from the labour market. We are also looking to consider our own approach to tackling climate change and how we can support community businesses on this journey too.

As always, we look to develop new activities in collaboration with others and in line with demand from our members. Please do keep in touch with us through the year and let us know how you think we should be evolving our activities and who else we should be working with.

Happy New Year once again.

With very best wishes from the whole Plunkett team.

James Alcock

Chief Executive

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