Today we mark the end of our centenary year – twelve months in which we celebrated a hundred years of community businesses making a difference for rural lives. The past year has also been a chance to reflect on the changing challenges we face, and the ever-evolving and diversifying nature of community business.
One thing that has not changed is the need for communities to take action to address their own needs. The desire of people across the country – from all areas and walks of life – to provide a solution to the problems they face is as strong today as it was when Sir Horace Plunkett began this charity in 1919. He did so in order to help rural communities establish cooperatives. Sir Horace called them “better businesses” for “better rural lives”. His desire that people should have the knowledge, assistance and skills for ultimate success continues to inspire Plunkett today. Though while our roots may be in 1919, our eyes are firmly on the future’s horizon. So our centenary is not so much about the past as it is about the future of community business.
Whether it is a much loved historic pub or a brand new community shop – community businesses have the potential to offer so much to the people they serve and in so doing enrich the lives of those who use them. In the coming years we will support those already established – continue to learn from their success – and double our efforts to help and inspire others towards similar achievement.
Today Plunkett is the go-to place for rural communities needing practical support to set up and run a community business, and it must continue to be such. The coming years will see us strengthening this position in a number of ways. We will train more advisers to give tailored and focused help to those who need it. We are on the cusp of established a new information hub, which will see our century-old Plunkett Library gaining a state-of-the-art update. We will further develop our understanding of Plunkett members’ needs and will use our voice to represent and champion the issues faced by rural communities. Our Engagement team will lead the way in promoting, communicating and awareness raising – consulting our members and key partners and influencing policy.
But why are we doing all this? What inspires Plunkett in the third decade of the 21st century? At the heart of everything are the personal stories of people whose community-minded efforts have improved the lives of countless others. Community businesses touch people’s lives in diverse ways – from saving the last pub in the village to opening up a rural woodland to provide well-being services for those in need. From homework clubs for the young to lunches for the lonely – community businesses are making a difference. There are limitless possibilities to what can be achieved, and we are here to help people do it. It is an exciting time for this sector, and as we enter our 101st year Plunkett is ready to rise to whatever challenges lie ahead and ensure better businesses can always lead to better rural lives.