Plunkett’s participation was the delivery of a keynote speech on the theme “Changing the use of buildings and spaces for Community Benefit” where I reflected how an idea can inspire a community, and the steps and practical support available to convert that concept into reality.
In my speech, I used a number of case studies, particularly featuring church buildings that are housing community businesses, including Gold Café Bookshop which Plunkett has been able to support thanks to our work with the Benefact Trust. We explored service diversification, social impact and the benefits of community-ownership to address issues including wellbeing, loneliness and access to training and employment opportunities. We also looked at the benefits of using assets within a community, that may not being used to their full potential, to create new community businesses and the reasons behind the long-term success rate of this business model.
Afterwards I spoke to a number of delegates, mainly from housing associations, that were interested in the idea of utilising existing buildings under their control that were currently being underused. They were keen to consider how a community café or shop could improve a ‘community,’ through offering a place to meet and access services. I also shared an underlying benefit of using underused buildings, in that a community business can share the overheads for the buildig, making it more financially sustainable in the long term.
It was great to meet so many people keen to explore the concept of community-ownership. Choosing Change can be exciting and can result in happier, healthier, more engaged communities.