Chris Cowcher, Head of Policy and Communications reflects on representing Plunkett and rural community-owned businesses at this ‘first of its kind’ summit in Manchester.

It was my first visit to the beautiful, community-owned Stretford Public Hall and it was a very fitting venue for the first ever Democratic Business Summit. The hall is just such a great example of a community business, demonstrating what can truly be achieved when local people with ambition & vision are backed & supported to realise their community ownership ambition.

The event had been convened by Stir to Action with support from Power to Change, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and The Lankelly Chase Foundation.

A panel discussion at the Stir to Action 'Democratic Business' summit in Manchester, 1 November 2023.

My role was to represent Plunkett, our members and the growing community ownership movement that exists in rural areas across the UK. To back my representations, I called on this article I wrote for Stir to Action earlier this year – Where’s the Evidence? ( – saying that we need more evidence to better articulate the needs and deprivation being addressed by community businesses in the countryside.

There is huge potential for the network to promote EDI in rural areas & genuinely create inclusive spaces where everyone is welcome, but we need the evidence to justify the investment and support required to realise this opportunity.

Plunkett is trying to fill part of the evidence gap, and it was brilliant to be able to promote our latest research ‘Community Ownership: A Better Form of Business’ – written by Georgina Edwards, with data from Paul Thompson, as an example of our work. However, we can’t do it alone. We are actively seeking partners, collaborators, and funders to work with us on future research so that we can keep make the case for this impactful form of business. Please get in touch if this is something you can help with!

Anyway, as I travelled home from Manchester I was reflecting on a really positive day, but with a realisation there is still so much to do. To mainstream ‘Democratic Business’ we need changes to education, policy, funding agendas and so much more.

However, I feel there was genuine commitment from those in the room to collaborate and push for change together. Really looking forward to following up on many conversations and seeing what action can be taken now – particularly with a General Election now very much on the horizon in front of us.

Please do keep in touch ( with regards our advocacy and policy influencing activity, we are always keen to make sure that our representations are rooted in the lived experiences of our members.

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