Our new Communications Manager, Andrew Dubock, reflects on his first fortnight in the post.

I must admit, being the ‘new boy’ at a charity with a century of history, reach and influence across the UK, and which is experiencing a period of exciting growth and opportunities is a daunting one. Yet, it’s one I’m relishing too.

It is my first job move in more than a decade and, although I have 25 years of experience of communicating for charities under my belt, Plunkett sits in a sector I don’t know much about – yet.

As I’m discovering, there is a lot to learn! As my lovely new colleagues have warmly welcomed me, they have also shared details of their considerable expertise on various topics, and their dedicated work to maintain and grow Plunkett’s support for rural community-owned businesses.

Plunkett’s strong collaborative nature has stood out to me already. The office is a hive of activity with different team members providing information and support for one another, and regular phone calls taking place with people who are part of – or who are looking to start – community-owned businesses across the UK.

It has been interesting to join online meetings with two key partnerships: Thakeham, who are placemakers committed to community creation in their new developments, and the newly-established Co-op Retail Societies Network, which aims to boost the resource and expertise needed to help the growth and resilience of the rural community-owned business sector. In each case, the benefits of co-operation and working together are honest, refreshing and we achieve more when working closely with others.

Andrew outside the Plunkett offices

I know that with storytelling, there is nothing like seeing and experiencing it for yourself. On just my second day at Plunkett, I ventured out of the office to pay a visit to two community-owned shops that are close by the office.

It was great to get a flavour of what the shops at Tackley and Islip offer to people in those villages, both in terms of the varied goods on sale, but also the warm welcome and space for a chat.

The shop at Tackley celebrates 20 years of trading in 2024 and continues to thrive! It is the heart of village life and is visited regularly by people from other local areas as well. The manager, Debbie, told me around 45 volunteers play an integral part of running the shop each week.

Debbie grew up in Tackley, left and returned, and has managed the shop for the past seven years. She said that Covid lockdown was an interesting challenge but one they rose to, supplying rations of flour and loo rolls to villagers, and being a lifeline to many people.

At Islip, I was impressed by the range of locally-produced food and drink available to buy – an important element of any community-owned business. (One of Plunkett’s seven areas of impact is to ‘stimulate the local economy through localised supply chains’.)

The flavour I experienced was literal too – I can testify that the peanut caramel brownie at Tackley was totally delicious – and great value!

I look forward to visiting more inspiring rural community-owned businesses in the months ahead. I can’t wait to try some great local ales on my next trip.

Enjoying a home-made brownie outside the shop at Tackley (above) and the sign at Islip (left)

GET IN TOUCH! I really want to faithfully share stories of our members, whether that’s case studies, events, share offers, openings, new services or whatever is going on for your local, community-owned business. You can email me here. I want to represent our movement in the best way possible!

Andrew Dubock, Communications Manager

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