Our team

Meet the people behind Plunkett’s work

Plunkett is made up of a great team of people with the range of skills and expertise needed to support your community business at every stage. We’re always happy to help, so click on the profiles below for more information and contact details.

If you have a general enquiry, please contact:

Alison Macklin
Community Business Manager

Alison was appointed to the post of Community Business Manager in March 2020 joining Plunkett after spending the last fifteen years as Business Manager of an award winning Community Shop and Café in the Wye Valley. Alison has also been one of The Plunkett Foundations Business Advisors for several years and has helped support several shops formally and informally. Alison will be responsible for helping set up the new Training Hub and working with the Plunkett advisors to provide training and support for new and existing projects.

Chris Cowcher
Head of Policy & Communications

Chris joined the Plunkett Foundation having spent a decade working in the rural community development sector; with the Gloucestershire Rural Community Council and South Gloucestershire Council. He has also worked on national policy directly relating to sustainable communities, whilst working for Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) the national umbrella body for the ACRE Network.

Claire Spendley
Head of Community Business

Claire joined Plunkett as the organisation’s Membership Manager in April 2020 and was promoted to the role of Head of Community Business in October 2021. She has had a varied career across a number of marketing, public relations, membership and management roles, after having graduated from the University of Surrey with a BA Hons in Combined Languages (French, Russian and Spanish). As former Head of Membership for the Chartered Institute of Housing, she has a wealth of experience in the development and delivery of membership programmes to meet members’ needs. Claire is passionate about ensuring Plunkett’s network of community businesses are empowered through their membership to solve problems, address local needs, and build businesses that continue to thrive. Claire is also a Trustee for East Street Early Years CIO, a Banbury-based charity and early years education provider supporting vulnerable families in the community.

Diane Cameron
Project Support Officer

Diane was appointed Project Support Officer at Plunkett in July 2020 to work on the More Than A Pub programme giving direct support to community groups and businesses. Diane spent more than a decade working at Oxfordshire County Council, latterly as a policy officer working across voluntary and community sector and public sector partnerships, special projects, grant funds for community groups and other initiatives. Diane has volunteered for soup kitchens, museums and hospital fundraising committees as well as being a Street Champion for her street during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Gemma Sills
Engagement Manager

Gemma joined Plunkett as the organisation’s Engagement Manager in August 2020. Gemma has worked in the charity sector for 12 years, working initially with The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) in London, and most recently with Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA) as their External Relations Manager where she led on the charity’s fundraising and marketing. Gemma loves a challenge having taken on the National Three Peaks, London to Paris bike ride and countless running events, as well as hosting a virtual 24hr Lands End to John O’Groats bike ride. Having spent 21 years growing up in a rural setting, Gemma has an understanding of rural life and has always been interested in the countryside.

Georgina Edwards
Policy & Research Manager

Georgina joined the Plunkett Foundation in September 2020 to support the growth of the Information Hub. She works with colleagues across the organisation to link Plunkett’s grassroots support activities to our ambitions to influence national policy and the wider community business sector. She is involved in commissioning sector-specific research which feeds into policy consultations, impact reporting and other state of the sector reports, with the ultimate aim of strengthening the voice of rural communities. Before starting at Plunkett, Georgina undertook a PhD in German literature and philosophy at the University of Oxford, during which she was also involved in teaching and outreach projects. While living in Oxford, she became involved in community projects through volunteering. She has also previously worked in academic and trade book publishing.

Hannah Barrett
Senior Project Manager

Hannah leads the Community Business Team and is responsible for running all frontline advisory and support services. She re-joined Plunkett in June 2018 to project manage the Making Local Woods Work programme. She previously worked at Plunkett between 2011-2016; during this time she co-ordinated a wide variety of urban and rural projects in the UK, Ireland and Canada, supporting enterprises from shops, pubs and cafes, to farms and leisure centres. Hannah left the organisation in 2016 to specialise in fundraising and event management.

Harriet English
Head of Engagement

Harriet was appointed Head of Engagement at Plunkett Foundation in March 2017 and leads the Engagement Team to deliver our membership, events, communications and marketing activity. Harriet joined Plunkett in December 2008 as support to the Rural Community Shops Projects. Since joining Plunkett, Harriet has led on a range of campaigns and events as well as leading the development of membership for all our supporters and community co-operatives. Having been brought up in rural West Oxfordshire she has always had a keen interest in the countryside. Harriet graduated from the University of Exeter in 2006 with a BA in Human Geography.

James Alcock
Chief Executive

James has led Plunkett Foundation since 2017. As Chief Executive and Company Secretary, he overseas both operations and strategic development of the organisation, as well as ensure its regulatory compliance and good governance. James joined the Foundation in 2007 and was central to the creation of its UK-wide advisory service for rural community businesses, consisting an advice line, advisory support programmes, events and membership. He has since instigated the development of a Training Hub and more recently, an Information Hub which acts as a data, research and policy unit within the organisation.

James is passionate about rural issues and is an active member of a number of national partnerships and alliances that seek to influence public policy for the good of communities. Prior to working for Plunkett Foundation, James worked in the rural affordable housing sector, and prior to that, undertook a BA (Hons) and MSc by Research, both of which focused on rural community issues.

James is currently Vice Chair of Co-operative and Community Finance, a loan provider serving the co-operatives including community businesses and social enterprise.

Joe Hesketh
Data Officer

Joe joined the team at Plunkett in August 2020 to support the continued growth of the Information Hub as well as maintain accurate & quality data in aid of Plunkett’s output of policy & reports. Prior to Plunkett, Joe worked within the broadcast industry as a Graphics Co-ordinator, overseeing the accuracy of large amounts of incoming statistics for use on live sports programming. Joe graduated from the University of Gloucestershire in 2015 with a BA in Digital Film Production having spent a year of his undergraduate degree at Juniata College in the United States of America.

Laura Olver
Membership & Fundraising Officer

Laura joined Plunkett in November 2021 as Membership and Fundraising Officer. Prior to that, following graduation from Manchester University, Laura spent 18 years in the retail sector in product ranging and sourcing roles for B&Q, Wyevale Garden Centres and, latterly, Hamleys of London. In 2016, Laura became a Director for the community shop in her village of Appleton in Oxfordshire, which had been trading since 2000. She led a major shop and range revamp and benefitted from Plunkett expertise in helping to shape the successful turnaround of Appleton Shop. She has since shared her knowledge and passion for community businesses with other local groups.

Lucia Jesus
Community Business Officer

Lewis Bowman
Head of Finance

Lewis joined Plunkett as Head of Finance in October 2021 after having spent the previous 5 years working as a practice accountant. While he was growing up Lewis’ grandparents managed a pub and later a Post Office branch, both located in small villages in South Wales. This experience has given him a real appreciation of how important businesses like these and the services they offer can be for a small community and therefore why community-ownership can be a great way to protect and support these vital assets.

Maurice Edgington
Senior Finance Officer

Maurice joined the team in 2013 on a part time basis to strengthen the financial side of the reporting to the trustees and the systems within the organization. A qualified accountant, Maurice began his career in private practise but moved to industry as he qualified. With experience in large companies in leisure and publishing and SMEs in software and design agencies, and retailing. Maurice had a leading role on the development of employee ownership in the UK when Roadchef launched the first Employee Share Ownership Plan in the UK in 1986.

Susie Middleton
Project Manager

Susie joined Plunkett in October 2021 as a project manager and will be leading on our Allchurches funded programme of work to support more community businesses to set up in places of worship across the UK. Susie is also responsible for the Dulverton Trust funded work supporting community business projects in Scotland and Wales. Prior to joining Plunkett, Susie supported the Oxfordshire Plan 2050, a partnership project with environmental betterment at its heart, creating a strategic plan to deliver homes and infrastructure across the county to 2050. Susie also spent 15 years at a tailor-made tour operator, working with partners across the world, primarily in Latin America, and managing a number of small projects and a team of country specialists. She has lived and worked in Paraguay, Mexico and Brazil and has a degree in Portuguese and Spanish.

Victoria Smith
Compliance Manager