FULL CONFERENCE PROGRAMME (download PDF)
Rural communities should have the Right to Try to take control of the issues important to them through community-ownership. This was the message from Rural Communities - The Right to Try, a Plunkett Foundation conference held on 27th January in London.
Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation
Peter Couchman, Chief Executive Officer of the Plunkett Foundation said: “Rural communities want to take ownership of the issues affecting them but are often prevented from doing so because of barriers around a lack of rights and a lack of support. We are exploring why and how these barriers must be removed, to enable more communities to take control of what matters most to them, through community-ownership.”
Jim Paice MP speaking at the event
Keynote speaker Jim Paice, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs said: “The Right to Try is about unlocking the enterprise spirit in communities and we must tailor local communities to local problems. He also said: “Right to Try is a new direction. Rural values of enterprise and independent innovation is much more durable than any amount of public money, endorsed by public spirit.”
Peter Cleasby, Plunkett Vice Chair and Alun Michael MP
Labour and Co-operative Party MP Alun Michael, a keynote speaker at the event and Vice President of the Local Government Association said: “We need to bridge the gap between rich and poor and to connect people living and working in rural communities, and, those who ‘want’ to live in rual areas but for reasons such as a lack of affordable housing can’t. Social enterprise therefore is part of the solution.” He also said: “The principal of ‘Right to Try’ moves us out of the comfort zone and asks what do we need to do to sustain our communities and to make them better places to live in?”
Key areas highlighted at the event were the need for better business advice on social enterprise, better powers for purchasing community assets and the need for changes to legislation to support co-operatives and social enterprises. An action plan identifying key elements of the conference will also be published shortly by the Plunkett Foundation and available online.
Thank you to everyone who attended the event and also all speakers, workshop facilitators and exhibitors. We would also like to thank the Post Office, the Big Lottery Fund and the Office of the Third Sector for sponsorsing the event.
About the event
Faced with declining or threatened local services, limited job opportunities, not enough affordable housing and looming public expenditure cuts, we need new ways to sustain the quality of life in rural communities.
There is a strong tradition of independence and self-reliance in our rural areas. Across the world, rural communities are taking action through a variety of enterprising initiatives where they take ownership of the challenges affecting them. However here in the UK there are unnecessary barriers which prevent rural people from exploiting this community enterprise potential. Communities are not yet in control.
Rural Communities – The Right to Try aims to move beyond the political rhetoric to explore a specific and practical proposition to return power to rural communities: the Right to Try. If a village shop is threatened with closure, the community should have the right to try to replace it before it is sold off. If lack of affordable housing is a concern, rural communities should have the right to try to secure land and raise finance. If a bus operator plans to withdraw a service, the community should have the right to try to put in place an alternative service. In short, the scales need to be tilted more firmly towards the community.
The conference explored what rural community-owned enterprises are doing to take control of the issues affecting rural people. It highlight barriers which need to be removed and the types of support needed to make the right to try a reality.
The format of the event was designed to engage all delegates is discussions around community-ownership in rural communities, specifically focusing on barriers faced. Four parallel workshop sessions were run twice during the day looking in more detail about the Right to Try for Rural Communities in relation to:
• Saving village shops through community retailing
• Saving and introducing vital rural services through community ownership
• Helping rural communities to take ownership of their food and where it comes from
• Helping communities to access and own land for community use
The Plunkett Foundation has committed to producing a Right to Try Action Plan based on the discussions at the event. This will be made available shortly.
Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation
Jim Paice, Shadow Secretary of State for Agriculture and Rural Affairs
Alun Michael MP, Vice President of the Local Government Association
Nigel Lowthrop, Founder, Hill Holt Wood
Helen Seymour, Head of Projects and Development, Co-operativesUK
Gerald Oppenheim, Director of Policy and Practice, Big Lottery Fund
Malcolm Corbett, Community Broadband Network
Martin Large, Stroud Commonwealth
Peter Cleasby, Vice Chair, Plunkett Foundation
Peter Wilkinson, Network Change Advisor, Post Office Ltd
Jennifer Smith, Head of Programme Management, Making Local Food Work
Gill Withers, Head of Community Retailing, Plunkett Foundation
Srimati Edgecombe, Broadhempston Community-Owned Shop
Mike Robinson, Thorncombe Community-Owned Shop
Norman Rides, Community Transport Association
Twitter: Twitter uses please use the hashtag #righttotry when tweeting about the Right to Try. You can follow Plunkett Foundation tweeters Mike_Plunkett, Ema_Plunkett and PeterCouchman for the latest news on the event.
The Plunkett Foundation would like to thank the Big Lottery Fund and Post Office Ltd, for making the event possible. We would also like to thank the Office of the Third Sector for their support of the event and for Plunkett's wider word.
The Big Lottery Fund (BIG) delivers half of all funds raised for Good Causes by The National Lottery. Our funding is for health, education, environment and charitable purposes with a focus on improving communities and the lives of people most in need. BIG's Strategic Framework to 2015 describes our ambition to be an Intelligent Funder focusing on efficiency, effectiveness and customer care.
Visit us at our stand to find out more.
Telephone: 0845 4 10 20 30 Textphone: 0845 6 02 16 59
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Our website:www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
The Post Office is delighted to be able to support the Plunkett Foundation’s Rural Communities – The Right to Try event. The Plunkett Foundation work is valuable in ensuring that rural communities are sustainable in the long term. The Post Office works with a range of organisations including the Plunkett Foundation which shares the Post Office's desire to find innovative and sustainable solutions to service delivery in rural areas. Our webste: http://www.postoffice.co.uk/
The Plunkett Foundation works with the Office of the Third Sector (www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/third_sector.aspx) to promote the role that social enterprise can play in rural communities in England. As part of the Cabinet Office, the Office of the Third Sector (OTS) leads work across government to support the environment for a thriving third sector (voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, charities, cooperatives and mutuals), enabling the sector to campaign for change, deliver public services, promote social enterprise and strengthen communities. The OTS was created at the centre of government in May 2006 in recognition of the increasingly important role the third sector plays in both society and the economy.
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