The AGM is always an opportunity to reflect on both the successes and challenges of the previous year as well as sharing our ambitions for the coming year.

The AGM was chaired by Margaret Clark, our Plunkett Chair, with the accounts presented by David Dickman, Plunkett’s Treasurer and Nicola Cadwallader, Plunkett’s auditors. No queries were raised and the accounts were approved by members. The Report of Trustees and Financial Accounts can be downloaded from the Plunkett website here

James Alcock, General Manager here at Plunkett Foundation then presented a review of 2016 and highlighting the key achievements of the organisation over the year, including securing major projects such as: 

In 2016 Plunkett also had a number of challenges and, whilst improving on the 2015 financial performance, we ended 2016 with disappointing financial results. James explained that this was a result of a number of factors including delays in project implementation as well as an overall more challenging climate to secure income. With the support of the Board, an interim strategy is in place to ensure 2017 is a break-even year without comprising the high quality service offered to community groups exploring community ownership and the network of community co-operatives already up and running.

James also acknowledged our key funders and thanked them for their ongoing support, including Esmee Fairbairn, Big Lottery, Power to Change and Princes Countryside Fund

As well as sharing more about projects secured in 2016, James also celebrated our headline statistics around on our direct support deliver to community groups across the UK. We were proud to share with our members that in 2016 we:

  • Inspired 956 communities through communications and events
  • Received over 400 enquiries from new start groups
  • Made over 300 allocations of business support

James then shared with our members Plunkett’s ambitions to be truly national. Community groups will experience a range of different challenges and opportunities in relation to their region and geographic location. Over 2017 and beyond, we will be connecting with a range of stakeholders and delivering a range of events and communications activities to ensure that any group within the UK has access to Plunkett support to explore the community co-operative model as a solution to the challenges they face. 

James rounded off his presentation and review of Plunkett in 2016 by saying thank you to all our members for their ongoing support and engagement with Plunkett. You can download James’ presentation here

As part of our AGM and member event, we were privileged to hear from three high profile sector speakers; Helen Aldis, Director at Princes Countryside Fund (PCF) and Vidhya Alakeson, Caroline Mason CBE, CEO of Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Chief Executive of the Power to Change Trust. 

Helen shared her view on the changing needs of rural communities from her perspective as a rural specific funder. Helen highlighted how rural communities need to be empowered to address a unique set of challenges such as an aging population, sparsity of population, lack of affordable housing, lower levels of employment opportunities and limited public transport and connectivity. Although these are a complex set of challenges, Helen celebrated how well placed rural communities are, with the right blend of support, to address these needs.

You can download Helen’s presentation here. PCF are looking forward to opening their next window for grant applications on Monday 4 September 2017 -

Margaret Clark then welcomed Caroline Mason CBE, Chief Executive at Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation, to talk to our members on Financial sustainability in the sector: the role of funders in helping community co-operatives thrive. 

Caroline started her presentation by sharing Horace Plunkett’s message to rural communities almost 100 years ago when he first set up the Plunkett Foundation.; rural communities had no need to wait for others to make their lives better as they could do this themselves. Caroline reflected on the role of charitable funders in that they cannot solve social problems, they are not the experts nor do they represent communities, whereas Plunkett’s members and members of community co-operatives are able to directly improve people’s lives. Esmee Fairbairn Foundation is an enabler of others achieving social benefit, and that they see ‘place’ rooted activity as a key focus for achieving this. 

The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation are interested in supporting ideas that will achieve change, rather than specific organisational models. As a funder they are not looking to be limited by legal structures, as long as the ‘vehicle’ is fit for purpose to achieve social change. So pure charities are not the only way; co-production and design with communities are very important approaches. Fairburn recognises that it is key to fund the infrastructure of organisations to achieve social change. 

To wrap up the Plunkett AGM and Member Meeting, Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive of Power to Change celebrated the launch of Plunkett’s Better Business reports for community shops and co-operative pubs. Plunkett’s Better Business reports are a way of celebrating the success of the community co-operative sector as well as sharing key facts on the growth and development of both co-operative pubs and community shops. 

The research shows that at the end of 2016:

  • There were 348 community shops trading in the UK providing essential services to 1,400 remote rural communities
  • Community shops created 1,114 paid jobs and 9,605 volunteer positions
  • Community shops generated a combined turnover of £54m and donated £125,000 to community projects
  • No community shops have closed within the last two years, resulting in a 95% long term survival rate
  • The co‑operative pub sector had grown by 15% with six new pubs opening during the year
  • 46 co‑operative pubs were trading, widely spread across England and Wales
  • 90 groups were actively exploring setting up a co-operative pub
  • No co‑operative pubs had closed maintaining an impressive 100% survival rate

Vidhya reflected how the the findings of the reports confirm that their funding of the projects through Plunkett, such as the ‘More than a Pub’ programme will lead to a huge social impact. Vidhya shared that she was was particularly struck by the reports’ finding which shows the resilience of community business co-operatives and was excited by the much greater potential for developing other types of businesses other than shops and pubs through the community ownership model. You can download Vidhya's presentation here.

Click here to download Plunkett’s Better Business reports. 

On behalf the team at Plunkett and all our Trustees, we would like to thank all our members for the their ongoing support.