Community co-operatives: An informal care network Picture a typical British village and the image that comes to mind will probably feature green fields, quiet roads, pretty cottages, a cheerful local pub and traditional village shop. However, village shops, community centres, pubs and post offices have been in decline for a decade or more and the worst-case scenario is more often becoming a rural reality – the commonplace idyllic countryside scene is mismatched with the sad reality of a declining village life. The closures of these community and social hubs on rural areas have left many people feeling isolated, lonely and devoid of a sense of community. That’s where the villagers themselves are starting to fight back, in work that we are proud to support at Plunkett, in getting together and taking on their village shop, pub or other community hub so that it can benefit the village’s residents, economy and wider community. Our work involves supporting communities to combat rural decline by setting up community co-operatives. We have found that this creates so much more than a thriving business, it actually sets in place an informal care network that holds a community together. This December, we launched our #thelittlethings campaign to encourage people to reach out to people who are suffering with that silent problem - loneliness. Our work in setting up community co-operatives is already doing so much to help: A meeting place – any community building provides an opportunity for people to meet and look out for their neighbours. People often tell us that when their front door shuts they don’t get visitors. A community co-operative is an open space where people can stop, chat and air concerns if they’re worried about a poorly neighbour, for example. Some of our shop customers deliberately don’t get everything they need on their first visit, so they have a reason to come back later! Space to volunteer – community co-operatives rely on volunteers. Because communities have invested time and energy into setting up these organisations, this brings with it the goodwill of volunteers, many of whom say it helps structure their week with the knowledge they are doing something worthwhile. We know that community co-operatives are making big steps in addressing loneliness in rural communities across the UK so we are asking members of rural communities to help each other, and themselves, and get involved both with our #thelittlethings campaign and to consider approaching us for support to set up a community co-operative and really make a difference to their rural life. It’s #thelittlethings that matter – do something to reach out to someone lonely today and get in touch with us via www.plunkett.co.uk/thelittlethings to find out more about #thelittlethings and the benefits of community co-operatives.