Awards seek best examples of community action from across the UK and Ireland Community owned businesses around the UK are being urged to enter the Community Ownership Awards which have been launched today by national charity Plunkett Foundation. The Awards are designed to celebrate the most inspiring examples of people in rural areas working together to improve their communities, to raise awareness of the issues that many rural people face and how they can overcome them through collaborative action. Launching the Awards, Plunkett’s Head of Frontline James Alcock said: “All over the UK and Ireland, people living in rural areas are taking matters into their own hands to address some of the challenges associated with rural life. Many rural people are experiencing loneliness, isolation or poverty because it’s difficult to access a lot of the things that are needed to participate fully in society and modern life – things like a regular bus service, being able to buy affordable food at a local shop, having reliable access to the internet, or somewhere to socialise and meet people. “At Plunkett we’ve seen first-hand the huge difference that co-operation can make, which is why we help people to set up businesses that are owned and run by the community and that address some of the biggest challenges facing our rural communities today. The Awards will help celebrate the many fantastic examples all over the UK, and raise awareness about the co-operative model to an even wider audience.” Plunkett will welcome applications from Thursday 1 September to Friday 14 October, and winners will be announced at a special awards ceremony in London on Monday 28 November. Whilst living in the countryside can be wonderful, it can also be a struggle for many, particularly young families struggling to find work nearby or to afford to live locally, older people without a support network, or those who have recently retired and are looking for a new direction. However, for a growing number of people, becoming involved in a community-owned business can transform their lives, either by taking a driving role in addressing a local issue by setting one up, or by volunteering once it’s up and running. One example is Bretforton Community Shop, Worcestershire. Opening in December 2014, after a successful community share offer, the shop has expanded to include a café, meeting place for visitors and a high speed digital kiosk designed to improve internet access and reduce digital exclusion for in rural areas. Chris Buckham, who chairs the organisation, said “I passionately believe that if you want to provide a service for the community, the best people to run it are drawn from the community who have a deep understanding of the real benefits that can be delivered.” Plunkett Foundation is a national charity that helps communities to set up and run community co-operatives – businesses that are owned and run democratically by large numbers of people in their communities. To date, 343 community shops and 43 pubs have been saved as community co-ops, with an increasing number of other businesses also choosing the model, from cafes and local hubs to farms and broadband projects. For more information please visit www.communityownershipawards.com. -ENDS- Notes to Editors: About the Awards – The Community Ownership Awards are run by Plunkett Foundation. We are delighted to be welcoming back Hastoe Housing Association as both overall sponsor and sponsor of the People’s Choice Award. With 8 additional sponsors, listed below, we are confident that this will be the most exciting year yet for the Community Ownership Awards: • Co-operative and Community Finance• The Co-operative College• The National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN)• NFRN Mutual• The Phone Co-operative• SUMA• Triodos Bank• WBC Plunkett Foundation helps communities to take control of their challenges and overcome them together. We support people, predominantly in rural areas, to set up and run life-changing community co-operatives; enterprises that are owned and run democratically by large numbers of people in their community. They help people to tackle a range of issues, from isolation and loneliness to poverty, and come in many forms including shops, cafes, pubs and land-based initiatives, and everything in between.