As a membership organisation, each year Plunkett Foundation hosts an AGM to which all of our members are invited. This year’s AGM was held on Friday 1 July 2016 at the SaÏd Business School in Oxford and provided an opportunity for members to network with each other, as well as to informally meet our staff and trustees. If you weren’t able to attend, below is a short write-up of the key points from the day, and transcript of our question and answer session.

Welcome Session

Our Chief Executive, Peter Couchman, opened the AGM with a review of our activities in 2015, including the highlights:

  • 456 community co-operatives were open and trading by the end of the year
  • 23 new community co-operatives opened with our support
  • 506 new communities contacted us for support
  • 108 new members joined us, bringing the total number at the end of 2015 to 377

Peter outlined the fact that 2015 was one of mixed fortunes for Plunkett. Despite the clear needs identified and the continuing demand for our help, our ability to secure the necessary funding was a particular challenge, with a number of major programmes taking longer to come to fruition than had been anticipated. However, they did come to fruition at the beginning of 2016, meaning that as an organisation we entered the year with a healthy pipeline of projects and income, including the More Than A Pub: The Community Pub Business Support programme, funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to help us extend our support and inspire even more communities, and our fourth project through the Prince’s Countryside Fund to help new and existing community co-operatives through our Frontline support.

 

Annual Report and Financial Statements

Our formal AGM session was presided over by our Chair, Margaret Clark CBE, and included a presentation of accounts from David Dickman, Plunkett’s treasurer, and Nicola Cadwallader, our independent auditors. A full summary of our financial statements can be downloaded here in our Report of the Trustees and Financial Statements 2015. 

Questions, Answers and Reflections

Following the presentation of the financial statements, members had an opportunity to pose questions or share reflections with the panel. One question was taken from the audience, and one reflection. 

Q: In light of the financial update, what is Plunkett Foundation's outlook for the next 6 months, and what strategic steps will the Board put in place to address it? 

A: (Margaret Clark) Due to timescales for securing funding being much longer than anticipated (and in some cases delayed into 2016), combined with the ending of other programmes and the consequent loss of income, we have presented disappointing financial results for last year. However, the Board of Trustees is taking strategic and practical steps to make sure that where possible we address issues. We have already started to refresh our financial systems, budget processes and assumptions to make sure any issues are identified and monitored as early as possible. We will also be refreshing our existing strategy at our Board meeting in October, including time to take an in depth look at how we need to adapt, and we are already preparing for our 2018 strategy.

Sadly, we are not alone in facing such financial challenges; a number of our peers are experiencing similar difficulties, and we therefore will need to understand the external environment in which we are all operating, particularly in light of the recent EU referendum result. We would urge all of you, as our members, to feed into this process of letting us know about your own experiences and helping us to shape our priorities.

A: (Peter Couchman) We are currently just ahead of the budget on the loss that we had predicted at this stage of the year which is encouraging, but we mustn’t be complacent. We had a positive start to this year as projects became a reality, but we are already working to realise income streams for next year, too.

Reflection: When looking at Plunkett’s performance overall, it’s important to recognise that it continues to be a thought-provoking and inspiring organisation. This valuable and meaningful contribution makes a big difference to us as a member. 

Members' Session

In a change to the usual format, this year we included a new section aimed at looking at how we and our members can work together to strengthen our voice as a sector and best represent the needs of rural communities, and the growing network of community co-operatives. During the months preceding the AGM our members were asked to share what they felt were the topics of most importance to them, and most wanted to discuss; from this, three themes were selected for the session. You can download or view the presentations from each theme here:

The Future Funding Landscape for Community Co-operatives, led by Mike Perry, Head of Development & Policy

Issues/opportunities/comments raised by members during the session:

  • Crowdfunding as an option for raising smaller amounts of money (rather than community shares).
  • The establishment of an investment fund for a specific locality or community.
  • The importance of measuring the social impact that community co-operatives make, which may help to encourage more financial support from the community and further afield, as a solution to declining interest once a community co-op has been trading a few years. 
  • Community Foundations as a resource for support. 

Inspiring Co-operatives and Improving Rural Lives, led by Katherine Darling, Press & Communications Manager*

Issues/opportunities/comments raised by members during the session:

  • Health and transport are key issues facing rural communities and the people who live there.
  • The need for an awareness of the environment in which community co-ops are trading, and changes to customer trends, for example the changing nature of the retail sector with regards to online shopping.
  • The importance of benchmarking information for similar trading community co-operatives, for example through Plunkett's reports.
  • The need for inspiring communications and marketing materials that members can use themselves to stimulate engagement and interest in their communtiy co-ops. 

*Please click here for the related video content not viewable through the PDF version of the presentation. 

The Evolving Community Co-operative Sector - What's Next? led by Peter Couchman, Chief Executive

Issues/opportunities/comments raised by members during the session:

  • Volunteers are going to present an increasing problem as people are retiring later, and therefore have less time to offer. 
  • Volunteers are core to our model rules, but in other countries they are less-used; the development of volunteer strategies and consideration of the role of volunteers is of paramount importance for the future, as is considering younger volunteers, for example though Duke of Edinburgh schemes.
  • It's great that Plunkett's model rules are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as it helps to strengthen understanding and validity of the model. 
  • External agencies such as the Department for Work and Pensions or schemes that help people gain employment experience through volunteering are worth considering. 
  • There is a need for support on membership engagement, either best practice or peer-to-peer advice and guidance, for example through member networking sessions. 

Closing Remarks

Closing remarks and reflections were made by our Chair, Margaret Clark. 

If you have any questions or comments about our AGM or membership generally, please feel free to email Harriet English, our Membership Manager, on membership@plunkett.co.uk