Plunkett Foundation Rural Community Co-operative Awards 2015

Plunkett Foundation Rural Community Co-operative Awards 2015

Far from the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside, I’ve just arrived back at my Brixton based office desk motivated to share with you why I feel supporting a project like this is so worthwhile.

This was my third year of participating on the judging panel for the Rural Plunkett Community Co-operative Awards, and although I am always rather reluctant to consider myself knowledgeable enough to be a judge of others efforts, WBC now has over 25 years of experience working with a community of independent businesses, who are driven by passion and determination.

James Hayward head shot

It is this passion and commitment that I recognise in each application we pour over as a judging panel, trying to remain unbiased and acknowledge the different advantages and skills that each community co-operative may be able to call upon.

Location, diversity, economy and population, all play a part in how successful a community co-operative can be, however I am always encouraged by the integrity with which the awards are firstly short-listed by Plunkett and then decided upon by the panel.


This year the awards were set out into 6 categories, in no particular order.

Category 1 – The Pioneer Award
Sponsored by WBC, represented by me!

Category 2 – Unsung Hero Award
Sponsored by Suma, represented by Jon Knight.

Category 3 – One to Watch –The Newcomer Award
Sponsored by The Co-operative College, represented by Angela Colebrook.

Category 4 – Business Innovation Award
Sponsored by Triodos Bank, represented by Mark Ogden.

Category 5 – People’s Choice Award
Sponsored by Hastoe Housing Association, represented by Martin Craddock.

Category 6 – Capture your Co-operative – Film Award
Sponsored by Ecology, represented by Jon Lee.

It is a real inspiration to see how people gather to create a hub where everyone, regardless of what role they can play, are given the opportunity to contribute, learn, share and build.  Community cooperatives are a growing model in the UK , we recently wrote about a fantastic one being run in Glasgow by the Locavore community, where a socially responsible, self-sustaining business is developed and profit is ploughed back to build a more inclusive and integrated place where everyone is invited to invest their skills and enthusiasm.

With the inevitable cuts the pending austerity measures will bring, it is now more important than ever for these co-operatives to provide services and support to rural communities who might otherwise be left to the perils of decisions that are made many miles away from them.

I am excited to see people taking positive action and proud to be involved with an organisation such as Plunkett who has been empowering communities to take control of the issues that affect them – and have been doing so for almost 100 years!

Plunkett judges

Clearly I’m not going to spill the beans on the tough decisions that we reached, you’ll have to wait until all is revealed at the Plunkett AGM in June, but you still have an opportunity to influence the ‘People’s Choice Award’ by visiting the Plunkett website.

I will tell you one thing though, all the applications were well deserving of our time and contemplation and I’d like to thank all the individuals and community cooperatives who took the time and effort to apply.

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