My New Year’s resolution is to blog more often! 2013 was a busy year where lots of work went in to longer term issues.  Here is an update from me on current issues.  If anybody would like to chat to me about Plunkett’s policy work which aims to help make it easier to set up and run rural co-operatives, drop me an email on mike.perry@plunkett.co.uk.

The New Year has started with a flurry of consultation deadlines.  Across Europe rural development programmes are gradually becoming clearer with the amount being transferred from direct payments to farmers to rural development programmes being agreed. The lowest rate of transfer is 7% (Northern Ireland) and the highest is Wales (15%) with Scotland (9.5%) and England (12%) taking the middle ground. These rates have direct impacts on the level of farm payments and the level of funding available for rural development, including what is being called Community Led Local Development such as LEADER.

In Scotland, time is running out to respond to the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill which is looking at ways of strengthening community empowerment. Plunkett will be responding to this and I’d be keen to hear views from any Plunkett members.

In England Local Economic Partnerships have submitted their draft EU Structural and Investment Funds Strategies, documents which outlines European structural funding (including some Rural Development Programme funding) for the period 2014-2020. It is great to see social enterprise being included in the draft strategies of all LEPs and from a Plunkett perspective we’re speaking to LEPs about the potential of social enterprise creating jobs and growth in rural areas while at the same time addressing issues relating to social inclusion.

The Welsh Government has announced a £10m capital fund to support projects to tackle poverty. Good news for the increasing number of rural communities in Wales looking to set up and run community enterprises as a way of addressing rural poverty.

Lastly, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have announced a £10m pot to pilot alternative broadband technologies in order to reach those hardest to reach in remote rural areas of the UK. Community-led broadband will undoubtedly play a significant role in reaching communities that others cannot.

In case you missed announcements from late last year…

Long awaited updated to co-operative legislation in the UK welcomed by Plunkett and the co-operative sector.

Cracking news for communities in England! In December the Big Lottery Fund announced a £150m fund for community led enterprises which will be up and running by the Autumn.

The Government has published its response to the Social Investment Tax Relief consultation that Plunkett responded.

The government consultation on business names closes tomorrow.

The word ‘co-operative’ is currently on the ‘sensitive words’ list for new business, meaning that a new businesses registering cannot call themselves a co-operative unless they meet internationally agreed co-operative values and principles.

You have one more day (deadline 22 May) to respond to the consultation.  There is a risk if sufficient responses are not received that this protection could be removed and any business could call themselves ‘co-operative’ without actually being one.  Plunkett is therefore supporting the Co-operatives UK campaign to protect the word ‘co-operative’.

As an organisation originally called the Horace Plunkett Foundation for Co-operative Studies we care passionately about this issue.  If you also do, and you haven’t responded already, now is your last chance.  The Co-operatives UK consultation response can be read here.

Respond here – https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/company-and-business-names-red-tape-challenge

 

 

 

Last week the International Co-operative Alliance published the ‘Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade’. The purpose of the document is to harness the energy generated during the UN International Year of Co-operatives 2012 and inspire the international co-operative movement to make significant steps forward by 2020.

We’re pleased that the final Blueprint has incorporated key themes, challenges and actions that were identified in the Dunsany Declaration for Rural Co-operative Development.

The co-operative movement is setting its sights high.

By 2020, the international co-operative movement aims to be:

•    The acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability
•    The model preferred by people
•    The fastest growing form of enterprise

Why are co-operatives important to rural communities across the world? This extract from the Blueprint neatly sums it up.

“In the midst of this uncertainty and suffering, co-operatives can provide some hope and clarity of direction for citizens around the world. Uniquely amongst models of enterprise, co-operatives bring economic resources under democratic control. The co-operative model is a commercially efficient and effective way of doing business that takes account of a wider range of human needs, of time horizons and of values in decision making. It is an approach which works on a very small, and on a very large scale. The co-operative sector is worldwide, providing millions of jobs around the globe. Co-operatives develop individual participation, can build personal self-confidence and resilience, and create social capital. Co-operative institutions create long-term security; they are long-lasting, sustainable and successful.”

As the document states, rarely has the argument in favour of co-operatives looked stronger.

This week we published the final report for the Making Local Food Work programme which Plunkett has led since 2007.

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I’m really proud of what Making Local Food Work has achieved and I know this is the same for everyone involved in it at Plunkett and our partners CPRE, Co-operatives UK, Country Markets, FARMA, the Soil Association and Sustain.
It has been a force for good, giving a helpful hand to the community food sector at a time when the sector needed confidence.
The headlines are that it directly supported 1,600 community food enterprises to be more sustainable.  It helped over 7,250 producers, over 10,000 volunteers and 6,600 employees.  Through this it helped 3.8 million people have better access to and awareness of local food.  It’s been a great success which you can read about here.
But it’s more than just the numbers, Making Local Food Work helped the sector gain momentum.  And it’s great to see that the momentum developed in the community food world in recent years shows no signs of slowing down.  For example, in another recent report, the Economic Impact of Community Food Enterprises, we demonstrated that the community food enterprise sector has doubled in size from 2007 to 2012.
As a quote in the report says, “A huge amount of effort has gone into assessing the impact the programme has had over the past five years which, combined, forms the single simple fact that the local food world is a better place for Making Local Food Work”. I agree!

At Co-operatives United, a global festival of co-operation, Plunkett organised a session to present the Dunsany Declaration for Rural Co-operative Development to a gathering in Manchester. The aim was to identify ways of taking forward the ideas in the Declaration.

The session was chaired by Jim Metcalfe from the Carnegie UK Trust which has supported the World of Rural Co-operation. Peter Couchman, Plunkett’s Chief Executive presented the Declaration and there was also a panel discussion with three members of the Dunsany Group that met and developed the Declaration – Eve Crowley, Deputy Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Simel Esim, Chief of the Co-operative Office at the International Labour Office and Martin Lowery, Senior Vice President of the US National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The panel

Peter, Simel, Eve, Martyn and Jim at the World of Rural Co-operation session at Co-operatives United

Peter concluded his presentation by highlighting how co-operatives empower people, economies and societies. Simel talked about the need of the co-operative movement to reach out to the unconverted. Martin talked about the history of rural electric co-operatives in the US and Horace Plunkett’s influence on their development through his writings on the Rural Life Problem of the United States and the work of Teddy Roosevelt’s Country Life Commission. Martin highlighted how co-operatives are uniquely places to connect up the key issues of conservation and rural development which are often dealt with in a disconnected fashion.

Eve explained how rural co-operatives are critically important in delivering FAOs work and priorities. Eve explained how there are unique rural challenges and these unique challenges mean that there is a need for specific approaches in rural areas. She explained how 70% of the global poor live in rural areas. Eve also highlighted what she felt was a huge opportunity for co-operatives as they work across the food system to tackle the chronic waste problem and in doing so, tackle the 870m people who go hungry every day. Eve ended by saying that many people in rural areas across the world do not live in democratised societies. Co-operatives are often people’s first experience on one member one vote.

Prior to the session the FAO Director General gave a keynote presentation in the main Co-operatives United session. We were honed that he recognised the Dunsany Declaration as an important contribution to the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade. We were also delighted that he was able to attend part of the session presenting the Declaration.

We could have gone on all day but had to bring the session to a close. Through the session and meeting various people over the week we’ve established a group of people with a common interest in rural co-operatives. We look forward to taking forward the important themes within the Dunsany Declaration with a growing network of people and organisations interested in building a better world through rural co-operatives.

Last week Plunkett launched the Dunsany Declaration for Rural Co-operative Development, our contribution to the International Year of Co-operatives.

We launched it to coincide with World Food Day as it’s theme this year was agricultural co-operatives and their role in feeding the world.  We argued that co-operatives are critically important to feed a growing population in an era of increasing global resource scarcity and unequal distribution. The Declaration was developed by a group of people at great couple of days at the World of Rural Co-operation Roundtable Event which we hosted in Dunsany Castle, Ireland on 11-12 September 2012.

The Dunsany Group

The Dunsany Group who developed the Dunsany Declaration

We’re going to be presenting the Dunsany Declaration at the Co-operatives United event in Manchester on 31 October from 11.30-13.00 at a session which includes Plunkett’s own Peter Couchman and two participants from the event in Ireland – Martin Lowery from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Simel Esim, Chief of the Co-operative Office at the International Labor Office and Eve Crowley, Deputy Director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN.  All are welcome and there is no need to book so long as you have registered for the Co-operatives United event.  We’re looking for discussion how we together can take forward the recommendations in the Declaration.

Peter Couchman signing the Dunsany Declaration

Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation, signing the Dunsany Declaration

Here is the Dunsany Declaration.  We’d love to know what you think. If you would like to endorse the Declaration personally or on behalf of an organisation, please drop us a note to info@plunkett.co.uk.

                                                  The Dunsany Declaration
                                     For Rural Co-operative Development

1.    The Dunsany Group believe there are important choices facing rural communities:

•    Do they rely to an increasing extent on a dominant and powerful global economic model to improve their livelihoods;
Or
•    Do they take further and deeper control themselves of many of the issues they face through well-established and successful co-operative options.

2.    In this year, the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives, the Dunsany Group, that is meeting to consider the current role and future aspirations of rural co-operatives in a time of global economic crisis, recognise that the world will face unprecedented and urgent challenges over the next 50 years that require immediate action.  An age of increasing global resource scarcity and unequal distribution is leading to major concerns over the deeply connected issues of feeding a growing population, food security, energy and water availability and decent work opportunities while at the same time ensuring there is peace in the world.  Together the world is facing increasingly volatile economies, markets and climatic conditions all this at a time of rapid change.

3.    In an increasingly urbanised world, over 3 billion people will continue to live and work in rural areas, while the whole of the global population will be reliant on the rural landscape for resources including food and energy and water. For the first time in centuries serious political and economic power is shifting from west to east and north to south.  At the same time the global information revolution is providing ordinary people with new ways of taking action, organising and mobilising together to take matters into their own hands. These changes together may represent both huge opportunities alongside significant challenges for global stability in an age when critical aspects of the dominant economic model are failing.  Together we urge ordinary people living and working in rural communities to realise that they can take action over issues of concern to them.

4.    Around the world co-operatives as principled and value-driven organisations have a huge impact on rural life. They achieve this through a diverse range of large and small co-operatives ranging from agriculture and horticulture to energy; forestry to finance; social services and community development to transport, tourism and many more.  The strengths and benefits of co-operatives for rural communities are recognised.  In the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives 2012 we collectively have developed the momentum for a decade of co-operative growth in rural communities.

5.    Significant and compelling evidence exists demonstrating that co-operation leads to a more democratised economy and society at a local, national and transnational level alongside a wide range of other benefits. The Dunsany Group seek to secure the long term social, economic and environmental sustainability and resilience of rural communities, family farmers and the global population which heavily relies on rural areas.  We see that the better way forward is for rural communities to mobilise and take responsibility to pursue a better way of living through co-operative approaches.  The strengths and benefits of the co-operative model need to be demonstrated and explained to rural people who could benefit from co-operative action.

6.    Co-operative approaches enable rural people and rural communities to meet the increasingly urgent challenges facing the world while meeting their own everyday needs and improving their own lives.  Through practical co-operative action rural people can create for themselves the opportunity to benefit from their work, innovation and entrepreneurship.  They can achieve this while retaining and reinvesting wealth locally. Comprehensive co-operative rural and agricultural sectors must be advanced in the developing world that allow wealth created to be retained and reinvested for the benefit of the rural communities who were responsible for its creation.  Co-operatives in their various forms promote the fullest participation in the economic and social development of all people. Co-operatives also have an important role in transforming marginal survival activities, sometimes referred to as the “informal economy”, into legally protected work that is fully integrated into mainstream economic life.

7.    We, the Dunsany Group, know the importance and effectiveness of co-operative action to develop confident cultures in rural communities of individuals empowered to explore what they can achieve together.  It is a powerful instrument all too often overlooked.  The following actions are urgently needed to take forward the rural co-operative agenda over the next decade:

a.    Supportive policies and legislation – Formal global bodies, such as the United Nations and its agencies, informal global bodies for example the G20 together with national and regional governments need to promote and create a supportive political and legislative environment for successful, independent rural co-operatives to develop and grow. Global, regional and national donors should be sought to support coherent policies as a key part of their international development strategies and to reach the Millennium Development Goals and the post 2015 Development Agenda established by the UN. To do this the Dunsany Group call for the following:

i.    Endorsement of the Recommendation of the International Labour Organization on the Promotion of Co-operatives 2002 (No. 193).
ii.    Support for the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/64/136 on Co-operatives in Social Development calling for standalone co-operative legislation that is empowering and not prescriptive where it doesn’t exist, to be developed.
iii.    A level political and legislative playing field ensuring that co-operatives are treated in terms no less favourable than other businesses.
iv.    Recognition of the unique nature of co-operatives as membership based democratically run organisations and their role in rural development.
v.    Acknowledgement that co-operatives are a vital part of any balanced global economy and healthy society.
vi.    Recognition that co-operatives have a proven track record of creating employment and delivering long standing benefits for rural communities globally.
vii.    Assurance that national policies combat pseudo co-operatives violating workers’ rights by ensuring that labour legislation is applied in all enterprises.

b.    Educate and advocate – Rural co-operatives need be at the heart of a major programme of education and advocacy led by co-operative sectors and national and international agencies. This programme, focused on sharing good practice and lessons learned, needs to reach rural communities; regional, national and international politicians; policy makers; international agencies and key opinion formers with the aim of building widespread active support for the development of rural co-operatives as an alternative to the status quo.  Specific educational programmes need to be developed for the banking, accountancy and legal sectors to build much-needed understanding with sector professionals.

c.    Inspire the next generation – The international co-operative movement needs to take action to inspire, motivate and educate the next generation of young women and men co-operators and co-operative leaders.  Engagement is required with business centres and institutes focusing on entrepreneurship to ensure that the co-operative option is known and understood. Educational establishments with deep and long standing roots in rural communities such as rural community colleges and agricultural colleges also need to be targeted to ensure full awareness and to build mutually beneficial relationships with existing co-operatives in rural areas.  Rural co-operatives themselves need to see it as their duty as part of the international co-operative movement to undertake mentoring of both individuals and emerging rural co-operatives.

d.    Demonstrate impact – The international co-operative movement needs to find methods to collate, generate and aggregate statistics and evidence on the known impacts of rural co-operatives on individuals living and working in rural communities.  The international co-operative movement must seek to work together with national and international agencies and academics and academic institutions to bring together existing knowledge into one place.

e.    Co-operative to co-operative knowledge transfer – The international co-operative movement needs to seek far greater levels of knowledge transfer between individual rural co-operatives and distinct sectors of the co-operative economy.  Better understanding is needed of the challenges facing rural communities and how they can be confronted. The co-operative movement at all levels needs to challenge itself to share knowledge to a greater extent so that individual co-operatives and co-operative sectors can benefit from each other’s knowledge.  To achieve this, a website focused on knowledge sharing and interaction between individuals associated with rural co-operatives needs to be pursued.  Cross sector meetings are required at regional, national and international meetings of co-operatives. Co-operatives must also seek to ‘rural proof’ their policies and any impacts on rural communities.

f.    Maintain and develop community roots – Ensuring that a co-operative is rooted with a community whether this is local, transnational or a community of interest is the most important element of the co-operative difference. Effective membership engagement through good governance is key to addressing this challenge and must be of the highest priority for rural co-operative members, leaders and supporters. Development of linkages with trade unions, rural workers’ organisations, business associations, as well as mutual and other social and non-governmental enterprises and organisations is crucial to strengthen support for co-operatives.

g.    Build understanding – Significantly greater understanding of the diversity of co-operative approaches among rural co-operatives needs to be built.  A lack of understanding means that opportunities for greater co-operation amongst rural co-operatives are being missed.  Greater understanding must be forged between producer and consumer co-operatives in particular to explore opportunities for mutual benefit.  Co-operative leaders need to see the importance of understanding the range of rural co-operatives as a part of their personal responsibility to the global co-operative movement.  Therefore there needs to be a commitment from key people involved in rural co-operatives and national and sector co-operative representative organisations to build on this understanding by contributing to a global knowledge bank on rural co-operatives.

h.    Finance the future – The international co-operative movement needs to work together to disseminate knowledge and understanding of the existing range of financial instruments appropriate for supporting the development of the wide diversity of rural co-operatives, as well as developing new ones.

i.    Access to technology – National governments, international governmental frameworks and multinational enterprises need to ensure that rural co-operatives have access to the latest developments in the most appropriate technology and technological learning to be most able to deliver their economic, social and environmental objectives.

We, the Dunsany Group, have experienced how the co-operative option provides the better way for rural communities to take control of the issues affecting them.  It achieves this through ensuring that:

•    Economies and societies are empowered and democratised;
•    Wealth generated by local communities is retained and reinvested;
•    Skills, expertise and leadership potential of individuals and communities are built and developed;
•    Enterprises are developed that ensure gender equality and are free of discrimination; and
•    Communities can thrive free of corruption and exploitation.

We therefore urge key organisations to pledge their support for the Dunsany Declaration for Rural Co-operative Development and commit to work together to take forward this important agenda at this significant time to create a better future for rural communities and the whole of humanity.

We, the undersigned, agree to the best of our abilities to take forward the actions and principles of the Dunsany Declaration as it is our collective belief that rural co-operatives build a significantly better world for rural people and rural communities internationally.

Signed in their personal capacity:

Peter Couchman, Plunkett Foundation
Pauline Green, International Co-operative Alliance
David Button, Co-operatives UK
Eve Crowley, Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations
Fayyad Fayyad, Olive Oil Co-operative Union, Palestine
Michael Ward, Centre for Co-operative Studies, University College Cork
James Graham, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society
Colette Lebel, La Co-op fédérée, Quebec
Martin Lowery, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, USA
David Cameron, Community Land Scotland
Seamus O’Donohue, Irish Co-operative Organisation Society
Simel Esim, International Labour Office
James J Kennelly, Skidmore College, USA
Hans van Es, Dutch Produce Association / COGECA
Ms. Min Su Kim, National Agricultural Co-operative Federation (Korea)/ International Co-operative Agriculture Organisation
Mike Perry, Plunkett Foundation
Harriet English, Plunkett Foundation

I’m absolutely delighted that communities in England can finally use the Community Right to Bid powers.  This is the final ‘Community Right’ to be given the go ahead after it was announced by new Department for Communities and Local Government Minister Dan Foster.  The Community Right to Bid may not be a silver bullet for all communities in all situations but it’s a vital new tool that communities can now use to save what is important to them.  It enables communities to register ‘Assets of Community Value’ with their Local Authority.  If registration is approved, it will give the community a protected period of a maximum of 6 months to raise finance and develop plans to take over and run the asset.

Plunkett and others lobbied extensively for this new power with the aim from a Plunkett perspective to make it easier for communities to save assets that are important to them.  It may be the local shop, pub or something completely different – whatever matters to them.  Plunkett is working alongside Locality and others in providing support for communities looking to own or manage assets of community value including supporting these wanting to use the Community Right to Bid powers.  If you’d like to know more, get in touch with Plunkett or find out more on our website.

Plunkett is really proud to be part of the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS campaign. Alongside partners Locality, ACRE and Co-operatives UK we have been running a UK wide advice line and series of events for rural communities looking to set up a wide range of community run enterprises. We’ve been truly inspired by the fantastic ideas for community enterprises that we’ve supported both through the helpline and at the roadshow events. There are many great examples on the Village SOS website and in previous editions of The Local, the Village SOS magazine.

Alongside the helpline and events, BIG has set up a dedicated funding programme that provides rural communities across the UK with the unique opportunity to access funding to turn an idea for a social enterprise into reality. There is now just one month left to apply for grants of between £10,000 and £50,000. Applications are welcomed from rural communities with populations of fewer than 3,000 people and must reach Village SOS by 2pm on 12 September.

Village SOS will fund rural communities who want to set up new community enterprises. It will also fund those who seek to expand or develop their existing rural community enterprises to provide even better facilities, services and opportunities for local people.

Village SOS has already supported many community run shops, cafes, pubs, transport schemes, community broadband and energy projects. All set up by local people who worked together to make a difference in their community. If you think you can make a difference to your community and have an enterprising plan, take the opportunity to apply to Village SOS for a grant.

To apply or for more information visit http://www.villagesos.org.uk or call the advice line on 0845 434 9123.

The recent SOS Dairy protests by farmers have followed a succession of painful price cuts from milk processors and downward pressure on prices from retailers. On 11 July the NFU held a dairy summit at Westminster where over 2,000 dairy farmers made their voices heard. At the summit Farming Minister Jim Paice MP announced that Defra would made support available to farmers looking to form ‘Producer Organisations’.

Very interesting we thought at Plunkett, an organisation that has spent most of our 93 years fighting for such support. From a Plunkett perspective, Producer Organisations sound very much like farmer co-operatives but the term has not been defined since the announcement. So we’ve started to ask ourselves the question – when is a Producer Organisation not a co-operative?

The reason for Defra announcing support for farmers to form Producer Organisations was to give farmers greater collective power in the milk market dominated by a small number of large processors and large retailers. They can clearly achieve increased power through setting up a new or joining an existing co-operative. This is because as a member you get a vote and a say in how it is run and co-operatives are run on the basis of one member one vote. You’re also able to achieve greater bargaining power through a co-op then you could do alone. For a farmer to have more power surely they need to have ownership of organisations representing them, control of what it does and benefit from its activities. If they don’t have ownership, then the voice of farmers is lessened and their ability to control and benefit from a Producer Organisation is weakened significantly.

So what else could a Producer Organisation be? If the producers are not going to be the owners of the Producer Organisation then is it that the term Producer Organisation also includes farmers coming together as a group for other players in the market – processors and retailers – to deal with in some way. If so then this sounds a lot like what already takes place for example through farmers individually securing direct supply contracts with a supermarket. While this may work out well for some individual farms, it doesn’t give farmers more power as they are subject to an individual contractual supply relationship which may not last any longer then the current contract.  So we don’t think this is a Producer Organisation. Does anyone have any idea what else it could be?

So if Producer Organisations are all farmer co-operatives, why aren’t we calling them farmer co-operatives? Farmer co-operatives are hugely successful across the world and major players in the UK. When a co-operative like Dairy Farmers of Britain fails people in the UK often blame the fact that it is a co-operative. When a company fails people blame individual people and market forces rather than the company.  There is a bad habit in the UK and England specifically of rebranding farmer co-operatives to the point where both farmers and the wider public have no idea what is being talked about.  Co-operatives are and should be good for farmers in the UK and internationally because they are owned and controlled by them.  Pretty simple really.

 

This week Plunkett and long term collaborators the Carnegie UK Trust launched Rural Broadband – Reframing the Debate, a joint paper aiming to bring a fresh view to the issue of rural broadband across the UK and Ireland. Having been part of numerous discussions on rural broadband in recent years, we strongly felt that there were two main elements missing from current thinking.

The first was that rural communities were not being inspired by the potential of high speed broadband. Saying that you can browse the internet slightly quicker is one thing but shouldn’t we really be highlighting the transformative effect that high speed broadband can have on rural people, rural services and rural economies?

The second element missing and one connected to the first point was the role of communities in addressing the digital divide. In our experience only a handful of rural communities feel able to try to tackle the digital divide themselves. Work need to be done to inspire communities to take action, to develop community enterprise models that are accessible to non specialists and to developed clearer, more connected forms of support.

The day after, the House of Lords Communications Committee published their report Broadband for all – an alternative vision. The Government will respond to the report in a couple of months which will make interesting reading. The report raised major concerns that the current plans for the UK risks leaving communities – particularly rural communities – behind.

We would agree with this. The current plan is for 90% of the UK to have access to high speed broadband with the remaining 10% having access to a minimum of 2MBPS broadband. As around 20% of people in the UK live in rural areas and presuming that high speed broadband is most likely to be available in places of higher population, by my calculations around half of people living in rural communities may only have access to basic broadband. Those living in the most remote rural areas are most likely to miss out.

We don’t believe that just basic broadband provision matches the aspirations of rural communities and therefore rural communities will need to be inspired by the possibilities high speed broadband opens up to take action themselves. Featured in the new paper are a few great examples of these, such as Cybermoor Ltd and B4RN – fantastic examples of communities doing just that.

We’re encouraging those interested in the rural broadband debate to be part of a broadband discussion group on the Fiery Spirits Community of Practice ably hosted by Daniel Heery of Cybermoor. The discussions will continue for a few months and we hope these can be used to help shape the ongoing discussions across the UK and Ireland on how to bring high speed broadband to rural communities.

The joint paper was the first in a series of Plunkett White Papers so keep an eye out for future ones!