THE Plunkett Foundation has smashed its five-year target of helping rural communities by encouraging residents to set up social enterprises.
An Impact Report published by the charity highlights how it has provided advice and support for rural communities wanting to set up or save vital assets such as village shops.
In 2011, Plunkett's aim was to support 250 new community enterprises to become more sustainable.
In fact, by the end of the year, it had supported 484 new enterprises, taking the overall total to 1,193 – smashing and five-year target of supporting 650 enterprises.
Plunkett chairman Peter Cleasby suggested that the government's drive to give local people more responsibility for providing services generated new demand for support and expertise.
During 2011, Plunkett had continued to seek opportunities and manage challenges – and was well placed to provide advice to rural communities.
"In partnership with others, we will continue to seek new and innovative ways in which we can help rural communities to help themselves," said Mr Cleasby.
"The pace of activity has not lessened during the first part of 2012 and shows no sign of doing so," he added.
By the end of 2011, 271 community-run shops were trading.
This included 23 brand new shops (20 of which were supported by Plunkett), two fewer than opened in 2010. It is predicted a further 20 will open in 2012.
In the same year, Plunkett handled 130 new enquiries from communities seeking advice and support in setting up a new community shop, averaging 11 new enquiries each month.
Online membership of the Plunkett community shop network has grown to almost 700 as a result of 248 new members joining in 2011.
The charity also worked with 114 established community shops in 2011 to expand their local food offering and increase sales.
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