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Other news: New guide to strengthening rural communities launched by the Plunkett Foundation

A guide to how rural communities can use social enterprise to meet the challenges of the current economic crisis has been launched by the Plunkett Foundation.

At a time when the economic situation means that rural communities are facing more challenges than ever, this inspiring and informative guide shows communities how to use social enterprise approaches to take control of the issues affecting their everyday lives.

The challenges faced by rural communities are heightened by greater distances, a more widely dispersed population and poor access to jobs and services. Increasingly, rural social enterprises � businesses for a social purpose - are stepping up to the mark and finding ways to overcome these challenges.

The Strengthening Rural Communities: Information, Advice and Support guide � which includes a film featuring several North West social enterprises such as the community shop and post office at Nenthead near Alston, Cumbria � focuses on the broad range of advice that rural social enterprises need to get established or to expand their services.

Packed with case studies, tips and useful contact details, the guide is designed to inspire rural communities looking to improve their access to services, and to give them the tools they need to set up their own community-led initiatives.

�The purpose of the guide and film�, says James Alcock, Project Manager at the Plunkett Foundation, �is to highlight the achievements of the organisations supported by the Strengthening Rural Communities across the North West programme in addressing the gap in vital rural services, including access to retail services, finance, and healthcare.�

Funding came from the Strengthening Rural Communities Across the North West programme. The programme was funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and managed by the Plunkett Foundation in conjunction with the North West Rural Community Councils.

David Hunter, Head of Rural Development at the NWDA, said, �This innovative work has shown that small scale investments can make all the difference to a community project and we are keen to build on its success within the region. There have been real achievements in rural communities across the North West and I hope the guide and film can help inspire new ideas in the current economic climate and help communities to thrive in the future.�

Nenthead Community Shop Ltd, which is highlighted in the guide and film, is one of a number of examples of communities across the North West that�s using social enterprise to take control of the issues affecting their everyday lives.

Nenthead is a small and isolated community and at 1,500 feet is England�s highest village. Originally a mining community, Nenthead once had a series of shops and services to support the workers and their families. In 2006, the last remaining shop closed when its owners retired. The challenges this presented to some residents was significant, particularly as there was a 10 mile round trip to the nearest shop and limited access to public transport in that area. Following support from Strengthening Rural Communities across the North West, a community-owned and managed shop and post office was established to provide a social hub for the community.

James Alcock concludes, �The guide and film demonstrate that the solutions and models used by the communities are transferable. They provide practical ideas and information for other rural communities to use along with a directory of where to go to for further advice and assistance.�

For further information on the Plunkett Foundation and its work please visit
www.plunkett.co.uk or contact them on or 01993 810730.