How social enterprise can transform rural life
Rural communities are suffering a decline of services, but Village SOS has shown how people are fighting back
Author: Peter Couchman
The issues facing rural people are well-documented: physical and social exclusion, the decline of rural services resulting from an increase in commuting, lack of affordable housing and an ageing population are all challenges that rural communities face. But a new lottery project called Village SOS is proving that social enterprise really does hold the answer to many of these issues.
It’s a common story, and one many of us in rural areas are familiar with. The struggling local pub is forced to close its doors, closely followed by the village shop and Post Office. Those residents with cars are forced to travel miles just to get bread and milk, while those without are left to rely on intermittent and unreliable public transport.
With the cost of delivering services often being higher in rural areas due to greater distances and a more dispersed population, it’s often the most vulnerable members of rural communities who are left stranded, going days or weeks without seeing or talking to anyone as both private services, such as shops and pubs, and public services, such as transport and healthcare, close down or are withdrawn.
But the tide is turning, and it’s due in part to social enterprise. Over the past 20 years or so, the number of community-owned enterprises has been steadily rising, and today there are 268 community-owned shops across the UK, helping to save around 5% of the 400 or so village shops that closed in 2010 alone.
Read the full article: The Guardian Co-operative and Mutuals Hub