Championing community action at the Conservative Party Conference

WOW – I have been invited by Social Enterprise UK,as a representative of the rural social economy, o sit on a panel discussing the future of Britain’s Social Economy at the National Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday 30thSeptember in Birmingham.

It is a great honour to be asked to speak at such a prestigious level to champion the importance of social enterprise and community ownership. Although not a political organisation ourselves, we obviously appreciate how policies shape our future economy. I will be pushing for the rights of communities to take ownership over their own local assets and I hope to highlight how beneficial rural social enterprise can be for the rural economy as well as communities, handing power back to those who can really make a difference.

As you know, Fordhall is owned by over 8000 community shareholders across the world. Our small 140acre organic pasture farm would normally sustain one or two livelihoods at the very most, however, by involving the wider community we now employ more than 20 local people year round.

Not only is Fordhall providing an educational and recreational asset to the local area, but we are also contributing to our local rural economy and I will be highlighting this on the day.

The invite came after my visit to Westminster earlier this year. The panel at the Conservative Party Conference has been organised by Social Enterprise UK, the national body for social enterprise, representing businesses with a social or environmental vision. Hopefully this means more partnership working with them for the future and in the short term it means each and every shareholder is now having a potential influence on future policies in Britain.

The flexibility of community-owned structures allows organisations like ours to break down barriers that conventional approaches struggle to achieve, such as the barriers to entry for farming, namely inflated land values. By placing Fordhall into community ownership in 2006 we broke down this barrier and provided a young tenant farmer with a 100 year tenancy agreement – something which rarely exists in agriculture today.

I hope my presence at the conference will encourage yet further, the momentum that is building within the community movement. Together we can make our communities a better place to live and work.

I’ll report back on my return…