The Plunkett Foundation

The Plunkett Foundation

The Plunkett Foundation promotes and supports co-operatives and social enterprises in rural communities worldwide.  We provide support, networks and knowledge to help rural communities to be aware of, understand and implement practical solutions to the challenges that they are facing.

Our Work
We work with a range of organisations who share our values to develop support programmes for rural co-operative and social enterprises through their development.  We are also a centre of information and ideas relating to rural co-operatives and social enterprise worldwide with over 20,000 items in the Plunkett Foundation Information Centre which have been collected since we were founded.

We also influence government and others to build support and provide an enabling environment for the development of rural co-operative and social enterprises.

Rural Co-operatives and Social Enterprises
"A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise."

The International Co-operative Alliance Statement on the Co-operative Identity

"A social enterprise is defined as a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders or owners."

Office of the Third Sector

A social enterprise has an enterprise orientation – income generated from trading – and has social aims, such as job creation, training or the provision of local services.  Social enterprises are often characterised by social ownership.

Rural co-operatives and social enterprises are considered such if they are either located in a rural area or even if they are based in an urban location, if it exists to provide benefits for rural people, either as suppliers, customers or as members, then it will be considered as rural.

Our History
The Plunkett Foundation was established in 1919 by Sir Horace Plunkett, the pioneer of agricultural co-operation in Ireland.  We were founded to take forward the principles outlined in Sir Horace’s ‘Three Betters’ – Better Farming, Better Business, Better Living.

Better Farming meant using the best possible modern technologies to help a business succeed.  Better Business meant co-operative business – Sir Horace saw that only enterprises owned and run by rural communities could help those communities in the long run.  Better Living meant that enterprises should be judged on their ability to improve the quality of life for rural communities.

The ‘Three Betters’ became the rural co-operative and social enterprise mantra of the early 20th century.  Not only did they help to develop the Irish Co-operative Movement, they created a generation of political leaders who saw that rural policy without Better Living was doomed to failure.  When President Theodore Roosevelt first heard the ‘Three Betters’ he said: “By George!  That’s it! I’ll megaphone it to the world!”

Plunkett Foundation today
From community-owned shops to local food community enterprises and rural community transport, rural co-operative and social enterprise has a proven impact on the lives of rural communities.

The Plunkett Foundation finds the most effective ways for each generation to put into practice the values created by its founder, Sir Horace Plunkett.  These are:

We seek economic solutions to create social change
We seek solutions that enrich rural community life
We see self-help as the most effective way to tackle rural needs

More here