Village SOS: We want your views!
by Chris Cowcher,

ACRE is urging rural communities to help it design a new programme of support for community enterprises in rural areas across the UK.

The leading rural network has received close to £1.4 million from the Big Lottery Fund to lead a nationwide partnership of eight organisations in the Village SOS learning, outreach and engagement campaign.

The two-year campaign comes on the back of Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS funding programme and will help communities start their own social enterprises – from setting up a shop or saving a pub to opening a café or cinema.

The project begins with a three-month research project led by consultants Rose Regeneration and Rocket Science which includes an online survey for anyone involved in or interested in setting up a rural social enterprise.

The research aims to identify good practice and case studies from the first phase of the Village SOS campaign, launched in 2010, which saw more than 160 innovative village projects come to fruition. It will assess the demand for support for new enterprises and map what is available across the UK so that projects are directed to the best sources of advice and funding.

It will cover a wide range of organisations to find out who might get involved in community enterprises - from parish councils and schools to broadband campaigners and social groups, such as Young Farmers and the WI.

ACRE chief executive Janice Banks said: “The help of the community with this survey is vital to ensure that we deliver a great service to rural areas across the country. It should not take any more than ten minutes to complete and answers will be treated in the strictest of confidence.”

The focus of the campaign will be a ‘community to community’ learning network, which will see volunteers from social enterprises across the UK become mentors to share the secrets of their success.

The volunteers will offer their time, support, experience and expertise and will point new enterprises in the direction of potential funding sources.

A central ‘Rural Hub’, managed by ACRE, will match each new enterprise with a trained mentor and a local grassroots support organisation, who will offer support and advice ranging from how to plan a project to building a brand.

The grassroots support will be provided in England by ACRE’s Network of 38 rural community councils; in Wales by Wales Council for Voluntary Action; in Scotland by Senscot and Forth Sector; and in Northern Ireland by Rural Community Network.

The campaign will be supported by a national expert panel, plus a new Village SOS website developed by The Rural Media Company.

Ends

Issued: July 11, 2014

Media contact: Claire McGine, Head of Communications, 01285 653477.

Notes to editors:

Action with Communities in Rural England

ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is the national body for the 38 rural community councils (RCCs) who make up the ACRE Network. We speak up for rural communities on the national stage and deliver projects that enable our communities to find innovative solutions to the challenges they face.

Our rural community councils – many of whom date back 90 years – reach 50,000 organisations at grassroots level. ACRE was formed in 1987 to bring the RCCs together under one umbrella, harnessing the strength of their experience to support our national work.

Head of Communications: Claire McGine, 01285 653477 Website: www.acre.org.uk Twitter: @ACRE_national

The Big Lottery Fund The Big Lottery Fund, the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.

The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since its inception in 2004 BIG has awarded over £6bn.

In the year ending 31 March 2013, 28% of total National Lottery revenue was returned to the Good Causes. Since the National Lottery began in 1994, £31 billion has been raised and more than 400,000 grants awarded.

• Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888 • Out of hours media contact: 07867 500572 • Website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk • Twitter: @biglotteryfund #biglf • Facebook: www.facebook.com/BigLotteryFund