Rural England CIC is an independent and not-for-profit research body, which was set up six years ago. It seeks to:
- Produce research that improves the rural evidence base;
- Build networks among those with an interest in rural evidence;
- Support the exchange of rural evidence held by other organisations; and
- Ensure rural research engenders policy debate and informs policy making.
Our ambition is that rural evidence should improve the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of rural areas in England.
The context for this is an understanding that rural considerations are likely to be poorly addressed or overlooked altogether by national and local policy makers unless there is relevant evidence made available and accessible to them. In a predominantly urban country, such as England, policies have often been designed in ways which do not reflect rural circumstances and needs.
There are three key groups around which Rural England CIC has been formed:
Directors: the company (CIC) has a team of six Directors who are responsible for its forward or business planning, its financial management and its operation. They are the decision-making group for the company. Directors are assisted by the Company Secretary who manages its budget and oversees the production of its accounts. A part-time (average one day per week) Administrator works with the Directors to organise meetings, events and the like. Some further occasional support (for example, with the website) is received from the Rural Services Network. Directors carry out their role on a voluntary (unpaid) basis.
Stakeholder Group: representatives from around thirty organisations with an interest in rural affairs form this grouping. They provide advice to the Directors about the CIC’s work programme. They often contribute to its research projects, for example by inputting their own evidence, by commenting on draft reports and by helping disseminate those reports. At their meetings members of this group keep each other informed of rural research they are carrying out. A Defra representative attends the group’s meetings.
Supporters: these are financial supporters who provide Rural England CIC with most of its income (though some derives from profit from research commissions). Their support pays for our operating costs and core research costs. All supporters are private sector businesses which agree to contribute on a corporate social responsibility basis, recognising they have
rural customers or rural interests. The largest group are utility companies (gas, electricity and water). The two specifically funding our core costs are Calor Gas and First Group Buses.
As noted in the role description, Rural England CIC has built relationships with some other academic and consultancy researchers with a rural interest, who can be (sub) commissioned as associates to carry out research on our behalf. There is roughly £10,000 available per year to spend on associate research, though this can increase if Rural England CIC is asked to carry out additional funded projects by external research commissioners. The associates give Rural England CIC both additional capacity, to manage peaks and troughs, and additional research skills e.g. an economist.
Our research projects to-date include:
- State of Rural Services 2016 and 2018 reports – which tracked trends in service provision in rural areas.
- Issues Facing Providers of Social Care at Home to Older Residents in Rural England.
- Unlocking the Digital Potential of Rural Areas across the UK.
- Housing and Employment: A Survey of Rural Residents’ Experiences and Opinions.
- Challenges Facing 16-18 Year Olds in Accessing Appropriate Education and Work Based Learning.
- Rural Proofing for Health Toolkit – a guide to help the health and care sector.
- Rural Touring Arts Schemes: What they deliver and what they achieve.
- Opportunities and Challenges for Rural Areas from Net Zero Carbon Legislation.
- State of Rural Services 2021 – underway, looking at the impacts of the pandemic.
- Rural Vulnerabilities Project – underway, exploring implications for the utility sector’s Priority Services Register.
Rural England CIC has hosted an annual Rural Vulnerability Day, which has been used for a report launch and to enable stakeholders or others to give related presentations. The 2021 event was online. The event the two previous years was held on the Parliamentary estate. These events have always attracted some MPs, Lords or their researchers.