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January 15, 2014

Need a fresh start to 2014?

Want to kick off the new year with some new ideas and fresh thinking but can’t think of anything actually new or fresh?  Next best option is always to steal from someone else’s ideas. Take a look at New Start magazine’s top ten picks from last year’s trawl of local initiatives aimed at creating jobs, revitalising democracy and alleviating poverty. From community-supported industry to neighbourhood matching funds – everyone a winner.



New Start magazine

Ten ideas to boost local resilience and growth

1. DEVELOP COMMUNITY-SUPPORTED INDUSTRIES: Community-supported agriculture is an established movement in which a local citizens support and partner with local farms, sharing the risks of agriculture in return for a year-long supply of locally-grown produce. Community Supported Industry – an idea currently being established by the Schumacher Centre for a New Economics – would work in a similar way for other types of local production, from furniture factories to renewable energy companies, community-supported bakeries or any small-scale local business. The Schumacher Centre has published a white paper with steps towards the creation of community supported industry.

2. CREATE A NATIONAL ‘FUND OF FUNDS’: The Centre for Cities has set out a plan for a national war chest for investment in our cities. It would bring together the different pots of public money aimed at cities – such as the regional growth fund – with the UK’s allocation of Jessica funding and possibly institutional investment. This would be used to fund urban development funds at city or regional level, which would then undergo match funding to further increase their size. The advantages are that it would allow greater coverage, and its scale would make it more appealing to institutional investors such as sovereign wealth funds. For more info click here.

3. LOCALISE FOR GROWTH: Transition Towns Totnes has produced a Local Economic blueprint for the area showing for the first time the huge potential value to be gained from localisation. Plans to localise just 10% of the current food, energy and home efficiency sectors would bring in over £5m to the local economy, the report predicts. The organisation has already boosted its local economy and has linked up with local partners committted to the relocalisation of the area. A blueprint is also being created for a rural community in Herefordshire and the inner city London area of Brixton.

4. LAUNCH A NEIGHBOURHOOD HEALTH WATCH: Using the resources already available in a community, Neighbourhood Health Watch is a system to help communities to support each other’s health needs. It brings together local charities, business and public sector organisations who work at street level to restore trust and connection between neighbours. One of the projects to come out of the scheme is Food Neighbours, in which local people cook extra food for a neighbour in need.

5. CREATE THE CONDITIONS FOR THE CITY AS ‘URBAN WORKSHOP’ OR CULTURAL HUB: Areas where bottom-up cultural or artistic initiatives are allowed to flourish not only create vibrant neighbourhoods and allow local entrepreneurs a space to flourish but also attract and retain talent within cities or areas. Cheap rents helped turn London’s Hackney Wick into an artistic hub,Pittsburgh’s Garfield area has a range of artisan, craft and community businesses, including the Mad Science Supply & Surplus Company (pictured), a community space for scienctific exploration as well as a shop. And in Madrid the decision to temporarily loan former tobacco building the Tabacalera to the local community has created a thriving self-managed social centre that has revitalised the area.

6. IDENTIFY THE CHALLENGES: The next few decades will see complex global issues played out within our local communities. The Prepare for Changeproject by the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems help places to prepare better for global scale changes. It has worked with the Bristol city region to identify the challenges it faces over the coming decade. The programme comprises a monitoring unit which ‘scans the horizon’ for signs of change and uses a systems thinking process to assess developments. It also runs workshops, a research programme and a network to help communities and local stakeholders understand and respond to change.

7. DEVELOP AND PARTNER WITH FINANCIAL CO-OPERATIVES: A new report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) investigates why financial co-operatives – including credit unions – have proven to be more resilient through the recent economic turmoil than big banks. They have remained a stable source of credit to small and medium-sized businesses, indirectly creating employment and growing through the crisis. The report pinpoints their combination of member ownership and control as the key to their resilience and sets out of number of policy options to help government and local agencies partner with financial cooperatives on a range of issues, from business development to local welfare.

8. ASSESS AND DEVELOP THE STRENGTH OF LOCAL NETWORKS: CLES’s resilience model is focused on observing and assessing the strength of relationships between the commercial, social and public sector in a locality. The organisation believes that these relationships and connections help to generate resilience within an area and that stronger mutual relationships allow a locality to be more flexible and to react better if faced with an economic or environmental change. In order to develop strong local systems it calls on local areas to build collaboration, synergy, social capital and co-production into their governance.

9. EMBED A RESILIENCE APPROACH INTO ALL COUNCIL ACTIVITY: Newham Council has set out an ambitious plan to build community, economic and personal resilience across the borough. This includes its own employment service, Workplace, the licensing of private sector landlords and an Every Child programme, which will, among other things, give all children the chance to learn a musical instrument for free. It has plans for a Life Changing Fund, which will loan money to residents to help them move on in housing or their work life.

10. KNIT LOCAL SOCIAL FABRIC BACK TOGETHER: “After two generations of ‘on your own economics’ it’s hard for people to ask for and receive help from their neighbours.” These are the words of one member of a Resilience Circle, set up in the US to bring people together in mutual support and social action. In Italy the first Unmonastery initiative has recently launched, aimed at bringing people together in co-living and working environments around local social change. From Time Banks to Transition Towns there is a flourishing movement focused on re-connecting and restoring social bonds. Local resilience starts with a cup of tea with your neighbour…