Apparently we’re racking up personal debt like there’s no tomorrow. Unsecured consumer lending is back at pre-crash levels. The memory of those snaking queues outside Northern Rock has clearly had little lasting effect – either on our insatiable appetite for buying more ‘stuff’, or on our banks’ capacity for reckless lending. It seems wholly fanciful now, but during the financial crisis many thought that the collapse of our banks might just prove to be a turning point for our economic system – that out of the financial wreckage a more balanced, genuinely sustainable way of running the economy might emerge. In hindsight, this was the stuff of dreams. Our banking system is simply hardwired, bonus culture and all, to behave just as it always has. And we, on the whole, remain seriously addicted to ‘stuff’. Without fundamental change in these areas, any action we take on climate change is inevitably constrained. That said, with a string of new targets announced by the First Minister, Scotland is reaffirming its global reputation for climate action. And that bar could be set even higher. You can add your voice to ours, along with many others from across the sector – Act For Our Future
In the most recent briefing…
It’s a shameful statistic that the average household throws out almost £500 of perfectly fresh food and drink annually at the same time as the number of people living in food poverty continues to rise year on year. A project idea that tries to address this anomaly originated in Germany and is now beginning to take root in the UK. Community fridges are communal spaces where surplus food is shared between individuals, families and businesses within a community. A London based social enterprise, Hubbub, is trying to build a network of community fridges across the UK.
Cafébabel is the first pan-Europe participatory magazine. It’s produced by a network of 1,500 young volunteer writers, translators and film makers. One of its features is ‘Meet My Hood’ which introduces off-the-beaten-track communities within some of Europe’s great cities. Neighbourhoods you wouldn’t necessarily know to visit, certainly won’t find in the guidebooks but are clearly much loved by their writers. Looking down the list, not one British city is featured. Given so many young Scots voted to remain in Europe, here’s one way at least for them to stay connected – or just to discover some great European neighbourhoods.
The 30 basic human rights contained in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights are pretty wide ranging but the specific right to feel wind in your hair is probably not one of them. Nonetheless, it was the thought that elderly residents of a care home were being denied this simple pleasure that kick-started the Cycling Without Age movement. Founded in Denmark by Ole Kassow, local ‘chapters’ are springing up across the world and now we have one in Scotland. Using purpose built tricycles, elderly residents of Falkirk can be seen spinning along their local cycle paths.
When Action Porty were successful in their bid to buy their Bellfield Church, it was widely acclaimed as evidence that the community right to buy had officially reached urban Scotland. Part 4 of the Community Empowerment Act extended the right to buy to all of Scotland and aimed to tidy up and streamline a number of procedural issues. No one thought that bringing the right to buy into our cities was going to be without its challenges, but there really needs to be a stewards enquiry into what happened last week with the community buy-out of Edinburgh’s Sick Kids Hospital.
The concept of local currencies is so attractive it’s easy to see why many communities try (and usually fail) to develop their own. Very few survive the test of time – perhaps the Eko at Findhorn is our best known and certainly the most enduring. It seems that the challenge of sustaining a local paper currency over time is almost insurmountable. But as we move into the contactless/smart phone era of payments, it could be that a digital version is the way ahead. Introducing the Colu.
A fundamental principle of a civilised society is that everyone is equal under the law and that access to justice should be free. Or, at the very least, help should be freely available so that any financial barriers that do exist can be overcome. Last week, Scotland was ‘called out’ at a United Nations meeting for failing to fulfil some key requirements in this respect around access to environmental justice. Several cases were cited in which community interests have been badly compromised because of the costs involved. Another example of inequity within our planning system?
Audit Scotland’s assessment of how far the social care system has evolved towards the point where care packages are tailored by individuals to meet their own specific needs, didn’t make for easy reading. There’s a lot of goodwill in the sector to make Self Directed Support happen but at the same time there’s clearly significant inertia in the system which has hampered progress to date. No easy answers but as ever the issue of scale has something to do with it. David Powell at NEF argues the focus needs to be with small community based providers.
Whenever our academics get round to writing up the history of community work (maybe they already have?) one name will figure prominently as having had a major influence in shaping the ideas and approaches that emerged in Scotland towards the end of the 1980’s – particularly in relation to the impact that community owned businesses can have. John Pearce whose seminal book, Social Enterprise in Anytown, is a must read for anyone interested in this area of work died in 2011. Each year a lecture is organised in his memory. All welcome.