Economic community development
How unfortunate! Three long words each with a lot of baggage and history. Let’s move swiftly on.
We all know what our local community feels like. We know what sort of shops there are. We know whether people have enough money to go round. We know whether people are good neighbours and look after each other when they can.
Local government wants to improve the local economy, if only to collect more rates! It tries to attract inward investment from big companies to provide jobs. And more jobs means more money to spend locally if that is what people choose to do.
Our project, Sophia Hubs, is about a different angle on improving the local economy by harnessing local people’s good ideas and energy. Instead of relying on politicians and corporate managers we can take our own steps to help things move in the direction we want to go.
Two of the key things Sophia Hubs sets out to do are to get people in the community doing things for each other and to start new enterprises that the area needs. We have a
Timebank and a bunch of volunteers who help people understand what skills they can offer and what services they might want to use. Everyone starts out thinking they have nothing that other people might want and end up happy that they have helped. So the Timebank builds a growing number of people who know each other and understand each other. A true community.
We run the Sophia course that gets people together for four or five sessions discussing what the area needs and what the people on the course can do about it. These courses are one of the sources of insight into what the area lacks, what new enterprises would make a difference, how such enterprises could run. It is surprising what can happen when a group of people, or even a single individual, is determined to make things better.
The local economy is nothing more or less than people exchanging goods and services locally. It makes a big difference if that exchange really is local, rather than for instance shopping at a big supermarket where the profits disappear elsewhere. So we think that discussion between local businesses and the community is the way to ensure that people have the local services they want and need and that they spend more of their money locally.
[For geeks there is something called a local economic multiplier, which is essentially how many times a given pound gets spent locally before it leaves the area. A pound in someone’s pocket can make much more than a pound’s difference to local businesses. Places that have introduced a local currency such as the Brixton Pound track these things so they can see the difference they are making.]
One more big word. We are used to talk of entrepreneurs who have an idea and turn it into reality. We would like to see a local area become more entrepreneurial. We would like local people to decide something of how they want there area to be and to be able to turn that into a reality they can be proud of.
We would of course like you to be part of what we are doing. We can provide some of the ethos and the infrastructure like the Timebank, but we really want local businesses and local communities to make the running. And it is fun!
Aidan Ward, Sophia Hubs Director