Notes from Redbridge White Paper discussion held on 16.12.15 at Enterprise Desk
- In business: Celestine Ekpenyong, Ansah Hussain, Lorraine Tapper, Brian Jones, Stephanie Mugo, Nnenna Anyanwu, Nicola Millington, Ian Chambers
- Council/community: Jimmy Maravala, Liz Gardner, Tahir Mahmud,
- Host – Jane Leighton (Enterprise Desk) Facilitator – Ros Southern (Sophia Hubs) Speaker – Aidan Ward (Sophia Hubs Director)
Keynote speech Aidan Ward
Aidan explained that he has been involved with alternative economies for the past 10 years and that these ideas are gradually becoming mainstream. He asked who knew about Basic incomes, and some in the room did. He explained it means everyone gets paid a base level income as a citizen’s right, and there have been trials in Finland and Holland around this principle.
What’s the connection between Basic incomes and the Local economy?
- Everyone’s equal
- Everyone has money
- The local economy can work
Today we are discussing what we can do if we haven’t got that system, what mechanisms we can use to keep a local economy working.
Aidan told of a café near Boston which wanted to be refurbished, but couldn’t borrow money from the bank, so as an alternative, sold sandwich futures, customer vouchers for future spend, to raise funds and so also locked in customers to regularly visit them once they were re-opened.
We need a sense of how the local economy works and what it’s based on. We get the impression it’s dependent on the National economy, on outside investment, such as Crossrail, this is what people talk about. But actually it also depends on whether people trade with each other, such as through Timebank.
What’s the difference between a City economy (especially third world) and an agricultural economy?
Agricultural economy – most have some self-sufficiency from own produce, then sharing surplus
City economy – people are amazingly inventive about finding ways to make themselves useful. A minimum wage is important to employers, but many are getting by in “grey” ways.
Redbridge is a diverse borough, and individuals have different things they can both contribute and need, because they are different types of peoples. High numbers of single mothers will have particular constraints and particular needs, for example.
First basis of local economy is diversity and inventiveness, which is really important. The New Economics Foundation has more information and study options on their web site around the local economy Online course about money systems and how they work
Next principle of local economy is about circulation. Which is people doing things for each other, it’s not about local turnover of money or GDP. Various mechanisms for this – Timebank, LETS, CES, economics taking place via tokens, hours, etc. Enables money in system to circulate.
Speed of circulation also important, if we all do more transactions, so say we do twice as much, we’d all be twice as well off. When people are more confident, as we hear in media, the velocity of circulation goes up. Conversely, when confidence is low everyone stops spending. Questionable where we are on that cycle now.
There are things people would like to do if they had money.
East African example-Wanted to increase circulation, in a market, all stock was valued and each stall given a paper certificate proportionate to how much stock they had. The trading volumes went up 20%.
So what would people be doing in terms of trading if they had the money to do it?/ What would people be doing locally here if they had a 10% payrise?
You can introduce money into a situation and those trades will happen
For people not well off, most would be spent in transactions. Money in transactions can go from small business to small business to small business and do a lot of good. When this becomes a critical mass will benefit everybody.
There are alternative mechanisms that do the same thing like the Time Bank, can help circulation and everyone can benefit. People have doubts, but they might have doubts about real money too.
Sophia Hubs Time Bank has about 100 members. Research shows there should be at least 200 for it to work really well. They need to reach a critical mass, and be local and trusted.
In severe recession, people need these more. Mechanisms that allow trade when no business around. Corporates and others suck money out of poorer areas, meaning relative deprivation there becomes more extreme. Meaning alternative mechanisms are needed.
Argentina example – Country went bust and the local government issued IOUs to their staff instead of money, and those notes circulated as money, and the economy did come back.
Greece – lots of bartering occurs.
Quantative Easing- should give money to people not banks, so it feeds straight into the local economy.
Group discussion: What would be happening here if there was plenty of money around?
Increased youth engagement…More social networking… Improved Nightlife… More variety… Improved local amenities…Better transport links… More job opportunities… More footfall in Ilford… Increased PRIDE in Ilford town; more of a sense of unity… More confidence in locality… More mobility… More sociability… Disposable income… Less time spent penny-pinching, more time leisure seeking-less stress… Wouldn’t need annual conversations about Council saving money… Full employment-less dependence on welfare system… More businesses… Improved environment/Greener Envir. Issues… Improved life chances for young people… Improved life chances for older people… Better healthcare… More opportunity for creativity… Take more risks/innovation… Create platforms for people to engage-bring people together… Sharing vs Competition… healthier economy and less state intervention…
And choose your group’s top priority..
Platforms for people to engage older people. 2. Use of empty spaces 3. Providing space for reducing stress, through exercise.
Aidan summarised the common link in these 3 priorities: waste in the economy.
- Older people not economically engaged at all
- Spaces-need to be more creative about underused ones
- Stress-reduces people’s lifespan and quality of life,
- We’ve not considered mechanisms and ways to de-financialise things.
- Next stage-Platform question – about having ways of trading, finding resources
Second group discussion: How can what Redbridge needs (and your top priorities) be obtained by alternative economies? E.g. sharing building space…getting services on Timebanks…loaning out or sharing equipment..new partnerships/collaborations to share resources/services/expertise..use of empty spaces….volunteers
Group 1 Subject: ‘Older People’
Redefining ‘Older People’ /Pensioners… Awareness… Local business giving opportunities… Wisdom, experience, energy, time… Interaction- ‘Social Media ‘ ,engagement, prevent social isolation… Mentoring & coaching… Mental & Physical health… Forums/groups
Group 2 Subject: Using Empty Spaces – Re-Energise
- What? Enterprise… Housing… Community café… Time Bank… Community Projects… Working space/Hub etc…
- Why? Rates/Rent free or low… Reduce waiting list… Individual’s skills and confidence boosted… Boosts immediate local economy… Efficient use of space…
- Benefits for Landlord (Council) .. Look after space … Security… Attracts buyers… Stops squatting… Costs nothing …
- Benefits for community: Brings people in… Brings money in… More local engagement…Boosts economy… Costs nothing… Enriches-more is done/awareness
- Needs : –to understand …Uses… End of Lease… Protect Spaces… Responsibilities… Tell People about it …Connectors between parties
Why? Rates/Rent free or low… Reduce waiting list… Individual’s skills and confidence boosted… Boosts immediate local economy… Efficient use of space…
Group 3 Subject: Reducing Stress
Mixing Isolated opportunities + spaces to do unusual things… Finding the things that look at reducing stress + implement… Less Mental health issues/better physical health… Community resilience… More opportunities for businesses to start up… More confidence… More jobs… More projects enrich the community… Better senses of community… Togetherness… Not isolated
Evaluation/ next steps
Jane Leighton said there will be other White Papers, possibly every 3 months.
The consensus was to expand on today’s topic rather than start a new one… should not just be a talking shop,/people should be involved to take things forward… need to work together and develop actions that are realistic… needs a lead organisation (Sophia Hubs happy to play this role).. want to feed in to Fairness Commissions economic resilience strategy and better engage community and financial hubs (Jimmy Maravala)… Set up single entity who businesses will listen to, supported by Council… consider a platform for businesses/community to gauge and develop interest/registration of individuals/develop space/schedules to operate from/online portal for local businesses/forums… identify empty spaces that could be used..
What’s been valuable about this session?
Ideas… Different People… The Energy… The space used… Learn what’s happening… Potential… Achievable… People with focus and energy… Ideas and Possibilities… We achieved a lot on just an hour or two… Telling my network… Meeting people for community benefit… About local area
Jane Leighton/Ros Southern (thanks to Cathy Norman)