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just another brick in the wall (street)

As that giant pyramid scheme, AKA 'the economy', starts to collapse we can all step up our awareness of how money/economics works. If, like me, you've always found even the word, 'economics' an absolute turn off, something only bean counters and men in grey suits would be interested in, look again. As Caroline Jackson argued in her excellent blog yesterday, we have to wake up.  On this occasion, we do need some education.

BEYOND “US AND THEM”?
It may be that we simply have a sense that banks and big businesses are the “baddies” because they have no real accountability to or connection with the real world, just an obligation to make money for their shareholders. Some will secretly feel thrilled that these huge impersonal organisations will surely collapse. Others believe they will do whatever it takes, whatever it takes, to stay in the game. But those organisations, they're just a collection of people, mostly workers. They are part of the system that also gives us schools, hospitals and buses. I wonder how much longer we'll be able to take our infrastructure, the machinery we depend on, for granted. Nobody knows what will happen, but there's a high probability that along with climate change and rapidly depleting resources, we are going to have to deal with a totally screwed economy. That's why we need to invest our thinking, time and money right now into working out how we can contribute to a resilient alternative economics.

However, there's plenty to get distracted by.

ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø DENIAL ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø
Just watch TV, switch on the radio and listen to something like Moneybox and you can hear a stream of experts who will sooth you with consumer advice.

ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø ANGER ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø
A conversation with yourself or someone else that goes something like this “Look at everyone getting onto the tube before the sun rises, spending the day in an office and coming home in the dark. They don't even need to open their curtains. That's not living! People are just wasting their time earning enough money to pay off their mortgage so that someone else can get richer. Then on the weekend they use all their time up spending money so they can be happy but no one's really happy, depression's on the rise etc. etc.” We've all had that conversation, I'm sure.

ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø BARGAINING ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø
Take a look at this advert for Heathrow. As far as they're concerned, the whole of planet earth is up for grabs. Never mind the economic slump, we can see these little challenges are opportunities in disguise. As Joe puts it Heathrow is “the biggest single-site employer in the UK”. Maybe we should stimulate the economy by putting our faith back in big business? Or when confronted with a new Tesco, maybe we should be “trying to positively influence the tesco development, with new and innovative ideas about how tescos could help and work with the local green movements for the benefit of all locals” (Craig feeding back to Ann Owen's recent post.)

ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø DEPRESSION ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø
Wallow in feeling powerless because the problem is too big. Pink Floyd's “Welcome to the Machine”

Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.
What did you dream?
It's alright we told you what to dream.
You dreamed of a big star,
He played a mean guitar,
He always ate in the Steak Bar.
He loved to drive in his Jaguar.
So welcome to the Machine.

ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø ACCEPTANCE ø¤º°`°º¤ø,¸¸,ø¤º°`°º¤ø
Get economics savvy by watching Chris Martenson's excellent Crash Course.

Then take some transition action.

In Finsbury Park we've tried to get an economics group going. We've done visioning, open space etc. but it hasn't happened yet. The ideas we generated along the way were:

  • promoting local businesses and organisations, e.g. local directory, shop local scheme like Wedge or
  • promote ethical businesses
  • promote alternative trading mechanisms, e.g. Timebanking, North London LETS, Castle Quids currency 
  • establish alternative money lending option and promote ethical banking, e.g. Credit Unions, Shared Interest Foundation, Triodos, Co-op http://www.credit-union.coop/
  • research economics in N4
  • establish new social enterprises, e.g. plant nursery, people's supermarket, local pub

In addition we've been part of the Transition Network's REconomy project. This has led to me going on some fantastic training with NEF and I will support any kind of local economics group if it happens. For the time being, my focus is on our one social enterprise, Edible Landscapes London, the plant nursery that I blogged about recently. This project has enormous potential as a food hub and needs lots of input right now. Here's a bit more about setting up social enterprises.

First thing to say: it's not for the faint hearted! Determination and persistence are the most important qualities you'll need because there's quite a lot of things you have to do right at the start, before it gets easier. Edible Landscapes London was set up as a company limited by guarantee because that was the cheapest and simplest legal form for us to take on. Our articles of association establish us as not for profit and as acting for the benefit of the local community and wider environment. Anyone can be a member and there are five directors who have additional responsibilities. At present we are all volunteers but I am applying for funding for a couple of part time posts. We have recently decided to adopt the consensus decision making process for use at our quarterly meetings. We pay for our rent by maintaining parts of the site, making signs and providing some of the tea, coffee and sugar. More info.

Here are our start up tips:

  • give yourself plenty of time to experiment, reflect and then experiment some more on what it is you actually want to do. This is especially important if you're going to apply for a large funding pot. It will also help you understand the work involved, how many people you'll need, what you're good at and what skills or knowledge you're lacking.
  • if you are applying for grant funding, work out how you can become financially self-supporting because grant funding won't last. Once you have a really clear idea of your project's goals, you can start writing a business plan.
  • it's really worth visiting and talking to similar projects to see what problems you could face and what works well.
  • do spend time talking to lots of potential partnership organisations, customers and project users – a survey works well.
  • don't forget to add your project to the http://www.transitionnetwork.org/projects/map
  • choose your project name carefully, bearing in mind the availability of website domain names (uk.reg.com or domai.nr), whether your name will fit on a cheque and what your acronym will be. We were originally Finsbury Park Community Tree Nursery - FPCTN doesn't exactly roll off the tongue!
  • if you're establishing a web presence, Facebook and Tumblr are quick ways to get started. They're good at allowing people to add content to a streaming discussion, but won't allow you to have project pages or organise your site's content. I'd recommend Drupal (the free, open source, content management system which won't have any adverts) but you'll need an IT savvy friend to install it for you. You can always embed Facebook, Tumblr or Flickr feeds into the pages of your Drupal website later on. We also have a Google discussion group.
  • for a quick logo, go to dafont.com and have a play.

I'm sure I've missed out plenty of other important points, (like how you'll need excellent people to work with) but it feels like this has gone on long enough. Last word goes to Pink Floyd, 'Eclipse':

Video link

Comments

Ann Owen's picture

DIY Economics

Thanks Jo,

That's some really good information, I'm sure it'll come in handy before long! Can't wait 'till I'm in London next.

Shaun Chamberlin's picture

Thanks Jo - in TT Kingston we

Thanks Jo - in TT Kingston we don't have an economics group either, but we do have a business group who are just preparing to launch their online green business directory:
http://e-voice.org.uk/kingstongreendirectory/

Jo Homan's picture

Green Directory

This is fantastic. Looks really good.  Is it a stand alone website or under the Transition one? What's the website built on? (Sorry for all these questions :-)) I wonder if there's a limit to the number of businesses you could fit comfortably on any one page? Maybe they could be rated (in a very transparent way) and then sorted in the list according to their rank. I guess the postcodes could be used to generate a map.

Speaking of maps, I saw an excellent Green Tourist Map in Canada. We entered Canada and asked at the border control tourist information about botanical gardens near Toronto. We were given a map that showed public transport, green walking routes, vegetarian restaurants and even community gardens. It was excellent quality, hugely informative and I was very impressed that Canada had that level of co-ordination. Here's a bit of it - http://twitpic.com/63gomp

Shaun Chamberlin's picture

Afraid I'm not really the

Afraid I'm not really the person to answer your questions or take your suggestions, as I haven't been directly involved with the directory.  You could either ask your questions on our Facebook group or just submit a question through the contact form on the e-directory site.

That Toronto map is brilliant!  And btw, forgot to mention how much I loved the Star Wars 99% pic above!