Ten ideas for creating systemic change

communitylandtrustChanging systems isn’t easy but it starts with small steps. Here’s ten ways in which you can help create change in a community near you now:

1. Develop person-centred integrated approaches
Taking care of ourselves, looking out for one another and using coordinated public services to fill the gaps is the essence of co-production. In Enschede in the Netherlands, the Social GP Programme (also called the Neighbourhood Coach Project) trains local people, working on behalf of about 25 different services, to inform and support people with a range of needs e.g. health, housing, income, education and employment, in order to help them to improve their life chances. The Black Pastors network in Wandsworth has trained local pastors to help detect early signs of mental health issues among their congregation. Co-production is not simply an excuse to cut costs but a way to bring greater diversity into systems of care.

2. Support small finance rather than big
An increasing number of community finance initiatives are springing up to weaken the grip of payday and doorstep lenders. In Sheffield, the city council has backed a new industrial and provident society called Sheffield Money to increase access to ethical, affordable credit for those on low incomes, while in Glasgow Scotcash provides affordable credit and financial support and guidance. Sheffield Money was one of the outcomes from the city’s Fairness Commission, set up to find ways to make Sheffield the fairest city in the land. The Our Fair City website allows anyone to make a pledge to do something to promote greater fairness.

3. Join the debate about a Citizen’s Income
The welfare system isn’t working and for many, a citizen’s income is the answer. Later this year the Swiss will vote on whether to introduce a citizen’s income into the country. The debate has been similar to that in the UK with some calling it a layabout’s charter and fearing that citizen’s income tourists will storm the borders to get their hands on the non-means tested, universal payment, conditional only on being or becoming a citizen. It’s payable to children as well as adults, with pensioners getting a higher rate. In the UK, it would replace most means tested benefits but doesn’t replace housing or disability benefits. Its supporters, including the Green Party, argue it would save on administration, cut benefit fraud to nothing and cost no more than the present system. Moreover, they believe it would incentivise work as people would keep the income even if they got a few hours’ work.

4. Move beyond money
If you’re creative enough, money isn’t everything. The Community Hive in Blackburn-with-Darwen has decided to match small businesses with skilled volunteers. Volunteers help with things like marketing and social media to get local businesses going. Once the businesses are up and running they return the favour by making a donation, offering training to an unemployed person or helping other SMEs get started. Where cashlessness isn’t an option, an increasing number of organisations, including Hackney CVS, in east London, are using crowdfunding to support local initiatives. Navca, the national body for community and voluntary associations, says resource sharing, time banks, local exchange trading schemes, and much greater use of online resources are the future.

5. Become a Community Land Trust pioneer
The Community Land Trust Network is looking for organisations to showcase new approaches to affordable housing. Last year it launched a new urban movement in eight cities in England and Wales. Pioneers include West Kensington & Gibbs Green Community Homes which is using new legal rights to challenge plans by an international conglomerate to demolish more than 700 flats in west London, and the capital’s first community land trust being built in the former St Clement’s hospital (pictured above). The second phase of the Community Land Trust Network’s project, offering grants of £10k over two years, will be announced in the summer.

Ela Hunter

Ela Hunter is a freelance journalist

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