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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.

Oxford Fossil Free Future march6. Divest from fossil fuels
Perhaps the most challenging systems change we face is weaning ourselves off fossil fuels. The fossil fuel divestment movement is growing, calling for organisations, institutions and individuals to end their financial support for the industry. Divestment means avoiding direct ownership of stocks and share in fossil fuel companies or commingled funds that include such shares. The second global divestment day recently took place. Go Fossil Free provides toolkits to help individuals and institutions rid themselves of any involvement in fossil fuel investments.

7. Buy a stake in local renewable energy
The infrastructure bill currently making its way through the House of Commons will give communities the right to buy a stake in a local renewable energy generation facility. As the government will have the power to decide the ownership of facility operators, it could take a leaf out of Scotland’s book and increase the spread of community energy projects in order to promote local involvement in the design of projects and increase local employment.

8. Bank Better
A new partnership, Bank on Your People, has been created to help change the culture of the banking system. It’s about building employee wellbeing and engagement and customer satisfaction into the bottom line, challenging the mindset that led to the economic crash and subsequent bailout. With the TSB Bank taking inspiration from the John Lewis model, and giving staff (now called ‘TSP Partners’) £100 worth of company shares and the banking reform act making reckless misconduct a criminal act there are hopeful signs. But, like all self-perpetuating systems, banking has a long tradition of doing just enough to silence its critics while barely denting the status quo.

9. Join or set up a food buying club
The underground urban mushroom farm in Bath grows oyster mushrooms in unused vaults beneath the city and sells them at the local market or delivers them by bike or tricycle to local shops and restaurants. To complete the virtuous circle, 30% of profits go to a charity supporting local food, equality and education. Building on the concept of the Seikatsu movement in Japan, Sustain has developed a food cooperative toolkit to help people access local, affordable, healthy food by combining their purchasing power in order to get cheaper produce from farmers and wholesalers.

10. Adopt Fairshares principles
The last three or four decades have been characterised by low wages and poor job security for the majority and obscene rewards for those at the top. Underlying this is the view that employees are a cost, and for businesses to thrive costs have to be minimised. The Fairshares model challenges this approach – the very basis of the capitalist economy – by pointing out that labour and users are just as important to a business as investors and founders and should be rewarded as such through joint ownership and control and a fair share of the wealth they help create. The model has caught the eye of Doncaster councillor Kevin Rodgers who has argued in favour of a public strand of the model to use public assets to empower communities.

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