Finding community-led solutions and building resilience into the mainstream economy
Good City Economies: Bristol
‘The things you view as part of the social fabric are going to stop and the only option is to look at alternatives.’
Bristol is famous for doing things differently and its local currency, strong sense of ethics and powerful community action set it apart from the UK’s other core cities. But is its image as an ‘alternative’ economy exacerbating the city’s inequality?
I can’t think of many places where there is such a vibrant community of people doing so much to explore and bring to life a new economy based on wellbeing not wealth, community not competition.
Gentrification more often is driven by and is an expression of the relative powerless of some in the face of the power of others, the further exclusion of the economically marginalised from economic opportunity, and underpins growing racial and class segregation.
The background inequalities in the city, the capture by the centre of the narrative of Bristol, the priorities of elites within the city and within its social movements all play into our understanding of what change is taking place, what change is possible, and what ‘socially constructed silences’ are at work.
Where Mason is right is that the energy now going in to building local institutions, which can deal with small scale enterprise, is a potentially transformative phenomenon, and Bristol has become the epicentre of this small-scale revolution.
Now more than ever, as resources dry up from the centre and the dark clouds of austerity gather over our most impoverished communities, the VCSE have a vital role to play in supporting and promoting these individual hyper-local community led activities.
George Ferguson is Bristol’s first independent mayor and is proud of doing things differently. He talks to New Start about good local economic development, getting the city cycling, and turning Bristol into an urban laboratory.
More community action take place in Bristol than perhaps anywhere in the UK. Bristolians speak of a sense of agency that allows them to make things happen. From night walks led by teenagers to a community zone on a 1970s roundabout, here’s ten of the city’s best ideas for change: