“When we focus on wellbeing, we start a conversation that provokes profound and fundamental questions – what really matters to us in our lives. What do we value in the communities that we live in, what kind of country, what kind of society do we really want to be…..?” Nicola Sturgeon speaking at TED Global, July 2019
What role can communities play in enabling everyone to thrive in a flourishing environment? This short article is an attempt to define the key infrastructure that needs to be in place and the resources that communities need in order to really unleash action for transformational change -to build local wellbeing economies, from the bottom up.
In the aftermath of Covid, we have a real opportunity to join up a raft of policy agendas and reimagine a society that places wellbeing at its heart. Tackling inequality and disadvantage of all kinds can be achieved hand in hand with the creation of resilient, zero-carbon communities that nurture the formal and informal associations of local people , where nature flourishes, and where people live, work and play in ways that respect the wellbeing of all people and the whole planet.
This transition should be based on 5 key principles1:
1. Dignity: Everyone has enough to live in comfort, safety and happiness
2. Nature: A restored and safe natural world for all life
3. Connection: A sense of belonging and institutions that serve the common good
4. Fairness: Justice in all its dimensions at the heart of economic systems, and the gap between the richest and poorest greatly reduced
5. Participation: Citizens are actively engaged in their communities and locally rooted economies
A sense of belonging, as part of a vibrant community is vital for our individual wellbeing. Re-localisation of our economy provides huge opportunities to achieve multiple goals and to provide numerous, meaningful and creative livelihoods.
Back in 2014, Scottish Community Climate Action Network members distilled a vision of a re-localised future which is equally valid today. Seven years on, there are many examples of how elements of this vision are being realised in different communities across Scotland. We now have a better understanding of what basic infrastructure each community needs in order for these wellbeing economies to emerge. We don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel but we do need to remove barriers to local action, ensure that communities have access to the resources that they need and are able to tap into local knowledge and collective intelligence to develop the detail of, and implement, local solutions appropriate for their particular context.
What do communities need to take action?
Community organising: The time of experienced and skilled development staff to engage and link across communities, make key connections within communities and to outside bodies and to catalyse the change process.
Local Energy Economies: Trusted, knowledgeable, energy advisors to provide detailed, tailored advice on sensitive but deep retrofitting of homes to drastically reduce energy demand. Trusted, skilled tradespeople/enterprises able to implement home retrofit measures. Finance for home retrofitting. Technical support and training for community participation in smart, local, renewable energy projects and networks. Access to land for renewable energy generation and storage.
Local Food Economies: Access to land. Workspace for local food processing and distribution. Retail space. Technical support and training. Closed loop waste composting.
Local Circular and Sharing Economies: Flexible, affordable workshop and other workspaces incl. for tool libraries, repair cafes, reuse and upcycling hubs, cosmo-local manufacture, co-working hubs etc. Car and e-bike share schemes.
Local Democracy: Skills in facilitating deliberative, participatory processes (incl. budgeting) and spaces for deliberating on local issues and concerns and bringing together diverse perspectives and viewpoints in creative ways. Powers over local spatial planning, incl. allocation of land for community-led housing (self-build, co-housing, eco-villages, housing co-ops etc), community gardens and active travel infrastructure.
Local Finance: Access to a fair share of tax revenue. Local financial structures for retaining and mobilising local financial resources/wealth. eg Community Bonds, Community Shares, locally focused loan & start up funds, Crowdfunding etc
Local Enterprise: Accessible and locally appropriate support focussed on planning and development of social and community enterprise and community wealth building. Access to affordable, flexible workspaces and land.
Local Skills Training: Access to practical, ‘green’ skills training and skills sharing opportunities, locally and across other communities.
Local Spaces/one-stop shops: Spaces to use eg. for Climate Cafes, discussion groups and meetings and as one-stop information/advice shops
Local Community Anchor Organisation2: Can provide a key support structure to enable and nurture much of the above as well as providing a key link into wider support networks, intermediary organisations and the public sector.
Support Networks3: Strong links to properly resourced regional and national networks for mutual support and inspiration, access to relevant experience and knowledge and technical expertise.
Philip Revell, December 2021
Please do get in touch with any thoughts or comments on the above. What is not quite right? What is missing?
- There is a huge range of expertise held across the 23 networks that comprise the Scottish Community Alliance. Between them, they hold many of the pieces of the puzzle required for enabling local wellbeing economies to emerge.