Women-Fix-It

11th May 2016 by

Working with the Otesha team to get a women’s bike maintenance project up and running has been the highlight of 2016 in my world: here’s the story:

wfiWomen-Fix-It came about whilst cycling across Portugal solo. I had the map reading down, chunky calves, panniers, and a sweet touring bike – what more can a woman ask for? Ah yeah… the knowledge that is needed to put your bike back together after it’s been in a box. Alex a good pal helped me to box it up for the flight over to Portugal. Yeah I’ll remember all this – easy…

I’m not saying that as I stand looking at my handle bars off at a peculiar angle, the brakes are rubbing on the wheel and I’m unnecessarily covered in grease. Frustrated, I begrudgingly head to the nearest bike shop, where 2 guys attempt to teach me bike basics in Portuguese. I felt pretty stupid with my ignorance, not to mention scared that I had to keep the steed in one piece for the next 3 months. I couldn’t but notice that it was always men serving me in bike shops, or I’d likely ask a male friend to help out with bike related stuff. Pedalling up and whizzing down the mountains of Portugal I was lucky to keep my bike in one piece – but I couldn’t get the thought out of my head as to why I didn’t know to fix her up.

The more I discussed this with other women who liked bikes, it became clear that I wasn’t on my own… reverberations of the same comment kept coming back to me: “I feel uncomfortable to ask stupid questions” “I always feel pretty silly when I go into bike shops” “I wish I knew more about bikes” “I’m just not very good at it”.

I felt happy that it wasn’t just me… but also sad that so many strong, independent women that I knew and loved had the same block as me. I wanted to learn with other women and to be taught by a non-judgemental woman who could share her knowledge. I searched around my local area in South London and struggled to find that space, but alas it was not there.

A friend put me in touch with Bikeworks – a fantastic social enterprise delivering community based cycling activities across London. They took me onto a course in Level 1 bike mechanics and I commenced a journey totally out of my comfort zone… loads of tools, jargon, and a good dose of testosterone. I was feeling the need for Women-fix-It in my life.

It seems fitting that this project is a collaboration with The Otesha Project UK, as it was this wonderful charity that has empowered hundreds of young people to cycle hundreds of miles and educate thousands of people in issues of environmental awareness, sustainability and social justice. As tour alumni, tour coordinator and workshop facilitator with Otesha, It felt like the right time to join forces to run Women-Fix-It. Winning a bid to Transport for London’s Cycling Grants, the project finally got legs.

Camberwell Subterranea offered us their garage workshop for us to run 3 week maintenance courses from Feb-June 2016. The project aims to work with women from diverse backgrounds, bringing together women from all over South London. It is important that it’s a safe and comfortable environment for all to enter into. We’ve run 3 courses so far, working with 27 women to teach them the basics – an m-check, parts of the bike and how they fit together, punctures, brakes and cleaning/ general maintenance.

wfi1The essence of the project is that we want women to go away with enough skills to keep their bike safely on the road. If it needs to go into a bike shop, then they might have a better idea of what’s going on. We want women to feel empowered to ask those “stupid” questions that we might not normally ask. Courses will continue until June and we’re running women’s social rides around South London this summer.

Fancy finding out more, or want to be involved?

Check for updates on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/womenfixit/

Positive Actions in Hackney

28th May 2015 by

Guest post from Rob Greenfield of Get Into Green Jobs 2015

On Friday 1st May as part of Otesha’s Get Into Green Jobs programme, Joe, Chris, Faithful and I completed our first action project with a local youth group run by gab.

Armed with an inflatable die, numerous wild flower seeds, and bucket loads of enthusiasm, we embarked on the short journey from Workshop 44 to Borougham Rd Community Hall.

Upon entering we were greeted by the lovely Darcy who helps run the weekly session along with Sian and Cecilia. Once all the kids had arrived the first order of service was to establish names via the infamous name circle. We then handed it over to Joe to explain why it was that these four young adults had randomly shown up to their play session.

The Activities:

We began with our first activity, the imaginatively named animal game. As everyone walked in between space, the Green Jobs team took it in turns to read out a story that involved travelling through an unknown habitat where you would suddenly stumble upon an animal. When the animal was revealed everyone had to make its shape and then a winner was chosen. The room soon resembled some sort of Hackney City Zoo as monkeys, starfish and sharks were all discovered.

The next activity involved taking the kids outside to the garden. Screaming, exploring and seesaw-throwing ensued, but seeing how they reacted to going outdoors brought home how important it is for kids to have access to that environment to play in, especially those who grow up in big cities. After we managed to gather them back into a group, we explained how we were going to play the Green Man game. Once again Joe did a great job outlining how the activity was going to unfold.

In the middle there was a river with a bridge going over it, on it stood the Green Man who would only let you pass if your behaviour was environmentally sound. For example, reusing plastic carrier bags, switching the lights off when you leave the house, or turning off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth. If you failed to do these things, you would have to try and pass the Green Man after everyone else, without being caught. If he did catch you, you would then become part of his Green Gang. By nominating himself to be the Green Man, Joe had the impossible task of trying to stop the first wave of environmental wrongdoers from crossing his cherished river. Underestimating Joe’s hawk-like prowess proved costly as I was first to be caught. As the game progressed our Green Gang got bigger and bigger until it became impossible for anyone to cross without being grabbed. Congrats to Faithful on making it to the end, although there’s rumours’ flying at Otesha saying that she may have lied on some of her answers.

The two games had taken us nicely onto the kids’ free time – the part of the session they’re encouraged to go outdoors and play. At this point we set up two optional activities. Joe and Chris hosted a seed bomb making session whilst Faithful and I played a giant eco-snakes and ladders game. To make seed bombs we had to acquire wild flower seeds, compost, flour to bind it all together, and some newspaper to take it home in. The idea is that the kids make the bombs themselves, take them home and throw it in their garden or nearest green space, spreading the wild flowers. Although I wasn’t part of the seed bomb making process, I witnessed the gleaming smiles of the kids as they ran into the hall covered in flour and soil.

Wildflower Seed Bombs

Wildflower Seed Bombs

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Equally as happy were the children who had chosen to play eco-snakes and ladders. The kids took it in turns to roll the giant inflatable dice onto the mat, using their feet as counters. They would go up a ladder if they landed on a square with an environmental good deed, such as having a shower instead of a bath. The snakes represented actions that harm the planet, such as using a washing machine to only clean one t-shirt. As always the kids were determined to win and this competitiveness meant they were engaged for the duration of the game.

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Enviromental Snakes and Ladders in action!

The session ended with another shape game although this time the kids were in groups and had to form not-so-sustainable transport like cars and planes. But by then our mission of making sure the kids have fun, whilst learning a bit about how they can have a positive impact on the planet, had already been achieved!

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A human skateboard -awesome!

It was a really enjoyable experience and hopefully marks the start of a new relationship between gab and Otesha.

THANK YOUs

Thanks to Joe, Faithful and Chris for helping organise it all and smashing it on the day.

Big shout out to Otesha for all the advice and tools they provided via the Green Jobs programme, and especially to Annie for helping us get the project off the ground and turn all our ideas into actions.

Also thanks to the kids that attended for being so energetic, engaged, and switched on with environmental issues. It made our job a lot easier.

Finally, a massive thanks to the gab team for letting us run the session. Without their guidance and supervision the activities could’ve resulted in the destruction of the local environment, the exact opposite of what we wanted to achieve.

 

Single Mother Walking the Talk – Fashion

10th November 2014 by

This weekend, I watched a show called Extreme Cheapskates, for the first time, which led me to SuperScrimpers – and, do you know what I learnt?

I learnt that being conscious of our environment and saving money goes hand-in-hand. HURRAH! Now, this might already be incredibly obvious to you but as one of the newer members of the Otesha team, this was a revelation!

I always assumed that buying organic seasonal food was more expensive than shopping in a supermarket, that wearing vintage was only for trendsetters with money to burn and keeping my two children amused appropriately every weekend and school holiday was neigh on impossible without spending loads of money.

Absolutely great news for a single mother learning to walk the talk!

So walk beside me as I learn and change my family’s life, one step at a time.

My first subject (and huge passion): Fashion.

 

Shopping in your friend’s closets.

I’m massively lucky because my closest friends are all relatively the same size as me. When they are clearing their closets I make sure I’m sitting in the front row! I even offer to take their old stuff to the charity shop as a thank you – check me out!

When I have a special event such as a birthday meal or party, I beg and borrow clothes, bags, jewellery and shoes – that way my wardrobe has an amazing ‘rotation’ of dresses that never seem to be worn twice! Happy days.

 

Charity shops.

I love looking through the rails of a good charity shop. The sales assistants are always so friendly, you can always find amazing vintage and retro and as we all know, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure! And it’s cheap and cheerful and the money goes to a great cause!

Great for good quality bags, amazing chunky knit jumpers and vintage scarves.

 

Carboot sales.

Amazing for buying AND selling! A great day out for you and the family and you can haggle – super fun! I would recommend Capital Carboot in Pimlico on a Sunday.

A couple of weeks ago I got a pair of purple thigh high suede boots for a FIVER. Hardly worn, high quality and probably about £100 first hand in the shops. Not everyone’s cup of tea, sure – but hella 1970’s and beautiful for me!

 

Until next time!

Love, luck and light.

Anna

Greenwash Monsters?

16th January 2014 by

I’m not quite sure why the title got ‘monsters’ in it – it was the first thing that popped into my head, and it stuck. Monsters aside, I read some things about supermarket waste practices today and I thought I’d share some thoughts…

So what’s been happening? One recent announcement is that Co-op supermarket are replacing their plastic carrier bags with compostable ones. Well, that’s a great start for reducing plastic in landfills – but only if you don’t look at what goes inside the shiny new compostable carrier bag. I very rarely go into supermarkets – I’m opposed to them for a variety of ethical reasons (this is not the place to get into a debate about all things supermarket related – you can have a look at www.tescopoly.org for more info). Anyway, one of the problems with supermarkets is that they end up with a monopoly and sometimes there are no alternatives. Recently I was in a small town, needing food and there was nothing else available. I tried to buy vegetables, but everything was plastered in plastic – the only loose vegetables I saw were some anemic-looking out-of-season tomatoes – tasty! A lot of the plastic was the thin sort which most councils don’t recycle either. This is only the waste that we see and deal with as customers. How much is hidden by press-releases about small changes? Some tiny percentage of supermarket waste is now compostable – but how much is this worth, when a far higher volume of waste inside the carrier bag still gets sent to landfill/sea/other countries?

A number of other UK supermarkets have apparently made a partnership with Coca-Cola encouraging customers to pledge to recycle. The argument here is sort of the same, brands and supermarkets shift responsibility to you, the consumer, instead of looking at how they package items and taking responsibility. Apparently last year 37,000 people spun this wheel and pledged to recycle. 37,000 more people recycling may be a good thing – but I’ve got some questions.

First, why would anyone want to spin a wheel on a website to see which material they should pledge to recycle? Maybe I’m missing something, but I think there are more fun things to do. I’ve spun it three times now, and it’s not getting more interesting. Wheel-spinning hasn’t cropped up in much I’ve read about behaviour change either.

Second, if you make a pledge, you get yourself some free Coca-Cola merch in the form of a fridge magnet. What’s the idea? You go to the fridge, think “oh Coca-Cola is so delicious”, and then “I don’t even need to recycle the bottle once I’m done because I only pledged to recycle metal…”

Third, why does it only encourage you to recycle one set of materials, when a lot of councils collect them all together?

Fourth, there’s a link to find out more about how they recycle, but it doesn’t work. (That was even less of a question than the other points – I’d better hope Gove isn’t reading this!)

Fifth, what do I do with all the things I’ve bought I can’t recycle? Why is there so much packaging in the first place and why are you making it my fault? If supermarkets and other companies didn’t put so much packaging on everything, it wouldn’t be there to go to landfill, recycle, repurpose, or for me to complain about!

And finally, my question to all of you. Is it good, or is it greenwash? Are these businesses making real change, or are they hiding unsustainable business practice behind the celebration of minor changes and shifting responsibility to the consumer?

If you think shops should stop creating waste, perhaps you could take your custom elsewhere (if you’re still fortunate enough to have that option), or go and tell them what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Eco’ Status Quo? Why We’re Growing Our Own Food

31st October 2013 by

Our friends over at Ashoka have been supporting social entrepreneurs’ solutions to the toughest social and environmental challenges for the past 30 years.  Here, they share a series of some of their relevant learnings and top stories for our Otesha readership – the first installment is by guest blogger Julia Koskella. Enjoy!

 

The past few years have seen a massive increase in demand for locally-sourced food in countries around the world. Fed by well-rooted concerns that processed food transported globally and treated chemically is not best for the planet or people, consumers are driving a new localism in supply chains.

Most consumption decisions are made by individuals at the supermarket shelves. But behind this change in consumer habits is a global league of leading social entrepreneurs, innovating, creating new markets, and understanding the key drivers of human behaviour.

Michael Kelly says “Grow It Yourself”

GIY 3 - Otesha photoThe latest trend to hit the local food movement is to go straight to the source and grow your own.  Increasingly consumers are asking themselves where their food comes from and how they can be sure it is safe and healthy.  Five years ago, this prompted a real “aha” moment for Michael Kelly, Founder of Grow It Yourself (GIY) and now an Ashoka Fellow. Picking up a clove of garlic in Ireland, Kelly was bowled over to see a “fresh from China” sticker on as small and cheap an item as garlic – a product which grows naturally and abundantly in Ireland.

Digging deeper, Kelly found Ireland imports no less than €4 billion per year of produce, which could be grown locally, despite being a net exporter of food and drink. His solution was to plant garlic himself and convince thousands of others to grow some of their own food too.  Through GIY, Michael aims to make it easy and sociable for anybody to start growing food for the first time. He has created a GIY network with dozens of locally-run chapters and events and an online platform to share tips and resources.  

Five years on, the GIY network connects more than 50,000 people and 800 food-growing groups. In Ireland, GIY is not just a network but a new cultural movement cutting across age and class divides. Michael is now ready to take on other global markets. Last July saw GIY formally launch internationally, with Michael leading a day-long UK event mobilising food enthusiasts, community groups, and growing experts from across the country.

Key drivers behind the ‘Grow It Yourself’ movement

Four key insights have allowed social entrepreneurs like Michael to have real impact on human behaviour and food consumption patterns.

1. Sustainability just got personal:

Localism is having great impact on the environment, cutting down food miles and chemicals from agribusiness. But social entrepreneurs like Michael know you must tap into a range of personal motivations and interests to create a successful mass movement. In the case of GIY, foodies know that locally-grown food is more tasty and cost effective. Cutting out the commute means your food will be on your plate fresher and faster, without losing vitamins B, C, and E.  If that’s not enough motivation to get you growing, then experiencing the simple pleasures of being active outdoors might: gardening is regular exercise and a dose of sunshine. And any food grower will tell you about the glowing pride they feel at watching their crops sprout, fruit, and harvest. So whatever market you’re in, make sure to appeal to people with a range of interests.

2. Cultivate food empathy:

The first-hand experience of growing food, even if it’s just a few basil pots on your windowsill, leads to a wider mind-shift change that Michael calls “food empathy.” Growing your own cultivates a deeper understanding of the value of food, the time and effort invested, and even awareness of the seasonality of food crops. GIY impact studies have found people who grow their own food start making more sustainable and healthy food consumption decisions throughout the week, not just when they’re picking a home-grown carrot.

3. Collaborate to innovate:

When you’re in the business of changing behaviour, social entrepreneurs understand they must collaborate, not compete, to affect change. For GIY’s launch in the UK, Michael received the collaboration and support of Ashoka Fellow Rob Hopkins, co-founder of Transition Towns.  Many local Transition Town groups are also linked to the Slow Foods movement originally created by Carlo Petrini in Italy.  Petrini, originally elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2008, works through 1,300 local chapters worldwide to promote the greater enjoyment of food through a better understanding of its taste, quality, and production – again linking to the concept of food empathy.

4. Social networks on the ground, not the cloud:

Behind all of the leading local food initiatives is the act of bringing people together regularly on the ground.  Changing your behaviour away from the status quo – whether by putting up solar panels, biking to work, or growing lettuce on your windowsill – takes time, energy, and often money. To counterbalance these costs and shift behaviours on a large scale, social entrepreneurs know the power of bringing people together in a supportive community.

 

Social entrepreneurs are creating online communities that are just as smart, and often more vibrant, than their GIY 2 - Otesha photocorporate counterparts. But crucially, the Grow It Yourself movement is also bringing social ties back to basics at the local level, meeting a deep human need that can’t be satisfied on Twitter – especially when the sun comes out.  People are coming together in community gardens, local garden allotments, or starting their own “GIY Groups” – a structure Michael created so that any member of the public can facilitate new and deep conversations focused on lifestyle, food, and the joys and frustrations of food growing.

If you or a local group are already involved in food-growing, make sure to sign up to the GIY network and strengthen the movement world-wide. If you’d like to try growing even a small amount of food for the first time, or even set up a local GIY group, then check out the website for full, free tips and support. Happy GIY-ing!

 

This is part of a series of articles on Ashoka’s network of social entrepreneurs transforming environmental systems, originally posted on Forbes.com.  Ashoka is building a movement of leading social entrepreneurs innovating for sustainability. If you know of anyone whose work will truly change the system, please consider nominating them. Find them online, or follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

Phoning home

22nd October 2013 by

It was that time. To upgrade or not to upgrade. That was my predicament.  And I admit this with a heavy heart – I did it. I upgraded.  It’s a pressurised and tricky world out there.  Even before I was eligible for an upgrade, my phone provider was texting (badgering) me everyday telling me what I could ‘get’!  Enough I thought.  And then my existing phone would cut out on me again.  It seemed like a never-ending cycle.

Pausing to reflect on it now, the mobile phone and all its bells and whistles has definitely sucked me in. I knew this deep down, it’s something I grapple with.  A few years ago, I was all about using older non-smart mobile phones to make phone calls.  Remember those days of batteries lasting a week?  Or how about our very own challenge to readers to downgrade your phone?  In my opinion I haven’t fared well with the dilemma between the internet as a tool and how too much choice makes a simple life impossible most of the time.  (See part I and II of our Mobiles, Social Media and Mindbending Technology blogs).

I digress.

So having upgraded thereby locking me into another contract with an unnamed large corporate mobile provider, I’ve got myself a new phone, and a bit of guilt. I’m already hatching a plan to wait it out and switch as soon as I can.  Having searched for alternatives, I’m pleased to report that there are a few options out there.

Most intriguing is The People’s Operator, a seemingly independent mobile operator which directs 10% of what you spend to a cause of your choice – at no cost to you. They also make the commitment to share 25% of their profits to help make things better.

Having done a quick survey around the office, another alternative is Giff Gaff which was built around the single principle of mutuality and is run by its members (ie those who use their service).  Members get rewarded for running parts of the business like answering questions in the community, getting new members or helping spread the word.

Both of the above work with SIM only which assumes you already have a phone.

For those looking for a phone, an intriguing concept is the Fairphone.  The story behind it is to change the way phones are made.  The Fairphone team sell their smart phone based on identifying where every part and mineral comes from so the consumer is aware of where each piece comes from. The phone is currently being sold online at €325.00.  One comment from our team here was that perhaps they could consider also producing a non-smart phone for those who have downgraded their technical lifestyle but we haven’t quite written to them about this yet.

Which leads me into the Apple debate and the constant hype of when the next phone is coming out.  I found this article “Apple offers 21st Century technology – with 19th Century ethics” entertaining.  Needless to say, although I’m a smart phone user I haven’t been sucked into the void just quite yet.

And finally, in my research I was very pleased to see that Friends of the Earth have a Make It Better Campaign all about improving the way our products are made.  They’re calling for tough new rules to make companies come clean about the full impact of their products – whether they are smartphones, chocolates or tea.

All in all, I wonder if the next time your phone breaks or your contract’s up, will you re-think the way you phone home?

We challenge you to make something out of that plastic bottle

29th August 2013 by

greenhouseWe generate about 228 million tonnes of waste every year in England alone.  It is in our opinion that every little bit counts.  So instead of tossing that plastic bottle into the recycling bin, ask yourself: can you create something else?

There are brilliant and crafty sites which have this idea in mind. Check them out below.

And take inspiration from Columbia, who have the incredibly large amount of 15,000,000 plastic bottles dumped every day! The Centre for Science and Environmental Awareness tries to tackle the problem here.

 

Don’t forget to contact us and tell us what you’ve been creating with your bottles.

Eco Furniture for the Future

6th August 2013 by

picLast year we met a very inspiring Tristan Titeux and spoke to him about his Where’s Milo project.  Nowadays he’s busy  working on what he calls, the most important thing he’s ever done.  He’s finished his book titled “Furniture for the Future”. The book is about using sustainable eco-friendly materials to build great furniture, but it is also a book about much more than just furniture. It gives a real insight into our current way of living and just how you can make a difference to your health, to your home and to the planet, the health of the planet and our own health is totally linked.  It addresses many of the crucial questions and topics about our wonderful environment and our role in it.

It’s a comprehensive 175 page full colour hardback book that explains how one could use sustainable materials to make furniture. The book will hopefully inspire you to make more ethical choices, think about what you buy, how it affects you, your health and the world. It also explains how we could learn from older civilisations and what the real costs are of not caring for our environment.

Tristan has now launched his crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for printing and in particular, to print 500 copies with a hemp hard cover.  Check it out here and see for yourself.

Spring Fever

24th April 2013 by

Spring is upon us… finally!  You may vaguely recall that for the first day of spring, which was the 20th March, there wasn’t much hope in the air. These past few weeks however, have put a ‘spring’ in my step and a smile on my face as I get on my bike and ride.  So with that in mind, I’ll jot down a few spring tips to get into the groove.

Spring Tips:

1. Tuning up your bicycle
bike04You may think that the first thing to do when you read ‘tune up’ is to take your bicycle to the shop but wait – that might not be necessary at all. Here at Otesha, we’re big fans of doing it yourself or at least having a good go.  If you’ve been riding all winter long, the first place to start would be to give your bicycle a good clean.  It will do wonders!  Some of us have even been known to take our bikes apart and clean all the little bits as well.  It’s a joy having a gleaming chain.  Don’t knock it till you try it.

The next tip would be to make sure you take a good hard look at your tyres and your brakes. Make sure the tyres are at the proper pressure and test out your brakes.  You can do a search for tips online although I particularly enjoyed this article.

And if you want a hand, come along to our free Dr Bike sessions at our new home, Workshop 44, 44 Marlborough Avenue, E8 4JR. We’re here to help on Tuesdays 5-6pm.

2. Spring Cleaning
Some of us, and I do emphasise the word some, enjoy a little spring cleaning when the sun’s out.  That could include a wide variety of activities.  Generally though, I’m a big fan of de-cluttering my closet, and wiping down those barely seen corners of the room.

We’re a big fan of using our very own cleaning products.  Did you know that everything you need to disinfect and clean your home is probably already in your store cupboard? There is a silent genius lurking on the supermarket shelves.  Click here for some ideas and recipes to make your own.

In all the cleaning flurry, also consider our new and improved “3-Rs”:

  • Rethink: Do I need this?
  • Refuse: “No, I don’t need a bag (I brought my own).”
  • Restore: Try to fix things instead of just throwing them out. Or better yet, transform things into something else.  We’ve mastered the art of turning a tetrapak into a lovely wallet.
  • Reduce: Get library books instead of buying new ones, and buy vintage clothes instead of new gear. If you’re a woman, you can also reduce your waste by buying yourself a keeper, mooncup or luna pads.
  • Reuse: Scrap paper, lunch containers, etc.
  • Rrrr-Compost: It’s like reusing food.
  • Then, only when you’ve exhausted all the other options: Recycle!

3. Plant something
As “Otesha” is a Swahili word that means “to plant something and make it grow”, try your hand at plantingp-stmaryssecretgarden.jpg.270x270_q95_crop--50,-50_upscale something.  It can be something as small as a sunflower seed to growing your own veg.  For those with small spaces, I absolutely adore this inspiring site based in Newcastle Vertical Veg. And if you want further help, sign up to our Bimonthly Bemusings newsletter here.  May’s newsletter is coming out shortly and includes great links to our challenge to plant a seed.

4. Go through Otesha’s Fun Action List
It’s been a while since we’ve gone through our Fun Action List so try it out. There are great things to do in and around your house, some you may have forgotten about.  See how many you can tick off.

Have any more tips for us?  Drop us a comment below.

Happy Spring!

 

Hackonomics – who’s questioning cash?

18th December 2012 by

Our monthly challenge for December has already had some really interesting feedback, so thank you!  Inspired by our visits to Trade School, we asked you to let us know about what other projects out there are trying to hack the system by experimenting with ways to trade that don’t depend entirely – or in some cases at all – on money changing hands.

Your responses have taken us to some really interesting ideas.  Here are some of them:

Means of Exchange

I haven’t quite figured out quite what this is going to do, as they’re at the stage of having “some exciting plans”, but the idea appears to be to mobilise techies to make possible people’s ideas for how to exchange, promote local resource use and build resilience while avoiding the mainstream economy and its conventions – “we’ll build the tools so you can make it happen wherever you are,” they say.

In the meantime, it’s a good place to go if you want to explore some of the thinking being done around these ideas for challenging “our default relationship with money, how most of us understand so little about it, and how we might use new approaches to encourage a more healthy mix of time sharing, swapping, bartering and purchasing between one another”.

The Bristol (and Lewes, and Brixton, and Totnes…) Pound

This system does, in fact, depend on money, but it’s an entirely new kind of currency. Each Bristol (or Lewes, or Brixton, or Totnes…) Pound is worth one pound sterling, but because it is only valid in a very local area, it means that the money only circulates within the community.

Whereas a regular pound spent in the local supermarket will end up in the bank account of Tescbury’s corporate HQ, a local pound will stay in the area, helping to keep the exchange of goods and services flowing.  If it can only be spent locally, then it also means that local suppliers have an advantage over goods that might have been freighted a long way – in the end, hopefully, adding up to a stronger, more diverse and more resilient economy. If that agenda sounds familiar, then yes, you’re right – local currencies in their most recent forms sprang from the transition towns movement.

If it sounds like a cute but naive idea that can’t work in the real world, well consider this: the newly elected mayor of Bristol is being paid entirely in Bristol pounds.

Pay What You Can

This one is based on money changing hands, too, but it is a departure from the convention of ‘We set the price, you pay it’.  You may have come across this idea yourself in any number of settings.  I first heard of it many years ago: Clapham Junction’s Battersea Arts Centre would – and still does – have some productions, or some nights, where they throw caution to the wind and let their audience members stump up what they feel like paying, or what they can afford.  It’s also the principle at the People’s Kitchen, where quality food that was going to go to waste is turned into a regular communal feast – not only putting assessment of the meal’s value under your control but also tackling one of the big environmental ‘externalities’, i.e. food waste, that conventional economics woefully fails to take into account. A related idea is ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ – you can do this for your meals every Wednesday down my local.

The Amazings

This is brilliant.  “The Amazings was born out of a single, simple idea. Society has always learned from its elders. But somewhere along the way we have lost that connection between generations – which means losing rich, valuable, and rare skills. We’re on a mission to fix this.”

Unlike Trade School, this one does mean paying up with cash in return for classes, but it at least taps into a valuable idea that we’ve abandoned too hastily – listening to and learning from the experience, skills and knowledge of those who have been around long enough to know a thing or two.

Which leads me on to…

Men In Sheds

This Age UK brainwave is a win-win.  There are jobs that need doing in every community. There are not always the resources and knowledge to get them done.  But there is an army of retired blokes who have time on their hands, who have spent decades putting up shelves, laying paths, fixing wiring and plumbing and generally banging nails into wood – and who want to be useful, stay active and healthy and have a good natter with others over their workbenches.  And so Men in Sheds was born. Got a community project that needs some practical fixing up?  See if there’s a Men In Sheds group in your area, and make sure you stock up on tea and biscuits for these beezer geezers.

I’ve a feeling we’ve only scratched the surface of the world of hackonomics that is developing out there, creatively filling the cracks in the crumbling mainstream economics – so do use the comments section below to let us know about others, or about ways you get by without the traditional exchange of cold hard cash.


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