How to Change Things – Free Training

15th May 2014 by

We’re running a free training on ….How to Change Things. Read on for how to get involved!

This training does pretty much what it says on the tin, exploring all the necessary steps needed to set up and run an effective community project – making real, positive change to environmental and social issues. We look at how to get a group together, do some people research, work out the aims and objectives of  your project, dabble with a tiny bit of behaviour change theory, and much more!

1In the past we’ve only offered this training to our programme alumni, but this year we’re running a free, open training on Saturday 14th June for young people in and around Hackney who have a project idea! After the training we will arrange regular mentoring sessions to support with the latter stages of project development. We have space for up to 15 participants so if you’re interested please get in touch with Iona or Edd on 020 3609 6763 or info@otesha.org.uk.

Your idea doesn’t need to be well developed – it might just be ‘I really want to do something to do with bikes’, or you might have a much more specific plan already! We will be giving out places on a first come first served basis, but we do want participants to demonstrate a commitment to making their project a reality, so we’d love to have a quick chat through your ideas if you’re interested in coming along.

Generation Bee

3rd March 2014 by

Generaton Bee

Hello

I am writing from Bosavern Community Farm in deepest Cornwall where I have been WWOOFing for the last month.*  It is a wonderful place and I would highly recommend it to any WWOOFers reading this.

I left London to WWOOF around the UK at the end of January, a move partly inspired by the 3 wonderful weeks I spent almost entirely outside in the sunshine on my Otesha tour last summer.  I am very excited about my year as I’m planning on farming in places I’ve wanted to visit for years – lambing in Shetland, cycling round the Outer Hebrides, Crofting on the Isle of Eigg and learning Beekeeping in Dumfries.

The beekeeping is uncertain at the moment.  It is part of a project I am involved in to cultivate new beekeepers both through training and through the production more affordable starter hives which we hope will encourage people to start beekeeping.   We need to raise £5000 for this project to go ahead, and are trying to fund it with a crowd-funding campaign found here: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/generationbee.

Bees are struggling at the moment, they are afflicted by parasites and disease, by pesticides, by poor management and, surprisingly, by disinterest.  Although the plight of the bees features regularly in the media, Beekeeping in Europe, either as a hobby or a livelihood has fallen by 54% in the last 20 years, leaving us with far less than the optimum number of colonies for crop pollination.  As bees are a crucial pollinator, responsible for a third of our food, this loss of bees is detrimental to both our food security and the health of our ecosystems.

The UK is no longer a friendly place for bees. The parasitic varroa mite has destroyed most, if not all, wild bee colonies and is seriously affecting the health of ‘domesticated’ bees.  Furthermore, the increase in mono-crop farming, pesticide use and loss of hedgerows and meadows means that nectar is in much shorter supply.  These problems have affected honey yields and made beekeeping a less profitable and riskier business.

In November last year I saw a host on the WWOOF UK website seeking keen young people who wanted to learn beekeeping.  I have been interested in beekeeping for years, I’ve WWOOFed with many beekeepers, and had the luck to work for the London Honey Company where I enjoyed tasting delicious honey from around the UK and further afield.   Besides really liking honey, the variety in flavour, clarity, colour and consistency just amazes me, as does the history of beekeeping which has been practised for thousands of years all around the world.

I immediately emailed to ask if I could come and learn beekeeping and Luisa (the beekeeper) was very keen to host both myself and another trainee over the summer season.  However, as her young business only just covers the rent of one room, she has nowhere for us to stay.  I suggested doing a crowd-funding campaign to fund both the trainee beekeepers and another project to produce more affordable bee colonies and starter hives to encourage people to start beekeeping.

In January I took the night bus to Glasgow and met both Luisa and the 4 other volunteers working on what was soon to be christened the Generation Bee project.  The name is meant to reflect both aspects of the project, we want to train up a new generation of beekeepers, and we want to generate more bees by selling young colonies at an affordable price to interested individuals and schools.

There is more information and an exciting video on the campaign website – www.crowdfunder.co.uk/generationbee.  We have only 33 days left to reach our £5000 goal and there are some fabulous rewards for pledges including E-booklets on how to cook with honey, make natural beauty products, plant bee-friendly flowers and more, all written by the team (the Gormet drone recipe e-booklet is mine.)  There are also the workshops on beekeeping and beauty product and candle making which are going to be run in Dumfries on the 26th and 27th of April (only £35 for a 2 hour session).  I feel a bit cheeky asking people to support this campaign, as I will directly benefit from it.  However this year is the trial run and crucial for building up the business.  Luisa is very passionate about training young beekeepers so I am sure that the success of this campaign will lead to more training positions available each year, as well as starter hives with young colonies sold at about half the normal price.

Please pledge if you can and spread the word by sharing the campaign with anyone who might be interested in supporting it.

Thank you,

Jessie.

*WWOOFing aims to provide volunteers with first-hand experience in organic and ecologically sound growing methods, to help the organic movement, and to let volunteers experience life in a rural setting or a different country.

‘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.

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.

Enterprise: a solution to our economic and environmental challenges?

31st October 2012 by

Otesha’s mission is to build a community of young people who see their lives as powerful tools for change. A part of that is to show people that they are citizens, not just consumers and that they aren’t defined by how they spend their money. But unless you’re emulating the Moneyless Man, then you’ll probably have to spend money on some things and we want to encourage you to think about how you can use that spending to support projects which have the best interests of people and planet in mind.

A social enterprise is a business which trades for a social and/or environmental purpose. These businesses operate with a ‘triple bottom line’ in which the economic, social and environmental performance is measured at the end of each year. Famous examples of companies which were set up explicitly to do good include Divine Chocolate (which as well as being Fairtrade is 45% owned by the farmers) and the Big Issue . Such companies produce a product and make a profit, whilst providing an opportunity for people facing barriers to improve their own skills and finances.

At Otesha we’ve been thinking about how we can use social enterprise at a more local level to tackle the huge environmental and economic problems facing the young people we work with. Along with our partners in the East London Green Jobs Alliance, we provide high quality environmental literacy and job readiness training to prepare young people for work. But with 1 million UK youth experiencing unemployment, what if there isn’t a green and decent job for them to go into? Increasingly, we’re saying ‘why not create your own?’

Setting up a social enterprise could provide meaningful work for young people in businesses which do a lot for our communities. A great example comes from our friends at the Golden Company, a social enterprise which works with young people in East London who want to become beekeepers. 15 people this year have learnt how to look after bees and then create, market and sell products made from their honey. At the other end of the scale Fair Finance, a social enterprise also based in East London, offers a range of financial services and support to people who are excluded, protecting them from loan sharks and predatory payday loan companies like Wonga.   They’re providing a service, creating jobs and improving the social benefits of community-level financial companies.

Otesha is currently producing a ‘how to guide’ for organisations and individuals looking to set up their own social enterprise. In the meantime, you can find out about funding opportunities and advice from our friends at UnLtd and the Young Foundation. If you have a social enterprise that you’d like us to share as a case study, get in touch with Claire at clairea@otesha.org.uk.


Search Blog

Get Social