It always seems strange that with such incessant rhetoric from our imperious leaders that they fail to implement such simple mechanics when attempting to drive forward such monumental changes to operations of politics and society. The Big Society ambitions that the coalition wants to drive to fruition are coherent and idealised but don’t you feel that if they actually went out and physically did things in their constituencies that people would seize on this example of leadership and empowerment?
An unforeseen and somewhat misdirected beginning that may be, but to very quintessentially demonstrate this point we have made an observation this autumn and (every other of recent memory) of the lunacy and counter-productive behaviour of public services: this being leaf clearance.
As the leaves turn to an impossible red and fall to the ground, the minions of local government potter around clearing them up and incomprehensibly putting them into plastic bags. These plastic bags are then duly left (as per the photo that heads this post) to be collected by rubbish collectors. Having queried where these bags then go from a street sweeper, he instructed that they are taken to be burnt. Brilliant. Now this short paragraph has so many impossible conflicts of duty and manifesto that it would be beyond this post to list them all, so we’ll leave you to decipher them directly.
We shall not dwell on this approach but shall proffer a remedy, instead of burning what nature provides as fertilizer and then providing mulch and compost at additional expense to the tax payer, why not create a compost heap in the corner of each park? We’re sure the cost could be offset by the no-longer-necessary provision of natural fertilizer to the populace. People could be employed (fancy that…) by the council to accumulate this natural wonder and deposit it thus, gaining know-how, and disseminating this knowledge locally.
We’re afraid that the current backward lunacy will be the undoing of initiatives which are inherently positive, if not enforced for merely cost-cutting reasons.
Taking this a step further forward, here are our 3 ideas for ways to simply get everyone pulling in the same direction:
1. Green local business.
Set simple targets (i.e. reduce carbon emissions by 30% within 1 year OR install a green roof/solar panels to your business) and for the businesses that do, don’t give them tax breaks, rather give them marketing visibility that gives them additional sales. For example, the local government should provide a full page ad in the local newspaper, or our fave, the Government should own the 5min slot on Channel 4 every evening.
Reward them for doing something great and you see if others don’t follow.
2. Pilot empowerment. Not a flying school for the enthusiastic but an idea to get kids dreaming…
Deliver webcasts live into schools and colleges from hubs of industry and creativity. The lead architect from Foster and Partners who designed London’s City Hall, the pilot of a plane who flew missions in Libya, or any one of the winning teams from the engineering awards 2010.
Get them thinking and they will aim, they will progress and they will inadvertently make the UK a recession retardant intellectual hub for generations.
3. Make libraries the centre for growing/gardening/GYO information.
Libraries offer much that people have forgotten; they also offer a setting in the heart of a community. One of the most frequent reasons why people don’t even grow a little for themselves is because of the perceived difficulty in doing so – libraries could disentangle this myth and provide a personable human with which to deliver this service (more employment…!) This would be available to all and, in time, open to visits, seminars, best-in-practice events..ah the list could go on.
Come on D-cam, lets ‘av ya!
What an amazing project. If you’re from the Manhattan area, you’ve probably heard of the Chelsea High Line, a man-made park that reuses the abandoned train tracks in the lower half of the city. Queens is proposing a similar idea, using old LIRR tracks for walking trails, native vegetation, and bike paths.
What do you think?
Find more information about the South Queens Greenway, visit http://www.queenshighline.blogspot.com/
Photo source: http://bit.ly/u6C7QZ
Stumbled across this fantastic infographic set by Wired.com
These give concise insight into how, as the population of the world rockets, we can help by increasing the yield of certain food groups. Fascinating stuff told in a really coherent way.
Find the rest of the collection here
Quite incredible things being achieve here by Dr Paul Benham in the Black mountains. The sheer intuition and effectiveness of his approach shows what is possible. Think if this concept was extrapolated to the wider farming processes in the UK, the efficiencies would be 3 or 4 times of current levels from the same landmass.
Now, to build on this, how do you bring this to more urban areas; how do you encourage the agricultural community to take this up?; how Council’s be encouraged to turn more land over to achieving similar fantastic results; who is going to go out and teach and train people to work the land in this way?
And where is the book?!
Finally, can we just say such a huge congratulations to the team led by Dr Benham, scenes like this make our heart sing and relish the thought of others working towards such fantastical ends.
Photo source: http://bit.ly/pVZ6Ye
There are incredible businesses that are doing so much more than simply fighting. They are compounding their belief, they are setting things right, they are bastions of the right way things should be done and they are delivering personable, attentive services and products that remind people what great businesses can achieve.
But how do these projects and enterprises actually deliver scale, how do they challenge the hegemony dished out by the high street monoliths? Do they have to get dirty? For they will never drive a harder margin, they will never have a greater economy of scale and will never, therefore, acquire greater investment. The wider, informed, ethical (middle-class) consumer will seek them out in their lower-rent bolt-holes, but how do they deliver this to the wider market? How does the average mother of two with no time, a car to pay for and a full time job find the time or inclination to step away from the status quo and (usually) spend more for what she can get in Tesco?
Now, of course, there is the realisation of significant stereotypes at play here, but stereotypes exist for this very purpose; a generalisation. The intention is to draw out the fact that big business is just that and the small player will surely have to get dirty to reach the masses?
The alternative is for ethical/sustainable/environmental (delete as applicable) business to offer more, surely? More inclusion (as with the People’s Supermarket) a share in the profits (the Co-op) or more a personable experience (a la the veg box enterprise Growing Communities)
But these are still small or marginalised. The co-op isn’t small, granted - but it’s not exactly Sainbury’s either. When people need something, and I mean as in actually need something, then they go to what is near and what is cheap. How do you alter this behaviour slightly to cause people to instead think ‘I need something locally cheap’ - by local I simply mean, with origins in the local area/from local people. Is this how we begin to grow the presence of the currently rather redundant and out-of-reach smaller ethical businesses?
We believe the first comment on this article sums up this problem succinctly: here
So here are our 3 ideas for what can be done:
Photo source: http://bit.ly/re6jhv
- Change people’s thought process from the out set. Show them how good (and cheap) local can be by delivering local businesses into the communities they serve
- Build tangible links with the community - (we’re thinking a bus with serving counter, (see pic above) funded by point 3. It takes the food to those who have little time and demonstrates the potential
- Tax the larger supermarket and retail chains a % based on turnover, the taxation is allocated to a ‘grow local’ initiative supporting regional and community businesses that deliver innate ethics in their business model
Connected Roots is trying to deliver this ethos through encouraging people to grow a small amount of veg and fruit for themselves, cooking what they want and then trading and swapping, when they get tired of eating the same produce, with neighbours doing the same thing.
We found that growing on a small scale produced plenty of, french beans, for example but after the 4th day in a row, they tend to get a little dull - so swapping for an alternative seemed ideal, and Connected Roots was born.
Get in touch to discuss: email@example.com