Social entrepreneur and strategist, Charles Bicker, argues that local democracy, and self-interest, may open the door to ethical, sustainable enterprises run for the community and by the community.
The Localism Act aims to put local people back in the driving seat of their own communities. It gives opportunities to run services; acquire land; develop resources – and even prevent what isn’t wanted. What’s more, the Act is underpinned with real bite –a democratic process at its foundation which empowers the local community and which includes such powers as the approval of Local Plans or to hold referendums on issues of concern.
Localism is bottom up: it’s up to local communities to use it! Some commentators have reflected upon the apathy of the electorate to cast doubt as to whether Localism will really take off, but perhaps they haven’t been on the ground at local level lately. As people have woken up to the possibilities, there has been a growing interest, not to say, enthusiasm- based on that most secure of foundations – self interest!
We live in a world where demand is rapidly outstripping supply of vital resources; energy prices are predicted to rise annually well above inflation – not to mention threats to energy security! What community would not be interested in local clean-tech energy production producing a surplus to fund community services and offering a sustainable energy supply at stable prices for the foreseeable future? Community owned and run, of course: community enterprise for the benefit of its members.
Now repeat this story for sustainable food production, water, heat, waste, re-cycling, health centres, home care, dentists, sustainable housing, local electric transport, education, sports and leisure centre – the list is as long as your imagination.
Such approaches contribute to the growing moral market as more people become disillusioned and disgusted with money markets and global businesses disconnected from the communities they should be serving. More importantly, local economies can increase sustainability from the ground up helping to heal the damage done to our precious planet – without waiting for a change in the lukewarm attitude of UK government. Not only do these new approaches give stable prices and security but local people will control the community enterprises involved as investors and members.
The Innovation Consortium is currently working with a number of Parish Councils who are writing ambitious self-financing Local Plans and forming community enterprises to develop and run activities.
Posted on January 30, 2012