Building Back Better – the ‘Community of Dragons’ in the woods

On September 5th, in The Glade, an amazing outdoor venue behind Schumacher College, our community gathered to support five solutionary local business projects – The Living Projects, Montreal Style Bagels, CommonFlora, BrewHaHa, and Mend Assembly.  Over 143 offers were made, including money and in-kind business services, worth over £11,500. And some investments were offers of introductions, knowledge, volunteering, Tweeting, applying plaster, bottling, deliveries, and even childcare. There was a lot of love and care in the woods that afternoon. What better way to build back? 

‘Build Back Better’ has been a common cry over this strange year and a half in lockdown. Many people noted the positives coming from this experience, including the opportunity to set our economy on a better course toward meeting everyone’s needs, while cutting carbon emissions in half and protecting biodiversity. This kind of change only comes from everyone participating, doing what they can – not just talking about it, not just being a ‘switched on’ consumer, but actually investing one’s self in something juicy, something wonderful, something transformative. And this is just what happened at the 9th Local Entrepreneur Forum & Community of Dragons event in The Glade, earlier this autumn. 

There was also a bit of a festival feeling. Food was served by The Kitchen Table and Montreal Style Bagels. On tap was kombucha from BrewHaHa, craft beer from Barnaby’s Brewhouse and cider from Dartington Cider. Izzi Bard, of Kuki and the Bard, played guitar.  

There were three focused sessions for changemakers, too. The one on Local Responses to Climate Change outlined plans for a Climate Emergency Response Centre to be located in the centre of town, and for the updated Transition Streets programme. The session on Prosperity for Young People brought many together to hear about innovative projects like Crazy Beautiful World and New Futures Academy. And finally the Build Local Food Resilience session bright food producers and activists together to explore opportunities to build a regenerative food network, Devon Food Partnership.

If indeed we’re to bounce back after pandemic and Brexit, and really do what’s needed to do our part in South Devon to transform our local economy, build food security and resilience, take care of our young people and more, it will take more of this kind of thing. There will be more events like this, of course – maybe this spring! And there are plenty of other ways we can come together to collaborate, cooperate, connect for the common good. This builds ‘community’ and amplifies the positive feelings we already have living in this amazing place. 

There – that’s the invitation. See you at the next Local Entrepreneur Forum & Community of Dragons!


So, what’s the ‘community of dragons’ all about?

Join us in The Glade for our 9th Community of Dragons, September 5th, 2021

In short, it’s all about participation. We – all of us – can invest just a bit ourselves to make the change we want to see in the world.

We gather every year to support our friends and neighbours who are taking a risk to create and develop local enterprises that will help us – our community – reduce our impacts, build our capacities for care and conviviality, regenerate our soils and grow our food, house our families, etc.

What can you do to ‘invest‘ in our economic transformation? Can you bake our pitchers a cake, or make them a delicious lunch? Can you offer them your expertise as a designer, business planner, network weaver? Offer a day’s work?

And money is good, too. Can you gift some? Pre-buy products and services? Make a friendly and patient loan? What’s your return? A better world.

Whatever your gifts, come and invest them in someone wonderful. There will be a lot of love in The Glade this year. Yes, you can give your love, too. 

Our Programme

2:00 pm – gather and be welcomed to the woodland Glade by Al TempestThe Woodland Presents

2:15 pm – enjoy the live music, the drink, the food, the company of friends and neighbours

2:45 pm – hear from speakers Guy Downing, Transition Town Totnes; Inez Aponte, Crazy Beautiful World; Chris Smith, New Futures Academy; Sophie Patterson, Devon Food Partnership
3:00 pm – learn, share and connect in one of the focused sessions on Local Prosperity for Young People;   Local Responses to Climate Emergency;   Weaving a Resilient Local Food Economy
4:00 pm – become part of the Community of Dragons and help lift 5 deserving and amazing local enterprises
5:30 pm – celebrate each other and be full of good spirits
6:00 pm – we tidy up the forest and leave no trace

Directions & Parking

The Glade is an amazing outdoor venue in the woods behind Schumacher College. It’s part of The Woodland Presents, founded by a human named Al. (Incidentally, Al pitched at the LEF6 2017 Community of Dragons.) Directions.

Getting there – please be green.  Walk, ride, bus, and/or lift share to get there. Park at Meadowbrook carpark, Dartington. (Incidentally, this is where you will find New Lion Brewery, so plan on a pint and pizza on your way home. Rob pitched NLB at the very first Local Entrepreneur Forum in 2012!)

LEF in depth

Want a more in-depth view on the Local Entrepreneur Forum, where it came from, and how it fits into the broader strategy behind the Totnes REconomy Project?  Visit the LEF page and check out these blog posts: “The LEF – REconomy’s Killer App?”“A Taste of the Future in the Community of Dragons”;  “Citizen-led Economic Transition”.

The first ever Trans-Local Entrepreneur Forum

Thanks to everyone who attended the first ever international Trans-Local Entreprenuer Forum on Thursday Nov 26th. On zoom, of course!

After getting to know each other a bit, we had a brilliant presentation from Nao Suzuki about the Isumi Local Entrepreneur Project, on the Chiba peninsula in Japan, which is creating the conditions for regenerative enterprise and economic transformation. We then had a brief open space session with topics on Global Regeneration Colab network, CoDev – a collaborative development methodology, Food & Fiber, Complementary and Blockchain currency.

And then, three solutionary entrepreneurs pitched their projects to the ‘community of dragons’ – all of us in the audience who were eager to provide support. First up was Spark It Liverpool who have a lovely approach to transforming street parking into popup shops and community spaces. Next was TiQuest who are building a solution to help locally-owned shops eliminate waste, as well as own and manage their own data. Finally, Bern Unverpackt, a zero waste coop pitch their project. All had a ‘trans-local’ element as they seek to connect across their local borders and spread their innovations. Our ‘dragons’ responded with ‘investments’ of money, expertise, connections, virtual hugs and lots of love.

Spark It Liverpool

Tiquest – Luxembourg

Bern Unverpackt

It was an experiment and it seemed to work. All in all, about 40 participants – not bad for a prototype event on zoom!  And we had about 40 ‘investments’.  We’re already thinking about next time! Participants said: “this is the best zoom I have been too!”, “this was absolutely fantastic!”, “What a lovely experience!”

To connect with the international REconomy Community of Practice, you can join the Facebook group, follow the Facebook page, or the Twitter feed.  You can also visit our OpenCollective page and become a supporter.

ALT/work – helping young adults find their way into the REgenerative Economy

Wow! It’s already the end of November! Time has flown by in this weird COVID-induced world in which we find ourselves. Just another thing challenging young adults as they seek to developed their livelihoods and careers, venture out into the world and build a life for themselves.  For the last ten years, it seems ‘the future’ has been demolished and dismantled by financial crisis, austerity and brexit. If you’re under 30, it’s been one bloody WTF? after the next.

ALT/work is an attempt to spark solutions with and for this ignored and disrespected generation. There’s hope in all this calamity that we can #buildbackbetter. Many of us in our networks across the South West and beyond are investing ourselves in this ambitious work to transform our economies to become inclusive and just, ecologically wise, socially thriving, resilient and diverse. If so, then let’s put our young people at the front, in leadership position, throwing the doors to a new, meaningful, regenerative economy wide open!

ALT/work began in September with a series of six online events with speakers drawn from the region, many of them generational peers, each with a powerful story of social enterprise and entrepreneurship. Many of the speakers were from enterprises that are members of the social enterprise networks in Devon and Somerset, and several are potential members. Each session included discussion time and network building. Each included music, even live music.  All participants were encouraged to join a separate discussion forum enabling further communication and network building. Several social enterprises agreed to post volunteer and internship opportunities.

These sessions proved to appeal and inspire participants. Gross total participation for the sessions was about 150, of which about half were from our target audience – age 28-16, Devon or Somerset.  Feedback from participants was positive. Although the number of participants was less than our target, the quality of engagement and reported positive impacts was very high.

The efforts to attract the participation of our target group began with a design exercise with a small group of art students, ‘The Collective’. Their ideas were tranformed into an edgy aesthetic communicating the benefits of participation, of meaningful livelihoods and issues that matter. ‘The Collective’ produced a music playlist and contributed original photography to use in our website and Instagram page, which went from zero followers to 178 in just a few weeks.  We also built a website,, which would convey the description of the programme, speaker profiles, schedule, and registration.

Overall, the programme successfully inspired and motivated many young people in to consider regenerative enterprise as a possible career route. We engaged social enterprise networks and enterprises, as well, many of which remain motivated to develop the project further. And we feel certain the groundwork is laid for further engagement of young people in this region on the opportunities for them in social enterprise and entrepreneurship.

A few testamonials:

“thanks for these talks, so inspiring. as a potential young entrepreneur, and constantly being told hw valuable experience is”

“this session has really given me hope for my career”

“It’s been great meeting new inspiring people, not just the speakers but the other participants too!”

So, what’s next? We’re working on it and we invite you to co-create the next steps together. A national network? More speaker events? Entrepreneurial training? It’s all possible. If you’re interested in getting involved, send us an email.


Our funder:

The Heart of the South West Enhance Social Enterprise Programme is receiving up to £1,053,610 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union, ERDF funds help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

For more information visit

Local Resilience Now! – or what we can do to build local economic resilience in this crisis and create the conditions for regenerative economic transformation

To state the obvious, political and economic change happens in all kinds of ways including through crisis and calamity. For those of us working for change at local, municipal and regional scales, this is the moment when many of the solutions we’ve been promoting are needed and the conditions for building the foundations for longer term change are favourable. There’s much to explore on this topic, obviously, but let’s just focus on a few points which might inspire immediate action and kick off a continuing conversation in our wider community of changemakers, and especially here in the South West, UK.

Continue reading Local Resilience Now! – or what we can do to build local economic resilience in this crisis and create the conditions for regenerative economic transformation

Festive Gathering!

It’s a party!    Please join us on Tuesday 3rd December 4-8pm for the REconomy Centre’s Festive Gathering.

It’s a chance to…

* meet the people working to support a strong and resilient local economy

* find out more about the projects that the REconomy Centre nurture and support

* share a mince pie with some very interesting people from your community

* and have some fun!

Bring yourself and a bottle!

When:  Dec 3rd 4pm-8pm

Where:  REconomy Centre, 13 Leechwell St, TQ95SX


Get to grips with social media to tell your story

by Alex Green of Green-Measures Media.

Workshop: September 19th 10am to 1pm

Love it or hate, social media is a necessary tool for businesses that want to be found online.

Social Media MGMTThe past decade has seen social media evolve from being something that was considered useful to do, to being pretty much essential for most businesses to reach out to their audience.

We’re all using it personally now, if not professionally. It’s how we get our daily news, or communicate with friends, family, customers and clients and we’re all spending increasing amounts of time using it on our mobile screens.

It taps into a basic human need for storytelling and to share these stories with the people in our tribe. As technology evolves, this need for storytelling remains constant and social media is simply the latest tool for sharing them.

The problem for many businesses is that it’s hard to keep up, as the social media landscape is constantly changing. While you’re busy doing what you love, social media becomes a chore and it may feel like it’s a lot of effort for not much return on the time invested.

AG profile
Alex Green

If this sounds like you and your business, an introductory workshop at the REconomy Centre on September 19th will help you get to grips with the world of social media. As a communications professional for tourism and heritage organisations, I’ll be sharing some of the knowledge and skills I’ve gained working in this field over the past 20 years to help local businesses use social media more efficiently and effectively.

The workshop begins by looking at the social media landscape and all the different platforms that are available. We then consider where to start your social media journey, what not to do and how to tell your story with authenticity.

Once you’ve found your story-telling voice, we’ll look at curating a good mix of content for your social media channels and how to manage it effectively by planning ahead, monitoring conversations and engaging with your audience online.

Finally, thought will be given to measuring success and how to optimise your content to get results.

Find out more and book at or email

Empty Shops, Full of Opportunity

Who hasn’t noticed the growing vacancies on the Totnes High Street? Totnes has been more the exception than the rule, resisting the retail malaise that has struck High Streets all over Britain. It has, so far, resisted the encroachment of chain stores, while being held up as an example of a local economy thriving on tourism, community spirit and independent shops. For decades, local traders have opposed pedestrianisation, which is, ironically, a suggestion that many visitors make upon struggling their way up the High Street and The Narrows. A few years ago, a temporary traffic reversal was blamed for a few shops closing with an energetic campaign to reverse the reversal.

New Walk
Former home of numerous failed local restaurants.

But there are larger forces at work behind the current trend of closures. One obvious explanation is that shops are failing because people don’t want to buy what they’re selling. This is undoubtedly true for some, probably most, while a few are closing for strategic reasons of their own. A couple of multinational retail chains are opening new units, a SpecSavers and a Coffee One, a subsidiary of Cafe Nero. Both will put further pressure on locally-owned opticians, as well as local cafes and their local suppliers.

Continue reading Empty Shops, Full of Opportunity

‘The Insurgent Power of the Commons’ a talk by Silke Helfrich & David Bollier

Join us for a stimulating evening with two of the leading thinkers in the commons movement, Silke Helfrich and David Bollier, as they discuss the ideas in their new book, ‘Free, Fair and Alive – the insurgent power of the commons.’ (New Society Publishers)

“Free, Fair, and Alive is a penetrating cultural critique, table-pounding political treatise, and practical playbook for “commoning”—free, self-organizing systems ranging from alternative currencies to open-source everything. It presents a bold and compelling alternative to the dead-end, predatory market-state system.”
Can the commons provide a model for a new economics in these times of climate emergency? Can people in communities, in Devon and beyond, work together for common good? How could such a process emerge amidst the current chaos of Brexit, Extinction Rebellion, and political polarization?
These questions and more will form part of the discussion with Silke and David. Please join us!
When:  7:30pm September 18th
Where:  United Free Church, Totnes
Cost:  Sliding scale
Another in our Adventures in New Economics occasional series of talks.




Community Turns Out to Support Local Entrepreneurs

by Tom Quayle

This year, we ran the 8th annual Community of Dragons in Totnes and helped pull off the first ever Local Entrepreneur Forum, including the Community of Dragons, in Torbay. These are exciting and important events helping build a more socially just and environmentally friendly economy.

In Totnes, on May 16th, the ballroom of the Royal Seven Stars was absolutely packed with people from the community looking to invest their time, money and skills with four local entrepreneurs who were pitching for support.

We had Chris Smith from New Futures Academy, aiming to give local young people the skills for a sustainable future through a range of short courses and full time further education. Rachel Phillips and Mark O’Connell from the Apricot Centre were hoping to get support in enabling them to better provide wellbeing services in their woodland for children and families experiencing difficulties. Melissa Milne was hoping to go full time with her business Melbee Artworks providing upcycling workshops and artistic services for the local area. Last but not least Dan Mifsud from the Dartington Mill was aiming to be part of a local food revolution, taking wheat in from local farmers and producing flour for local bakers. The latter is a promising legacy of the Grown in Totnes project.

Continue reading Community Turns Out to Support Local Entrepreneurs