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.
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.
Perhaps we all agree the current economic system is the problem. This is, of course, a generalisation which could be endlessly unpicked and elaborated. But if we’re concerned about global warming, biospheric damage, inequality, etc, the globe-sized elephant in the room, so to speak, is the dominant economic system powered by fossil fuels and predicated on endless consumption and growth. It’s efficiency-oriented and centralising, concentrating ever greater economic and political power in the hands of oligarchs and autocrats, which means change will not come easy.
Perhaps by now we also know that change is coming one way or the other. Experts warn we must rapidly reduce the energetic and material throughput of the global economic system by orders of magnitude in the coming years or face severe consequences, including a variety of collapse scenarios. These consequences will hit real people in real communities in our towns, cities, and surrounding regions. This suggests what’s needed is not just a radical rethink, but a radical reconfiguration of how we meet our needs.
Recent research for the Reconomy Centre shows that the quality entrepreneurs value most is resilience: to be able to take the knocks, weather the storm, and somehow still come back for more with a smile on their face.
Getting involved with trying to leave the world a bit better than we found it has its ups and downs. The inspiration and the excitement of working with kindred spirits, the satisfaction of seeing people moved or changed, stretching your talents – even getting paid for it – all fulfil the promise of what you came here to do.
But there is also a range of unpleasant feelings: overwhelm, doubt and anxiety. How can you possibly get it all done, and how can it be good enough anyway? And the self- judgements – who do I think I am taking this on? What do other people think of me and how can I manage that? Looking around you notice others seem to be getting on with it despite set backs. They don’t look like they have a permanent knot in their stomach or a constant nagging anxiety.
So what does resilience look like? I suggest it is trusting yourself that in any situation, however challenging, you have access to inner wisdom and clarity to know what to do in the moment. And although being human, you may sometimes feel insecure, stressed or self critical, you deeply know that those feelings are not based on anything that is ‘true’ and that they are transitory. It may look as if the feelings are coming from outside circumstances or from some past conditioning, but you do know they are to do with temporary thoughts and reactions. So no tools or techniques are needed – just a simple and profound understanding of how we create our experience.
I recently ran a series of workshops at the Reconomy Centre where w explored all of this called Accessing your Inner Resilience. It was such a success – I’m running them again. Some of the comments from participants included:
‘I had fresh insights which have given me an extraordinary lightness and clarity that it’s not on me to fix everything.’
‘It is something that sort of sinks in subliminally. After the last workshop I was in a situation where I could have let myself get quite upset and annoyed – and I was consciously aware that the way I thought about would affect the way I felt about it and I was able to let go.’
‘I loved being immersed in the inside/our way of looking at things. Erica held the group really well and brought each of us insights about how we could see ourselves, our situations and relationships more clearly’
‘I have seen for myself that I do not need fixing. I am a naturally resilient person and I do not need to read endless self-help books to re-build this. It is an innate quality that we all share. It just gets a little disguised sometimes. I have seen for myself that our experience is only ever one thought thick. This has helped me to stay more present with my day-to-day experiences and to be more accepting of life’s ebbs and flows. It’s also allowed me to be more compassionate towards myself and not push away my negative emotions/reaction but rather extend the arm of friendship and embrace them. I feel lighter and I find myself less entangled with my thoughts and emotions’
Please join me on Thursday 4 October at 6.30 for a FREE taster workshop at the REconomy Centre which will then be followed by a series of 7 weekly workshops. Cost for the whole course £65 (or whatever you can afford). To book either e-mail email@example.com or phone/ text 07790 177146.
Date: Thursday 23rd November (10am-1pm) Venue: Reconomy Centre, Totnes
To book: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pull together an engaging ‘personal brand’ and CV to create more impact with HR, influencers and recruiters.
You may have spent countless hours editing and re-editing your CV, but how do you know if it’s still what recruiters are looking for? Are you often left frustrated and confused, curios of how the national job-boards like Monster and Reed actually work? Do you know what your personal statement should really say about you to make maximum impact? Too many skilled and gifted candidates are throwing away great opportunities for new roles-and all because they have little idea of what a compelling and engaging CV should like.
Please join coaching and recruiting professional for a 3 hour workshop where you’ll learn how to structure a compelling CV, one that truly reflects who you are, and what you have to offer, so that you can increase your chances of finding much better opportunities.
This impact report aims to understand and assess the impact of The Totnes REconomy project over the last 6 years, between 2012 to 2017. The project is located in Totnes, Devon, UK, a market town with a population of about 8,500 in the town and about 23,000 for the town and district. The report will look at the economic, social and environmental impacts of The REconomy Project, the extent to which it has achieved its aims, and share some of the lessons learned and insights for moving forward.
The Totnes REconomy Project has been running since 2011 with practical aims to develop more opportunities for young people to create livelihoods and for everyone in the community to have their needs met in ways that are ecologically sustainable or regenerative, fair and inclusive, and that contribute to the resilience of the community. The premise for activity is that if we want a new kind of local economy that can deliver on these aims, we must create the conditions for new economic actors, relationships and models to emerge and thrive. We believe we can create these conditions by focusing on four areas of activity: 1) catalysing a new entrepreneurial culture, 2) mobilising local social and financial capital, 3) building an ‘enterprising ecosystem’, 4) weaving networks of ‘new economy’ organisations and activists.
We conducted this study to try to measure our impacts in these areas. What we have found is that through our three principal projects, the Local Entrepreneur Forum, the REconomy Centre, and the Local Economic Blueprint, we have had positive results in all of these areas.
The Totnes REconomy Project has directly helped to raise over £83k of financial support from local citizens for 27 enterprises, creating 5 new full time equivalent jobs. Beneficiaries have reported that access to hundreds of thousands more financial support and creation of many more jobs have been indirect results of the Totnes REconomy Project’s activities and relationships. These local enterprises turnover about £1.3, spending over £870k on local payroll and procurement. These factors make a positive contribution to building community wealth. Furthermore, these firms also pursue social and environmental aims which also contribute positively to an inclusive, fair, sustainable and resilient local economy.
The Totnes REconomy Project is catalysing the emergence of a community supported entrepreneurial culture and ecosystem. Since 2012, there have been over 720 participants in the LEF and over 100 members of the REconomy Centre; 27 enterprises have pitched for support – many now support and collaborate with each other. After 6 LEF events, 170 people have played the role of investor, including 24 from these pitching enterprises. Over 150 enterprise workshop participants and hundreds of hours of volunteer support have been logged at the REconomy Centre. Trends are positive for increasing numbers of ‘investors’ and enterprises applying to pitch. These indicators all point toward a normalising of these activities in local community life.
The LEF and REconomy Centre have become important institutions in the local enterprise ecosystem, offering clear and accessible pathways for entrepreneurs to start new enterprises, or existing enterprises to access support or expansion capital. As a result of their positive impacts, new and/or more impactful roles for local political actors, schools, landowners, and NGOs in this ecosystem have been enabled. This brings to life a ‘community supported entrepreneurism’, a kind of community enterprise incubation system.
In short, the impacts of the Totnes REconomy Project, through its principal projects, have been positive and increasing. The study, below, brings to light more detail and context, allowing the reader to gain a more in-depth understanding of how and why these projects are working, as well as their limitations. The study creates a foundation for understanding the opportunities for improving the effectiveness of these projects, as well as the potential for new projects and programmes.
Community gathers to invest in local enterprises in party atmosphere
If you have watched the Dragons’ Den on TV, you may have already figured out the twist behind the May 11th Community of Dragons event in Totnes – everyone’s an investor. For the past six years, the people of Totnes and District have come
together to help local entrepreneurs lift off, or a young business grow, with financial and non-financial investments of thousands of Pounds Sterling, offers of business advice – and even child minding and home-cooked meals.
This year’s event is at the Royal Seven Stars Hotel Ballroom and will be co-hosted by Katie ‘Mama’ Tokus, singer of sassy, self-penned blues and soul songs, and a spoken word performer. The evening promises to be fun, lively and productive.
Five local projects will be pitching for funds, advice, and help of all kinds to get their businesses to the next level: food growers the Apricot Centre, at Huxhams Cross Biodynamic Farm, led by Bob Mehew; Potting Shed
Jay Jacoby of Yew Media, a bespoke biographical and personal legacy film company, says, “I’m SO grateful, excited, honoured, scared and happy!!! Thank you for this opportunity! I can’t wait to ‘get stuck in’!” Bob Mehew says, “We at The Apricot Centre are delighted to be presenting to the Community of Dragons this year. With public help we can invest in and share our tractor and other machinery to enable us and other small scale land-workers to improve their efficiency and go further.” Emily Reed of Black Bee Combe says, “We seek to demonstrate ethical beekeeping, by using hives which support honeybees natural preferences,
practicing minimal intervention beekeeping and reestablishing a locally adapted strain of the nationally threatened native honeybee. I hope the Dragons can help us develop new income streams to support the project.”
“The way it works is that everyone can participate and be a ‘dragon’, just like in the ‘Dragon’s Den’ TV show, except we’re all friendly dragons,” says Jay Tompt, coordinator of the Totnes REconomy Project, one of the co-organisers of the event. “We can support our local entrepreneurs with money or time or skills or experience or neighbourly encouragement. Past investments have included hugs and home-cooked meals, for example.”
The 2017 Community of Dragons has been timed to take place during Global Divestment Week (May 5th-13th), when campaigning groups synchronised by climate safety charity 350.org will be persuading individuals and institutions all over the world to move their money out of climate damaging fossil fuel investments. But moving one’s money is only the first step; the Community of Dragons creates investment opportunities, the second and key part of Divest/Invest. Here is where people can move their money closer to home and put it to work creating a vibrant, healthy economy that can grow for the benefit of everyone, providing opportunities for young people and new life for the Devon economy.
The event has supported a wide range of businesses in the last six years. Last year, Ambios Ltd – an educational farm project – and local caterer The Kitchen Table pitched, alongside theatre designer Iola and horse trainer Horse & Heart. In prior years, enterprises have included the food processor Grown in Totnes, New Lion Brewery, GroCycle mushroom farm, and Argand Solutions, a technology company. Last Saturday, April 29th, saw The Kitchen Table providing local-grain-based catering for Grown In Totnes’ processing unit launch on the Totnes Industrial Estate. Both these enterprises are dedicated to promoting local food, and such mutual support is what the Community of Dragons is all about.
“I never thought I could be an investor but always wanted to support the kinds of businesses I’d really like to have in my community,” says 2016 participant Jane Brady. “It felt so good when I ‘invested’ in Ambios last year with my promise to take part in their ‘share in a sheep’ scheme. It was the most delicious investment I’ve ever made in my life!”
John Elford of the Totnes Pound says, “We will be be making the annual Totnes Pound award of t£100 to the enterprise project that best embodies the spirit of Totnes innovation, and t£21 to all the other pitchers.” In every community there are people with experience in business, people with a little bit of money in the bank, and people who value the neighbourliness in the places they live. The idea behind the Community of Dragons and other ‘reconomy’ projects is that when local people come together like this, a vibrant, healthy economy can grow, providing opportunities for young people and new life for our High Streets.
Everyone is warmly invited to join the fun at the Community of Dragon’s event, May 11th, Royal Seven Stars Ballroom, Totnes – networking starts at 6pm, programme at 7pm. Further information are available on the REconomy Centre website at www.bit.ly/lef2017
This year, we tried something new. Isn’t that the point?
If we know that the current economic system isn’t working for most of us, that it concentrates economic and political power into fewer and fewer hands, that it leads us to consume greater quantities of crappy stuff made in far off lands, that it’s putting too much pollution into the air and oceans, cutting down too many trees, and more – then we know we must try something else that doesn’t do those things. This means supporting local enterprises and local innovations.
So, we tried something new on April 8th, a hack-a-thon designed to help take forward 5 local projects that would, in some measure, provide better alternatives to what’s currently on offer. With the help of energetic Schumacher students, Pricilla and David, we borrowed ideas from innovation design firm IDEO and others and put together an action-packed day of tools, activities, storytelling and models. Lots of models. Some things worked. Some things didn’t work. Failure is part of the process. Our hack-a-thon was a huge success in teaching us how we might continue to be a catalyst for a new kind of entrepreneurial culture, the kind where solutions to our challenges and alternatives to destructive business-as-usual models can emerge, take root, and thrive. We might have helped these projects along, too.
A huge thanks to Claire, Inez, Bridgette, Ben and Mat for bringing forward their projects to be hacked. And to all our hackers, about 25 local designers, consultants, old business hands, and enthusiastic new enterprise supporters.
This event was part one of our 2017 Local Entrepreneur Forum. Part two is the Community of Dragons on May 11 at the Royal Seven Stars Hotel, networking at 6pm, presentations at 7pm. More info, here: bit.ly/lef2017
In a world that seems increasingly polarised, all sorts of events incite people to declare for Wellbeing, Creativity and Love – or Destruction, Control and Division. It’s as if Dark Forces have been unleashed on our economics, politics and environment, and Positive Forces are rising to meet them with creative responses.
We are all part of this epic dance, whether or not we choose to be. How we live contributes daily in three key ways: our spending, our human interactions and our work. In this blog, I’m concerned primarily with the latter.
Work has moved a long way from the days when small groups of humans worked spontaneously and collaboratively the wellbeing of the group. For eons, work was simply a response to need: a meal to procure or prepare; shelter to be found or built; a thorn to be pulled from a foot; children to tend; celebratory or solemn songs to sing. Each individual would contribute what they could; what they did best. As in an ecosystem, everyone would have their niche. Minds and bodies were active and responsive.
Today, work is perceived and experienced as something very different. For many, it’s sitting all day at a computer, in an environment we don’t like, doing tasks we don’t enjoy, for outcomes we don’t care about, ultimately benefiting people we don’t even know. It’s making, moving or selling items that damaged people, animals or planet in their making, and end up in landfill. It’s producing or serving food that isn’t nutritious, to people we don’t care about. It’s burning fossil fuels to heat, transport or construct. It’s struggling to educate or care for others, with tiny funding, but enormous control and bureaucracy.
In a western society largely free from starvation, predation and disease, work could and should be a joyful activity: one that benefits the world in some way and draws on our best skills. Instead, many find themselves bored and under-utilised, or anxious and stressed. Today’s work culture robs too many workers of their dignity and creativity; steals their souls and uses them to feed Destruction. Life on Earth is in great need, but most people’s energy and creativity is diverted to profit-making.
Fortunately, we can create a very different reality. There is plenty of positive work to do, and people everywhere are responding. They no longer just ‘look for a job’ but ask instead, what do I love doing? What’s my unique gift? What do I really care about? How do I want to make a difference? What’s the best way I can do that?
Healthy alternatives are arising, such as workers’ co-operatives, social enterprises and ethical businesses. Sole traders or small independent companies are networking and collaborating, building satisfying careers and rich, vibrant local economies, and when all goes well, making a decent living too. And in bigger companies, people are asking – how can we do business more ethically, equitably and sustainably?
In such turbulent times, our choice of work makes such a difference: not just to us personally, but also to our communities and to our world. Some find it hard to know what they’ve got to offer. Others know what they’d love to do, but can’t find a way to do it. Creating a life of good work is seldom seamless and straightforward; it usually requires patience, courage, support, collaboration and experimentation. But through these struggles can come great personal growth and satisfaction, strong relationships, and lives that are contributing to, or enhancing, the wellbeing of the world.
How do you want your day to be? What do you want your work to achieve? What do you want your life to mean?
These questions and others I regularly explore with people in coaching sessions, and such themes form the basis of discussion in workshops. My own work is helping others find and do work that’s good for society, good for the living world and good for their own souls. In these times of shift, such work feels more important than ever, and can also be deeply rewarding.
This is proving to be an interesting year for a very young, but growing, ‘new economy’ emerging in this region. A new economy, we say, because the key value drivers are fairness, ecological integrity, resilience, wellbeing, and earning a ‘regenerative profit’. And growing, because young, new enterprises are launching and expanding all around us.
On May 12th, Totnes and the 5th annual Local Entrepreneur Forum become the focal point, with a full-day agenda designed to help new economy entrepreneurs, organisers, activists, supporters, investors, catalysts – and everyone in the community – connect, share, learn, collaborate, support and invest. Four very worthy entrepreneurs will pitch their projects to the ‘Community of Dragons’, (that means everyone – we can all be investors!)
Pitching this year:
Iola – iolaweir.co.uk – a start up led by Iola Weir in the theatre arts space with a vision to create local livelihoods and be catalyst for a flourishing regional arts and culture scene.
The Kitchen Table – thekitchentable.org.uk – an expanding sustainable catering company led by Sima Cutting, supporting local producers and raising awareness of important food system issues.
Horse and Heart – www.horse-and-heart.com – Marie Franco leads this expanding horsemanship training practice offering a range of services supporting the use of horses in agriculture and health & care.
Ambios – www.ambios.net – an expanding farm and educational project led by Jack Skuse, producing organic food and serving the land-based educational needs of young people.
Each of these projects is looking to contribute positive impacts to our community in a range of ways – please stay tuned for more information about them and their pitches. And please plan to attend the LEF, May 12 at the Totnes Civic Hall, where you can hear their stories first hand and invest your support, it whatever way you’d like. In the meantime, please don’t be shy about rallying the support of your friends and neighbours, and cheerleading for these hardworking change makers on social media.