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January 30th, 2020 14:10

Proposal: A Community Wealth Building Group

Andrea Grainger
Andrea Grainger Public Seen by 223

Future Democracy has a 'Peoples Assembly' working group, and a 'Citizens Assembly' working group. These groups focusing on embedding participatory democracy into politics.

We also need participatory democracy in the workplace and the economy.

A community wealth working group would focus on building a participatory democratic economy, through grassroots action in local communities.

Simon Carter

Simon Carter January 31st, 2020 11:20

You may wish to start by defining 'community wealth'. To many, it means attracting more shoppers (money) to a destination, very often at the expense of other nearby towns. It is in other words often a competitive mindset. The Preston Model, for example, is arguably a protectionist approach. We need to re-localise massively, but we need to find ways to help each other, meaning the importance of inward investment & money needs to be reduced in terms of it's significance to community wealth building, which must become a holistic perspective where sharing cooperation & mutual support from within & across communities is the focus.

Andrea Grainger

Andrea Grainger January 31st, 2020 13:46

Thanks Simon.

I think you make an important point here.

I like the name 'community wealth', as the name for the working group, but that doesn't mean I want us to strictly follow the Preston model.

I like stuff I've seen in participatory budgeting, the transition towns, community shares, non-profit development networks, ecovillages, Commons, Community Land trusts etc.

i think community wealth ties very well into XR Future Democracy's other efforts. I think if we create a culture of local participation and political engagement then communities are going to want to take the climate crisis into their own hands and fix it. As they do they're bound to collect resources, and create new jobs, and it naturally makes sense that those resources would stay in the community and become a part of community wealth.

Having community wealth can also attract people to be a part of the local participatory community. It gives people some real power. Something meaningful to debate and vote on. We have this growing commons, what is our next priority for the town? It helps the peoples assemblies to be a place of action, rather than just a talking shop. Gives people incentive to get involved.

It think protectionism is a possibility if we're not looking out for it, but I think the democratic participatory culture is an ideal breeding ground for more cooperative ideals to spread. A place to promote sharing and collaboration across the nation and world.

Phil Green

Phil Green January 31st, 2020 15:54

Hi Andrea, to what extent do you see the "grassroots action in local communities" (towards community wealth building) being inclusive of, and relevant to unpaid work and those who work unpaid?

Andrea Grainger

Andrea Grainger January 31st, 2020 16:38

Do you mean Voluntary Labour, or Domestic Labour?

With voluntary labour, I think it's a testament to our peculiar economic system that some kinds of important social labour are paid, while others are expected to be done for free.

It's not meritocratic, and it's bad for overall fairness and productivity.

It's a problem that I think would vanish, if investment, job creation and wages were determined based on community need, rather than shareholder profits.

Simon Carter

Simon Carter January 31st, 2020 16:59

We need to move beyond job & wage being synonymous. We need to move beyond something only being considered of value if it can generate a profit. In fact, we need to get rid of the possibility of profit being the factor that determines what we apply ourselves to. We need to shrink the market economy & grow the gift economy. We then need to find ways to reward the gift economy in terms of universal basic assets so that money withers in importance in all our lives.

Andrea Grainger

Andrea Grainger January 31st, 2020 17:47

I remember we discussed this before Christmas, Simon.

Do you know of any guides on creating a gift economy at a local level? Particularly how to scale it up to really challenge the mainstream system, rather than being a small band-aid.

I've seen national guides, but not read into the local stuff.

We can include that kind of project as part of XR's community wealth building, if people want to take it up.

Simon Carter

Simon Carter January 31st, 2020 20:31

Indeed we did. I was knocked off course by my elderly father needing to go into hospital & now a residential home following a fall. Nothing shines a light on the inhumanity of the market system than its attempts to provide for social care. Some things in a so-called civilized society should have nothing to do with profit.

Guilds historically I think were a part of the burgeoning market economy. Gift economy guilds is an interesting concept. My personal focus is how can we redirect money from the mainstream economy by 'competing' within the market in order to fund projects that meet needs entirely beyond the profit motive.

For example, imagine an estate agent, paying a flat wage, staffed by XR members who understand making lots of money is no longer a valid aspiration. It would do as good a job as any other estate agent, but all the profit would go to help fund local projects designed to meet local needs, local food production, local renewable energy, child nurseries, care homes etc. etc. Which estate agent I ask you would have a 'competitive advantage'?

This is beyond Mondragon or co-operatives to date. It's a way to co-opt the market system in order to hollow out capitalism by using it against itself. The profit-orientated would have no idea how to respond. Indeed they could not if our estate agent, or any other business, is in fact motivated effectively to eventually make itself, & all other businesses obsolete.

Such a business could diversify & cooperate within & across communities & provide a living wage for hundreds, indeed thousands of employees motivated by XR principles, sharing a common purpose, namely to 'buy back the commons' from the state & private hands where it has been mercilessly enclosed over centuries. I suppose you might describe this as XR's business division, a massive flat wage multi-stakeholder ( meaning everyone) co-operative.

Money is not vital. What is, is meeting basic human needs. As long as the market system persists, what matters is disposable income. As long as we have enough money we can direct more & more of our collective time & energy toward harnessing a natural abundance within communities by building all that we need with a sharing collaborative ethos.

It's a paradigm cultural shift away from the survival of the fittest mantra that those who are best equipped to survive within our toxic system, which basically means varying degrees of psychopathy, would like us all to continue to believe is natural.

Andrea Grainger

Andrea Grainger January 31st, 2020 21:33

That sounds like what I've been thinking as well.

I imagine the idea of everyone being paid an equal wage would need to be debated internally. I know Mondragon uses a 10:1 wage ratio, and Greenpeace uses 3:1. If you could demonstrate that 1:1 was the best ratio, then I'm sure it would be adopted in time. Though if you give local groups some autonomy, then I image we'd see many different wage ratios experimented with.

Have you seen the videos from the Post-Growth institute? They argue that non-profit businesses are going to out-compete for-profit businesses by 2050, and become the dominant form of business.

They argue that this is necessary, because for-profit businesses rely on economic growth, which is destroying the planet. Whereas non-profit businesses can function without growth, so provide a way for us to thrive and prosper in a world without economic growth.

I see many different groups advocating for non-profit businesses, coops, social enterprises, commons and the like. XR could help establish these, grow the network, and inject the movement with environmental consciousness.

Simon Carter

Simon Carter February 1st, 2020 09:48

It's the we, as opposed to the me society https://vimeo.com/46261560

The Alternative UK

The Alternative UK February 1st, 2020 10:31

Your proposal makes my day Andrea. So important to relocate democracy in this kind of creative action. Giving rise to a new economy. Would love to have this embedded in FDH. btw Have you seen the Citizens Action Network video on FDH?

Andrea Grainger

Andrea Grainger February 2nd, 2020 13:59

Hey Indra.

Great to see another activist for democracy <3

I've not seen the video on the hub. I'll have a look now.

I don't really understand the organisation of the hub right now, but I'll keep bringing this issue up until we can get some formal structure within XR to work on promoting this.