Here’s a little story for anyone who’s noticed that things aren’t going too well in our communities. Small businesses are going under, unemployment is on the rise and money’s becoming scarce.
This story is about how it could be instead, based on an imaginary community in the North of England in a few years time – maybe five, maybe ten, maybe twenty (or maybe never, but let’s be optimistic). The things mentioned in the story are not imaginary, however. They already exist, are growing, and are looking for members, supporters and customers. Maybe that could be you?
The story is about a couple – let’s call them Joel and Rhiannon (names supplied by Name Generator) who run a little restaurant. They’re ‘foodies’, who love to cook really tasty food, so they love their job, and they know lots of people in the community, who regularly come in to eat.
Some of their customers are also suppliers – smallholders and market gardeners, in the local community-supported agriculture scheme; but also the local brewer and baker, and someone who brings fish from family fishing boats on the coast.
As well as food suppliers, their builder, plumber, accountant and IT person sometimes come in, as do the people who make their clothes, soap, cleaning products, crockery, furniture, glassware and candles; plus people from the local community energy scheme who provide their electricity; and members of the local bicycle courier co-op who do their home deliveries.
Some of their suppliers are sole traders, and others work in co-ops. Some things they have to get from further away – for example, telephony from a national co-op, on a phone, also made by a national co-op. Everyone’s got a job they find interesting (with no bosses), and businesses that suck wealth out of communities to pay shareholders are being replaced by businesses that keep wealth in their community.
Their local authority is very supportive, giving preferential treatment to local businesses when it comes to providing services to the local hospital, university, council offices etc.
Joel and Rhiannon pay for almost everything, and their customers pay them, in mutual credit. There’s a local mutual credit ‘club’, with no interest involved, because everyone pays each other with their work. Some people build, some fix, some make, some grow, some write, some look after others – whatever they enjoy. A very small fee on each transaction goes into a fund to provide social care and admin for the system – like the traditional ‘friendly societies’.
They live in a housing co-op. They don’t ‘own’ their house, but it’s ‘theirs’ as long as they’re using it. Rent is payable in mutual credit, for maintenance and admin. If they leave the area (or if they die), it goes to someone else in the community who needs it. That could be their children if they want it, but only if they live in it. They can’t sell it or rent it. The community makes sure that everybody’s housed.
All their software is free & open source – their IT person sets them up and helps them solve any problems.
Their mutual credit club connects to the next town’s club, so that businesses in either club can trade with each other seamlessly; and they both connect to the North of England club, which is connected to clubs all over the world, in a global network. This keeps growing until no-one in the world works in a sweatshop or a nuclear missile factory any more (because there aren’t any).
Mutualism might be the closest philosophy to describe what’s going on in this community, but -isms don’t really matter. They tend to divide rather than to unite. Dil Green’s Transcender Manifesto outlines how we see it evolving. This is just a description of the economy, but there are evolving tools for decision-making too.
Something like this is happening in Rojava right now – involving 3 million people. We have a big advantage over the Rojavans here in the UK though, in that we haven’t just been attacked by ISIS, and we’re not being bombed by a much bigger country.
We can help you re-skill, after which you can become self-employed or join a co-op, and join a club of local people committed to buying from you if you commit to buy from them. And we’ll soon have the software for clubs to be able to federate and trade with each other.
The connections we make with each other are the most important thing – voluntary, non-hierarchical, collaborative connections that build trust in communities. This sense of community, along with meaningful work and personal autonomy, is essential for well-being and mental health.
Get involved using any of the links above, and contact us to talk about hosting a local mutual credit club – the heart of the new economy. If you don’t want to live in a society like this, goodbye and good luck. We don’t want to argue, complain or criticise – we just want to build.
About the author: Dave Darby lived at Redfield community from 1996 to 2009. Working on development projects in Romania, he realised they saw Western countries as role models, so decided to try to bring about change in the UK instead. He founded Lowimpact.org in 2001, spent 3 years on the board of the Ecological Land Co-op and was a founder of NonCorporate.org. and the Open Credit Network.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1annbeirneanimalwhisperert July 12th, 2020
LETS but bigger I think I love this idea and my husband, myself and a couple of interested friends were talking about forming and eco community but covid intervened and we can no longer meet up although we do have occasional contact three of us by video but the fourth has a laptop but doesn’t like the technology. Unfortunately we have turned that into a quiz because one of our friends was so depressed and fearful about the whole covid thing that he couldn’t get past it, this has had the opposite effect on me I am thirsty to find a way to make this work, but with myself and husband both retired, and the other depressed friend on benefits and unable to work we would have difficulty fitting into this group of circumstances but this is not to say I wouldn’t be interested in learning more which I could pass onto the others I think if I filter happier information gradually through, it might have a not necessarily galvanising effect but might peak interest, in fact I am going to forward this article to them now. We do however not live close to each other which may be a stumbling block we were going to takeover a housing cooperative for a small sum or buy our own land and build eco houses, dreaming of course ! we have no capital, this is going to be a very testing time and I hope that not too gradually because we don’t know how much longer we have to turn things around this way of life will start to kick in, My husband Mike and I are trying to live sustainably by growing our own vegetables fruit and herbs, cooking our own bread, cake and pies, drying vegetables, fruit and herbs (for medicine and culinary use) so that we don’t have to shop at supermarkets anymore and we order anything we need food wise from the internet we don’t go out shopping anymore if we can avoid it. I am going to learn how to forage there is an interesting series on here and I have got the foragers calendar and Richard Mabey’s food for free, we have also be finding out about bush craft this is my ideal of living, being that bit older of course may stymie us a bit there is only one of us under 60 so I am trying to interest our son in the idea he is on family benefits and was at University until lockdown, he is studying engineering it would be handy if he chose his major subject to do with something ecologically helpful. but that is his decision of course.
I apologise for being so down on this subject before I have been slow on the uptake maths and anything to do with money not my bag having looked at it again I can see it as a very valuable way to go forward as long as it doesn’t get bogged down as other systems have.
2Malcolm Purvis July 12th, 2020
That’s fantastic Dave, well done and power to your elbow!!
3Dave Darby July 12th, 2020
“I apologise for being so down on this subject before I have been slow on the uptake maths and anything to do with money not my bag having looked at it again I can see it as a very valuable way to go forward”
Thank you Malcolm, but it’ll be well done when we have a few mutual credit clubs up and running. Definitely well done to those building the things mentioned above, that already exist.
4Daniel Scharf July 12th, 2020
As Dave shows, there are so many ingredients to what communities could look like. What I like most is the evolution of existing village/neighbourhood and that all the ingredients are already available but putting them into the mix is the real challenge. I have posted about this at https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2924351761485370123#allposts/postNum=0 on which I have now added ‘mutual credit’ as one of the binding agents.
5Dave Darby July 12th, 2020
Daniel – blogger won’t let me see that post. It says:
‘Your current account (dave at lowimpact.org) does not have access to view this page.’
don’t know why they would want to block access to anyone. But I’d love to see it. Any ideas?
6Ama July 12th, 2020
I love this and would love to be part of something like it, but many barriers as a very disabled person with high support needs and complex PTSD from decades of living with so many unmet needs.
7Daniel Scharf July 13th, 2020
Apologies: The link to the dantheplan blog on neighbourhood assemblies was wrong and should be http://dantheplan.blogspot.com/2020/07/the-power-of-neighbourhood-assemblies.html