What post-Covid communities could look like, if enough of us want it

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Posted Jul 12 2020 by Dave Darby of Lowimpact.org
Post-Covid communities : what could towns like be like?

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.

Community energy group in Plymouth. See Community Energy England.

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’.

Bike co-ops : will they flourish in post-Covid communities?

Olvo cycle courier co-op in Paris.

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.

This kind of co-operative, democratic, sustainable economy is being built in Rojava, even though they’re facing huge barriers. If they can do it, so can we.

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.

Dave DarbyAbout 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.