A Socially Just Economy

Who Is Up for A Collaborative Joint Enterprise – New Structures For Co-Creation

Paul Mason’s been at it again. He has been writing in an inspirational way about what the solutions to our present frustration with the ‘system’ might be. In his article for the Guardian he states:

‘We need more than just a bunch of utopian dreams and small-scale horizontal projects. We need a project based on reason, evidence and testable designs, that cuts with the grain of history and is sustainable by the planet. And we need to get on with it.’

Using extracts from his soon to be launched book Post-Capitalism Paul’s article critiqued the left retreat of the last 25 years – characterising it as having been reduced to shouting from the side-lines, a protest movement but not a change movement. In contrast, he outlines a potential change process where new ways of being will be stimulated by an age of information sharing, new forms of ownership, new social-contracts, collaborative production, community time banks, self-managed anti-hierarchical working, parallel currencies, etc.

‘Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours.’

In my last post I tried to sketch out the types of Common Weal policies that could enable a more equitable Scotland, Greece or USA, for that matter. They are based on what Paul Mason refers to as new values. Prior posts have highlighted the ENOC project that enabled young people in the EU to identify the impacts of austerity. In my work place am particularly interested in the moment at how we can employ local innovation to enable young people to overcome austerity and we have put in bids for large amounts of cash to do this (fingers crossed the sun shines on these proposals).

Paul Masons article identifies the government’s role as creating the frameworks to ensure these new forms don’t simply become a bolt hole from neo-liberal society and actual become a new form of economy. He identifies the government’s role as becoming to support social innovation that can overcome markets and elites.

In so doing, he (knowingly or unknowingly) restates the project outlined in the Common Weal book to make our economy more collaborative. Mason forecasts a:

‘Spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy’

I would go further than Paul – I would say it’s the role of people like me who are funded by public bodies – who have some extent of job security – to support other people to develop a collaborative economy. This moves us from public (bad) – private (good) of the neo-liberal elites to public-private (excellent) collaboration creates a new economy.

This year’s Social Enterprise World Forum in Milan was attended by a friend of mine who tweeted from a couple of presentations:

@CathDocherty July 1

Prof Zamangi of Bologna Uni at #SEWF2015: we need to enable PRE-distribution of profit – distribute as you produce!

@CathDocherty July 1

What an inspiration @Harishhande was today at #SEWF2015 suggesting proliferation of SE through replication and de-centralisation not scale!

This got me thinking – I’m fast approaching 50 and mid-life crisis seems to be centring on an aspiration to release my creativity in the arts sphere. My wife tells me I no longer sing like I used to, I am no good a painting, nor, am I able to play an instrument to any great extent. But, I have successfully designed and produced loads of projects, processes, reports and books of an academic nature relating to childhood, learning, innovation, etc.. So my skills would seem to be in thinking, co-designing, doing, record keeping and writing.

Most recently I collaboratively designed and landscaped our back garden with my wife and suddenly realised that we are both very visual people, able to understand the three dimensional requirements of garden design and adept at mixing colour, space and texture to produce engaging visual effects.

We both drew on our planning and development skills from our work experience to develop, over a 3 or 4 year period it has to be admitted, an incredibly relaxing social space.

I have always thought that one day I would like to develop something creative for the Edinburgh Festival – last year I managed to talk my way onto Referendum TV, which was a show put on a Festival Venue and streamed live on-line and I giggled with friends that I’d finally been in a fringe show – yes people paid to go to the show and I was stopped by a couple a few weeks later whilst walking on the Meadows who had actually been at the show.

What started as a joke with friends about whether I would get my equity card, is gradually forming into an aspiration to actually plan a process for next year (or the year after if it takes longer) that supports creative people, involves social enterprise, stimulates some sort of crowd funding, defines where the profits go from the start, enables time sharing, provides an opportunity for diverse people and supports some more experienced performers e.g. musician and actors to showcase their talents.

A few years back I was involved in a project called CREANOVA. The ideas can be found in this paper in the Canadian Journal Learning Landscapes. One of the key things we found was that creativity and innovation flourished when you collaborated internationally with people from other countries, enabled collaborators to value difference, adopted practices of equitable working and created supportive spaces that valued participant’s contributions.

This experience is gradually re-emerging in an idea to employ my experience to develop something collaborative for the fringe festival and also to develop a book about the process (or books about the people involved in the process) and potentially a film.

A key aspect of social justice is the celebration of voices that are marginal, silenced or different – it would be great to develop a process that not only gave work opportunities to people but also enabled their life stories to be respected and understood in a wider way.

As I write at the moment, it’s just a pipe dream but I am just about to go to meet an old friend called Mike Jones from Liverpool who I was previously involved with in developing creative processes. His motto has always been, ‘if you build it they will come’ – what’s that movie again?

If my friends who are reading this think they might want to be involved in the building process, have a story they want to be told or know people who might be keen to collaborate – then get in touch.