Our Money, Our Planet. Participatory Budgeting and the Green New Deal

Participatory Budgeting (PB) enables people to make their community better, starting with issues that concern us all.  The biggest concern we face as a society is climate change. In this blog CTRLshift Partner Shared Future CIC’s Alan Budge connects PB and climate change. They have also offered to host a Solutions Session on PB during the summit

In August 2018, Greta Thunberg, a fifteen year old Swedish schoolgirl, went on strike. She sat herself down outside the Swedish Parliament building and began a one-person ‘climate strike’. Just over six months later, schools around the world are now striking for the climate on a regular basis. On March 15th, thousands of children across the UK as well as strikers in over 100 other countries skipped school in order to protest.

I was at a Participatory Budgeting (PB) voting event, where people vote directly on spending money in their communities, in North Yorkshire a few years ago; one of the participants there, a boy about the same age as Greta, said to me about the PB voting day, his face glowing with enthusiasm, “This has got to be better than general elections or any of that other stuff. It’s brilliant.”

I’ve been working on PB for over fifteen years now, and during that time have also, in common with millions of others, become progressively more alarmed about the state of the planet.

At its best, PB evokes genuine passion, real enthusiasm for change, for making a difference: and if one thing above all needs to change today, it’s how we tackle – or are failing to tackle – climate change. As I said to someone living in Norfolk recently, “We can do the best PB exercise imaginable, but it will have limited traction if most of East Anglia is under water.”

Ocasio-Cortez image

The recent ‘Green New Deal’ proposal announced in the USA by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez provides a potential focal point for ‘how to green PB’. As well as advocating major infrastructural work around developing renewable energy infrastructure, retro-fitting properties to be more energy efficient and so on, the Green New Deal idea places emphasis on social justice and the need for participants to be meaningfully engaged with the design and delivery of the programme. Which is where PB comes in.

We know that a local PB event can attract literally hundreds of participants (often many new to political engagement). That is why we are interested in developing a programme of PB events, developed within the many Local Authority areas (58 and counting at the time of writing) to have declared a ‘climate emergency’ since December 2018. We want to call this programme Our Money, Our Planet.

These PB events would be ‘green themed’, allowing residents to vote on local environmental initiatives, whilst at the same time creating fertile territory for people to discover, debate and develop more strategic ideas relating to a national programme of green investment and renewal – a green new deal indeed.

We’re currently pursuing funding opportunities to develop the programme further, and are looking to hold some initial awareness-raising events in early summer, to bring together officers, elected members, environmental organisations and community members, to further develop the thinking around this project.

Forget Brexit: The climate emergency is the biggest challenge we face. We believe our most useful contribution to helping address this existential issue is through using our experience of, and passion for, PB, to help give practical voice to peoples’ all too legitimate concerns around what is looking increasingly like an impending climate catastrophe.

Alan Budge is one of the PB Partners, a team of passionate PB experts, coordinated by Shared Future CIC.

CTRLshift image

PB Partners will be at the upcoming CTRLshift emergency summit for change, in Stoke on Trent on the 9th-10th May 2019, where we will be discussing how to take forward Our Money, Our Planet. Find out about CTRLshiftsummit and book places here.

Shared Future is also connecting climate change into other forms of deliberative democracy. Find out how by reading Peter Bryant’s recent blog on Citizens Assemblies and Climate Change.

A Guide to hosting a Solutions Session at CTRLshift 2019

What is a Solutions Session?

Basically, it’s an informative and participatory workshop about existing solutions or responses to the unfolding crises we face – ideally solutions that could potentially be linked together, scaled, and rolled out across communities in the UK and beyond.

There are going to be between 12 and 16 Solutions Session slots available at CTRLshift 2019. Each Solutions Session is 45 minutes to 1 hours in length and will take place in one of three main rooms at the venue we’re using, Potbank Hotel at Spode Works in Stoke-On-Trent

Solutions Sessions will take place around a table – physically or metaphorically depending on numbers. Up to 6 Solutions Sessions will take place simultaneously dependent on number of sessions requested and final numbers attending the Summit.

Solutions Sessions will take place at the following times:

  • 10.30 – 11.15 / 11.30 – 12.30 Thursday 9th May
  • 10.00 – 11.00 / 11.30 – 12.30 Friday 10th May

These Sessions are part of the main programme and give an opportunity for partners and other attendees to share with other organisations the work they’re doing. An example would be the Totnes REconomy Centre explaining, briefly, their work in different fields; or Solidarity Economy Association showcasing a report on diversity in the cooperative sector. Whether it’s a specific project you’re involved in, a research report or a general overview of your work, all offers are welcome.

They offer a space to seek collaborations, explore mutual opportunities and challenges, and have a conversation with others that you may not otherwise have. These Solution Sessions are designed in a similar vein to the overall programme with an edge of spontaneity and an eye to interaction and participation.

Who can offer a Solutions Session?

Priority for Solutions Sessions goes to our partners in CTRLshift and to certain local organisations. Over 30 organisations from across a wide spectrum of sectors have already signed up to support the event this year. However, if you are not a registered partner, that doesn’t bar you from applying and we welcome interesting and exciting offers of participation.

It is likely that not everyone who requests to run a session will be able to and so we will have a mind to diversity of voices, genders, locations, ethnicity, sectors and projects when we make the final selection.

To ensure inclusive and diverse participation we encourage people who identify as BAME , LGBTQ+, disabled, women, working class and young people to apply.

What should happen at a Solutions Session?

Solutions Sessions are not about powerpoint presentations delivered in an ‘expert to audience’ format. Though facilitators are welcome to bring a laptop and show a short presentation to introduce their work, the aim is to use these sessions to stimulate discussion, share knowledge and learnings and build bridges for better collaboration in the future.

Facilitators will have 45 minutes to 1 hours to discuss their work and open to the attending participants.  We recommend that you bear in mind that the goal of every session is to get participants to bring value to the work you’re doing – be that through collaborations, suggestions, new actions and so forth – and for your own work to inform theirs in turn.

What topics can be covered at a Solutions Session?

We are not prescriptive about what topics are covered at Solutions Sessions, however we will aim to limit them to subjects of relevance to the overall discussion. We are looking for sessions, in particular, that are backed up with sound research and demonstrate best practice (or, if not, learnings that highlight what didn’t work!).

We are keen that subjects covered have relevance to the wider national and global picture, but also the locale of Stoke-On-Trent. We ask you to consider how your solutions might apply to the area that the event is taking place in. We’re also looking to actively feature sessions covering marginalised groups across gender, class and ethnicity.

How do I apply to run a Solutions Session?

The first step is to fill in the Google Form here.

We’ll look at applications as they come in and make decisions as quickly as possible. We intend to have a final programme no later than 30th April 2019. We know that this is late notice, and we’ll do our best to make decisions significantly before this point wherever possible.

Guide to Facilitation of a Solutions Session

  • Do a short introduction to your project/s, network, research and/or other things you are bringing to the table. We would recommend no more than 10 minutes.
  • Feel free to use a powerpoint presentation but don’t rely on it. It should only be there to inform or illustrate what you are saying.
  • We request you bring your own laptop/tablet where possible. We will have some available but compatibility can be an issue. Where borrowing a device from CTRLshift, please ensure any presentation is saved as a PDF.
  • Remember, Solutions Sessions are only an introduction to your work. There’s plenty of chance to have detailed follow-up conversations across the event. There is a room available, Seminar 1, for impromptu meetings; and the Postcode Coffee House can also be used throughout for more informal discussions.
  • Prepare beforehand.
    • What help would you like to receive from those attending?
    • What information or perspective would benefit you most?
    • Where are there opportunities for collaboration?
    • How does your work fit into the wider picture?
    • What is your work doing to help bring about a CTRLshift?
  • Enter the session with a willingness to listen; be open; share ideas; receive support! We recommend meditating on the virtue of broadmindedness as a useful tool.
  • There will be a flipchart available for each session. Feel free to make use of it or even assign a note-taker from the audience to help capture what you discuss.

For a guide to running a participatory workshop, please look here.

Over 10% of UK councils have declared a #ClimateEmergency

CTRLshift along with our Partners in the Permaculture Association and Ethical Consumer Research Association will be attending the 1st Climate Emergency Conference on 29 March 2019 in Lancaster.

Below we reproduce a recent Press Release from https://climateemergency.uk that shows how fast this movement is growing:

More than 40 UK councils have declared a climate emergency, with young people at the forefront of this growing campaign, which crosses the political divide.

Climate emergency motions have been passed by local authorities from all corners of the United Kingdom, and from across the political spectrum including those led by the DUP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru as well as Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats.

Green Party councillors in particular have been active is proposing motions which then gain support from other parties. While in some authorities Conservatives have abstained, arguing that the measures required are undeliverable or that they have too many competing priorities, several Conservative controlled councils have passed ambitious motions including: Wiltshire, Scarborough, Mendip, Somerset and Herefordshire.

The motions commit councils to work towards going carbon neutral: 25 of the 40 councils have committed to aim to do this by 2030, after last October’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  called for “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”  Nottingham City Council has committed to 2028, while others have set 2050 or left the date to be determined later.

Ten percent of the 418 first and second tier UK councils have passed motions in the four months since Bristol became the first council to pass a motion last November and the movement is gaining momentum, with five councils declaring last week. Town and Parish councils are also joining in and declaring their own emergencies.

Public galleries have been packed for many of the council meetings where climate emergency motions have been discussed, with both Extinction Rebellion activists and young people heavily involved.

Labour led Carlisle Council passed their motion after hearing from six-year-old Emily Graham, who told councillors that she felt like “politicians are stealing my future from me by doing nothing. We have 12 years left to stop making greenhouse gases if we want to stop climate change…..My future depends on the decisions you make in this room.”

In Lancaster 16-year-old Rosie Mills started a petition to call on the City council to declare a climate emergency and, with help from university student Millie Prosser, gained more than 1500 in a few days. Both young people spoke at the council meeting, where the motion was passed unanimously.

Ms Mills told councillors: “Despite us having been taught since a young age of the

dangers of climate change, the majority of adults in our community have not yet changed in the

ways we have been taught are available to us…. If our leaders do not make the change themselves or do not accommodate the change for others, then how can any progress be made to adapt to and mitigate climate change?”

Ms Prosser appealed for community involvement in the process of decarbonising her locality: “I feel passionate that the people of Lancaster District be considered and included in plans for climate action. Especially that the young people, whose futures and livelihoods are at stake, have a voice that is heard throughout the process.:

Lancaster, like several other councils, has promised a Citizens Assembly to discuss the issue. Both Millie Prosser and Rosie Mills are on the council’s Cabinet Liaison Group, which has been set up to come up with a zero carbon plan and also includes representatives from local business and universities, and other experts.

Councils can have a direct impact on carbon emissions in a variety of ways including: insisting that developers build to higher energy saving standards in all new residential and commercial buildings; ensuring their own vehicles are powered by renewables, and insisting public transport providers do the same; switching their energy supplier to renewables and investing funds in renewable energy; divesting council investment and pensions from fossil fuels; requiring suppliers to be low/zero carbon or to reduce their carbon footprint; expanding green spaces and planting more trees.

Some councils have been working on this for many years, with Nottingham District Council setting up 100% renewable Robin Hood Energy, installing energy efficiency measures in 4500 domestic properties and decarbonising its transport by investing in a fleet of electric, biogas and retrofitted buses, cycling facilities and bike hubs, part funded from a workplace parking levy. Stroud District Council claims that it is already zero carbon in own activities, and is now working towards decarbonising the district as a whole. Simon Pickering, the Chair of their Environment Committee said “Stroud District Council took a long term approach reducing carbon emission when it started auditing it’s annual C02e emissions in response to the Earth Summit in 1992 and was one of the first councils to gain EMAS* accreditation in the late 1990s. The aim was to embed carbon emission saving into the culture of the council, not just a nice to have add on.”

Cllr Kevin Frea, who proposed the Lancaster motion, is organising the UK’s first Climate Emergency Conference in the city on 29 March. Speakers include politicians and experts on a wide range of topics including local planning, citizen’s assemblies, health, rapid transition to a zero carbon Britain, food growing, land use, transport and climate jobs.

“We need to make changes fast and to keep up the momentum, so councils and experts need to share their experience. The conference aims to give practical advice both to those who want to persuade their council to declare a climate emergency and to councils who have already declared and want to learn how best to turn their motion into action.”

The climate emergency motions also call on national government to change national policy and to provide more funding to support local authorities.

Councillor Kevin Frea, acknowledges that funding is an issue, especially with councils continuing to face cuts. “What has shifted is that deadlines are being set without the means to achieve them but with a recognition that this is the reality of what the science is telling us and that we have to act: but there needs to be massive increase in funding to support this and changes in national regulations such as planning and support for renewables.”

*EMAS= EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme

COBAL: The Cooperative Cabal

Founding COBAL

At the Ctrl Shift conference in Wigan where participants aimed to shift power over our democracy, economy and environment, from Westminster and multinational corporations, to people and communities across Britain.

COBAL: our working group was born out of a call for action by Julian Thompson who observed that the great appetite by investors for long-term low-risk ethical investments is disconnected from the huge requirement for investment in social enterprise and infrastructure. So our founding purpose as a working group was “To access capital & business model (market) building to scale quickly. Build investment vehicles.”

COBAL is a playful hybrid of Cooperative (autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations) & Cabal (a group of people united in some design, often secretively).

Our Aim

COBAL members agreed to come together as an unincorporated association with a simple founding constitution:

The Aim of Cobal is sustainable finance for the Common Good

  1. Build business models and markets
  2. Access capital, engage with an organisation ready to invest in change
  3. Scale quickly – design a replicable model that could work across sectors.

Cobal shall achieve its aim by:

  1. identifying and convening all stakeholders and partners necessary to create a platform bringing together finance with the enterprise;
  2. identifying and designing scalable legal vehicles, institutions and optimal instruments for sustainable finance;
  3. creation and testing of vehicles and instruments through proof of concept investments and initiatives on the Cobal platform.

Our Strategy

Our strategy is firstly, at the micro level to create proofs of concept of investment models by sector (e.g. care homes, food/farming & hemp products). Secondly, on the principle that networking successful micro leads to successful macro, we aim to identify common principles, templates and instruments and simple, effective narratives promoting viral spread of successful proofs of concept

Current economic problems cannot be resolved within the transactional commoditised economic paradigm which created them and our focus is on legal designs and investment instruments which are complementary to conventional investment such as debt, equity and derivatives.

We observe how collective investment whether public (state) or private (corporations) has led to alienation and conflicts of interests and we aim to create new relationships bringing together investors with investments using new equitable ways of sharing risk, costs, and surplus.

We therefore propose a new Nondominium framework agreement whereby productive assets may be held in common owned by all and by none, and value may be created, shared and exchanged equitably with no stakeholder having power of dominant control over another.

Our Progress

While we all have other commitments we have established a committed core team who meet regularly on zoom, and this has already led to project meetings in respect of possible proofs of concept in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Dumfries.

COBAL has also submitted an initial application to Friends Provident for grant funding to create a simple generic financial technology platform and we await hearing whether we will progress to the next stage.

Meanwhile, Summer is finally here, and the Wheel of Life rolls on.

CTRLshift Summit Report 2018

We have recently published our report from CTRLshift 2018 that seeks to collate findings and gather up some of the energy and connections built up at the Summit.

The report is free to view and download via Google Drive.

A few headlines from the event were:

  • 149 attendees
  • 90+ organisations present
  • A series of structured conversations and open space sessions that allowed us to share information and plans for how we might actually work together around a series of ‘cardinal questions’, ie those issues that if unlocked could allow breakthroughs that would lead to an increase in our potential – e.g. land access
  • Many new relationships and connections between attendees leading to new initiatives for their networks
  • A number of emerging projects related to taking the whole process forwards, with many people stepping forwards to help develop the CTRLshift process in the coming year.

More on all this can be found in the report.

The Road from Wigan Pier – CTRLshift Summit

By Naresh Giangrande

This article originally appeared at: https://gaiaeducation.org/news/the-road-from-wigan-pier/

For this is part at least of what industrialism has done for us.  Columbus sailed the Atlantic, the first steam engines tottered into motion, the British squares stood firm under the French guns at Waterloo, the one-eyed scoundrels of the nineteenth century praised God and filled their pockets; and this is where it all led – to labyrinthine slums and dark back kitchens with sickly, ageing people creeping round and round them like blackbeetles.

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

Eighty years ago George Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier, which detailed the horrors of 20th century capitalism in what was then the richest country in the world, Great Britain. The appalling conditions he described were not atypical of any industrial city in Great Britain, and indeed the world. The Road to Wigan Pier woke up the world to the hidden (at least to the wealthy in London) results of a system that was immensely profitable for a small minority while bringing misery to the many.

A few weeks ago a group of representatives of UK grass roots social, political, and economic change agents met in Wigan to challenge the current abuses the system (arguably the same system as George Orwell wrote about) visits on the many for the benefit of a very tiny minority, the infamous 1%. Only this time ‘round there is a new twist in the narrative of social and economic injustice. This new twist is the ecological degradation that the Industrial Growth Society visits on the Earth ecosystems. Gaia Education was one of the organisations represented.

It is no great secret that while 21st century industrial capitalism is extraordinarily successful and resilient and has provided many with a decent way of life in the Global North at least (a far cry from the conditions that George Orwell wrote about 80 years earlier) but at a cost to many around the world and the afore mentioned ecosystems. It is also no secret that the deleterious effects of this social, economic, and political system are no accident or mistake, but rather part and parcel of these systems.  

The reason why this gathering of grass roots organisations was so important was the recognition that we are facing systemic problems, problems which can only be solved at a systemic level. There was a general recognition that as we are facing a large, well resourced and powerful system which those who are profiting from can and will defend, that our individual efforts are bound to fail. However our collective and coordinated efforts just might be more successful.

CTRLshift – En emergency Summit for Change was held in Wigan, in a effort to highlight the enormity of the tasks we are facing, and to issue both a rallying cry to others to join us, but also to sound an alarm that as grass roots change agents we are failing to stem the tide of ecological destruction, social and economic inequality, and political inertia. We are seeing the failings of our system in many ways; making many of us sick both physically and mentally, the early effects of climate change, and economic and political systems run for the benefit of the few.

As with any new initiative this is an experiment, and there is no guarantee that the good will and hard work that was in evidence over the three days of the emergency summit in Wigan will make a difference. However we created six working groups who are all tackling some of the deeper systemic issues facing us. These working groups are mapping grass roots change initiatives, creating light touch, low resource but highly functioning ecosystem of organisations and initiatives and networks, to the planning of another gathering and imaginative actions that will bring publicity, and fire the public’s imagination and yearning for a better world for all.

As one of the organisers and movers of the Wigan Summit, I am astounded with how far a group that had never met, and who embodied many diverse ways of working and collective cultures were able to create the framework for the work ahead. Now the hard work of establishing our collective ways of working (which must be robust enough to enable workers in multiplicational, virtual work teams) creating a functional organisation capable of taking this initiative to the next step. Both our internal and external communications must be co created by the new partners.

Governance structures which so far have been fine for our small group will need upgrading. Questions of power, ownership (and indeed membership), and accountability all need addressing. We have a way to go, but as other networks or ecosystems of grass root change agents emerge in other parts of the world (see here and here), I feel hope and optimism that we can do what we have set out to do. Visit CTRLshift Summit for updates. And join us for our next summit, which we are planning for the day the UK Brexit’s the EU (or not!), 29 March 2019.