Reflections on the CTRLshift gathering – an emergency summit for change

A guest post by Dave Darby from CTRLshift Partner the Open Credit Network. Originally published on the LowImpact.org blog.

The stated aim of the annual CTRLshift conference (that took place in Stoke-on-Trent recently) is to bring key people together to talk about practical steps to help shift power away from central government and multinational corporations, to communities and individuals. Well, you had me at ‘decentralisation’, so I went along. Governments, banks and corporations have shared centralised power for long enough – way too long, in fact. Politicians give preference to corporations when it comes to procurement (including weapons procurement); take corporate jobs and money; listen to corporate lobbyists; tax independent coffee shops properly, but not Starbucks; give banks monopoly control over the money supply – and so on.

All the organisations represented at CTRLshift are doing valuable work to try to counter that, and I had some really interesting conversations in Stoke – inspiring and enlightening. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to be too optimistic when you listen to what (sometimes triple-peer-reviewed) scientists are saying about what’s in store for us. We’re in deep doo-doo really. Recent papers/articles by Prof. Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater are not unrealistic, I don’t think. Our current economy is not only unable to get us out of this situation – it makes it worse, every day. We need system change – as in replacement, not reform.

“Our current economy is not only unable to get us out of this situation – it makes it worse, every day. We need system change – as in replacement, not reform.”

To this end, on Thursday evening at CTRLshift, I was part of a meeting, in the canteen, about how to bring about this system change, using a combination of mutual credit and the viable system model (see below), involving Pat Conaty, Cath Muller, Gary Alexander, Jon Walker and Angela Espinosa. As I said, optimism is probably too strong a word, but this is something I’ve pursued more since the gathering, and I think it’s something that I’m going to be committing quite a lot of my time to over the coming months and, possibly / hopefully, years. The new system has to be all the things capitalism isn’t – decentralised, sustainable and mutually-owned.

Aspects of the new economy

First – decentralised. This is crucial. Banks and corporations centralise wealth and power, which overflows into the political system and prevents real democracy. The only alternative most capitalists can envisage is centralised socialism, which is why they’re so afraid of change. Co-operative alternatives have become bloated and centralised too – workers in Co-op Group stores barely realise they’re in a co-op; and the centralised Co-op Bank stumbled and was swallowed whole by a hedge fund (leaving a gaping hole in the co-operative sector). Each town used to have its own co-operative society, which over time became consolidated into giant, centralised Co-op Groups. The trick is to federate rather than consolidate (more later).

Second – sustainable (a new term is becoming popular – regenerative – because when it comes to ecology, it’s not enough to sustain what we’ve got, as it’s already too damaged, and needs to be regenerated). Sustainable means non-growing. We can continue to ‘grow’ qualitatively, but not in terms of raw GDP. Countries can be ranked in terms of ecological footprint (i.e. ecological damage), and that ranking will correlate exactly with a ranking based on size of economy. If GDP rises, so does spending power, and there’s nothing to ring-fence this extra spending power so that it’s not spent on material things. Technology and human ingenuity are never going to come up with a perpetual motion machine, nor a perpetually-growing economy on a finite planet.

And third – mutually-owned. Tesco was a corner shop once, Starbucks was one coffee shop, McDonalds, one restaurant. If we’re supporting privately-owned businesses, however small, we’re inadvertently providing a nursery for the multinational corporations of tomorrow. So support local private businesses – sure, but only over corporate alternatives, and never over local co-operatitves of any kind.

Transcending capitalism

Now I know that not everyone at CTRLshift subscribes to these principles. For example, I had a conversation with a proponent of capitalism (neither decentralised nor mutually-owned) and perpetual economic growth (I won’t say who with, because they’re doing good work, and I don’t want to sound critical). However bizarre I find this position, I’ve learned not to waste time fighting it. I was recently involved in a public debate about capitalism, upstairs in a pub in south London. I was putting the anti-capitalist case, and it turned out that my opponent had shares in a community energy scheme and was a member of a CSA scheme. So what’s to argue with? He considered community energy – based on a network of not-for-profit co-operative societies – capitalist, which it clearly isn’t, but who cares?

We can also work with people who believe that petitioning the state or changing its representatives will help, and in some ways it will – Corbyn says he’ll double the size of the co-operative sector, for example. But no country can stabilise GDP in a global economy that’s primed to maximise it. That way lies capital flight, recession and electoral defeat. And violent revolutionaries? I don’t think they were represented at CTRLshift (unless anyone knows differently). But really? They’d be crushed, and would need violent people to take control, after which, they’ll never relinquish it.

My real interest is in talking strategically about how we can build an alternative to capitalism, to transcend it, rather than overthrow it, and I had plenty of those at CTRLshift. It’s not really possible to talk strategically with capitalists or growth advocates, but we can offer support if they’re helping to build things that will make replacing capitalism easier – even inadvertently. I’ve been looking all my life for ‘it’ – something to light the blue touch paper of the mutualist economy. In the last few years I’ve found two very strong contenders – one more controversial in alternative circles than the other.

Credit Commons – money for the new economy

First, mutual credit (the less controversial of the two) – a trading / exchange system that requires no money, charges no interest and doesn’t involve banks. Businesses have an online account and appear in a directory (that lists the products and services they’re offering, and what they’re looking for). When they purchase in the system, their account goes into debit, and when whey sell in the system, they get credit. There are limits to how far members can go into credit or debit. That’s it, in terms of the essential practical details. Members can only earn credit if another member incurs exactly the same amount of debit. Credits and debits cancel each other out, and the entire system balances at zero.

Three years ago, I read Tom Greco’s book The End of Money and the Future of Civilisation, and a penny dropped – this could be the key to system change. Any exchange system that involves money that can be accumulated will concentrate wealth and power. Mutual credit doesn’t use a currency that can be accumulated – unlike crypto, for example. Around the same time, I read Matthew Slater’s Credit Commons white paper, and that was it – I was hooked. Matthew is working with others on software to allow mutual credit schemes everywhere to become interoperable, and so create a global moneyless trading system.

Matthew came over from Athens to speak at The Open Co-op’s Open2018 conference, and afterwards, Matthew, Oliver Sylvester-Bradley (co-founder of The Open Co-op) and I decided to build a mutual credit network for the UK. Matthew introduced Dil Green, and together, we launched the website – the Open Credit Network – and conducted our first trades earlier this year. Tom Greco came over from the States to see us, and now he and Matthew are in our advisory group, along with other finance and tech specialists. I hosted a ‘solutions session’ on mutual credit at CTRLshift, and although we had a useful conversation, only 10 people attended (there were 30-40 people at other sessions), and several of them already knew as much or more than me about mutual credit. (However, there were some indications of possibilities of local mutual credit nodes.) I guess a lot of people think that the money / finance system is just too complicated to get their heads around, and left it alone. I’m working on ways to simplify and clarify the concept of mutual credit, and so for example, at Open2019, there will be a series of ‘lightning talks’ on a range of solutions to the problem of collaboration at scale, and I’ll be giving talks about mutual credit. It would be good to see you there.

If you could click the ‘express interest’ button on our home page, on behalf of your business / organisation, that would be fab; plus if you could get it on social media and tell everyone you know to do the same, that would be double-fab.

Viability

Secondly, I came across the viable system model (VSM) last year, brainchild of the now deceased genius, Stafford Beer. A major problem in growing a co-operative / solidarity / mutualist economy that stays co-operative and is immune to corporate buyouts, is keeping it decentralised. I was told by several people whose opinions I respect, that the best tool for this job is the VSM. There have been huge debates about whether the focus should be on a viable systems approach or on building human relationships and good communication. My feeling is that these approaches are two sides of the same coin – i.e. just communicating well and being nice to each other without a systemic approach to change, or a systems approach in which people are horrible to each other and don’t communicate well are not really viable options.

Swayed by what seemed like excellent advice from people I trust, and thinking ‘what can it hurt?’, I visited Jon Walker and Angela Espinosa (both disciples of Beer, who met at his funeral and married soon after), authors of several books on cybernetics and viable systems, including the most accessible guide to the VSM online. They’ve been impressed with the concept of mutual credit, and are now preparing a proposal for a package involving the VSM and mutual credit to help accelerate the growth of the new, mutually-owned, decentralised, regenerative economy. We hope to show key people working in community energy, community-supported agriculture, worker co-ops, housing co-ops, platform co-ops, free software, community land trusts and alternative finance that the benefits this package could provide will outweigh the effort required to understand and implement it, whilst taking their lead as to how to tweak the proposal.

I’d like to see a new ‘mutualist’ sector develop in close partnership with CTRLshift, but with tighter criteria on the economic institutions we’d like help create, grow and network. The corporate sector will always attempt to co-opt, dilute, buy or crush any opposition, but a non-growing, mutually-owned, decentralised economy is not something that they can never pretend to be part of.

Any thoughts on any of this are very welcome.

To other attendees at CTRLshift – let me know if you’re up for an interview about what you’re doing, what barriers you face, how we might remove them, and about strategy for building a new economy to replace capitalism. You’ll join this rebels’ gallery.

Thanks very much – Dave

Back to school: some personal reflections on Losing Control and CTRLshift

In this blog, Mark Wilkinson, Losing Control advisory council member, shares his thoughts after attending a few conferences on social change including Losing Control in February and CLTRLshift: an emergency summit for change in May. What do fish, Losing Control, and social activism have in common? Read on to find out. Originally posted on the Losing Control website.

“What does seem new and exciting though is the sense of an approaching inflexion point, a growing realisation that each example of this activism is not just an isolated point of protest or act of altruism.”

I thought I was too old to learn something new at primary school. At my daughter’s leaving assembly last year, her head teacher explained to us the difference between a school of fish and a shoal – I am not sure I had ever realised there was a difference, let alone what that might be. A shoal, she told us authoritatively, is a number of fish gathered together in a group (that much I think I knew), but a school is a group of fish which act coherently together. You’ve probably seen footage of them – they react instinctively to outside stimuli such as threats from predators or changes in ocean currents, turning and shifting in unison as if they are following some higher instruction. How they do it is an interesting question but many species do something similar – starlings murmurate and bees swarm for example. But when fish do it, it makes them a school, not a shoal. There you go. As I sat with the other parents in the back row, trying not to giggle on our undersized bench with our cramped knees buckled to the side, I had no idea I’d still be pondering if there was a wider learning to be had from this almost a year later.

But I have been pondering it over the last few months, in particular in relation to a few conferences on social change I have attended recently. The same slippery and elusive issues surfaced at each one – the need to bring about a more equitable distribution of power in society in order to reduce inequality and improve social justice, and the importance of focussing on relationships and effective methods of collaboration in doing this.

“At the core of this (Losing Control) was how to enable those facing tough times to find their own voice and agency to drive their own changes”

In February it was Losing Control in Birmingham, organised by Practical Governance and the Social Change Agency. Over 400 people attended for the two days, from a wide assortment of groups and organisations active in trying to make social change a reality – funders, community groups, cooperatives, charities and social enterprises too numerous to mention. The programme covered many different projects and topics, each highlighting the great work being done by different groups or collectives, and each seeking in their way to improve not just individual lives but the wider systems which no longer seem to work as intended. At the core of this was how to enable those facing tough times to find their own voice and agency to drive their own changes, and one aspect of the “Losing Control” theme for practitioners could be seen as letting go of some of those traditional ‘top-down’ methodologies which so often serve to constrain rather than assist the intended beneficiaries or service users. Everyone there will have left with different specific outcomes according to their interests and activities, some measurable and others perhaps less so. But what appeared to be shared among everyone was an energy and commitment generated by spending two intense but refreshing days in the company of like-minded people who share the same goals and values.

In fact, I was so energised that I surprised myself by signing up to help out on an advisory panel set up to see if and how that energy might be maintained between then and the next Losing Control conference planned for 2020. After a short series of meetings and discussions the Losing Control Network is now shifting its focus to engage in more mutual support activities for its peer-led membership, and it was thanks to this network that I attended another event earlier this month – the CTRLshift conference in Stoke on Trent. This event focussed more explicitly on how power and influence over decision making can be shifted to a more local and community level – there is an excellent write up of it here by The Alternative UK

Events in the weeks immediately before CTRLshift lent a renewed sense of urgency to the conversations – the release of the IPBES global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystems highlighting the dramatic species loss facing our planet, and the declarations of a climate change emergency by three UK parliaments to name just two of them.  At the same time the high-profile protests of the Extinction Rebellion movement in London and elsewhere, and the school climate strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg, illustrated a growing surge across all generations to engage at an individual level to make change happen. Less dramatically (although perhaps more significantly) community groups like those in Stoke (and so many other towns and cities around the country) continue to actively take it upon themselves to make things happen, to improve their local communities, to engage local people. This in itself is not something new – it’s been happening for decades and many of those involved are true veterans of the environmental or social activism movements. What does seem new and exciting though is the sense of an approaching inflexion point, a growing realisation that each example of this activism is not just an isolated point of protest or act of altruism. The scale and urgency of the problems facing us have made them feel more like survival tactics.

“I am just one small fish swimming amongst many, but there’s a hugely liberating strength to be drawn from that”

The questions raised at CTRLshift and Losing Control are good ones – how do we organise in a way that can be effective at scale, how do we develop inclusive new systems that represent all of us given how urgent these issues have become? Well, it won’t surprise you learn that I don’t have the answers, and if I did suffer from the hubris of thinking I could solve them all, then I’d be wrong. This is because participating in these events reminds me that I am just one small fish swimming amongst many, but there’s a hugely liberating strength to be drawn from that. It’s the energy which comes from joining in with those events and the networks they inspire. I am in amongst a much, much bigger school that’s shifting and reacting, organic and instinctive, undirected but trusting to its shared values. And it’s a surprisingly easy and rewarding school to swim with – they look out for those swimming nearest them and they pay attention to the voices and experiences of others, so they can sense how those others are responding in turn to what is going on around them. Then all they need to do is keep swimming and as long as everyone sticks to their values the rest will somehow work itself out.

It’s a difficult thing to let go of that urge to control everything around us on a personal, intellectual or an organisational level, and to place our trust in a wider community to do the right thing by us. It questions the boundary between where the “I” ends and the “we” begins, our individual identities versus our collective responsibilities, at a time when our concepts of these are being challenged on so many fronts. It’s even harder to dovetail this into the day to day expectations of society which so highly values rational and intellectual thought over trust and instinct. But it feels like it’s worth exploring, and well worth sitting through one last school assembly for.

CTRLshift and Cultural Emergence

The CTRLshift emergency summit for change may have felt ahead of its time in 2018, but in 2019 it feels right on time. There has been a mainstream shift in recognising the emergency of our time. Now there is a widely acknowledged and publicly declared climate emergency, and many people are wondering what’s next. And this is where CTRLshift comes in. Gathered together were over 100 people representing a diverse range of organisations that all have solutions to offer. Around us were the colourful and visionary graphic harvesting from last year.

These lent a sense of continuity and long-term process to the gathering. This wasn’t just a one-off event, there is very real intention and commitment to collaboratively make the shifts needed.

I was there personally thinking about the Cultural Emergence project that I am pioneering. (Cultural Emergence is an evolution of my work with social permaculture). Shifting cultures and emerging regenerative cultures is one of the common threads that brings these organisations together. Cultural Emergence involves shifting patterns of thinking as well as creating physical structures and organisations. The CTRLshift solutions sessions dived below the surface of culture and gave insights and case studies of how to challenge beliefs, create new narratives and provoke creative thinking. The connecting across difference workshop gave us an embodied experience of some of the usually unseen cultural patterns of interaction with ‘other’ groups. Other workshops focused on the visible tangible parts of culture, such as how the cultural spaces of a disused pub in Stoke and museums across the country were being repurposed to fit community needs.

There was very clear and conscious group culture creation led by the CTRLshift organisers. We were actively creating a shared language of our collective vision as well as how we can build rapport and respect with each other, to enable us all to bring our gifts to the conversation. Dee Woods invited us to see inclusivity as a practice and a journey – a journey away from assumptions and towards equity and celebrating diversity.

Dee Woods speaking about inclusion and diversity. Dee recommended people can start the journey by reading “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge

We were encouraged to radically listen to each other from the heart. The strength in the summit came from the diversity – of ages, size of organisation, colour, class and background; all voices were welcomed. One workshop extensively explored the role of women as a force for social change. And the Extinction Rebellion Youth team held lively discussions about how to engage young people and support their voices to be heard. The summit was hosted in one of the now disused pottery of Stoke on Trent which gave it a very tangible context and there were many representatives from Stoke there, who gave a real picture of how they were meeting the challenges they were facing.

I define regenerative cultures as cultures of personal leadership, collective intelligence and planetary care. CTRLshift is an opportunity to bring that culture of collective intelligence to light and share it widely. Emergence happens in relationship; new unexpected possibilities and insights arise through connections. We are facing multiple emergencies, which call for multiple solutions and give us multiple opportunities for emergence. We really don’t know what is possible when we come together to collaborate and co-create with collective intelligence. The CTRLshift summit gave us a glimpse and a sense of how to turn that into reality and enabled us to grasp a collective belief.

“We really don’t know what is possible when we come together to collaborate & co-create with #collectiveintelligence. The @CTRLshiftSummit gave us a glimpse & a sense of how to turn that into reality”

We spent an empowering afternoon answering these empowering questions –

What will it look like when we have successfully built agency at the local level and shifted power?

What will it take for us to achieve that?

The discussions and ideas sparked a collective belief and sense of purpose in what we had to offer in terms of direction, solutions and responses.

The solutions offered fell broadly into the 3 categories that Joanna Macy described as necessary for the Great Turning to a life enhancing culture –

  • Holding actions against harmful activities
  • Creating alternative structures
  • Shifting thinking and paradigms.

One of the many threads that is being followed up, is how we can approach councils, as CTRLshift, offering professional consultancy and initiatives, answering the question of what’s next, now a climate emergency has been declared.

While we were very expansive with the possibilities for completely transforming the world, we were also invited to make our own changes. Indra Adnan acknowledged the need for our own internal CTRLshift; who do we need to become to enable the bigger shifts we wish to see in society? This is of course just a flavour and a slice of the inspiration and connections shared over just 2 days.

I went to see what Cultural Emergence could contribute to the conversation and movement. As with any good permaculture design process, I came this year to observe, to get the beat of the system, before suggesting solutions or processes. I have now plenty of ideas of how Cultural Emergence Design can support CTRLshift, and look forward to bringing them forth over time. Myself and Andy Goldring (one of the key organisers of CTRLshift) are co-facilitating a Cultural Emergence Effective Design (CEED) course in September and we will continue designing for CTRLshift and Cultural Emergence. Ideally we will have some funding for a group of people to attend to take this forward.

See you next year at the summit where I will certainly offer the Cultural Emergence toolkit in one of the solutions sessions.

Looby Macnamara, author of People & Permaculture and 7 Ways To Think
Differently
. Co-founder of the Cultural Emergence project. Steward of Applewood
Permaculture Centre
.

CEED – Cultural Emergence Effective Design course 10th -15th September with Looby Macnamara and Andy Goldring at Applewood Permaculture Centre.

For more details about all the Cultural Emergence courses see http://www.ApplewoodCourses.com

Find out more about Cultural Emergence with the free/pay as you wish taster course https://coursecraft.net/c/culturalemergencetaster

CTRLshifts into next gear

Some initial reflections from on #CTRLshift2019 from CTRLshift Steering Group member Indra Adnan. Originally posted on The Alternative UK.

Last week we described a Mexican wave of action moving across the landscape which is our struggling planet. First Greta Thunberg, then Extinction Rebellion, then the three UK parliaments declaring climate emergency, followed by the local elections in which a whole new cohort of values-based independents were elected.  And now, all around the country, new XR uprisings, prompting the wave to continue around the country.

As one wave appears to complete, another one starts up. This week, we were in Stoke-on Trent, meeting together with 120 people, each representing an organisation in the network we call CTRLshift: Emergency Summit for Change. Last year’s inaugural meeting in Wigan occurred soon after the publication of the IPPC report but well before Greta and others began to make a mark. 

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 13.18.19.png

CTRLshift was Initiated by members of system-change organisations including Permaculture Association, Transition Network, Shared Assets, The Alternative UK and many others (see here for partner organisations).

System change is not loosely evoked. These organisations have adopted the task that Buckminster Fuller described as building ‘a new model’ to replace the old, dysfunctional growth economy that has almost destroyed our planet. 

Most have been working for decades, seeding, growing and prototyping microcosms of a new system that would re-create a flourishing planet. All have as the backbone of their work the relationship between a thriving human being, an enabling community and a healthy planet – in A/UK terms, I, We, World. 

Last year’s gathering (read about it here) was a triumph – mostly because so many of us gathered successfully under this banner. We believed that ‘shifting control’ from the national-level political parties and corporations, to the people and organisations collaborating in towns, cities and regions, IS the best way to respond to the multiple crises we face. 

Without facilitating the participation of the people, getting their emotional and physical needs met within their communities, we won’t get the results we need in the time we have left, before the climate deadlines bite. Worse than that, continuing to exclude the majority of people from our solution-making leaves too many people vulnerable to manipulation by those who want to continue pillaging our common resources.

Meeting each other face to face instantly generated new relationships, new projects, new energy. And new soft power – which means a new story we could all share about what was good and what was possible. 

But at the end of this first Summit, we were reminded of our limitations. Not only were we displaying a very familiar problem for socio-environmental organisations – a lack of diversity (agency and ethnicity). But we also had no real shared idea of how we could rapidly accelerate the steady pace of change we had set over quite a long period of time. Were the two linked?

In this second Summit, we have begun to address these points. Our organising committee is more diverse and the issues of inclusion have moved into the centre of our conversation. And, as described by the Mexican wave above, the call for acceleration is very present in the room. Members of XR Youth are amongst us, for example, making their mark. Challenging us to make more way for them and their ability to imagine the future on their terms. 

Their gritty acceptance of their task (no less than to save the planet) is hugely inspiring, and there is a lot of will in the room to protect and support that. Even so, the discourse is dynamic and – for one or two in the room – disabling. It’s hard for some to hear that simply being an adult makes you responsible for the crisis. 

Particularly if you are a disadvantaged person who has always worked for change, and you never knowingly colluded or benefited directly from your generation’s complacency on the environment and the legacies of colonialism. 

Screen Shot 2019-05-11 at 20.53.03.png

In the face of such complex realities, there is nevertheless a deep desire to pull together.  Not least because, despite the urgency of this moment, the commitment to empathy and humility is common to both movements (see picture).

The two days followed a rhythm of learn and explore, learn and explore. Day 1 offered a number of solution sessions, from Building the Open Credit Network, Citizen Led Economic Transition, Alternative Local Food Systems, Women as a Force for Social Change, to our own How to Build a Citizens Action Network. (The full list and presentations to be published soon).

Even more than last year, these could all be seen as generic parts of a coherent system –  elements of the code for shifting control – rather than a collection of our singular passions.

In the afternoon we challenged ourselves to get beyond what we already knew, and move into full-collaboration-in-the-face-of-emergency-mode. Split into groups of 15 we took on a three-part question: 

1.     What are you currently doing to build agency at the local level, or shift power from national government and corporations?

2.     What will it look like when we have successfully built agency at the local level and shifted power? What will be different locally and how are regional and national levels be supporting this?

3.     What will it take for us to achieve that? Specific proposals within clear time frames. What are the barriers? What help do you need?

CTRLshift pic 1.png

In the plenary that followed much clustering of initiatives and next steps were identified. But there were just as many calls for other kinds of work – personal and inter-personal conversations to be had. How do I let go of my own ‘thing’ to work with others? Is it OK to expect historically excluded people to prioritise environmental concerns? Can we ever pick up enough speed working from the grassroots up?

In many ways, the concerns that have to be addressed in the moment of a call to action are exactly where the democracy crisis meets the environmental crisis. For many this is summed up by the phrase climate justice: never forgetting inclusion as you move towards your goals. But for others, particularly those coming with tech solutions, speed is our priority. This often favours a more masculine, solutions-oriented mode of operation: build the space / website / institution as a workable machine, then discuss how to occupy it later. 

Maybe the trick is to be able to hold all these different speeds of operation, allowing different groups to pursue each, without sacrificing the forward movement we need now. Until now, no national level government has managed to do this successfully. 

Piano archives the old pottery works at Potbank

Is it because there is no trust between those groups with different ideas of what agency is? Can that be much better achieved as a municipal level, where people can meet, talk and share identity?

Do we need far more explicitly feminine practices of reflection and relationship in the public space to ensure that? No coincidence maybe that the local Stoke band entertaining us that evening was Venus Rising!

Day 2 of CTRLshift 2 began with a second wave of diverse and rich solutions sessions. I sat in with Stoke’s own CounterCoin project which we’ve blogged about more than once. 

CounterCoin is a physical coin that rewards young volunteers with access to excess – whether empty cinema tickets, bus seats or fresh food. While the conversation contains the successes and failures of other local currencies it also moves us much more incisively into the integration of the democracy and environmental crises. 

CTRLshift pic REGIONAL NETW.png

CounterCoin is not singularly about keeping the economy local. It’s also about enabling youth engagement, transforming waste and the understanding about the creation of value

In the conversation was a member of the police force (whose other interest was planting 5 billion trees). He described in detail the impact of deprivation on the mental and emotional health of all ages. We talked about how tracking the coins and developing new indicators could transform what is seen as value in the region. 

A former government advisor, also in my group, asked pointedly: “might public services be willing to share some of their resources with the businesses that collect the most coins – to keep them generating more quality intervention in the lives of young people?” Or, in what ways could CCoin be used to pay XR Youth?

The afternoon was spent in pure acceleration: less new and original initiatives, more integration and convergences. The 35 CTRLshift partners agreed to continue working together to advance common goals and support further CTRLshift summits and convergences. How about a CTRLshift in every region? 

A local Stoke-on-Trent group started up to build the momentum from this event into a local movement, develop a toolkit, and then hand it off to local groups in the next CTRLshift host city.  Turning Stoke from Brexit Capital to Social Capital. Another group committed to engage with local governments and make available to them easily digestible and actionable outcomes, ideas and thinking coming from CTRLshift.

Following a great session with Jason Nardi of the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity Economy(RIPESS) and co-organiser of the 2020 World Social Forum of Transformative Economies(FSMET), there was lots of energy among participants to connect with future CTRLshifts. As well as next year’s International Degrowth Conference in Manchester. This may lead to an events ‘continuity group’ seeking to cross pollinate many future events, conferences and convergences across the country throughout the year.

But just as many conversations and commitments were personal. As one participant shared with me: “There’s definitely a part of me that is only interested in my own project. But there’s also a part which is called to action to serve this emergency we are all in together. 

“To be honest, we can’t afford to be only frustrated with the people we know should be doing the work. This has to be about us all stepping into our own power, individually and together. Doing it our way”.

Could we put it any better?

CTRLshift pic CC GIFT.png
CTRLshift pic WINDOWS.png

Of Convergences – Local to Global

A guest post by Jay Tompt of CTRLshift Partner, The Totnes REconomy Centre. Originally published on his Enterprising Ecosystems blog

For everything that rises must converge.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

These words from Teilhard de Chardin carry wisdom that many who have tread whichever path toward spiritual liberation will appreciate. There are many paths to the mountaintop of enlightenment. Might this also hold some truth for the pursuit of collective or social enlightenment? Who knows? But in the context of movement building, I’d like to propose something like the inverse, that everything that converges must rise.

I’ve recently returned from the planning conference for the next World Social Forum (May, 2020 in Barcelona), which will be focused on Transformative Economies (www.transformadora.org). It aims to be a global convergence event for the many streams of the broader but still disconnected range of work on implementing, explicitly or implicitly, economies that are just, inclusive, ecologically wise, socially regenerative and resilient – solidarity economy, relocalisation, social enterprise, etc.

It was very interesting for many reasons, but principally for making clear the wisdom of convening participatory ‘convergence events’ at every scale – local, regional, national, and international. Creating these kinds of spaces was identified as a key strategy for building transversal, inclusive connections across territories and lines of work, (including people working on education, mental health, migration issues, housing and homelessness, for example), as well as for building connections ‘up and down’ – from local to regional to national and international actors. ‘Convergence’ in this sense is about bringing the diverse streams of diverse movements and experience together for the purpose of sharing, learning, self aligning and self organising around common purpose. The interpersonal relationships that result create the necessary conditions for building an effective movement that is both broad and deep, reducing siloed thinking and fragmented action, increasing opportunities for ‘joined up’ thinking and collaborations that amplify outcomes.

This was also identified as a key strategy for diffusing innovation and ‘know how’. This historical moment demands fewer ‘talking shops’ and more practical action, spreading the innovations that are working to wherever else they can work. In other words, doing things. This requires knowing which are the appropriate things to do and the guidance and instruction on how to do them effectively. In other words, ‘know how’. When these kinds of events include a diverse mix of those with varying degrees of practical experience and theoretical knowledge – very often found in the same people – there can be rich, face to face interchange, an essential condition for teaching and learning.

Finally, converging the various streams of people working for diverse ‘brands’ of transformative economies – relocalisation, solidarity, regenerative, wellbeing, etc. – was identified as a key driver for building resilience and adaptability. There is no one size fits all economic alternative to the globalised, centralising, corporate, growth-at-whatever cost system so often labeled ‘neoliberal capitalism’. There is no ‘silver bullet’ policy, model or campaign, nor ‘magic word’ narrative that will deliver the kind of transformation we need. Rather, the diversity of contexts across the UK, Europe and the rest of the world require a diversity of models and approaches, bottom up, side to side, and top down. By embracing and valuing the diversity, we create the conditions for radical inclusion, learning, innovation and, therefore, adaptability.

These are just some of the lessons I took away from the conference. They comport well with the lessons learned from other convergence events I’ve helped to organise. The Devon Convergence is a smaller scale, regional event that for the past four years has spawned new initiatives and strengthened existing ones. The experience of the 2018 CTRLshift Emergency Summit for Change, a national convergence event, has been similar.

This is why I’ve been involved in helping to organise the 2019 CTRLshift Summit, happening in Stoke, May 8-10. It will bring together an amazing group of changemakers from across Britain who have committed to exploring how we can learn from each other, share the know how gained from working in projects that deliver results, and self organise around common goals. The possible immediate outcomes include larger scale collaborations and supporting many more convergence events across the country, among other proposals already being discussed.

With the knowledge that we must halve carbon emissions in the next decade to give a chance of avoiding the worst climate breakdown scenarios, we know we must act with unprecedented care and speed to utterly transform our society. And that’s just one aspect of a complex of interrelated crises we face. The implications are difficult to grasp intellectually, but we might all agree that solutions must include shifting the economic system toward bioregionally appropriate models which will meet everyone’s needs equitably. And that we must shift the political system in ways that really empower citizens, communities, towns, cities and regions. Convening participatory convergence spaces like CTRLshift will be part of this process, bringing diverse groupings of people, organisations and networks together, to solve common challenges and self organise for common purpose. Hopefully, this will build the kind of movement that can endure and develop for the next many years, rising to meet the incredible challenge of building a new society together.

Community Night Walk at CTRLshift 2019

Community Night Walk as part of the CTRL SHIFT SUMMIT

Date: Wednesday, 8th May meet at 6.45 at Pot Bank Café, Spode Factory for a 7pm Departure.

This will be a round route, ending back at the Pot Bank Café at 8pm.

What is it?

Community Night Walks are informative, meandering walks at a time of day when some people avoid the streets. The idea came from the “Reclaim the Night” women’s campaign, broadened out for anyone who wants to explore the city’s streets in safety at night. http://www.reclaimthenight.co.uk/

Each walk is studded with a series of “Human Noticeboards” – local group representatives, organisers, makers and doers and practitioners who speak for around two minutes about their interests and activities, and ways that people can get involved. They range from straight informative delivery, to personal anecdotes, to singing. People can find out more from our human noticeboards as the walk continues.

The walks provide an opportunity to learn about activity happening in the city, activate the streets at night, and find ways of being together, and sharing what we do.

Every walk ends with a body-warming cuppa at a local community venue, and chance for any last conversations and connections to be made – previous end points have included AirSpace Gallery, Stoke Baptist Centre and Spode factory when the British Ceramic Biennial was on.

What is CTRL SHIFT SUMMIT?

CTRLshift: An Emergency Summit for Change 2, takes place this year in Stoke on Trent over 8-10 May 2019. The previous Summit was held in Wigan in 2018.

CTRL SHIFT seek to catalyse a network of change-making organisations, networks and independent practitioners, creating a movement for positive social, economic and environmental change. CTRL SHIFT are developing a shared agenda to shift power over our democracy, economy and environment to people and communities across Britain.

CTRLshift is about collaboration across sectors, about big picture thinking. The change they describe embraces everything from social justice issues to climate change; a new economy to a more open democracy. They want representatives of the whole system in the room.

The night walk is an opportunity to share some of the fantastic projects, action and development happening here in Stoke-on-Trent with a national network, with the potential of creating important links and connections with people from across the UK.

www.ctrlshiftsummit.org.uk

The Community Night Walk is organised by Penny Vincent (Staffordshire University and All The Small Things) and Anna Francis (Staffordshire University and AirSpace Gallery.)

Enablement: how governments can achieve more by letting go

A guest post, cross-posted from the website of CTRLshift Partner the Centre for Public Impact.

In recent decades, many governments around the world have embraced a service delivery mindset inspired by management practices from the private sector. By examining the evidence of what works and what doesn’t, designing services based on this understanding, and managing those services efficiently, the logic runs that we are likely to achieve better outcomes for citizens.

The delivery mindset holds that citizens can be thought of as customers of public services, and the same tools of process optimisation can be applied to a welfare service, for example as to a bank.

But now a different mindset is emerging in many innovative governments and public agencies around the world. Rather than focusing on improving services directly, this approach aims to cultivate the conditions from which good solutions are more likely to emerge. The emphasis is on enablement rather than delivery.

As part of our Future of Government project, we have been exploring this shift towards enablement and its implications for how the public sector can achieve the outcomes that matter to citizens through public services. Over the past twelve months, our project on legitimacy has also shown us that governments need to consider more deeply the impact that public services have on people and those working to provide them at the frontline.

While this might sound like a small shift of perspective, it makes a profound difference to how we conceptualise what government is trying to achieve and how it goes about it.

Neighbourhood care in the Netherlands

Take, for example, the Dutch system of neighbourhood care in which nurses support people in their homes. In the 1990s, like many public services around the world, a series of management reforms was implemented with the aim of improving efficiency. Best practices were identified, products and services carefully defined, and performance metrics put in place. Some services were outsourced to the private sector.

“Best practices were identified…performance metrics put in place. Some services were outsourced to the private sector. The result…costs doubled in 10yrs…service quality fell.” #CTRLshift2019

The result was that costs doubled in 10 years while service quality fell. Patients would be seen by a procession of different providers, each of whom was responsible for a different aspect of their care, none of them spending more than a few minutes in their home. Patient satisfaction declined, and the nurses themselves became increasingly demotivated.

In 2006, a new model was proposed that handed control to small, self-managing teams of nurses. Each team takes responsibility for 50-60 patients in a community and can decide how best to organise themselves. There are no targets or best practices imposed from above, instead, the focus is solely on the needs of patients.

The results have been impressive. Buurtzorg, which means ‘neighbourhood care’ in Dutch, has achieved far higher patient and staff satisfaction than the previous approach and is no more expensive. The Buurtzorg model has been replicated internationally by teams in Sweden, Japan and the United States.

The enablement mindset

The Buurtzorg story is emblematic of a change that is taking place across a range of services in many different parts of the world. From schools in Helsinki to family services in Auckland, the traditional service delivery model is increasingly being challenged by an enablement mindset. Three important shifts are taking place.

First is the concept of subsidiarity; the idea that decision-making rights should reside at the lowest possible level in a system. Recognising that much of the information about how to improve a system is embedded in the system itself, it follows that we should push authority to information and not the other way round. In public services this implies that, wherever possible, local actors should be empowered to shape solutions including frontline professionals such as teachers, doctors and social workers.

Subsidiarity is closely linked to the second shift towards localism which stresses the importance of local accountability mechanisms and decision rights. Around the world, people have far greater trust in government bodies that are closer to them, because they have shorter accountability loops and can develop more locally appropriate solutions. In addition to representative democratic mechanisms, participatory mechanisms that open up deliberation and decision-making, can also flourish far more easily at the local level.

All of which emphasises the third shift, the importance of place as the dominant organising principle rather than hierarchical service silos. So-called ‘place-based’ solutions start with an understanding of the assets, stakeholders and relationships in a locality and build from there, recognising that how success is defined and pursued might look very different in different places. Indeed, that is the point.

We might describe the delivery mindset as envisaging the state as a giant machine ready to be optimised. By contrast, the enablement mindset would view public systems more like a garden that requires cultivation rather than control.

At CPI, we’ve been exploring how the enablement approach compares to more traditional methods. This table describes some features of a delivery as against an enablement mindset.

View full-size table

A moment of transition

Given that ideas such as subsidiarity have been around for centuries, why is interest in the enablement mindset on the rise? There are several reasons to believe that we are now at a moment of transition.

Firstly, the nature of the challenges that the public sector is trying to address is changing. For example, mental health is now a major public health crisis in many developed countries and is linked to other problems such as substance abuse, domestic violence and unemployment. In other words, this is a complex and varied problem that is being poorly addressed by existing approaches.

Secondly, just as the internet has disrupted almost every industry, it is now disrupting the public sector. By making more information more easily accessible than ever before, it is democratising knowledge and upending hierarchies. For example, teachers can collaborate to share and improve lesson plans with colleagues around the world, rather than waiting for national guidelines. Similarly, patients can pool their knowledge about rare conditions, so that they become better informed than their doctors about the treatments available or the side-effects of certain combinations of medication.

Thirdly, respect for ‘the establishment’ is in freefall in many countries, with a suspicion that experts and other elites don’t share the values of the populace. Deference to hierarchy is being replaced by demands for more autonomy and self-determination. Localism is on the rise. Young people, in particular, are challenging old hierarchies, power structures and mindsets. They no longer just want to be customers or consumers but instead, be active participants able to shape services to their needs and play a part in their delivery.

These trends are advancing rapidly and seem unlikely to be reversed, and governments around the world are beginning to ask what it means for them.

Why governments might achieve more by letting go

This has profound implications for those politicians and public servants sitting at the top of hierarchies with a mandate to improve outcomes. It could really be true that the less they control, manage and measure, the better the outcomes will be.

For example, large, centrally-run programmes are unlikely to succeed when applied to complex systems. Even when deployed with the best of intentions, as with the No Child Left Behind Act in the United States, central programmes can quickly deteriorate into box-ticking exercises that lack the support of those who are essential to their success. They can also be costly to administer and frequently fail to deliver, even on their own terms.

“The enabling mindset…challenges us to raise our expectations about what can be achieved through collaboration and cooperation.” #CTRLshift2019

Similarly, centrally-set performance targets and KPIs imply that ‘the centre’ understands which outcomes are most important and that they can be measured by simple metrics. As well as disempowering lower levels of the system, there is mounting evidence that such targets, especially when linked to incentives, risk encouraging perverse behaviours such as creaming (focusing on the easiest cases), gaming (for example, lowering standards to improve pass rates) and data manipulation (such as the underreporting of unfavourable results).

To be clear, this is not to argue against the value of data but rather that it should flow horizontally within a system, informing practice and improvement in situ rather than from on high. By moving away from high-stakes testing and audit, the true value of the information can be used to help services continuously improve, while avoiding the distortive and counterproductive effects of centralised performance regimes.

Conclusion

The enabling mindset represents a radical shift in authority, accountability and agency from those at the top to those lower down the system. It argues for humility about what can be achieved when power is aggregated, and challenges us to raise our expectations about what can be achieved through collaboration and cooperation. It suggests that systems can become self-improving rather than relying on top-down management and control.

We are exploring and debating the implications of enablement as part of our Future of Government project and we are looking for more case studies of enablement in practice. Contact us at futuregovernment@centreforpublicimpact.org if you work in the public sector or in government and would like to contribute your thoughts and reactions to this debate or suggest more case studies we should explore.

#FutureGovernment

Exploring solutions at CTRLshift Summit 2019

There are going to be 20 Solutions Sessions 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. Solutions Sessions will take place around a table – physically or metaphorically – with up to 5 running simultaneously.

These sessions are part of the main programme and give an opportunity for partners and other attendees to share with others the work they’re doing and for each of us to learn from each other in these times of change.

The sessions 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.

The 20 Solutions Sessions on offer this year showcase the broad perspectives and work spheres that we in the room are part of. We hope you will enjoy participating in them.

List of Solutions Sessions 2019

  • Human & Nature’s Wellbeing – Jake Cliffe, Human Nature Escapes CIC
  • Systems Shift: Citizens Action Networks – Indra Adnan, The Alternative UK
  • Citizen-led Economic Transition – Jay Tompt, REconomy Totnes
  • Building the Open Credit Network – Dave Darby, Open Credit Network
  • Alternative Local Food Systems – Growing and Diversifying Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – Page Dykstra, CSA Network UK
  • Students as change agents for local community action – Sarah Briggs, Keele University
  • Building Regional Networks – Richard Couldrey & Michael Thomas, Transition Network
  • Women as a force for Social Change – Nickala Torkington, Flourish Together CIC
  • Climate Conversations for Deep Social Change – Susannah Raffe
  • Working with Culture and Creativity – Hilary Jennings, Happy Museum Project
  • Our Money, Our Planet: Participatory Budgeting and Climate Change – Jez Hall, Shared Future CIC
  • Connecting Across Difference – Sophie Docker, Open Edge
  • Promoting Urban Agriculture – Jeremy Iles, Green Future CIC
  • People Powered Money – Mike Riddell, CounterCoin
  • Developing a regenerative business hub and practitioners forum – Anna Clayton, Ethical Consumer
  • Permaculture: Systems Thinking for Connected Action – Andy Goldring, Permaculture Association
  • Experiments in Shared Governance – Sarah McAdam, Transition Network
  • Building the World Social Forum of Transformative Economies 2020 – Jason Nardi, RIPESS EU
  • Community-led Housing, Steve Hoey, Community Land Trust Network

For more information, please visit: http://www.ctrlshiftsummit.org.uk/programme/

Please note, actual times on link above subject to change

Community Land Trusts bring back a semblance of agency and control

A guest post by Tom Chance, Director of CTRLshift Partners the National Community Land Trust Network

We seem to be facing lots of emergencies at the moment. Wrenching our eyes from TV coverage of Brexit, climate change and knife crime for a moment, we also see that our local areas are in need of relief from forces that feel beyond our control

“From Liverpool to Toller Porcorum, Bishops Castle to Mile End, people are using Community Land Trusts (CLTs) to bring a semblance of control and agency back.”

From Liverpool to Toller Porcorum, Bishops Castle to Mile End, people are using Community Land Trusts (CLTs) to bring a semblance of control and agency back.

Best known for providing affordable housing, CLTs are also saving shops, post offices and community centres that anchor their community. They are trying to create solar farms and community agriculture and landscape conservation. They are providing training, apprenticeships and jobs, and building skills, hope and power among the so-called ‘left behind’ – that is, among themselves.

The heart of the CLT concept is putting land into democratic community ownership, with a legal lock to ensure it is used for that community’s wellbeing.

“The heart of the CLT concept is putting land into democratic community ownership, with a legal lock to ensure it is used for that community’s wellbeing.”

The housing crisis has been the catalyst for our concept to take off. In just ten years our movement has gone from a handful of pioneers with 30 odd homes, to over 300 CLTs that have built and renovated almost 1,000 homes, with over 5,000 in the works. We have a £163 million government fund in England, and growing support from national and local government and the housebuilding industry. The Welsh Government wants to support more community led approaches to housing, and of course in Scotland the land reform movement has almost brought radicalism to the point of establishment policy. Established players in the housebuilding industry and finance are seeing how they can partner with CLTs, sharing power and control with local communities. We are changing the housing system.

We are also seeing a renewed interest in using CLTs for mostly non-housing purposes; for example a new CLT is just launching in Shropshire, focused on wildlife and conservation.

The CTRLshift summit will bring together many sources of inspiration for CLTs, and I hope the inspiration is mutual.

“The CTRLshift summit is spot on. Let’s get the whole system in the room and see how we can be more powerful together.”

When I’ve visited CLTs their members rarely just tell me about housing units. They describe how their community ticks, and what it needs to thrive. They can be inspired by the vision and achievements of Transition Towns – some of which have started CLTs. They can learn from Community Energy England’s members, doing more to generate renewable energy, and perhaps inspire those energy companies to branch out into other local services. They can think about how they deepen democracy within their organisation, and their wider community.

One of my priorities – which came from talking with our members – is to persuade politicians and industry that communities can take the lead. That this can be a powerful way to bring fractured communities together, and to achieve ends that government and industry want too – more affordable homes, cohesive communities, environmental change. This message is common to many of the CTRLshift partners, and is one that will be amplified if we say it with one voice.

The CTRLshift summit is spot on. Let’s get the whole system in the room and see how we can be more powerful together.

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.

Partners

Read about our partners here