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. 

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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. 

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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?

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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. 


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?

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Voices of Stoke: Mike Riddell from CounterCoin

The first in a series of Voices of Stoke blogs by our Local Comms and Partnerships person Angela Ghadery

Stoke-on-Trent, still known today as The Potteries, is up for restoration, renewal and empowerment; but that’s actually nothing new or surprising! Although the city is known for its history as one of the great northern powerhouses that each generated so much traditional wealth during the industrial era with their own specialised industries, the story didn’t actually begin with large-scale industrialists but with small cottage industries in villages, using the local clay to make pots. It required this community collaborative enterprise in the first instance, long before the industrial capitalism that later harnessed it, to grow the villages into the six towns now constituting the city, sitting alongside their adjoining market town of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and both surrounded by the rugged Staffordshire Moorlands, and the historic county town of Stafford to the south, which altogether constitute North Staffordshire.

“it’s probably important to keep in mind those early roots of community enterprise which by means of skill and creativity used the local clay for the benefit of all”

So although the many factories, with what were as many as 2000 of the famous bottle ovens at continually at work during its height, and companies such as Burleigh, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Minton, Emma Bridgwater, Portmeirion, Moorcroft and Spode earning world wide acclaim, it’s probably important to keep in mind those early roots of community enterprise which by means of skill and creativity used the local clay for the benefit of all.

When we see the exciting new vibrancy in the form of both smaller ceramics enterprises setting up again along with an extraordinary multitude of individuals, groups and organisations, fighting back to restore life, community and sustainable economies, we can see the energy, determination and collaborative commitment that was always there, and once able to grow again, is inevitably now doing so but now with the aim of creating healthy, sustainable, inclusive and participatory futures, this time by and for the people of this central England conurbation, lying almost equidistant between Birmingham and Manchester.

One such enterprise is that of CTRLshift partner, CounterCoin, an alternative currency, made symbolically at first with coins from the local clay, and now being set up digitally. Founder Mike Riddell says, “It began a couple of years ago with a bunch of kids from the YMCA, a laser machine and a few sheets of coloured acrylic as the launch video shows”:

CounterCoin launch video

It is now slowly gaining increasing traction with both social enterprises and local businesses. Counter Coin is based at Cultural Squatters community cafe (more on ‘the Squat’ in our next blog) which opened on 1 May 2018. Aditya Chakrabortty arrived to investigate and published “the shopping centre where the currency is hope” in The Guardian.

Mike continues, saying “today we’re busy planning the Hartshill Project that will bring together a number of community groups and local businesses to work in partnership to recognise and reward the contribution made by the army of volunteers without whom the economy would collapse…The contribution made by volunteers and frontline community groups is massive. If we are all to get behind the organisations that pick up the pieces of people’s lives when they run into problems, then we should value and celebrate this contribution properly. Now what we’re saying to the business community is this: it won’t cost you a penny. There’s plenty of stuff that you throw away that volunteers, sometimes on VERY low incomes, could make very good use of, for example perishable food or unsold tickets.  Please don’t waste them – be kind instead – let those who contribute to the community pay for them, wholly or partly with CounterCoin.”

More local voices to come in the lead up to the Summit!

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.


Read about our partners here