There is an assumption behind most economic development organisations that if we can just get the economy right, just about everything else will fall into place. There is a belief that the economy is in some way foundational.
It is not.
Economies are the products of communities. Products of individuals and associations. Products of mutual exchange and trade. Products of aspiration, skill and education.
Community is not a by product of economy. Economy is a by product of community. We are putting the cart well and truly before the horse.
If we want a better, more sustainable economy then let’s invest in better and more sustainable communities. And if we want better communities then let’s work with the people that live in them in ways that are constructive, inclusive, engaging, challenging and creative. Let’s shift to a different narrative for ‘development’. Let’s throw less money at the architects, developers, placemakers and investors.
Instead, let’s invest in high quality, ‘street based’ education and development. Real community coaches trained to offer a confidential, person centred, responsive but challenging service. Let’s use it to unlock and develop the confidence, talent, passion and skill that so often lies dormant or unrecognised.
We don’t do this by engaging ‘the few’ community ‘champions in setting up Development Trusts, Enterprise Centres or in tidying up shabby spaces.
We do it through radical, respectful and skilled outreach work. Models for this are few and far between – but they do exist. Simon on the Streets is the best example I know of in Leeds.
Perhaps you know others?
Thoughts and suggestions welcome!