Monthly Archives: September 2014

Partnership and the individual

Currently, I’m working on a number of project proposals, one of which is a project, I feel is most needed and centred around an African theme. The one thing that is lacking, which was part of the aims is the recruitment of a consortium. Sell the idea and utilising available support for it to move towards realisation. This will require more pro-activity from myself as this is in the early stages, though I have been critically reflecting on the topic of partnership working.

Partnership working is difficult to achieve at an ideas stage, so it’s important to provide as much details as possible in order for people to come on board. It has to be expected that being a black person as my own people are the most sceptical in ourselves. This can be seen as a downside. Though for me having to persuade stakeholders to invest capital and resources into projects, it’s more of a challenge ensuring the information provided is balanced, but as I may have stated before, stakeholders like to see the profit or what costs can be saved.

Partnerships often act as a basis to benefit individuals and their individual aims. This is human nature and even I think like that most of the time. Though I am not a people person, and never admitted to that, but what makes me stand out is my charitable nature in how I enjoy working for the upliftment of people around me and not to be recognised for it so in order for a partnership to function effectively each party must monitor their own priorities, but ensure they do not affect the priorities of the partnership.

There have been occasions professionally and on a voluntary basis where I have been involved in partnerships where partners, have a role, but are not taking the responsibility seriously as they have not invested in the partnership and expecting to gain the benefits. I have been in others where all members have put 100% effort in and have enjoyed the benefits. There’s no guessing for which had long term success and which did not.

My advice to partnerships do your bit if the others don’t put in 100% (it doesn’t have to be perfect, just hard work), see what happens if it doesn’t work you know you grafted, at least.

Sustainable Food Supply

This week I was listening to a podcast, which discussed a term I was familiar with which I was telling someone about, which exists in our communities in the UK and the USA. This is known as food deserts, in regeneration. Local authorities in the UK work towards creating a equivalent form of a food quarter if there is not enough food shops in that area, which is why some popular supermarkets exist in a particular area.

It works like this, if there was a local area with say a couple of food/general grocery shops, but no frozen food shops within a 2 mile radius. This would be deemed as a food desert as there would be a limited frozen food facilities available to that community, to access.

In the black community, in the UK it could be deemed there is a lack of food shops available, catering to our cultural needs. This can be refuted by critics, who will say such services are available. Though a common school of thought is a localised food system, contributes towards the sustainability and greater cohesion with the community, which occurs when’s culture sells it’s own foods. Rather than another culture selling groceries in the black community. These outside cultures based on evidence do not have any wider interest in creating community cohesion, other than to encourage black people to spend money in their shops.

There should be in the US and UK more of an initiative for us to own our own stores, but also to get involved in growing our own vegetables and grain. I grew up with my parents using their knowledge of growing food from the West Indies, and most likely from our African descendants. This would be in the form of allotments and (currently), in the back garden. In fact my mothers garden resembles a fruit and vegetable shop at various times in the season.

Foods, which can be grown in the garden include (but not an exhaustive list):

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Onions
  • Pumpkin (though there’s science to planting at the right time, to ensure they grow before the frost in October kills them off)
  • Thyme
  • Swede
  • Carrots

There are many black stores (in the UK) which sell African and Caribbean food, but we have a food desert in respects of our black shops on the whole not selling a wider range of fruits, vegetables and staple foods such as milk and bread. Selling these it’s would support the argument of more black people buying food from our own, and create a stronger local black economy, as everyone needs to eat.

Another strategy, which is used (by local authorities) in the UK is a ethnic food quarter. This involves a creation of food quarter, where the local authority lease and sells buildings for commercial use at lower rates and prices to encourage, food shops and restaurants. Whilst there is  a consensus not to rely on public resources, this may facilitate development of a black economy in the UK to start with, I.e a platform towards greater self sustainability, which can only aid our ultimate goal.

Social reporting

In the role of Digital Inclusion champion, I used to attend conferences on digital inclusion and open data. In these conferences the organiser would set up a #hashtag. This would allow event attendees to tweet about the event under this #hashtag.

The tweets would include key points, interesting discussions taking place and most importantly it would allow those who did not attend the event to be involved through following events using the #hashtag. This would allow them to pose live questions despite not being present and seek different answers and perspectives.

In addition to the tweets being posted, there would be pictures and videos uploaded of a particular person who was hosting or presenting at the event. There would be in some cases live streaming at these events.

The main point is black organisations, who are hosting or attending events can afford to socially report. This is a cost effective measure and it also means those who cannot attend will be kept up to date with updates from the event.

Inclusion and sustainability

In the previous rambling, I mentioned my regeneration knowledge and experience. I also have social and digital inclusion experience. I was managing and supporting projects, which were designed to economically empower and socially include local residents.

The aim of the organisation was from a free market perspective, providing a platform (free internet to access local authority services) then pay for general use of the internet.The local residents, were required to pay for their equipment (laptops and PC). Whereas if this was from a interventionalist perspective the internet and the equiptment would have been paid for, though it would have been processed through a eligibility criteria.

The point is, there is much talk about creating or making the black economies more cohesive, though I think it’s from a free market perspective rather than a interventionalist perspective. I feel it can work in this respect. My concern is whether or not safe guards exist, are business going to be excluded from trading with in that company if they are not ethical. For example what happens if shops sell junk food or fast food and there is more than one in a particular area, will there be safeguards to ensure people are encouraged to look after their health or will market forces decide this.

This argument also considers, whether or not black people will hire our own people or will we not use the extra money to expand our businesses. Do we want to keep costs down and keep it in the family or is there guidance needed for businesses to be encouraged to employ our own people. Is the focus on just getting more black businesses, so there can be more jobs or do we need to support the current businesses and create more if the opportunity arises. There can never be a 100% employment of blacks in black owned businesses but something of over 40% would be a start.

Considering how businesses can be started and maintained. Is a formalised credit union or building society, being discussed and constructed for the black community. Currently there are many black people, who are interested in setting up businesses but are unable to due to being financially exclude as they do not have access to a loan and in some case no bank account which means with little financial capital there is little opportunity to set up a business or to save.

There should have been a wider scale of encouragement of the Pardnor or susu system, where caribbean and African people would put money into a pot with other people take out what they want and pay back in until the money they had taken out was paid in or take money out once the money was saved. The younger generation is not on a wide scale interested or have the knowledge of this as, we were taught to use the mainstream finacial capital and resources rather than keep these ideals which allowed our descendants to buy houses and businesses.

Beneath the Rhetoric

September the 8th and every Friday thereafter, are our days to buy black. Well said whoever created this. Despite it being a sad state of affairs that we need this. We all need to start somewhere so this is a start.

However, in addition to this there should be some sort of strategy. There has been an attempt to create a strategy, for providing people tips on how to buy foods, by myself in two blogs one for businesses and one for consumers.

I think there is a lot of black businesses in the US which sell basics, but in the UK very few business sell basics such as bread, milk, and other staples in a large supply. The trick is to suggest to black business owners that they should stock staple foods prior to the next black out. If these businesses do get enough suggestions for that kind of food they may start stocking that food, in large quantities if it means it will encourage sales and sustained custom.

I would to start by creating a guide to buying black, which black people could utilise, as a initiative then work towards not needing, as we get more familiar with services and products which are more local to us.

It must be noted that it is difficult in the UK to exclusively shop with black businesses. Though we can do better in the UK, as other cultures sell our products and not ourselves, which is unacceptable. All cultural services should be provided by us for us, and if there is a demand for a service,  black people may enter that profession eventually to provide that service, with some support and formal encouragement. As we understand and empathise with our customers more than anyone else.

Supply and demand is a business mantra we as blacks should follow but we should all was have a consciousness of social upliftment as money can make us become selfish it should add to a community ethos, in order to allow is to maintain prosperity otherwise we will be in the same position but wealthier and still a severely marked race.

As I said in the previous blog, partnership and cooperative working is key and will be hard work learning to trust each other at first but those worth trusting will be around for the long hall.

A point of reflection

Until recently, I thought there was no use for my postgraduate certificate in a Regeneration related subject or my experience in social and economic development, I had all but resigned and started down a mathematical route (which I am glad I rejoined even as a hobby).  That said, I began to look at my own peoples plight and consider how a free market and bottom up perspectives could be used to socially and economically uplift black people as a whole.

The aim of this work I will be doing is to encourage, highly skilled black professionals to invest their skills back into their community to assist in the development of their community. This can be achieved through setting up businesses, being a mentor and encouraging and supporting social and economic development in the black community.

Currently, I’m working with a business owner to create a network, which utilises my project management and regeneration skills, whilst working on other independent projects, that use my social and regeneration skills more. One or more of the independent projects will entail partnership working, to develop social enterprises. The most successful community partnerships have partners with diverse skills with a great contribution to the end product, this can also apply to grass root community ventures with a business model.

There is scepticism of working in partnership, though through work experience and reading up on this it is what is needed. In the UK for example, I believe some local authorities will champion rather try to block efforts for blacks to create a black economy as it will mean they save more money, in providing services. There is a word of warning though, if we are creating businesses there should also be a commission set up or body that can oversee the operations of our work in the community economically to avoid monopolies and conflicts of interests.