Monthly Archives: October 2014

Black Local Economic Development – Part 2

Creating our own community involves the following: the development and responsibility, it is owned by local people, building a new capital base, obtaining local ownership of the strategy, the development of social entrepreneurs, the construction of a alternative local economy, maximising control of buildings, local community groups and businesses and the decision making process, which affects our everyday lives.

This approach is most relevant to black people, in our current circumstances. We have the opportunity to build an economy, from the ground up -for us by us. The thing that holds us back is our lack of cohesion, our inability to mobilise, accountability and transparency.

There are currently attempts to mobilise, through different private and free market strategies. Community organisation attempt to bridge our deficit but as a people, we are not interested in our own progression as a whole, we blame each other rather than owning a strategy and some of those who appear to be in our best interests would like to claim glory .

Black Regeneration would require support from a local and regional level. We should consider pooling our resources and energy for two things at first, buying our own products and from our own shops to strengthen our own economy like some groups. At the same time we should consider the possibility of putting representatives in local government to ensure locally and regionally we can have a say in economic, social and physical developments.

The business initiatives are important as a kick start but we need our community and grassroots organisations to work with businesses and private enterprises to ensure there is some regulation as there will always be a vulnerability of those who are financially excluded who businesses will not cater for. Creating a gap in wealth and class in regards to the access to some free market services.

Despite the downsides, the black community development can be achieved. We including myself should use our experience and skills to contribute towards building and implementing a strategy locally at first then regionally by getting other localities to join and work in partnership to create a regional strategy, then let’s see where it can go.

In consideration of the government based aim this could be revisited further down the line, when building blocks are put in place for a national movement. This can be when blacks have influence in local and regional polices involving ourselves. There may be the opportunity to involve the state if we have representatives serving our best interests. Currently it’s not possible as at all levels we are self serving.

On a final note, we must plant some seeds before roots can grow, let’s start now, and move on crawl by crawl until we can walk.

Black Local Economic Development – Part 1

The idea of community development can work in theory. Much of the content on this site is working towards trying to promote community development, socially, economically and physically.

There are two approaches to local community economic development. One is getting funding from the government the alternative is to create our own economy. In this part we will consider getting funding from the government.

The aim of getting funding from the government means they will control where the funds are spent. This means the economy which is developed locally will be attached to the national economy.

As black people in the UK (or those reading from abroad). This has been undertaken for years with a lack of positive results. Demonstrated reviving funding from national organisations or associations, but being directed, where to spend the funding by professionals and policy makers, who are not fully aware of our needs as a people.

There is also the lack of exclusivity in the UK or around the world as many ethnicities are involved as the national government set out a policy for ethnicities but not Strickley black people and other ethnicities benefit, whilst us blacks fall by the wayside. Though I must apportion blame to ourselves since we on a large scale, cannot mobilise or organise effectively, to take full advantage of such opportunities.

In part two I will discuss, the for us by us mantra and how is should work in theory.

Blog: Resources inwards, not outwards

A few months ago, I went to a talk about gentrification and how this was taking away from the black communities, mainly in London. There is also a comparative version of this in parts of New York too. This is something I had suffered personally, as a younger naive adult, where I thought people who were moving into these areas wanted to live amongst black people not just to live there as a social status.

The potential solution to the problem I have is not so much the gentrified it’s more black people banding together and creating a local cooperative to build businesses and to purchase buildings for community use. The problem this would solve would be the businesses which gentrification brings with it such as higher rents, higher property prices and shops with food and products, which are pricing out the local people, my focus being on black people.

The (one of a few) benefits of having the middle classes moving into areas, such as this, is it may create more business in black shops for a small period of time. A concern is that over a longer period of time the novelty would wear off and they would revert to type. So should we create businesses, which allows for black people to shop affordable on the area and own some buildings to avoid us being priced and pushed out. This can create social and economic cohesion between us as a people.

Those black people who settled in the area tend to as adults have social structures and activities established. The concern is the younger generation do not have these opportunities as their parents. There are few activities to empower young people and so the crime is driven up and young black people are driven to crime as there are a lack of activities or finances.

There should be initiatives only for black people, which looks at encouraging young black youth to make and sell items. Possibly a market stall in the morning, on the weekends and specific days in the holidays, with after school clubs and parents encouraging the children to use their creative minds to make something (art or craft) or even fix things (electrical or analogue). There should defiantly education classes and sports and activities clubs to teach fitness and mental endurance.

This would then prepare us better against the effects of gentrification. A lot of attention is put on adults as the parents believe black children are taken care of in the education system , but they too are affected by gentrification.

The Self-Gratification Route

As a master of this way of thinking, I know only too well the effects of this (self gratification) for all you amateur and professional astrologists amongst you its a Capricorn trait. The way in which things are happening in the US, and more imminent to me in the UK is striking. There are similar problems without the killings blatantly by the police (though it happens in police custody in the UK).

The problem with the UK is West Indians came over and only wanted to be here as a short term measure rather than a medium/long term strategy. This suited those born between 1915 and 1945, who have either sold up and returned to the West Indies or retired. Though those born after this time say 1945 – 1955, we’re not educated in the verse of financial education. They have a lot of money or savings but some did not carry on the family business or attempted to create businesses but they failed and just returned to working normally, rather than try again to create a business.

The problem this creates, is our own products are sold by other races who are not black or don’t identify with being black. This is compared to the small number of black owned businesses, who have to charge more and are undercut by these non-black businesses selling Black products. This means we don’t own many businesses and have less social cohesion with a lack of funds in our communities, a culture if expecting too much from the government. This means, as some prominent activists for black economic community development have said we are a reactionary people rather than a people who can sit down and plan.

The aim (in the UK, at least) should be on having our own businesses, through the use of knowledge and expertise within our communities. I see a lot of children born in the 1970’s and 1980’s born are qualified in the knowledge economy, but use it to solely create economic wealth. Conversely, I feel this knowledge would be better used for economic gain and the development of their communities, through business ownership and the creation of jobs. If only we used the knowledge to create businesses and social structures rather than to build up another’s economy. Less Asian’s would be selling in the black community and more blacks would be selling to each other, full stop.

Asians are naturally seen as neither friend or foe to black people, rather as another race but they treat us with contempt. So this leads me to think why not look at the way they treat us as a way of increasing our hold on our local economy and give our youth part time work in holidays or as students or apprenticeships rather than burdening a government, where we are not a priority we should create our own jobs.

I look at this from a regeneration point of view, do we need to join a knowledge economy, the answer would be yes and no, yes in terms of creating a world class economy where we can trade with Africa and other countries but no as the Eurocentric knowledge economy gives much training only to attract companies and business who only hire a few (if at all any) of the local residents.

The black community works like the knowledge economy, we have businesses who set up in our community, but do not directly invest in the community, rather we provide money (through purchasing) to the businesses, who spend the money outside of the community and hire their own residents rather than local residents. Our community has been a free market for 20 years, benefiting other races but us at the expense of us, but it’s time we as blacks become protectionist. This means we should protect our interests by buying buildings supporting setting up businesses and employ our own and trade with those who are in our best interests. This is not easy to begin with as we would need a cohesion, teamwork ethic, if we can work as a team with people who we don’t like. We as a people have a shared objective, we will be left behind if we don’t pick up and if we are to be prominent and self sufficient then we should put aside our differences and work together (at least in business and community partnerships, not be best friends etc), we just need to support each other not cut each other down, myself included as I’m not above any of this which I am talking about.

Direct foreign investment (where a country or community receives outside investment as is proven does no domestic good for no one it just has benefits for the multinational company/ business who is not part of the country/community, which they have been invited to reinvigorate. Like in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s let’s get protectionist and rebuild with what we have, and not look to integrate economically until we are sustainable at least.

Black Physical Regeneration

Back when I was studying my regeneration certificate I studied a module in physical regeneration. This was an opportunity for me to see how regeneration of towns and cities could take place in regards to the physical environment. I discuss this, now in the context of black people, whether you are here (UK) or abroad. The point I wish to make is clearly we have black areas which are sometimes said to be unclean in regards to the streets and the buildings, especially shops. The regular quoted point is that there is a mentality of if one building is cleaned the. The neighbours will then clean the outside of their building or paint it. This includes cleaning the Path in front of your house to install/contribute towards a sense of pride in the community.

This can also extend to the purchasing of buildings, since doing this course I have seen a number of buildings, which if I had access to funding, I would turn into a building that promotes economic and social activity within the local community. In the UK black people are now very reliant on the state to provide funding and resources, as oppose to an avenue to providing additional funding to what we can raise as a community. This is because we A. don’t trust each other to group our money together and B. we take a Eurocentric view on wanting to see where our taxes go and want it to work for us.

There is an alternative which our (mainly) West Indian descendants did, which was to pool our money together and buy (by a pardnor or Suso system). Back then it was houses but how about buying a old building and renting it out to black businesses at a low cost to make a small profit but also to be responsible for building maintenance and ensuring customer service standards are kept up to date. The maintenance of buildings and businesses is importance for a local sense of pride and cohesion.

In one class, the lecturer had said that the sense of a local area can be gained by looking at the state of the buildings, if they are occupied or not. There is much agreement to this as if there are many boarded up buildings. In the black community, this can only encourage squatting and delinquency, when a community group could combine funds and purchase the building.

There are initiatives in American black communities of black people purchasing buildings and leading them back to our own at favourable rates. This when analysed is more beneficial than gentrification occurring when the middle classes start to move in after property moguls buy the properties at a cheap price attract hipster then the area becomes expensive to live in. This is a choice we have at least in the areas not gentrified, yet.

Accessing funds and resources

The local community sector is becoming more business like as the years go by. Most of my experience is in the public sector, working with local community organisations to improve channel usage for them to work with their clients.

Funding is difficult for charities and local communities to access in the UK with the funding cuts of the last 7 years. The way in which organisations get funding traditionally has been from the local authority. This has occurred through grants and provision of resources in the form of staff, and collaborative working.

As local authorities have felt the squeeze on resources so do many local organisations. As many are run on volunteers, many can run on little funding or private finance. Others require more funding due to the outreach work or direct client services they provide, as well as the organisational structure.

If you are starting a local or community organisation there is much work that needs to go into this like planning a business or a project, whilst this blog is discussing local organisations there are plenty of sources to discuss the setting up of a charity in the UK. The main aim when seeking funding is to persuade the finders, what the cashable benefits (cost savings or profit to the community as a whole) if money is oversteps will this mean your service can A. Meet a community need and B. Meet a cost saving that will apply to the local authority.

Another requirement will be the disadvantages of the project what will be a downside of the organisations around it what are the alternatives. Then the deciding factor what will happen if the organisation and the activities do not materialise. This is the organisations selling point what the organisation can offer to the community around it.

There are many ways in which funding can be obtained on this site I have created a signposting page, where finding funding is made easier following the instructions online Community Resources.

 

Community Resource Hubs

Libraries have been a widely discussed topic in community based conversations since talk of cuts back in mid 2010. I have spent a bit of time working with and in libraries realising its importance to the community. My previous experience of seeing how a library worked was working in a higher education institutes learning resource centre, but this was aimed at the students not the public like a local library and working in a local library as a temporary job for a few weeks. The events hosted, served the community well, such as computer classes, children’s activities, hosting school trips, book clubs, delivering books to its members. It provides books, DVDs and computer and internet (some offer free WiFi) access. Depending on the size of the library I think they cater for the demographics of the area and more.

Looking at this from a direct users perspective I would say its very useful to point members of the community to libraries as well as other local services which promotes social inclusion with the range of activities which some offer. They seem in general a value for money service but there maybe some which are not value for money and this can sometimes be down to the staff working in the library and the level of service or environmental aspects (lighting and air quality).

The other thing which is important, it is a hub, with the WiFi service for freelance workers, those working from home and those studying to use the library rather than go to a coffee shop as you can access books, free WiFi and for school children and parents, if you are working or studying for a day and want to keep your children occupied there are books to access, as well as meeting rooms at an affordable price.

That said, ultimately I have learned that libraries can be, if done the right way, a community resource hub.