Tag Archives: localisation

Extract: Black Regeneration Strategy

Over a long period of time I have been reviewing how I could use knowledge and information on regeneration to improve the lives of black people (primarily in the UK). There is much media and articles written on gentrification in black neighbourhoods in the US and the UK but there is not a clear definition of regeneration. 

Below I have added an extract of the strategy, the objectives (section):

Objectives

Businesses – Operations improve access

Businesses are often struggling in this economy, with more businesses requiring advertising and growth advise through the provision of training and education. This may be through vocational qualifications or online vocational programmes, which enable these businesses to provide better service and achieve greater customer satisfaction, as well as creating a community bond which has always existed with an absence of professionalism.

Innovation of business growth

There is currently a lack of black businesses which sells technological and practical products and services. Black people invest a lot of time in purchasing and using these products. The question is why do black people got to say south Asians to fix their products, when black people should be able to set up a business after undertaking training in practical (plumbing and electronics) fields and provide services and sell electronic goods which we buy in bulk and spend it in our local areas. The ambitions as a race are connected to what is sold in the media and not enough on how businesses and community organisations can support community activities.

How this can be achieved in the black communities:

  • The creation of a community centre or working space

  • A working group of engineers and scientists is required

  • A strategy to encourage black technology and science professionals to set up or support scientific industries.

  • Create a local community project on encouraging school age children to take up more scientific and technological sector apprenticeships and training.

  • More cycling and maintenance should be encouraged for black people to take up, as a way of keeping fit.

  • More technological technician roles should be encouraged.

The aim is to make black people more self sufficient in providing and developing our own products and services, rather than going to the provider or to a shop where another race is able to sell our goods and items, which we can do our selves.

This will create jobs and more income into the community, which will give black people more economic, social and political power in our communities in the UK. The other important aspect of this is to ensure there is a support mechanism so black people can buy in bulk but also have a forum where information and advice is available from people who look like you.

Regenerating old business for new ventures

In previous blogs, I have written about physical regeneration and the effect this can have on the community and its development. This can be applied to gentrification and the effects on the local community. In the UK in 2008 and 2009, when the recession hit and there were a load of empty shop spaces in local communities and high streets around the UK it was an opportunity to rent these spaces and provide private venture and charitable services.

In black areas, we are the last people it seems to want to have a sense of ownership in our areas, the psychology is one of a temporary nature rather than one looking at the short and medium term. This was the thought process of Caribbean persons, who used to own businesses in the 1980’s and prior to this time, who in the late 80’s and early 90’s decided to pack up and go back to the caribbean. This was a time when the next generation should have taken over the shops but it was instead a goal of that generation to ensure their children were professionals working in white organisations and businesses.

This has its problems as there were many businesses which were abandoned or sold to races outside of the community. There was also a recession at this time which left some businesses going under or being left abandoned. This should have been approached in any of the following ways:

  • The owner could have rented the space to another black person

  • The business could have been passed to the younger generation

  • Rent the building from the local authority then eventually buy it

  • Partnerships created to rent/purchase the building or the business

The local authority in the UK generally in certain areas, will look to either (preferably) sell the building so they do not need to pay to manage it anymore or rent it out at a favourable rate as they would like to generate income with there being funding cuts. If your reading this from say the US I’m not sure how it works but I’m sure in areas which are not desirable the cost of the shop or building would be cheaper.

This is a huge contributory factor as to why we (in the UK or US) have a lack of black businesses and high black unemployment as businesses are left to fester or buildings are bought by other races and either sell our products to us or others. We need to look after ourselves too, who else will.

Some further information:

Rescuing a empty property in the UK (www.bbc.co.uk)

Derelict London (www.derelictlondon.com)

Some Derelict Buildings across America (www.opacity.us)

Source to purchase a derelict building (www.robinson-jackson.com)

Direct Black Investment

This is related to the discussions which are taking place today, where there is a lack of black owned businesses today. So you ask, what is direct black investment, in the regeneration world this would be the same as direct foreign investment from multinational companies, rather from people who live in the city or country where the investment is required.

The investment is linked to the skill level in the community, for example the government in the UK ensured all the young people were trained up to meet the needs of these companies which were being attracted to the town or city. This was not a total success as investment from outside sources tend to provide some benefits to the local area but tend to employ their own nationals.

Considering gentrification there is investment in black areas but the investment is from people who are likely not to employ black people or the token person. This supports my argument for direct black investment, black people are likely to employ other black people if we live in the area rather people from outside the community and there is a likelihood of the area due to money staying the the community being improved physically, socially and politically.

How would this be developed, starting by looking at the skills which are available in the area, this is fertile ground as there will be many black people with a diversity of skills, who would be looking for a diverse number of roles. There would also be a business need such as grocery shops, cosmetics, repair shops, launderettes etc….

There is a potential to start such businesses, there may be a lack of external finance, but maybe creating financial cooperatives, black people putting their money together in a fund, creating a credit union and setting up one business then using the profits to then create another business if there is not one benefactor may be a way of starting a business.

The downsides of this may be there is a lack of support or benefactors available and a lack of appetite.

Below is an example of a simple idea I had:

There was a building in the town I grew up in and it was for sale, I was thinking there was a way in which this could be purchased as it is owned by the local authority but it was possibly going to be purchased by Asian people, who would then rent it back out to our own people. I had worked out a proposal for the building to be purchased, whereby:

  • 55% of the building would be funded by businesses

  • 45% of the building would be paid for by the local community (minimal donation of £ per year)

This would mean the building would be owned by the black people, this building is used at least 30 weeks of the year and can be used to host other community events, to generate revenue for the upkeep and costs of the building.

This was not met with much interest and the building was taken off the market so it is still owned by the towns council.

My point is why have outside investment, and rent the building, when even in the short example, there can be an opportunity to own and control the community space and provide activities and events for the benefit of the community, with our own investment.

The need for direct black investment is important, a blog I wrote (Black Local Innovation) looks at the ways in which money and skills staying inside the black community could be a way in which we can develop our communities.

Please see the sources below which expand on this.

Direct Foreign Investement Definition (Wikipedia)

High streets in trouble as big names go bust (theday.com)

Example of British High Street being deserted

Detroits development from direct black investement

Using the sun to power us

There is much discussion in the black community about Akon and him providing solar power to 600 million Africans. My viewpoint is its a great initiative with some wider considerations.

I have previous experience and a interest in solar power, back in 2006 I had travelled around south Africa for 4 months and had come into contact with solar powered street lights, houses (and in some cases) houses. The solar power on the streets were provided by local community and national agencies, which would work by charging up during the day through a battery and at night or during power cuts the battery would discharge the power to the street or indoor lights. There were also solar showers, which differ in relation to how you feel, I felt as it was different to having a conventional shower.

The demographic of people who had the solar power, were middle class persons. The reason being, solar power is expensive to purchase and install. The areas where the street solar power was installed, were either lower income or rural communities. The reason I add this about demographics is in many parts of Africa, there is a divide between those who can afford semi or mostly consistent access to electricity and those that cannot. The rural areas, where people have a lower income or access to amenities available in a city or larger town will have less access to a generator whilst those who have a higher income will have access to solar power or generators.

The challenge for getting 600 people access the solar power, will be how it is rolled out to the respective communities in Africa. As I have suggested it could be rolled out to the use of street lights as, there is commonly power cuts in many parts of Africa and in Ghana, they call it ‘lights outs’. This would make the scheme manageable rather than homes getting the power at first.

Reviewing this from a regeneration perspective, is this venture will be expensive to roll out and fair play to the funders, who are currently on board . The challenge is the governements and the municipalities in African countries agreeing and looking at rolling this out, whilst engineers would be trained up to install this. Is there enough national, regional and local support when looking at planning and determining the areas which get access to this first.

The initiative is great and I hope it works, though there are always political obstacles to overcome even in Africa, what happens if the local people do not want this and when considering what localities get this first, not from Akon but looking at the project being rolled out nationally and locally, will it be the lower income areas or will it be the higher income areas. Will there be enough money to pay for this to be rolled out and how will it be paid for, is there just a fund for a general roll out in terms of powering street lights or will houses get access to this too.

The one question I have is how will the maintenance of the solar power be managed and financed, will it be via the foundation which Akon has or will it be via the governments. Are these parties accountable and capable enough to ensure this is rolled out and the project reaches its aims, financially, socially and politically. Different countries have their own methods as well as communities so working with local people on this and asking them if they want this and how they want it rolled out locally will be important, if it is to be a success.

I applaud the initiative and hope he achieves this as Africa has 320 days at least of sunlight per year so its the best place to have a constant reliable source of electricity. The reservation I initially have is I hope it serves the simple agenda of providing greater access to electricity and nothing else.

Social Regeneration sneak preview

Over the last year I have been working on how black people may be able to overcome our economic, social and political problems or assist in overcoming this.

I have a regeneration and social inclusion background and I am using this to assist and develop the black community as much as possible.

Below I have included a snippet of the document which I have written and have previously provided a presentation  on this as a blog which can provide you with some information.

If you would like to discuss this further or have any questions please visit our contact us page.

Black Retail

Greetings readers, it’s been a long time. I have seen something which had caught my attention very recently and was considering sharing this with you.

Notably the spending habits of black people and the ability for us to buy from ourselves rather than someone else. For example shopping and spending habits are difficult to break and it starts with the individual and the community which they come from and are part of.

For example if a person decides to buy hair products from a particular vendor who is not the same race as them it cannot be stopped but if the person looks at why is there no black people who work in a shop where your product is sold, this should spark alarms as you should recognise that if there are non of your own people working in this shop selling a product unique to yourself then why should you purchase.

Another point is we as a race would rather spend in a shop of another race than assist our own in building a business and employment for our own youth. I would also ask can your own teenage child or other teenagers get a summer or weekend job in these shops. If not then why not and what is the colour of the young persons in these businesses.

Black people we are laughed at, I remember 12 years ago as a twenty year old fresh out of my teens not buying from persons who were not black when purchasing food (largely) or cosmetics simply for that reason, I was told I was mad but I stick to my guns. The price was more but I understood why (due to black shops not buying products in bulk and paying more and passing this onto the customer). Don’t get me wrong I would only go to places with decent service, but I am glad any hard food I buy is from a black business.

I challenge Caribbean and  African persons to purchase  from black shops when looking at our own cosmetics rather than an Asian or Arab who looks nothing like us.

The allotment (black perspective)

I was listening to and reading discussions relating to black people leaving cities in the USA and being pigeon holed into the suburbs and countryside, with not much idea of how they can work the land,  and it made me think of my own background in the UK and the Caribbean.

My parents both Jamaican, would farm small plots of land as children, with my family on my mums side beings live stock and vegetable farmers, selling crops and stock to the market in Savannah La Mar or Negril in Westmoreland, Jamaica. Though this is happening less and less in the village or neighbouring villages where she comes from due to the increasing US materialism influence plaguing the West Indies.

In the UK as a child I grew up seeing all my older relatives having allotments in the north and regularly spending Sunday afternoons in green houses attempting to grow some jamaican and caribbean vegetation with mixed results. My parents still grow vegetation in their garden as I’ve noted previously my parents garden having a wide variety of fruits and vegetables on a small plot of land.

The issue here is the older generation are not encouraging younger people to grow food. My aim when I leave the south east of the UK is to have an allotment and to grow most of my foods using the sciences and knowledge which I have gained from the older black people I have been around. This was a given that most older black caribbean people grew their own food as young people and in the UK as adults with skills they learnt as a child.

In a climate of food being less organic and more expensive this is important. Inner city folk are less likely to have space or the capacity to grow food but some vegetables can be grown using plant pots. The more we remain reliant on the system for food the more vulnerable we become even if growing our own food is to supplement our diets we can learn to eat seasonally and know how to use the soil for our nutritional benefit.

The one thing I learnt is horse manure and sawdust are great for compost. My dad carries runs of this in his boot in the summer pulling it outside the house preparing it to be used to fertilise the ground. If planting food has another benefit it keeps you fit digging up the garden.

Heat Maps

Formerly in a role as a digital divide professional, I would often use heat maps when predicting, which areas of the local community had access to wifi or broadband internet. This would assist in considering where new wifi or internet initiatives would be implemented to get more people connected to the Internet and to utilise Internet services.

 

This relates to make my own people more aware of black, social, economic and physical (buildings and environmentally) cohesive. The current mode from what I have observed is to just create rhetoric and initiatives, without considering factors, which can include: the level of icons of the area, local amenities (black owned), the level of education and the level of income.

 

These factors can assist in designing initiatives and rhetoric to present an idea to our own people of why black cohesiveness is important on all scales (no matter how big or small). There are some initiatives as a result, which would be created for smaller community of black people, who may put together to create a market stall selling our foods and cosmetics. In larger communities, initiatives and meetings could be held asking if the people want a grocery shop and other shops such as book and educational and other services such as family support, where professionals (black) can assist socially.

 

The maps are important, sometimes we overlook the value of this I favour of getting the message out, whilst I agree it looks on the surface (at least) that one size is meant to fit all.

This economy needs some thought

Recently, I’ve listened to, watched and read numerous sources talking about the creation of a black economy or strengthening the currency within the black community. Illustrating the aim of creating power with our money, on the whole I agree with this much needed concept.

Though, my socially concious way has not allowed me to say this is the case to solve our money, community togetherness and the cleanliness of our neighbourhoods. A plan for community development is required, which connects business to social and community projects, which can then create a sense of pride, rather than the view I have concluded business will solve everything.

Considering the business aspect of this plan, the question can be asked whether or not, these businesses can create jobs, especially in the UK. Can the businesses which are involved in the plan, provide employment to the skills, which exist in the community. The deciding factor will be to ask if the community requires the product, which the business is providing.

The factor, which should also be considered when developing a black economy (business dominated or otherwise) is the creation of a partnership or cooperative working initiative between the businesses and the community groups, in respects to housing, youth, education and health as these are key to determining the cohesion of a community.

Businesses will and would be tested as to whether they would use tax breaks or sponsorship to support the running of non profit black organisations locally or if they would want the local government to continue funding this.

There are many skilled people who have come from black dominated areas and have left. Encouraging the highly skilled and trained professionals to stay in the area is important. This will provide the opportunity for them to use (social and financial) resources to build up schools, invest in businesses and get more involved in community initiatives.

People in communities (especially black ones) need to consider housing and environmental issues. A business dominated economy would need to look at investing in homes or at least being part of the discussions. The business will say it’s the governments or the individual’s responsibility but if we are creating an economy, we must ensure the participants are at least accommodated.

Talk of creating a bank is great but could still put our own people in a position with no access to money, a in the form of a bank account loans or savings. The business led economy, may not consider a cooperative, which is important to the plan to formalise credit unions for those who cannot access commercial black banks. This can increase home, property and business ownership, developing a stronger currency with in our communities.

Finally, businesses may argue community and not for profit services can get government funding and this is true, but if we can fund it ourselves too, we will be able to develop further as a whole.

I’m for the black economy, but we need to consider how we can make it work and how it can improve all aspects of the communities existence.