Newspapers and social media are awash with top tips for cost cutting, but there’s another way of looking at it. What if, instead of putting the pressure on each person, we explored what communities can do together to get through this and be stronger in future crises? After all, the cost of living crisis has complex and systemic causes – it should not be left to individuals to solve it for themselves. Governments need to act, and many are calling for measures from policy-makers to ensure no one goes cold and hungry in one of the wealthiest countries on earth, and to address the root causes of the crises we face, so we are more resilient to future shocks. Warmer this Winter, End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Energy for All and Enough is Enough are among those which have recently sprung up. Meanwhile, we don’t have to sit passively by and wait for solutions to come from above.
Portland, United Kingdom - As one of the recipients of Transition Bounce Forward’s Seed Funding in 2020, Portland 4 the Planet is a beautiful example of what dynamic community action, when combined with little pots of funding, can unlock. Laura started the initiative in March 2019 as “my response to finding out about the climate and ecological emergency and thinking ‘what can we do to help our community try and resolve the situation?’”. Having realised the scale of the challenge, read everything she could, changed her diet, cut out plastic, transitioned to a vegan diet, her focus turned to what her community could do. She lobbied her local council to declare a climate emergency, which they did. However, her interactions with local government made her realise that given the speed at which bureaucracies move, however willing and supportive they might be, it was best to not wait for them and to get started.
When you encounter a rural, farming and food community as the one encountered in Loire-Atlantique, one which to some extent is actively seeking out opportunities to work together and to share, this resonates with an old idea – that of mutual aid. Each of the four main sections above displayed this – community wellbeing, institutional relationships, systemic cooperation, engagement and alliance building. Each can be seen as an iteration of the spirit of mutual aid as a strategy for building solidarity economies. This community and institutional engagement work also chimes with ideas as developed in the English speaking world in Cleveland and Preston (UK). With these models, community wellbeing means institutions are asked to step up to the plate, as it were, and be a reliable, core, not-for-profit hub in the region, helping drive the required transition via local circular economic activity where possible.
Over the past six months, Sri Lanka has been in the news. You have likely read accounts or seen videos of a civil revolution sparked by government corruption and shortages of both food and fuel. Amidst this uprising — involving all religions, ethnicities, and classes of the population with a call for systems change — thousands of protestors stormed and occupied the presidential palace, forcing the president to flee in July. In a world beset by supply chain issues, where the war in Ukraine is one of the multiple factors compromising the world’s food supply, it seems that Sri Lanka is the proverbial “canary in the coal mine.” It’s the first domino to fall, as a worldwide globalized economy based on large-scale, corporate monoculture and shipping food halfway across the planet wobbles toward collapse.
How can we best equip our communities as we transition to a new normal? This question is driving resilience researchers and practitioners across the nation to seek out new models that support local adaptation to a variety of crises. Recently, the climate crisis has increased the challenges faced by our communities, making the future even more uncertain and community resilience all the more necessary. Scholar Kristen Magis describes resilience as “the existence, development, and engagement of community resources by community members to thrive in an environment characterized by change, uncertainty, unpredictability, and surprise.” Importantly, resilience is the human ability to recover, and even thrive, after crises. However, communities need a supportive model to respond well to the accelerating environmental challenges.
My very first recollection of becoming aware of the need to do something to change this society happened when I was 11 years old. I was on a city bus in San Francisco traveling from school back to my neighborhood. The bus was extremely crowded. At one point, four teenage African (Black) young men rapidly boarded the crowded bus. They were each carrying firearms and I recognized all of them immediately as hell raisers from the neighborhood. They proceeded to force the riders to empty their wallets, purses, jewelry, etc., into garbage bags. They didn’t waste any time with me. They didn’t even look in my direction, or at least that’s what I thought. When they started to disembark the bus, one of them reached over towards me, slapped me across the face, and yelled towards me “don’t say s - - !” Then they were gone. Like the other traumatized passengers, I sat there frozen in fear.
Though a global pandemic and ease of technology has sent millions of grocery shoppers online to order from Instacart and Amazon, the most grassroots and socially connected form of grocery shopping has been surprisingly untouched. In fact, grocery co-ops have grown during the pandemic, with overall sales increasing 10% during 2020, a year full of supply and social disruptions.
Pembroke Township, Illinois - At the end of a maze of dirt roads lies a 40-acre teaching farm called Black Oaks Center, where local residents gathered on a Sunday in November 2021 for a farmland restoration workshop and community gathering. “If you all want to bust wood again, they’re out there,” said Dr. Jifunza Wright-Carter — who runs the center with her husband, Fred Carter — to the newest arrivals. Some joined the group clearing felled trees for off-grid homesteading, while others stayed inside to warm up and chat. In addition to raising food and hosting classes, Black Oaks has become a hub for organizing against a proposed natural gas pipeline some locals say threatens the area’s farming way of life, which is rooted in environmental stewardship.
Indianapolis, IN – A pastor is leading the charge of reclaiming an abandoned school and creating a community-and-trades center on the east side of Indianapolis. Pastor Denell Howard’s vision of The Evolve Education Center is slowly coming to fruition after years of planning, praying and a community effort to fix the building up. Requiring about a half million dollars to get the lights turned on, the center needs the help of the broader community to generate enough resources together. A volunteer named Stan, who spent months cleaning up the building, gave Unicorn Riot a tour of the reclaimed school in July 2021. We heard from Stan and Pastor Howard about their vision for the center and the work they’ve done up to that point.
In this episode, I speak with executive director Noni Session about how EB PREC is garnering support to shift real estate ownership from extractive developers into the hands of the BIPOC community in Oakland and the East Bay. She shares the difference between a permanent real estate co-op and land trust, ancestral remembrance of cooperative ownership, how they got the first group of people to invest, their governance structure and multi-stakeholder model, prioritizing inclusivity and accessibility to individual investors, transparency of investment risks and how they mitigate it, and their exciting new venture - a historic Black arts venue they’ve acquired for Black artists and small businesses at 50% of market rate.
After the hurricane, the garden took on a new role as a staging ground for the tribe’s disaster response to distribute supplies, coordinate mutual aid groups and help tribal members, who, along with other Native people in south Louisiana, were among the hardest hit. In the long run, Aronson hopes Yakani Ekelanna can combine these functions to become a sort of “laboratory”— a place for building tribal sovereignty and resilience against an uncertain future.
Our tenant union network currently supports three tenant unions in the city. So that’s Gabriel Towers Tenant Union, McGee-Shiffman, Tenant Union, and the KC Homeless Union with plans to support the creation of many more unions. I’m sure that a lot of listeners of this podcast already know about the power that unions can wield. Lastly, our peoples Housing Trust Fund is a vision/ policy proposal that would make housing in KC truly and permanently affordable by divesting from our oppressors, namely gentrifiers and the police, and investing in our communities by funding social housing, rehabilitation to make homes more sustainable and accessible, protecting tenants rights, and more.
On Sundays, Edith Alas Ortega travels 20 minutes from her home to a farm field in Henderson County, North Carolina, and takes a deep breath. “There’s a mental and physical healing that happens out here,” she said in Spanish. Ortega is one of five members of Tierra Fértil Coop—“fertile ground” in English—an agricultural, worker-owned cooperative for and by Latinx immigrants. The group—three Salvadoran and three Mexican immigrants—meet every week on their one-acre parcel in Hendersonville that provides vegetables for the families involved as well as enough for resale, with a focus on culturally appropriate ingredients for the Latinx market. Ortega marvels at the first strawberries of the season on a recent morning in June—just 40 for now.
Here's how a growing number of communities across Europe are speeding up the shift to more resilient economies and supply chains. Rethinking the way we create, use, and dispose of our everyday products. The world’s resources are limited, but we are living as if they weren’t. Our current economic system is based on extracting raw materials from the Earth, creating products with a built-in life span and throwing them away to then buy new ones. The good news is that more and more communities are fighting back, creating responsible business models to reduce Europe’s dependency on mining. This is the story of Maakfabriek, a Belgian creative lab and community of upcyclers extracting precious resources from urban waste and giving products a second life.
In the villages, cities and regions of Rojava, in the predominantly Kurdish north east of Syria, political upheaval has resulted in the largely decentralised self-administration of many areas, including health, economy, law, education and internal security. The Rojava revolution led to both the secularisation and democratisation of institutions that had, until then, been controlled by an elitist-centralist national state. But what exactly does this mean? How is Rojava’s decentralisation expressed in everyday life? Located in north eastern Rojava, Amûdê County demonstrates what decentralisation and self-administration can look like in practice. Starting at the end of government rule in 2012, its communes, district people’s council and the municipality (Şaredarî) were all subjected to processes of democratisation.