I was a bit premature with my money post last night. That left-field idea my son had might not be so left-field after all.
And what an event.
The first people I spoke to over a cuppa were brilliant and engaging – passionate about what they do to make a difference in their bit of the world. And this was just a hint of what was to come. This post only covers the first couple of hours of the day so there may be more to come but for now…..
First we heard from Pam Warhurst. Pam founded Incredible Edible in Todmorden. Pam had spent her life in roles involving committees and papers and lots of talking but not much doing. That’s when she realised that the DOING of it is so much harder than the CHATTING about it. And she wanted to start some DOING.
She found the end of a thread that joins us all as a community – eating. If you eat, you’re in. So she’s found a pretty good hook to connect people! But this isn’t just ‘bring good food to people’ in an average sort of way. In her home town of Todmorden they created Propaganda Gardens. They just went to underused places, and used places, and took them over, and sometimes asked permission, and sometimes didn’t. Her and a team of volunteers have gradually planted up these areas with food – veg, salad, fruit, herbs – and invited local people to help themselves. It took some time for trust to grow – that it would be OK to take food from these communal garden areas. Some of which are even people’s front gardens that they’ve made accessible to passers-by.
But now, with a core team of about 10, over 400 volunteers are involved – finding new places, planting, growing, maintaining, eating, cooking, sharing ideas – connecting. And all for free.
And the Incredible Edible logo has become a symbol in the local farmers market for local food. The stall holders have seen growth in sales, which has grown their confidence and led to further investment in their businesses. Pam calls it ‘sticky money’ – money that stays local to the area.
They’ve even created a tourist route round the town so people can see all the gardens and they’ve made sure it includes local cafes and shops who’ve also seen sales grow.
And they’re going into schools to educate future generations on growing their own. Did you know that by 2050 40-50% of our food will need to be grown in urban centres?
People take as much as they want, and when it’s gone something else gets planted. People don’t vandalise the sites; when treated as adults we behave as adults. The police say community relations have improved and environmental damage is down.
Inspiring isn’t it? So inspiring that there are now 100 communities (UK and beyond) who’ve joined in and created their own propaganda gardens to connect their communities.
So, to my son, yes, you can grow and give for free and it works.
Then we heard from Tom Farrand, one of the founders of Good for Nothing. Sarah first introduced me to Good for Nothing last year because she leads the Nottingham chapter, and I’ve since joined the Leicester one led by Avnesh Pandya.
I can’t believe I didn’t think of these guys during the money conversation last night! The clue’s in the name. Good for Nothing (GFN) is all about doing Good in the world around us – for Nothing. It’s about bringing people together, in their own time, who might never normally otherwise connect, and making amazing things happen, with a common purpose to change something meaningful.
Often the work that’s done by GFN is in support of local charities, enabling them to access skills and experience they could never afford to pay for, and others’ time which can be worth 6 to 12 months’ worth of their own.
The events are run in an adult ‘self-managed / self-organised’ sort of way. People are given the option to choose which challenge they want to work on, then they get stuck in with the other people who’ve chosen that same challenge. It’s a hack. A collaboration. A chaotic brilliant creative environment where stuff gets done. This isn’t about chatting.
Tom and his co-founders started GFN after becoming disillusioned with the day job where they were creating and refining products and packaging that are part of the consumer economy we now have. An economy that we think will bring us happiness. But it doesn’t. And all that packaging that’s been worked on by immense brain-power in large organisations for months…….tweaking, adjusting, perfecting…….goes to landfill. There’s more to life than that isn’t there?
To run, both GFN and Incredible Edible rely on the generosity and donations of local people – web design, sign printing, communications food, drinks, and more. And they access a small amount of funding to remain sustainable.
But isn’t all this a fantastic step in the direction that my son suggested?
Products, time and skills being given freely to benefit others. No expectation of anything in return. Just the warm glow of being part of something good with others who believe in the same stuff, to fulfil a purpose to make a difference.
Currently, as the world is today, these people who give do also need an income to live.
But what if that starts to change?
What if these pockets of brilliance grow and spread?
What if this becomes the way we do business in the future?
What could it be like if there really was no money?
Thank you to Doug Shaw for these great additions –
Alan Watts on “If money were no object” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7rsTjQfxmA (just a few mins)
And this – Positive Money – how the current system is totally, well…..bonkers! – http://www.positivemoney.org/ (just 4 mins)
This is me www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk