Latest issue of VIEW magazine - BUILDING A FAIRER ECONOMY

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VIEW

An independent social affairs magazine

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Issue 57, 2020

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Building a fairer economy


VIEW, Issue 57, 2020

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We need to discuss alternative solutions phrase which has become common currency during the Covid-19 pandemic is: ‘We must not go back to the old normal; we need a new normal. It truly has been a horrible year and it’s not over yet. We have witnessed countless numbers dying from the disease, especially those who live in care homes. Grim economic predictions have also been made about the state of the economy, with warnings of huge job losses in the wake of the pandemic. It would be perfectly rational to feel despondent, but, as this latest issue of VIEW magazine attempts to show, there is no shortage of ideas about how to create a more equitable society. A number of individuals and organisations have been interviewed or have written comment articles. They include discussions about Community Wealth Building; ownership of the economy; green sustainable solutions; Participatory Budgeting; co-operative models of ownership; Universal Basic Income, and monetary reform.

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VIEW editor Brian Pelan A common theme which emerges from these pages is the real power of citizens once they decide to adopt democratic solutions. This issue of VIEW, which was made possible by funding from the National Lottery’s Awards for All scheme; is aimed at providing inspiration on the need to discuss innovative ideas and solutions. Award-winning journalist Mary

O’Hara, on pages 12 and 13, writes: “It shouldn’t have taken a global health crisis to remind us what was wrong with the economy already or to enlighten us about the structural underpinnings of poverty and inequality – or why there should be urgent action to make all of this right.” Our Big Interview on pages four and five is with Joe Cullinane, Labour Party leader of North Ayrshire Council, who says: “I think there is a future there to be designed and built and we will try and do that with our Community Wealth Building strategy. We have an opportunity to do something which is truly transformational in north Ayrshire. I am determined to make it work.” I also want to thank our guest editor Mary McManus. Her passion and belief in a range of economic solutions guided this magazine. Finally, I would appeal to our readers to support us and our independent journalism by subscribing to VIEWdigital. We will continue to provide a platform for ideas, and welcome and value all those who contribute to the magazine.

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Contact VIEW editor Brian Pelan at brianpelan@viewdigital.org Contact VIEW deputy editor Kathryn Johnston at kathrynjohnston@viewdigital.org Contact VIEW publisher Una Murphy at unamurphy@viewdigital.org Contact VIEW journalist Megan McDermott at meganmcdermott@viewdigital.org Making a complaint to VIEWdigital – https://viewdigital.org/social-affairs-magazine-team/


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Editorial

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VIEW, an independent social affairs magazine

Guest editor Mary McManus, manager of East Belfast Independent Advice Centre and Community Wealth Building advocate he idea of doing a magazine featuring alternative economic approaches had been in my mind for many years, way before the Covid-19 crisis hit us. When the financial crisis struck in 2008, I was managing an inner city community advice centre that provided free advice to the public on social security entitlement, debt and housing, and employment rights, among other things. Back then we were faced with many people who had lost their jobs or their businesses who broke down as they realised that the financial support provided through social security was so much less than they thought. How would less than £100 per week meet the outgoings that were previously met by an income of £500 per week? In the intervening years we watched as austerity was implemented and social security further cut. Food banks began to spring up and more and more people, whether in paid employment or not, found that their income was not enough to meet their needs. Despite good news reports that the economy was recovering and that there was full employment, we continued to make referrals for charitable support. It was clear that poverty was growing and that the economy was not working for everyone. This led me to question the current system and then to start seeking alternative economic approaches that would create a system that is more inclusive and where everyone would have the opportunity to flourish. On this path I discovered a whole community of people working tirelessly and creatively to try to change things for the better. They were imaginative individuals and grassroots community group campaigns as well as innovative local government representatives.

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In the midst of all the loss and upheaval of this crisis, there is also the hope that out of its wreckage we will build a kinder, more humane economic system that is better for both people and the planet This magazine is a platform for these people and their ideas. It features cooperatives, Community Banking, Participatory Budgeting, Community Wealth Building and other ideas aimed at creating a more inclusive and democratic economy where people no longer have to

suffer the indignation of poverty and charitable support. I did not envisage that another more devastating crisis in the form of a global pandemic would occur so quickly after the financial crisis. It has exposed the weaknesses caused by austerity and the limitations of our market-based economic system. However, it has also demonstrated very clearly that in a crisis it is the State and the community that come to our aid, not the market. Many of us feel that in 2008 the ideas were not to the fore to create a better system. The journalist, Paul Mason said the economic system has been on life support for the past 12 years. We have had 12 years to research, trial and test better systems and we now have the ideas. The crisis has been a terrible wake-up call that leaves us in no doubt about what and who matters. It is our health and our relationships. It is our healthcare workers, the shop assistants, the refuse collectors and other key workers. We witnessed a great outpouring of compassion and a recognition of our interdependence as people set up neighbourhood mutual support schemes. In the midst of all the loss and upheaval of this crisis, there is also the hope that out of its wreckage we will build a kinder, more humane economic system that is better for both people and the planet. Poverty and environmental degradation were a by-product of our previous system, there is no divine law saying it has to be that way. We now have the opportunity to build back better or indeed anew. From the bottom up and top down we need to be courageous, imaginative and compassionate.


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the BIG interview Joe Cullinane, leader of North Ayrshire Council, and a member of the Scottish Labour Party Shadow Cabinet, talks to VIEW editor Brian Pelan, about why he believes that a Community Wealth Building strategy can play a vital role in creating a more equal future in a post Covid-19 world rian Pelan: According to the Office for National Statistics, Britain’s economy is officially in recession for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis. How do we create an alternative to this gloomy economic forecast?

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Joe Cullinane: We need a new economic model. If you look at what happened in 2008, there was this urge to just restart things as normal. During the financial crash we saw the really bad side of the global financialisation of the economy. Basically they were propped up and bailed out, and the rest of us got austerity. The key now in 2020 is that we learn from the mistakes. It’s now time to build back a better model – something, different, something new. For us in North Ayrshire, our role is in building something new that will be community wealth building. Trickle down economics just doesn’t work for an area like North Ayrshire, and it doesn’t work for the country as a whole. We are taking back control of our local economic landscape by using the public pound to build something different. We’re looking at land and assets; looking at setting up generative forms of business ownership, co-operatives, social enterprises and community interest companies – things that have a different value set to the big multi-nationals. Brian: Sarah McKinley, Director for European Programs for The Democracy Collaborative, said: “Community Wealth Building requires system change.” How exactly do you implement that? Joe: It does require system change from the ground up, not the top down. It requires public bodies to be working as anchor institutions – the NHS, colleges, police and fire. It’s about how do we operate differently and looking at the value of our own resources. The ambition in North Ayrshire Council’s strategy is not to just look at procurement and assets, it’s about the ownership of the economy.

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Trickle down economics just doesn’t work for an area like north Ayrshire, and it doesn’t work for the country as a whole Brian: Can you outline to me the various roles of the ‘cabinet’ that has been set up in North Ayrshire Council? Joe: We inherited a ‘cabinet’ model from the previous system where the members of it matched the leadership structure of the council’s officers. Now is the time, post Covid-19, to reframe that ‘cabinet’, and to focus on the emerging priorities. I, personally, have decided to take on the responsibility for Community Wealth Building. We have another member who is looking at how to develop a green sustainable approach which protects the economy. We’re also trying to open up the council’s structure to popular participation, and we have a colleague who is working on participatory democracy. Brian: Is Community Wealth Building part of a wider transformation which is needed to rebuild the economy? Joe: Absolutely. It’s place-based economics, something as a local authority that we can

start to influence. Our approach is a stepping stone towards building a new economy. We need to look at bigger changes across Scotland, and bigger changes across the UK. Our expert panel for Community Wealth Building has a lot of progressive economists sitting on it. We also have representation from the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) and Co-Op UK. It’s all part of a wider transformation in the Scottish economy that we need to see. Brian: What is your relationship like with the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) and the Conservatives in terms of a Community Wealth Building approach to the economy? Joe: We’ve been on this journey in North Ayrshire Council since 2018. It was in March 2019 that we signed the terms for the Ayrshire Growth Deal. The night before we signed it, the Scottish Government put £3 million on the table for a Community Wealth Building fund within the growth deal. We’re looking at how we take that forward across Ayrshire. There is some cross-party work already. One of my big frustrations in all of this is that we were looking at Community Wealth Building well before the Ayrshire Growth Deal, but the Scottish Government tend to describe our wealth building approach as a pilot. I would absolutely kick back against that description. We are not a pilot. We are not doing this on behalf of the Scottish Government. They are the ones who are supporting us and our ambitions. Brian: “The 'new normal' looks all too like the old. And that means the poorest people lose out,” said Barry Black, a postgraduate researcher at University of Glasgow School of Social and Political Sciences, who was commenting on the exams controversy in Scotland. How does education fit into


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Optimistic: Joe Cullinane, the leader of North Ayrshire Council in Scotland your strategy? Joe: Education will play a key role and is a vital part of our strategy. A vibrant economy will offer job opportunities to young people. Brian: High streets in cities and towns have been badly hit during austerity, and even more so, during the pandemic, with the surge in online shopping. Will Community Wealth Building revitalise this sector? Joe: Housing will play a big part when it comes to the future of our high streets as well as retail. We have a number of projects which are looking at putting housing back into the high street as part of a regeneration strategy. Brian: Does the ‘average’ man or woman in North Ayshire understand what a Community Wealth Building strategy means in terms of improving their lives? Joe: I think there is a better chance of it now. Plans for a public launch of our Community Wealth Building strategy had to be changed because of the lockdown. We decided to livestream it instead via our council’s Facebook page. It has now had more than 11,000 views. I think there is now a much more wider knowledge and appreciation of what we are trying to achieve. Brian: Do you still envisage

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I think there is now a much more wider knowledge and appreciation of our community wealth building strategy in north Ayrshire

still be a legal process, but what we are looking to do is making sure that our local businesses are competitive and are able to bid for contracts. Procurement can be no longer, in my eyes, be a technocratic approach, it has to be a really powerful economic tool in which we are trying to influence the economy. Nationally, the economy should, post Covid, look to have a social licence to operate. So any company, regardless of their size, who want to win public contracts, should have a social licence approach, such as paying the living wage, not to use zero-hour contracts, and to look at the environmental impact of how they deliver that contract. Brian: Will the Community Wealth Building strategy still exist if the SNP seizes control after the local elections in 2022? Joe: I have no intention of losing in those forthcoming local elections.

private companies being able to tender for public contracts when it comes to a Community Wealth Building strategy, or should there be a radical change in how the tendering process works? Joe: I was still a schoolboy when Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) were introduced. From a political point of view, I’ve always been opposed to PFIs whether it has been a Labour or Conservative model. In terms of procurement and tendering generally, it’s not about breaking the regulations, it will

Brian: And finally, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future in terms of the economic challenges ahead of us? Joe: I am a socialist so I am always optimistic. I think there is a future there to be designed and built and we will try and do that with our community wealth building strategy. We have an opportunity to do something which is truly transformational in North Ayrshire. I am determined to make it work.


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We have to have conversations about the ownership of the economy

Matthew Brown, leader of Preston Council in Lancashire

Matthew Brown, leader of Preston Council, tells VIEW editor Brian Pelan, why we need to start embracing alternative economic ideas in the wake of the pandemic here have been calls in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic for a radical reimagining of how to organise the economy more effectively and not to settle back in to the ‘old normal’ ways of doing things. Matthew Brown, leader of Preston Council in Lancashire, would, based on our conversation during the lockdown, be firmly in the camp of radical innovators. Councillor Brown supports the concept of Community Wealth Building and the ‘Preston Model’ – a form of municipal socialism which utilises anchor institutions, living wage expansion, community banking, public pension investment, worker ownership and municipal enterprise tied to a procurement strategy at the municipal level. “Even during the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown years in the Labour Party, I was very much on the radical left, who wanted to see economic alternatives. So, that’s where my mindset is and always has been really,” said Cllr Brown. He is also a fellow member of the think-tank Democracy Collaborative which promotes discussions around the moral and political transformation of the US and UK economies. What has life been like for you and the council during this present lockdown? “It’s stressful and worrying,” replied Cllr Brown. “We are trying to throw everything we can at it but the reality is that things are quite centralised around resilience forums, set up at county and regional level. We’re doing some really good work, especially around food. We’ve got this massive infrastructure now where there’s 36 community food hubs which deliver a lot of the food surplus to vulnerable groups of people who might be older or who are isolating.” How successful has the Preston Model been in terms of keeping the wealth

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in the local and regional economy? “I think it’s been quite successful. In 2013, public sector anchor institutions were spending around £38 million in the Preston economy. By 2017, it was around £111 million.” What do you say to critics of the Preston Model who claim it is advancing a protectionist agenda at the expense of other regions in the UK? “I think it’s very lazy thinking to be honest,” said Cllr Brown. “You’ve got to look at the reality we faced. We did play a neo-liberal game for over 10 years in the city centre but not one single brick was built. “But once the economic crash came in 2008, we had no choice but to try and take control ourselves. We’ve done it collaboratively by working across the institutions, by increasing spend upwards.” How will the gloomy economic forecasts in the wake of the pandemic and Brexit impact upon the Preston Model? “It’s deeply concerning. My own view is that people are more open now to the ideas behind Community Wealth Building and a new economic model, whether that’s applied locally, regionally or nationally. “I think people are more open to cooperating now because of the pandemic.

That mindset is there.You are seeing people being more tolerant and more friendly in our communities.You just get that feeling because we’re all going through something that’s quite scary. “We also have to have conversations about ownership of the economy. I think that’s really important. “For too long the ownership of the economy has often been about very rich individuals or very large corporations. I think the average person in the community has not had much of an opportunity,” said Cllr Brown. “One of our ideas is to establish a regional co-operative bank across our region, that’s going to include Lancashire, Cumbria and Merseyside. We’re looking to call it the North West Mutual. The idea behind a co-operative bank is really good because we’ve never had regional cooperative banks in the UK. “I think we need a genuine devolved economic model where workers and communities have more of a say in what happens. To do that you’ve got to look at new structures in my opinion, like having new banks. “We’ve got to find that balance between having a successful economy, but also giving people an opportunity to enjoy their lives while they are still alive.”


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We could start again with a clean piece of paper when it comes to the economy Writer and policy advisor Paul Gosling talks to VIEW’s Deputy Editor Kathryn Johnston about how Northern Ireland could follow a different path in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic aul Gosling is a writer and public speaker, specialising in the economy, co-operatives and government and the public sector. He is also a policy advisor to Derry SDLP MLA Sinead McLaughlin, the party’s economy spokesperson. His most recent book, ‘A New Ireland - A New Union: A New Society’, came out this spring. In one sentence, Paul said, “the book argues that the South has done lots of things right that the North has done wrong. “In Northern Ireland we have a fragile devolved government, a weak economy, the impact of Brexit, high public sector dependency, too few graduates and too many young people without basic skills. “While the National Health Service is one of our key strengths in principle, in practice it is a weakness. “In the Republic of Ireland we have stable government, a strong economy, graduate skills, high productivity, EU membership and a good infrastructure, while on the other hand the health system there is poor and expensive. “We send back millions and millions of pounds to the Treasury each year. If we want to make progress in building a more inclusive economy, we urgently need to put that money into improving our infrastructure. We could start by opening up the leadership of the Civil Service in terms of gender, class and social background. “We could start again with a clean piece of paper. “It is often said that academic selection is a factor which overcomes the class divide.

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Writer Paul Gosling “For example, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, said that selection was an opportunity for people like him who came from a Protestant working class area to overcome his background. “But if you actually look at the composition of the Civil Service, there is a very biased and discriminatory system which systematises class discrimination. We have to address this. “The starting point must be a fully integrated comprehensive education system but it needn’t stop there. “Take the statistics for the North West of Northern Ireland, where 44 percent of kids belong to lone parent households. If no-one in the household is working, there is no adequate income. Therefore one of the single biggest factors to improve conditions would be comprehensive childcare. That would give the opportunity for women to work and

earn an income, as well as improved educational facilities.” Paul adds that we could learn a lot from the experience of co-operatives such as Cambridge Housing Society in England, which runs a broad range of services including low-cost rented and shared ownership homes, resident and domiciliary care for older people, support for young people, parents, people with additional needs of experiencing homelessness, nurseries for babies and young children as well as money, debt and employment advice. “There are clear class-based disadvantages to the NI education system. And while a significant number of children go to university, there are too few places for them locally – and we don’t have the jobs here for them when they leave. “While there is an emphasis on university education, there is a gap of school leavers with essential skills. “There are two basic issues we need to tackle. “We must invest more in skills and improve our infrastructure. For example, 11 percent of homes in Northern Ireland can’t even access broadband.” In the foreword to his book, Paul points out that while Covid-19 is a health emergency, it is also an economic one. Quite possibly, he adds, it is a trigger for significant and permanent changes to the way our society is structured. “We face a serious risk,” he said, “that social divisions will increase.” • A free copy of ‘A New Ireland – A New Union’ by Paul Gosling ’ is available to download here – https://bit.ly/2EkwhzO


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Repairing things and making friends

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Neal Campbell Photography


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VIEW editor Brian Pelan caught up with Lee Robb and Chris McCartney to hear about the amazing work of the Repair Café in Northern Ireland

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Repair Café founders: Lee Robb and Chris McCartney

an you tell me a little bit about the Repair Café – where it started, and when did it come to Belfast?

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Christine: “The idea behind the Repair Café started about 10 years ago in Amsterdam. It was a former journalist in fact (Martine Postma) who was writing articles at the time about sustainability and the environment. She got fed up writing about it and wanted to do something practical. She decided to start a project which would help people mend their broken things. This became the first Repair Café which opened in Amsterdam in 2009. I put a bit of a website and Facebook page together in September 2017, and put out a shout out which said – ‘Is anybody interested in this?’ Lee and a Kitchen scales mended: Rob and Elizabeth bunch of other people got involved, and we held our first event in December 2017.” Repair Café.” Lee: “We held the first Repair Café at Farset Labs in the Weaver’s Court complex beside Sandy Row in south Belfast. It was great to see it in action, and it showed us the potential of the Repair Café. It brings people back – again and again, with a sense of joy that comes from fixing stuff. Have many repair cafés have you held since the first one? Christine: “We’ve held around 18 now – all over Belfast. We’ve also started working with other communities outside Belfast that are interested in starting their own repair cafés, in places such as Antrim, Newtownabbey. Castlewellan and Banbridge.” Should the concept behind Repair Café be part of the widespread discussion of how, we as a society, can do things better and more local as we slowly emerge from the lockdown caused by the present Covid-19 pandemic?

Christine: “I think it’s too early to know the answers to those questions. I think this whole experience has raised a lot of questions for a lot of people that we can’t just sweep that under the carpet in the rush to get back to ‘normal’. Will a ‘just economy’ have the ‘repair’ concept as a central part of it? Because it is the very opposite to an extractive type of economy. It’s making the most of the materials and the resources and the skills that people have.” Lee: “Our vision is to have repair cafés in every community in Northern Ireland. We are really taking the time to create a care culture within the

Christine: “Everybody’s welcome to start up a Repair Café. We can help them.” What sort of items do people bring in to be repaired? Lee – “Nearly half of everything that comes is an electrical item. We do see a lot of lamps. They are very fixable so that’s the good news. We get a lot of sewing as well – such as soft furnishings and cushion covers. We also do bikes, woodwork and leatherwork.” Chris: “Everyone is welcome at a repair café – bring a broken item or just come and see what it is all about. If you bring something which you want to get fixed, we will ask you to fill in a short form, telling us what it is and what is wrong with it – so we can find you the right ‘fixer’ who can help.” • For more information – https://repaircafebelfast.wordpress.com/


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COMMENT

We have a chance to build back better Professor John Barry, from Queen’s University Belfast, argues that countries around the world have a rare opportunity to build a different economic and social system in their recovery plans in a post-pandemic world e have been here before. Massive social and economic disruption. Rapid and massive intervention by states around the world to minimise or prevent social disaster. Except it was the 2008-09 global financial crisis where states bailed out the banks. In the wake of that crisis there was an opportunity for a ‘Green New Deal’ to usher in a step change in the economy, encompassing a low carbon, inclusive agenda for a different economy. But it failed. Now states have been forced to ‘bail out the people’, find money to shore up national health care systems, effectively implement a ‘basic income’ scheme, to nationalising all public health resources within their jurisdictions, and the injection of trillions in ‘quantitative easing for the people’. But vital as these state interventions are, this emergency and stabilisation strategy by states needs also to move on to thinking about what a postpandemic economy looks like. To paraphrase a popular meme put out on social media – ‘The coronavirus has cancelled the future. But that’s OK. It was a pretty crap one anyhow’. States, in drawing up economic stimulus and recovery plans to respond to the pandemic, have a second chance to ensure that this time around they address the planetary emergency, social inequalities, precarious work and the lack of resilience many of the systems (not least food) that rely on globalised (and therefore vulnerable) supply chains. There are multiple co-benefits that could be realised if states and populations • Greening finance – From institutional investors to pension funds, financial actors are looking for safe assets to hold. Investment in low carbon infrastructure through the issue of ‘green bonds’ by governments could finance a green stimulus. They could be issued either directly by central governments, or through national or regional green investment banks. This could be

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States, in drawing up economic stimulus and recovery plans to respond to the pandemic, have a second chance to ensure that this time around they address the planetary emergency and social inequalities accompanied by cross-national state cooperation for the orderly, urgent and large-scale divestment from carbon energy across the global financial system.

• Food – The pandemic has exposed the fragility of the food supply chain, with limited storage, a just-in-time supply model, and dependence on imported food. Alongside shifting agriculture away from its dependence on carbon energy inputs, we should also relocalise the food system. Here, as with energy and housing, the Preston Model of local wealth creation and using public sector anchor institutions to create local markets, and links between local production and consumption, offers a real-world example of a different economy. • Energy – Governments should use their stimulus packages to invest in renewable energy sources. Along with low carbon energy infrastructure, especially upgrading of national electricity grid systems away from centralised carbon energy plants will ensure countries can meet decarbonisation targets. This should also include R&D and roll out of battery storage technologies and associated infrastructural investment, and the ending of fossil fuel subsidies. • Housing – a low cost and quick policy win would be to roll out a massive insulation programme, targeting the most vulnerable fuel poverty households first. This would pay for itself in energy savings, improved health and wellbeing outcomes, provide nonoutsourceable green employment and reduce carbon emissions. Despite the various declarations of ‘climate and ecological emergencies’, we now know what a ‘real emergency’ looks like, and what it requires. And we can start with dusting off and updating plans for ‘green new deals’ from a decade ago. Incomplete and modest as they were, it means we are not starting from scratch. When history and science agree you know something profound is going on. We had a chance a decade ago. Let’s not lose this rare second chance at making a first impression. Let’s build back better.


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Charlie Fisher, Programme Manager for Development Trusts NI

Putting wealth into the community Charlie Fisher tells Brian Pelan why he remains optimistic about the future despite gloomy economic forecasts in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic an we build a better economy in Northern Ireland? This was one of the many questions I put to Charlie Fisher, Programme Manager for Development Trusts NI (DTNI), at the VIEWdigital office in the centre of Belfast. Charlie has been immersed in the world of community economic building since moving to Belfast from Omagh many years ago. Before getting down to discuss the launch of DTNI’s latest publication, Charlie talked about the third sector response to the pandemic and how he and his organisation had coped during the lockdown. “I have to say that in the initial weeks there was a flurry of panic. People were sort of trying to find their feet or their reason for being, and there were webinars after webinars. For us, we just settled down as quietly as we could. We let some of the other larger third sector organisations take hold of the information dissemination that was necessary to keep the third sector abreast. We separately engaged some professional expertise to keep our members abreast of some of the legal issues or financial opportunities that were emerging for them through the crisis. And then separately, as an organisation, we just continue to crack on with our work.

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“We also used the time available caused by the pandemic to write a report which has just been published. It's called ‘From Coronavirus to Community Wealth’. “It’s a follow on from a document we published last year called ‘Time To Build An Inclusive Local Economy’ which is a charter for change for economic development in Northern Ireland. “We want to focus our energies and

attention on trying to understand the potential impact this public health crisis will have on our economy and Northern Ireland, so that we can generate an understanding of the crisis, and begin to consider a series of recommendations that are necessary for building back better. “Our focus is around public lands and public buildings, and how we can make better use of them for socially just purposes. We need to have a new conversation about economic development in Northern Ireland. We also need to talk more about community wealth building.” Despite gloomy forecasts about the economy in the wake of Covid-19, Charlie remains optimistic. “I really hope it’s a time for younger people to step into the fray and for them to get more opportunities,” he said. “And that they can helpfully shape how we can go forward. We need people who are in their 20s and 30s to be supported. “We need to think about how we regenerate our city centres and how we populate them, such as bringing back housing – a conversation we’ve been having for the last 20 years. “We also need an equality of outcome and opportunity in terms of the economy. There is not an equality of outcome at present.”


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Award-winning journalist and author Mary O’Hara, who was born in Belfast, has extensively researched poverty, and the causes behind it, in her two books: Austerity Bites and The Shame Game. In this hard-hitting opinion piece for VIEW, she says the big questions about the economy can no longer be ignored

An extraordinary year: Mary O’Hara

Why more of the same is not an option if a fairer society is to be achieved ver the past six months, as Covid19 has become our new reality, much has been written and broadcast about how the pandemic has laid bare the gross and intersecting inequities at the beating heart of UK society. However, it shouldn’t have taken a global health crisis to remind us what was wrong with the economy already or to enlighten us about the structural underpinnings of poverty and inequality – or why there should be urgent action to make all of this right. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported in June, even before the pandemic, approximately 30 percent of low-income families could not manage a month if they lost their main source of household income. Boris Johnson can bleat all he wants about Britain being ‘world beating’ but without addressing the stark fault lines that made it one of the most unequal of the richest nations on earth prior to the pandemic, no amount of what is conventionally understood to be an economic ‘recovery’ will usher in the

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COMMENT By Mary O’Hara necessary adjustments to give the majority of people a fair crack at a better life. It won’t offer reassurance of the chance to earn a decent, secure living in the long term, the expectation of an affordable roof over families’ heads, or the confidence that, should another shock akin to Covid come down the line, we would be sufficiently prepared. This extraordinary year has thrust the deep and longstanding gap between rich and poor into the spotlight. It has pushed racial disparities in health, the justice system and throughout the economy into sharp focus. It has highlighted the scourge of poverty (millions of people largely hidden in plain sight and all-too-easily ignored or maligned by the non-poor in pre-pandemic times) and a callous, ungenerous benefits system not fit for

purpose. It has illustrated the degree of vulnerability baked into low-income, precarious work. All of these issues have garnered greater attention as hundreds of thousands of workers were furloughed or jobs disappeared altogether. The summer brought us news that the economy suffered a record downturn while the ‘A’ Levels fiasco exposed the degree to which working class kids and those from marginalised and disadvantaged communities were deemed educationally expendable – until the youngsters involved said they were not going to accept the status quo and forced a spectacular U-turn in the process. In August, we learned that, unlike the 2008/9 financial crisis the likelihood is that it won’t be mainly so-called blue collar or less well paid jobs facing the chop as with previous economic downturns, but officebased professions where workers are more used to job security and better pay and conditions. Tej Parikh of the Institute of Directors warned that going forward white-collar positions are facing the worst


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jobs crisis since the early 1990s recession. Such jobs are likely to disappear as companies look to cut costs while professional vacancies dry up. All of this suggests not only a time of incredible and unpredictable upheaval, it forces a wider societal stocktake. If those who are used to relative job security, for whom the existing system has broadly worked, suddenly find they too are the ‘precariat’, is there a chance that this will trigger a wider reckoning? Will more people come to understand that economic hardship and impoverishment is not something that ‘other people’ – those whom multiple governments have scapegoated as ‘scroungers’ and benefits cheats – bring upon themselves? Let’s hope so. The big questions can no longer be ignored. What kind of economy and society do we actually want? What is sustainable environmentally and economically – and fair? How do we protect people from ongoing job and income insecurity or homelessness? A major concern is that the current government in Westminster is devoid of vision and is ill-equipped to do the heavy policy lifting necessary to meet the moment. Neither is it inclined – despite the economic bones thrown in the early days of the pandemic and rhetoric about

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If there was a will, there would be a way in a postpandemic world to protect people from poverty and to mitigate inequality ‘levelling up’ – to tackle inequality. But if there was a will, there would be a way in a post-pandemic world to protect people from poverty and to mitigate inequality. From ‘Green New Deals’ to Universal Basic Income, there is no shortage of viable ideas. Plus, the current government won’t always be here. As a priority, a government with a

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genuine commitment to social justice and to reducing inequality and tackling poverty should start with ensuring there is enough affordable, quality, public housing. It should reimagine what we mean by ‘social safety net’ for future generations to include a new social security system built to meet actual need. This should ensure that kids do not go hungry and that all are provided with a high quality education (and therefore better life chances), that disabled people don’t live in fear of having support systems ripped away, that workers are not held hostage to low paid work and restricted rights, that older people aren’t destitute or denied care, and that the health system is not left hanging in a major crisis. And, it should go in hard on tax evasion and avoidance and other dubious practices that entrench inequality. One thing we know for sure, more of the same is simply not an option if anything resembling a fairer, more equitable society is to be achieved. • The Shame Game – https://policy.bristoluniversitypre ss.co.uk/the-shame-game • Austerity Bites – https://policy.bristoluniversitypre ss.co.uk/austerity-bites


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COMMENT

Covid-19 crisis is a turning point Tony Weekes, a teaching associate at the Department of Adult and Community Education, Maynooth University, says that ‘confidence, determination and active participation’ are required if we are to create a new society and a new economy hat is ‘the economy’? What is ‘economics’? Two apparently simple questions. Rarely asked and therefore rarely answered. There are many possible answers to both. What follows are mine – for reflection and discussion. The economy: what is it? Let’s step back a little. We have needs … and we have wants. Drawing a sharp distinction is difficult. But we can identify our needs; we also have the means to provide them. We have a rich inheritance which should enable us to satisfy these needs. The obvious starting point is our natural heritage: the land, the soil, forests, seas, rivers, and the many diverse organisms – plants, animals and more – with which we share this planet. As a source of energy we have the sun. Together, these constitute a living, evolving, resilient system. It has a rhythm; life, death and renewal. It meets some of our needs – as long as we recognise limits and do not damage it. There is more. We have ourselves; amazing creative beings with diverse abilities and talents. Talents which require recognition and development. And still more: we have a heritage of knowledge, going back centuries; we have worked out how to harvest the energy of the sun and what it creates; we know how to investigate the workings of nature and put them to use to meet our needs – and even some wants. We have buildings, machines, electronic gadgets … and much more. Collectively, these – not money or finance – define wealth. What is economics? In broad terms, it is a human construct. A set of principles arising from the accepted spiritual, political and social norms of a society which are used to distribute a society’s wealth. It is a branch of moral philosophy; one of its academic roots, in the 19th Century, was in Faculty of Philosophy in the University of Cambridge. It is not a science; the search for laws (like Newtonian physics) has not been successful.

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Neoliberalism has led to gross levels of inequality and poverty; to insecurity; to massive and inappropriate waste of people and their talents; an assumption that human needs are no more than shopping

In complex societies (such as our own) the task of matching the wealth with the perceived needs requires a view of what we mean by a society. A society requires institutions: for learning and its development; to make and enforce laws which enable the means for society’s needs to be met. It also requires prudence: an awareness of the problems and needs of the future. And a sense of what is right and what is wrong. The insights and principles of economics should provide the basis for government policies which meet our needs. But, since the early 1980s, we have been persuaded that only a few (apparently simple) principles are sufficient. A system whose name can now be spoken: neoliberalism. Speaking broadly: competitive markets and minimum intervention by government; a denial of the idea of society. The outcome has been a disaster. Over the last 10 years (and longer) it has led to gross levels of inequality and poverty; to insecurity; to massive and inappropriate waste of people and their talents; an assumption that human needs are no more than shopping. The worst outcome is the failure to address the issue of climate change. Constructive rebellions are already happening. There are citizens’ movements for a ‘new economics’, based on a vision of the decent society. One example is the Massachusetts-based Schumacher Center for a New Economics (https://centerforneweconomics.org/) – a wonderful collection of resources, citizen empowerment and action. It’s not the only example. The Covid-19 crisis is the turning point; yet another consequence of neoliberalism. There are many calls for the new society/new economy, but details are somewhat lacking. The transition will require confidence, determination and active participation. No more passive acceptance of pernicious, burned-out systems.


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A new beginning: The team at the Great Care Co-op in Dublin

A co-op first for care workers By Megan McDermott t a time when the work of front-line staff and carers has gained widespread recognition, the Great Care Co-op has opened its doors as Ireland’s first worker-owned home care co-operative. Co-founder Shane Andaloc said: “Carers have always been unheard. There’s all this ‘essential workers, we applaud you and you’re heroes’. That’s great but I think carers and frontline workers would appreciate it more if they were paid better treated better, and valued better.” The Great Care Co-op is run by migrant women carers who want to be able to do their job in a way that works for them and for their clients, something they haven’t always found to be the case in private homecare agencies. “There’s no pensions and no sick pay,” said Shane. “So before Covid-19, a lot of people would go into work even if they had the flu because they needed the money. They have to earn a living. They have bills and families.” A high turnover of agency carers combined with the limited time allocated for each client can leave many carers feeling unable to do their jobs to the best of their ability, said Shane from her own experience as a carer.

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“You could have someone with poor mobility so most of the day they probably just stay sitting on a chair and you are the only person they see. That would be fine if you can pay attention to them and you can make sure they have everything because you know them and you’ve worked with them. “There is also a really bad staff turnover because people are not happy so they leave, and then there’s a shortage so carers are being sent all over the place. “Sometimes I’d be sent to someone I don’t know. Completely new to their house; I don’t know where everything is. They don’t know me and they’re very uncomfortable. And you still only have an hour and then you have to rush out because I’m going to be late for my next appointment. “You go in thinking you’re doing the job of looking after people but by the end of the day you feel like I’ve just done more harm because I can’t remember if I closed their door properly or did I lock that window, because you’re just rushing all over the place.” The team of 10 women founded the co-op through the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland with money from the EU Migrant Women Entrepreneurship scheme. They have set up in the Dublin suburb of Dalkey where private homecare can be expensive.

But the co-op charges the national average rather than the local equivalent, under the ethos that care is for everyone regardless of means. The carers are paid €14.50 rather than the market average of €11 or less. The co-op workers will also receive sick pay, holidays and pensions. Crucially, the decision-making power lies with the carers themselves. “It’s not about a hierarchy in the office making decisions. These are the front-line staff, they know the people and they’re making decisions on how to provide the best care,” said one of the carers, Anele Moyo. Anele talked about how important it is that the new co-op carers are living locally. “They know the area, they know the services available in the community and this is going to help connect the clients to a range of services, including their local church and hairdressers.” Anele’s hope for the Great Care Coop is that it will allow carers to build good relationships with clients and pay attention to their needs. “All the profits made are going to be invested in the carers to insure that the older person is receiving the best possible care. The carers are going to benefit and the clients are going to benefit.”


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FROM SURFING THE WAVES TO LIVING OFF THE LAND ...

Fergal Smith: “People will realise we have to stop relying on food from the other side of the world”


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VIEWdigital reporter Megan McDermott, left, talks to Fergal Smith about the farm he help set up in Co Clare, and why he passionately believes that local produce offers a sustainable way forward in a new, green economy professional surfer who once chased waves all over the world for a living is now a strong advocate for living off the land. Fergal Smith now runs Moy Hill Farm in County Clare. And while he always knew he would work on the land one day, his journey to community farming was an unusual one. The Mayo man traveled the world as a professional surfer before eventually settling on the coast of Clare, returning to the land while staying close to the water. “I ran off and chased waves around the world and then had the realisation that I should do more than just chase waves and came back to the land,” he said. I called Fergal while he was out sewing lettuce with his young daughter and asked him what a fairer economy would look like as we emerge from lockdown. For him it involves people buying locally and seasonally. “People did quickly realise when there was a bit of a crisis in the country, they needed to eat healthy and local. But the farms that are providing the stuff need the consistency and the commitment for the whole year. People aren’t going to get into being local farmers unless people are going to commit to buying from local farmers. So there’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation going on.” When he can pull together the staff, Fergal runs a scheme known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Customers commit to buying a box of vegetables a week for an entire season; an economic model of stable demand and supply based on local solidarity. To ensure the scheme isn’t exclusive, 10 percent of the boxes are sold at cost price for those with less to spend. “You know you’ve got those customers before you even buy your seed. So everything is very tangible. Generally people are overproducing, hoping they’ll have a good year. But if you have your sales guaranteed before you even start

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One of the many meetings which take place on the farm the next year, that takes a huge weight off your mind.” In the fullest manifestation of the CSA ideology the community would support the local farmer through thick and thin, said Fergal. “If, for example, we have a huge flood, does the farmer go bankrupt and you don’t have a farm? Or do you still pay him regardless so he can survive until the next year? That’s the original concept. The idea is that you share the risks and the rewards.” In his experience however, even getting the basic veg box scheme to stick can be a challenge. “Unfortunately our fast-paced lifestyle of convenience and having anything you want at any time doesn’t go very well with the ethos of CSA. For a lot of the spring it’s just greens and people aren’t used to that. The modern person likes convenience. So it’s very hard to tell someone there won’t be tomatoes until July whereas they

could have tomatoes most of the year round if they wanted. “When the pandemic started, the CSAs around the country went through the roof. People couldn’t get local veg if they tried. It was amazing to see. But as soon as the restrictions were lifted in the slightest, sales just dropped the next day.” Despite the challenges, Fergal believes in the CSA philosophy for its contribution to sustainability and community. But he knows it might take another global crisis to permanently change consumer behaviour. “It’ll happen with the likes of these pandemics that people will realise we have to stop relying on food from the other side of the world. It’s the big scares that are really going to drive home that that’s how we need to live if we’re going to sustain our economy and our environment and our health. It’s just a matter of time.”


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COMMENT

Housing policy is core to public health Orla Hegarty, Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy at University College Dublin, believes we have a chance to change direction and prioritise decent homes ne of the striking things about this pandemic is how political consequences play out in real-time. We are used to delayed reactions and short political cycles that sometimes mean the following government deal with the fallout. Housing being a case in point. However, in this ‘new normal’ the consequences of some policy moves play out in weeks, and others – such as spikes in infection – in a matter of days. When the pandemic hit in March, the response was fast and hard – the immediate priorities were medical services, food security and keeping all but key workers at home. Mike Ryan(1) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that “none of us are safe until all of us are safe”. Priorities shifted and some housing problems that seemed intractable were suddenly resolved, including a rent freeze and an evictions ban. Rooms were found for people who were on the streets, and many families in shared accommodation were moved to safety. By June, the number of people in emergency accommodation had fallen by 1,200 (700 of them children)(2), and by August the number of rentals available in Dublin had almost doubled compared to the year before(3). Many students and migrants went home and tens of thousands of properties being let to tourists, on platforms such as Airbnb, became available. Not a single new home had been built, yet everything changed. Perhaps there were enough homes all along? Aside from homes let to tourists, the 2016 Census of Ireland confirms 183,000 others that are vacant, excluding holiday homes and commercial buildings(4). Just 10 percent of this vacancy is more than the number of new homes that will be built in 2020. This opportunity is important because in September the housing crisis will still be with us, but the government’s ‘fiscal headroom’ will not. The luxury of subsidising high-cost, newbuild homes to meet housing need may be gone.

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The ‘locked out’ generation were priced out of homes, with the low paid – many of them key workers – being hardest hit More broadly, building up and out while cities and towns are hollowed out is unsustainable. Sprawl, high-rise and costly new infrastructure don’t make sense when there is capacity elsewhere; and empty homes are often in places with services, infrastructure and an established community, the very supports that made the lockdown tolerable. By July, the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) reported that “rents in Dublin fell year-on-year in April, May and June” and that “rent inflation outside Dublin also dropped sharply”(5). In the medium term this trend is likely to continue as tourists and students

stay away, hospitality workers are furloughed, and office workers stay online. The pandemic, remote working, health concerns and lifestyle choices will change the economics of cities and property. It is early days, but the quiet street and struggling city businesses we see are a direct consequence of policies that prioritised hotels, offices, international students and tourists over housing for citizens. The ‘locked out’ generation were priced out of homes, with the low paid – many of them key workers – being hardest hit. In fact, the common feature of many outbreaks – care homes, construction, meat plants, direct provision – is people living in inadequate and overcrowded housing. Housing policy is core to public health, fiscal prudence and sustainable futures. We have an opportunity now to change direction, to prioritise decent homes in strong communities as the building blocks of national resilience for pandemic, recession, and climate change. • 1 (WHO, 30 March 2020) press conference transcript: – https://bit.ly/2D6lxVk • 2 (Focus Ireland) Emergency accommodation, all: 9,907 (March 2020)8,699 (June 2020), & children: 3,355 (March 2020)- 2,653 (June 2020) – https://bit.ly/3hBzh9L • 3 (Irish Times, 22 August 2020) https://bit.ly/2D7BPNH • 4 (Census 2016) Vacant housing statistics – https://bit.ly/3b2RTNc • 5 (RTB, July 2020) Exploring the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Rental Prices in Ireland from January to June 2020: Early Insights from a Monthly Rent Index – https://bit.ly/2QtWi2i


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We asked poet Michéle Beck, left, who lives in Doncaster in England, to write a poem to mark this specific issue of VIEW. We are delighted to publish it

The Human Condition Life was hanging on a razor’s edge A ferocious disease infecting lungs, taking breath Touch, a debt lost, in agonizing stillness A collective conscious would then ignite This world collaborating and governments striving Tenants would be living rent free and mortgage payments stalled The homeless sheltered in hotels Neighbours for the first time ever, talking Whole societies upheaved in seconds We are not just a mass of individuals Competing for wealth and standing We are a paradox in this crisis A rebirth.

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What do the public think VIEWdigital journalist Megan McDermott spoke to a range of citizens to find out what they thought the priorities should be in a post-Covid-19 world

Noreen and Patrick Short – Originally from Belfast and Dundalk, but now living in Manchester Noreen said: “It doesn’t affect us but I worry for the younger generation. We just wish there was a clearer strategy on all levels. I feel for the younger people. Even though it doesn’t affect us we don’t take the attitude that ‘we’re okay, Jack’. For the ones coming out of university I really feel for them as they try to get a job.”

George Poots,Youth Climate Association, Northern Ireland member, Belfast “We’re looking for a plan from the government for a green recovery out of the pandemic because we can’t continue to go on the way that we have. We’re going to run out of our carbon budget by 2050. We need green jobs and transferable jobs where people can work in more green industries. We need renewables and things that will save us money in the long run. I think it should have already been done a long time ago. But it’s clear that it’s not working so now is the perfect time to be rethinking all of this.”


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about a fairer economy?

Shane, healthcare worker, Dublin “Healthcare being a two-tier system with a big public-private split in the Republic of Ireland has shown itself to be fairly dysfunctional. I think we need it to be free at the point of entry, and to actually give people the healthcare they need and to create a fairer system. So that it’s not healthcare by virtue of those who have the means to pay for it.You’ll get a hip replacement if you can afford to do that privately and if you can’t then, regardless of your need, you don’t get access to the same resources. We’ve seen in the last few months how we can change things when push comes to shove.”

Darragh Dalton and Lorraine Murphy, teacher, Limerick Lorraine: “With the virus, teaching is a big issue. They’re saying they’re going to reduce class sizes but in reality they’re still putting the same number of students into classrooms. There’s not enough funding for schools. They just need to employ more teachers. There’s teachers leaving Ireland every year going to Dubai and even over to the UK because they’re getting paid better and have better facilities whereas here we just don’t have that and they’re not giving teachers permanent jobs. So there’s just constant new teachers in and out. There’s no job security for anyone.”

Kerry, Belfast “A fairer economy would be one in which everybody is given the support they need to find and keep their home. The government recently committed in the ‘New Decade New Approach Deal’ to providing everybody with an affordable, sustainable, quality home that’s suitable for their needs. So for me a fairer economy would ensure that that’s provided. And also in terms of the social security system, ensuring it does what it says on the tin and provides people with security no matter what circumstances that they find themselves in.”


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I’ve been told I’m naïve, but I don’t care, because I think it’s naïve to think we can keep extracting stuff from the earth Author and activist Anne Ryan talks to VIEW editor Brian Pelan t’s always a pleasure to talk to Anne Ryan, a writer, blogger and campaigner, who lives in Cellbridge, Co Kildare, in the Republic of Ireland. We started off our conversation by chatting about how she has been coping during the lockdown. “My life is quite home-based. I took early retirement four years ago from a job as a lecturer and I have devoted my time to activism since then. I’m very active in the campaign for basic income, and that has really stepped up because there has been a lot of discussion about it. My husband and I are very lucky. We have a small garden and a lovely home, with a park close by to us where we can walk every day. I always keep a well-stocked larder with beans and chickpeas and so on. We’re very fortunate, I have to say. “I think if we’d had a basic income in place before all this started, everyone would automatically be getting a basic payment. No one would be falling through the cracks financially.” I asked Anne for her views on going back to the “old normal”, or is this an opportunity to implement a different economic model? “People have been talking for many years about the need to shrink certain sectors of the economy. The climate and the biodiversity crisis are linked to the pandemic because we know that climate change and the rise in global temperatures allows viruses to spread. There’s a lot of evidence to show that the virus was released because of the expansion of factory farming and industrial farming. “It would be my hope that people wouldn’t be trying to return to that ‘old normal’ and that the ‘new normal’ would not focus on global growth or aggregate GDP, but a much different approach. “What sectors of the economy do we need to grow? What sectors do we need to shrink?

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Support: Anne Ryan “We need to grow all the stuff that’s around care, education, clean energy, and the crucial public sectors. “We need to be shrinking stuff such as excessive consumption and mining. The stuff that’s really creating a lot of problems. We need to be thinking about supporting a huge diversity of growers and small farmers so that we have a much more resilient economy.” Are you saying that we need a local approach to economic issues rather than a global approach? “Yes, we need a local, community economy, particularly around food so that the basics are available in the locality for people. These are all things that activists in the environmental and justice movement have been looking at for years. “The state should enable people with grants and subsidies for small growers and small businesses.” Have you been heartened by the discussion recently in the media and from commentators about the need for a basic income policy to be introduced? And would it help to close the income gap? “If we were to be able to afford a basic income, people on very high incomes would need to be paying quite a bit more

tax. I think that the introduction of a basic income would make life better for a lot of people.” Anne also talked about other changes that we could make in society. “People were flying so much because air travel had become so cheap. That’s because it’s hugely subsidised. So, imagine if we gave the same amount of subsidies to trains and walking and cycling and made all of that much more accessible to people. And if had a shorter job week, or longer periods of time off, so that people could take that bit of extra time to travel more slowly. “The general thrust of our economy has been to extract from people every bit of their time. That’s what capitalism does. It tries to take every ounce of people’s time and then, of course, they don’t have the time to do things for themselves in their homes and they have to buy, and they think they need retail therapy. It’s a vicious circle.” Our conversation had started by discussing the pandemic and it ended on the idea and importance of ‘erotic knowledge’. Anne give me a quote by the US feminist Audre Lorde to try and explain it – ‘The erotic is much more than about sexuality, it is the personification of love in all its aspects’. “I always say that at the heart of the whole philosophy of ‘enough is plenty’ is care. Just caring for people and care for the earth. It’s about that sense you get when you’re content with something. Maybe you’re in company with people that is very convivial or you’re involved in an activist project that’s going well or you are with like-minded people trying to do good in the world. I know that sounds naïve. I’ve been told I’m naïve, but I don’t care, because I think it’s naïve to think we can keep extracting stuff from the earth.” We need more Anne Ryans in this world as we grapple with the pandemic and its effects on all of us.


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COMMENT

A chance to provide economic security Patrick Brown, an Alliance Party councillor and final year PhD student at Queen’s University, believes the introduction of a Universal Basic Income could have a huge transformative effect on Northern Ireland t’s an inescapable fact of any economy that we all need some form of money to exchange for goods and services not provided by the state. And the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed just how insecure many of our incomes are. As a result of the resulting economic crisis, governments worldwide have moved (some more quickly than others) toward bailing out people through enhanced unemployment, furlough schemes and stimulus cheques, but still many millions are falling through the cracks and in dire need of support. The pandemic offers us an opportunity to rethink how we create a post-pandemic economy with compassion and resilience at its core – a new social contract that holds economic security for all as a key principle. A Universal Basic Income would provide everyone in society, regardless of their circumstances, with a fixed income, usually paid monthly, at a level sufficient to provide them with basic economic security.The principle is very much the same as universal services such as health and education. We all agree these are common goods that should be accessible by all free at the point of service. They are still used by millionaires, but in a fair economy these people pay more towards them via taxation. A UBI is exactly the same, except instead of a service, people receive a modest income to support themselves. That is why many are calling UBI ‘this generation’s NHS’. Basic Income NI advocates that this income should be set at a level above the poverty line, to ensure UBI eliminates material poverty for every single person. In the UK this would mean a monthly UBI of approximately £800 for adults and around half that for children. This would replace the vast majority of benefits such as Universal Credit and pensions, but disability benefits would be unaffected. This UBI could be easily paid for through savings from replacing the current welfare system, progressive taxation and

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The pandemic offers us an opportunity to rethink how we create a post-pandemic economy with compassion and resilience at its core some quantitative easing. Scotland has recently published plans for how a UBI might work there, while Spain has introduced a minimum income similar to a UBI and cities across England such as Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull and Norwich have all proposed testing it. Several councils in Northern Ireland are due to debate it this month. A UBI is necessary because the current economic model of growth at the expense of ballooning inequality, compounded by a decade of deep cuts to public services, has failed. Our NHS is at breaking point, more than 100,000 deaths have been linked to austerity and the top one percent of society owns almost a

quarter of our wealth. In Northern Ireland, one in four children is born into poverty, we have some of the highest deprivation levels of any region of the UK, the highest rates of poor mental health, and paramilitary crime has been on a steep increase for the first time in many years. There is no better time than now to change direction and help usher in a new social and economic contract for Northern Ireland. Where it has been tested UBI has shown huge transformative potential such as: improving mental health and wellbeing, decreasing hospitalisation rates, improving educational outcomes and reducing crime. A permanent UBI could act as venture capital for ordinary people, increasing economic activity by eliminating poverty traps, encouraging entrepreneurial activity and stimulating spending. It could reinvigorate civic society by facilitating more volunteering, remunerating carers, freeing up time for political participation and boosting social capital and social trust. My own research considers the impact UBI could have in healing divisions and offering a ‘peace dividend’ for everyone living in a post-conflict society. This includes how it could reduce incentives to join paramilitary gangs, provide compensation for victims of the Troubles and help to tackle the ongoing costs of division. A UBI would represent the greatest devolution of power and freedom to individuals since the advent of democracy. It is neither left nor right, but forward, and has the ability to unlock human potential and deliver unprecedented opportunity for progress on the other side of these difficult times. • Patrick Brown is a founding member of Basic Income NI – an advocacy group of volunteers campaigning for the introduction of a basic income in Northern Ireland.


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COMMENT

Meeting the challenges of the pandemic Tiziana O’Hara, a founder member at Co-operative Alternatives in Northern Ireland, writes about the vital need for enterprises which are guided by values rather than profit cross the island of Ireland, the responses of co-operatives to the Covid-19 crisis have been interesting if not predictable. Co-operatives are principled enterprises guided by values rather than profit and made up by people rather than capital. Within the co-operative movement, principles six and seven have been remarkedly applied and co-operatives, while focusing on members’ needs, have worked together to strengthen co-operation among co-operatives and for the development of their local communities. In Northern Ireland, the Belfast Food Co-operative is a new consumer co-operative and within a couple of weeks of lockdown, had mobilised their own supporters to help subsidise a food order with healthy and nutritious products to distribute to the most in need in their own area. While the Creative Workers Cooperative, came to our (Co-operative Alternatives) rescue while we had to quickly adapt to online video conferencing and navigate the new realm of web seminars. In the Republic, the Society of Co-operative Studies in Ireland has collated testimonials from co-ops and the credit unions. Their secretary, Norman Reid, said: “Quiet co-operation through solidarity, concern for community, care for others, self-responsibility and self-help are seeing most of us through the crisis. At the same time misplaced competition between individuals and the rest of society, and a refusal to adapt behaviour for the common good, is showing what a threat competitive attitudes can be to the rest of us. It is clear that we are likely to emerge from this pandemic with a damaged economy to re-build but with co-operative values greatly enhanced by such a demonstration of their survival value.”

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Co-operatives are the type of business we want more of, they are trusted to deal fairly with people, places and the planet, not only in this emergency but in the future Since the most recent financial crisis in 2008, many co-operatives have extensively contributed to what has been described the solidarity economy – a more humane economy that addresses the need for employment, food and housing, rather than serve the demands of a globalised profit-seeking market. Their work went unnoticed. Actually, co-operatives were often described as the perfect form for all those pockets of society suffering from

‘market-failure’ (which simply meant not profitable enough for the private sector and not quite making it onto the development plans of the public sector) and often were left to pick up the broken pieces of a fragile society. The co-operatives across this island did not take long to respond to the Covid19 emergency because this is the bread and butter of their everyday working life and they are established for the communities and the workers within them. Co-operatives like Loveworks and the Belfast Cleaning Society were born out of the necessity to offer fair and dignified employment, the Northern Ireland Community Energy out of the wish to generate from renewable energy and sell cheaper electricity to community centres, Jubilee Farm out of the need to access and work on land with respect for people and planet. More to the point, co-operatives do not only offer income and opportunities to people but build assets for people, and by that, we mean real wealth. The ‘collective wealth’ that we gradually lost after years of political neglect, such as community spaces, affordable housing and services. Alarmingly though, a report of Cooperatives UK, published on April 28, clearly highlighted the fact that 17 percent of co-ops are ineligible for any government grant and this is a major challenge for their survival. Half of the co-ops in UK will need better-tailored support in the months to come and look at the future with trepidation, it was also reported. Co-operatives are the type of businesses we want more of – they are trusted to deal fairly with people, places and the planet, not only in this emergency but in the future and there are no more excuses to be had. Time to pay attention. Simply help to grow new ones and look after what we have.


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Participatory Budgeting is a form of citizen participation in which citizens are involved in the process of deciding how public money is spent. Local people are often given a role in the scrutiny and monitoring of the process following the allocation of budgets. Advocates Louise O’Kane and Noleen Diver tell Brian Pelan why they believe it can help citizens to participate more effectively in a post-pandemic world

Louise O’Kane, Community Places

Noleen Diver, Triangle Housing Association

The key messages for me around Participatory Budgeting (PB) is the focus on quality processes, bringing people together (even though that might be virtually for a while) through the PB network to champion practice, share learning, grow connections and trust. Through a quality PB Charter we want to achieve locally-led and tailored processes which plan for inclusion, involve local people from the outset, create spaces for dialogue and deliberation – and genuinely put people in the lead. We need to move to mainstream PB processes which use existing public resources differently and arguably more effectively and with more accountability to have greater reach and impact. In this Covid-19 world, I think PB will be even more important in empowering communities – we need more not less. But it needs to be sustained and of high quality. The response from local communities during the pandemic has been amazing. It shows that there is a huge appetite among people to have a sense of control; they care about their local places, and to try and help shape them. They want more control over their lives. I think we need to recognise that PB and other democratic processes can be a part of that. Local authorities should examine how PB can help to empower local communities.

There are many initiatives that will be essential to create the new world that we need very quickly. Participatory Budgeting is one. It should be a vehicle to help us in Northern Ireland look outwards as we seek solutions together. People do know about their own local areas but they don’t have the channels to make an impact. People can make a difference. At the end of a PB process there are concrete results because people have voted for something. PB is also asset based. This is not a case of experts coming in and saying “we know best”. PB, if genuine, gives agency and respect, it breaks up ruts and group-think, it opens spaces for partnership and collaboration and innovation across all citizens. Our mentor, Jez Hall PB Partners (and Shared Futures), said the longest journey in this process is for the officer – and he is spot on. And so to post-C19. We’ve said each PB journey is unique even while embodying the essential principles. This is a very organic process. There is little about it that I can see to be determinant and it’s all the more special for that.

Participatory Budgeting Network – https://pbnetwork.org.uk/


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COMMENT

Why we need a regional mutual bank Bridget Meehan, Policy Officer with Advice NI and co-founder of Our Money, the mutual bank campaign, argues that post Covid-19, we need to create alternatives to private banking institutions et’s imagine this. The world is in a state of emergency, maybe there is a contagious virus or something, and life as we know it has gone into a lockdown, leading to greatly restricted freedoms and the suspension of non-essential activities and services. What was that I heard you say? We don’t need to imagine this because it’s already happening? My apologies, you’re right. So using the experience of our reality, let’s pose some questions. In this state of emergency, what defines essential and what do we truly value? A nurse or the CEO of a large corporation? A domiciliary carer or a Premier League football player? A postal worker or a famous boy band? A waste collector or an A-list movie star? Or what about food suppliers, transport workers, the engineers and call centre staff who keep vital infrastructure up and running? Are they less essential than billionaire moguls or celebrity entertainers? It’s apparent that our economy has a lot of upside-down thinking, including the way work is rewarded. People don’t get paid according to sacrifice, effort or value. Rather, work that makes the most valuable contribution to our everyday lives is rewarded with the lowest pay, zero-hours contracts or gig-style conditions; while work that’s not as crucial, or worse, the mere ownership of resources, get the highest financial rewards. In the finance sector, the same upsidedown approach applies. Bank bosses can be paid 120 times more than the average bank clerk, yet who’s at the frontline ensuring we still have access to basic banking services? And right now, do shareholders and profits matter? Do the financial markets matter, or stocks and bonds or hedge funds? Mutual regional banking is an alternative to these upside-down private banking institutions. A mutual bank is one

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The lockdown is helping us see what’s important and what isn’t, what’s lifegiving and what’s lifethreatening. And when it’s over, we shouldn’t just meekly return to the way things were that’s governed by radically different rules from those governing private banks. It can only operate within the physical boundaries of its defined region and can

only serve the needs of the people and the economy in that local region, with lending permitted in the local community and nowhere else. The bank is owned and controlled by its members who must live in the local region. The bank’s Board is elected by members and must answer to them— there are no faceless, unaccountable shareholders living outside the region. The bank operates a more equal and fairer pay structure, and doesn’t have staff incentive structures such as executive bonuses. The bank prioritises lending to small businesses and business start-ups, especially worker and consumer cooperatives. And it also prioritises lending to economic sectors that add social and environmental value thus helping to mitigate the climate crisis and build resilience and sustainability. If the Covid-19 crisis is teaching us anything it’s that our system is not working for our communities or for our environment. And amid the cries about the damage the lockdown is doing to our economy and the urgent need to return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible, we shouldn’t forget that our existing economy hurts society and the planet and that ‘normal’ wasn’t such a good place for many of us. The lockdown is helping us see what’s important and what isn’t, what’s life-giving and what’s life-threatening. And when it’s over, we shouldn’t just meekly return to the way things were but demand change that respects what we know to be important. A mutual regional bank is one such change and it’s a change that’s entirely achievable. If you want to be part of that change, join Our Money, the campaign for a mutual bank for NI. • For more details – https://ourmoney.works/


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The ‘new normal’ should be one where we value the vital role of childcare

Formidable advocate: Rachel Powell

By Brian Pelan he Covid-19 Feminist Recovery Plan was launched online this year in Northern Ireland. On the front cover, it states that “this feminist recovery plan will cover a wide range of evidence on the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on women” and the recommendations for policy makers to address this from the Women’s Policy Group Northern Ireland (WPG). The 127-page document covers a wide range of areas, including the economic impact of Covid-19, women’s poverty and austerity, and childcare. Twenty-seven-year-old Rachel Powell, who is employed as a lobbyist at the Women’s Resource and Development Agency, is a formidable advocate for the Feminist Recovery Plan. “I’m from Keady in south Armagh,” said Rachel. “I moved to Belfast about 10 years ago. I became involved in the students’ movement, then I transitioned into the community sector and started to work as a human rights officer, before starting my present post as a women’s sector lobbyist. “I became disabled from the age of 11 with a genetic condition called psoriatic arthritis. My immune system thinks that my bones, muscles and tendons are a disease and it attacks them. Bit by bit, my condition has got worse. There is no cure for it. My mother has it. I got it from her. I’ve had lots of surgeries. Possibly about a third of my school years were spent in hospital. I’m in pain every day. I’m on loads of medication. “My mum was always passionate about women’s rights. She instilled her beliefs in me. I started to describe myself as a feminist once I went to university.

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“From the very early stages of Covid, we were having loads of women coming to us and raising their concerns about childcare, home schooling, and the rise in domestic violence. “We felt that politicans were hearing our concerns but nothing was really happening. We took the view that Covid19 shouldn’t stop us from looking at these issues, it just highlighted how worse they were for many women. “We were blown away when a women from the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) showed us a feminist recovery plan for Covid-19 from Hawaii, called ‘Building Bridges, Not Walking on Backs’. “It led to us thinking that we can give briefings to politicians until we are blue in the face; but we really need to provide them with the statistics, about how much it will cost, and how they can implement them. This led to us developing our own feminist recovery plan. “The women’s policy group is made up of women’s organisations, feminist groups, human rights organisations, LGBT groups, trade unions and NGOs. It’s a really broad movement. “Our 18-month strategy will include meeting with all the ministers and committees at Stormont to go through the

parts of the plan which are specific to them. We also going to bring our plan to Westminster. We’re also going to develop campaigns to lobby for the plan to be implemented.” I asked Rachel what would a ‘new normal’ look like to her? “So many of the recommendations in our plan have been around for over a decade. But Covid really highlighted how extreme some of our inequalities are. It shone a light on was important care work is – paid and unpaid, and the vital role played by all our key workers. “Low paid workers were often seen as ‘unskilled’, but they held us together during this pandemic. “For me, the ‘new normal’ is one where the importance and value of care work is at the centre of everything we do. Because we can’t survive without our childcare providers, our care workers, our health and social care staff “I would advocate for a public care model when it comes to the provision of nursery care. If we look at the UK,compared to countries across Europe, we find that in Europe they tend to fund 75 percent of child care provision. In the UK it’s around 20 percent. But Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK without any government-funded child care provision at all. We’ve been waiting on a strategy for child care for over a decade now. We need to be seeing this as a public issue. “How can we justify not paying for this. We also need a proper living wage for all workers in a post Covid-19 economy.” As the UK has officially been declared as being in a recession, the many supporters of the feminist recovery plan face significant obstacles. But Rachel herself appears undaunted by the challenges ahead.


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COMMENT Disabled must help shape the ‘new normal’ Writer Harry Reid argues that we need to herald an era ‘which finally may produce social and economic justice and equality for the most routinely marginalised and excluded constituency of people in our society’ he sight of a global pop culture icon loitering in a County Down bus shelter is an arresting one. A taciturn Van Morrison grumpily rooting through his pockets for his senior citizen SmartPass would, no matter how unlikely, at least be credibly possible. But this!? For here was a diva of a different order of celebrity and pouting, privileged petulance. For here was Madonna. Humming a little out of tune. She’s sitting beside a large poster from an entity called the National Emergency Trust. Covering a full Perspex wall of the bus shelter the poster announces the launch of a ‘Coronavirus Appeal’ seeking donations ‘to help those most affected’ by Covid-19. It is a day in April 2020. Spring is asserting itself. Flowering plants splash the vivid colours of new growth at ground level under an improbably azure sky devoid of the normally ever-present slashed white tail wakes of aircraft racing to and from the nearby Belfast City airport. I am taking my newly regular daily walk through the lockdown science fiction filmset that is the streetscape of Holywood High Street, en route to the coastal path. To breathe. A bee buzzes. The usually bustling centre of the small seaside town does not. Standing on the deserted street, I see that the bus shelter is real. So too is the poster. While the message it carries comes from a very real place indeed. Blinking, I see the solitary figure waiting for a bus is someone other than Madonna. Yet the surreal tableau my subconscious had initially conjured onto the screen of my conscious mind was based on a truthful juxtaposition. Madonna had jack-knifed her way into my psyche just days before by means of the content of a preposterous and grotesque video she had posted online. Filmed inside a mansion in Lisbon sitting in a bath festooned with rose petals,

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Covid-19, rather than being a great leveller, is a forensic un-masker of the profound inequalities riddling and disfiguring contemporary society she thought, if that is the right word, to share her lofty wisdom on the events unfolding around us all. Covid-19, she mused, ‘is the great equaliser’. This, she said, was because “it doesn’t care about how rich you are, how famous you are, how funny you are, how smart you are, where you live, how old you are ....” The truth of course could scarcely be more different. Covid-19, rather than being a great leveller, is a forensic un-masker of the profound inequalities riddling and disfiguring contemporary society. This was understood by the people

behind the National Emergency Trust poster, and the appeal it promoted. Inequalities based on class and race that, while pre-existing the rise of the neoliberal approaches to public policy-making adopted from the late 1970s onwards, that have subsequently undergone hothouse growth. Inequalities massively accentuated by the austerity policies of the post-2008 financial crash era. Inequalities magnified by the gig economy and the capture of the ever more important digital economy by the winnertakes-all logic of the surveillance capitalism practised by Big Tech companies and exemplified by the operations of the FAANG companies (Facebook; Amazon; Apple; Netflix and Google). In the absence of the profound change in social and economic policy that is required to reverse the unprecedented levels of inequality highlighted by the differential impact of Covid-19, it has been left to the likes of the National Emergency Trust (NET) as a non-Government organisation to administer a form of the politics of decency by distributing £64 million to date via Community Foundations across the UK to those most affected by the impact of the virus. Meanwhile at the end of August, the NET announced a £1.5 million grant programme available to grassroots Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) to help offset the massively disproportionate impact Covid-19 has had on disabled people. DPOs are distinct from traditional disability charities as the former by their constitution must have at least 51 percent of their managing board being people who themselves have a disability. Hopefully, this will signal part of the ‘new normal’ wherein disabled people themselves shape decisions that affect them.That would be a welcome break with the past, and with the present. It could even begin to herald an era that finally may produce social and economic justice and equality for the most routinely marginalised and excluded constituency of people in our society.


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The key workers who embrace the co-operative model ... Cleaner Jo McDonnell tells Megan McDermott why she wants a fairer economy s businesses grapple with the Covid19 pandemic the Belfast Cleaning Society have found themselves in high demand. The worker-owned cleaners’ co-operative invested early in a disinfectant machine that can deep-clean an office space – a highly valuable service for companies who are trying to stay open. But the work of cleaners has not always been so appreciated. I talked to co-founder Jo McDonnell about why the cleaners co-operative was set up as a fairer model of work. “People still see cleaning as a menial task and can sometimes be very derogatory. So because we’re a co-operative we can choose who we want to work with. It’s just a constant reminder for all of us – you might be cleaning people’s kitchens, toilets, etc, but you’re not there to be spoken down to.” The co-op seeks to break the mould of minimum wage and zero-hour contracts. Any profits are put back into paying a living wage, annual leave, sick pay and maternity leave. In such a low paid industry that doesn’t usually offer these benefits, it’s not always easy for the co-op to find the money for them, said Jo. “You have to imagine we’re trying to also be a sustainable business and match the likes of the big corporate cleaners here. So you’re on a bit of a balancing scale where you are trying to make sure that you’re treating the worker right, and also trying to do everything ethically. “It’s not just about earning more

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Equality: Jo McDonnell money. I hate cleaning but I will break my back for this co-operative because I see something in it that makes me want to do better. It makes me want to work harder for my co-workers. It makes me want to say: ‘God, we’re a wee group of people from the Shankill, west Belfast, and other deprived areas, and yet we are running a business, and it’s sustainable, and it’s got a great reputation.” One of the aims of the co-op is for every member to be able to work in every role – from cleaning to administration,

without hierarchies. Members are offered online courses, including human resources and health and safety training. Perhaps of greatest benefit to members is the encouragement offered to newcomers. “Some haven’t had an education past GCSEs or some haven’t had an education at all. We’ve former prisoners, and women who couldn’t get a job because they’d had several children, and then their first job was when they were in their 40s. “Most people will say I don’t know anything, I only raised three kids. And you’ll say, ‘But you ran a house so you’re a budgeter, you know your finance. Did you make beds? So you’ve maid services. Did you drive a car? So you’ve chauffeured.’ “The list of every job that a housewife does but doesn’t realise that actually they are qualified to do it.” When it comes to a fairer economy, for Jo, “it’s just about simple equality”. “All we want is that people are treated equally and that there are not hierarchies: that the people at the top of the chain are not getting all the money and the workers are suffering.” To illustrate her point she told me about her co-founder Alice who “stood in front of a room of councillors a couple of years ago and said: ‘You know if you all went off for two or three weeks, nobody would notice. But the minute the cleaners go off sick and nobody turns up to empty the bin, everybody notices. So who’s the most important?’ ”


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Some of the fresh produce which was grown on Jubilee Farm

Down on Jubilee Farm Jonny Hanson, who helps run Northern Ireland’s first community-owned farm, talks to VIEW editor Brian Pelan, about why he believes this farming model offers an economic solution in a post Covid-19 world onny Hanson always had a strong desire to set up an environmental and agricultural organisation. He achieved his goal when Jubilee Farm, which is situated outside Larne in Northern Ireland, was officially registered in 2017. Since then, the farm, which has a Christian-based ethos, has continued to grow. It now has geese, goats, pigs, and turkeys, and is firmly rooted in a community development approach. “My family and I were living in Cambridge in England. I was studying there,” said Jonny. “We had to come home because of health reasons – my wife suffers from the chronic fatigue syndrome ME and I was her carer. “When we returned home in 2014, it was time for me to consider what I was going to do, once I had finished my PhD. “I started to talk to a range of people from different backgrounds about the concept of setting up a community farm. “I had now started to dream about the possibility of it, and that is always a good place to start.” I asked Jonny about how he described the idea of the farm to people who might support the initiative. “My ‘pitch’ to anyone who was listening was that we were setting up a community-owned farm and that it would

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Passionate: Jonny Hanson involve the community in running the farm,” said Jonny. We eventually found a small farm outside Larne which is situated on 13 acres of land. In order to buy it, we had to raise more than £300,000. “We raised it which was incredible. This was down to the generosity of many people and organisations who put in amounts ranging from £50 to £50,000 “One hundred and fifty five individuals and organisations from all walks of life – religious and secular, Protestants and Catholics, rich and poor, from Northern Ireland to as far away as Canada, New Zealand and Kenya – supported us. “People subscribe to the farm and they get food in return – it could be quarter of a pig, half of a goat, a Christmas

bird or a seasonal vegetable box. “My wife and I and our three children live on the farm.” I asked Jonny how had the farm coped during the lockdown. “We were struggling a bit because a lot of our labour had disappeared. Staff had been furloughed and a lot of interns were unable to come to work on the farm. “I think we will survive because what we are doing here is very special. “People identify with what we are trying to do, and that is even more important in a post Covid-19 world.” What can your community-owned farm teach us in the world following the pandemic? I asked Jonny. “Firstly, the crisis has shown us the vulnerability of many aspects of human life that we took for granted. one of those in particular was food and supply chains. It reminded us that food doesn’t just appear on a shelf by magic. It comes from people, places and processes. “It’s important to try and have good food for everyone. “That reconnection with food and nature will become even more important in a post Covid-19 world. “Secondly, we would love to see the model that we are pioneering being adopted by others across Northern Ireland.”


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Left: regular groups come to visit Jubilee Farm, and below: Jonny Hanson with one of the pigs on the farm


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COMMENT

Let us not preserve the status quo James McCumiskey, from Positive Money, argues that the present economic situation presents us with an excellent opportunity to implement meaningful monetary reform ositive Money is a UK organisation campaigning for monetary reform. There is a fundamental problem with how money is created in the modern economy. Ninety seven percent of the money supply is credit and three percent is cash. Most people will be surprised that cash is such a low percentage but will not think much about the fact that commercial banks create almost all of our money supply. The consequences of this are that we pay higher taxes and/or have reduced public services in order to allow commercial banks the privilege of creating almost all of the nation’s money supply. Positive Money Belfast is a diverse group of people, currently less than 10 regular members. We have varying economic views: most come from a socialist perspective, some from a freemarket perspective. Some of us are religious; others have a purely-secular outlook. Naturally enough in a NI context, some of us are nationalists and others are unionists. There is an even mix of males and females. What unites us is our conviction that the creation of the nation’s money should be a natural prerogative of government. Positive Money Belfast meets monthly. We are an active group. We had fringe presentations at Kilkenomics two years. We have presented at Imagine Belfast and Féile on a number of occasions. We have also presented the case for monetary reform to other organisations. Prior to Covid-19 and the lockdown, it was apparent to a number of us that the worldwide economy was heading for a major economic crash. Economic analysts such as: Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert from the Keiser Report, the author Jim Rickards, Jim Willie, Greg Hunter from USA Watchdog,You-Tube pundits Glen from Financial Turmoil Explained, Dave from X22 Report, Uneducated Economist and Strategian had all predicted a major crash prior to the lockdown. The yellow vests protests in France

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Post lockdown, we are headed for what some analysts are calling the Greater Depression, which will eclipse the Great Depression in its duration, intensity and harmful effects

began in November 2018 and are ongoing. They were a protest by ordinary French people against the austerity measures, excessive taxation and poor public services prior to the lockdown. Post lockdown, we are headed for what some analysts are calling the Greater Depression, which will eclipse the Great Depression in its duration, intensity and harmful effects. There will be a prolonged banking crisis, because many people will not be able to pay their mortgage and many businesses will not be able to service their loans. Banks will go bust. The instinctive reaction of the economists, the policymakers and the politicians to the banking crisis will be to preserve the status quo. The people will have to pay more taxes and cope with reduced public services and mass unemployment but the banks must be bailed out. The pending banking crisis presents us with an excellent opportunity to implement meaningful monetary reform. When the banks fail, they should be nationalised instead of bailed out. The Bank of England should be reformed to create all of the nation’s money supply and to supply government with sufficient money to get the UK economy operating to its full potential as quickly as possible. Currently, there are three recognised branches of government: Judiciary, Executive and the Legislature. The Money Power – the power to create money – should become the fourth branch of government. Government should create 100 percent of the nation’s money supply. When this eventually happens, the Money Power will be recognised as the most important branch of government. Monetary reform boils down to this: why should government borrow the use of its own money from commercial banks, when it could create it debt-free itself? If the banking system is not reformed, we will be mired indefinitely in a Greater Depression.


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Geraldine Noe loves to sing songs from hit musicals as she cycles to work

‘Climate crisis is our biggest challenge’ Geraldine Noe, head of the environment for Business in the Community, tells VIEW editor Brian Pelan that there can be no return to the ‘old normal’ Brian: Can you tell me a little about yourself and present role at Business in the Community? Geraldine: I am the head of environment for Business in the Community (BITC) in Northern Ireland. I have a background in sustainability consultancy. I moved to Belfast last September and I started my present position in January. My role within BITC is to both support and challenge businesses to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable. What was the effect of the pandemic on you and Business in the Community? Everybody worked from home. We were impacted because we put people and organisations together. We organise things like employees going into schools or for students to visit companies; we also organise a lot of events and training courses. Most of our work is aimed at putting people in the same room, so, obviously, the pandemic has affected us. It has also accelerated all the digital things we were planning to do. On a personal level, I hate working from home, so I can’t wait to go back to the office. What are the challenges facing the environment in a post Covid-19 world? The biggest challenge that I see is that climate was very high on the agenda of organisations and governments in 2019, thanks to Extinction Rebellion and the school strikes. And then Covid-19

happened. We must not forget about the climate because it’s a potential crisis that could have far more serious implications than the pandemic. Should we return to the ‘old normal’ or should we adopt new economic strategies for a ‘new normal’? I completely agree with Professor John Barry from Queen’s University, who said: “Covid-19 has ruined the future, but that’s fine because it wasn’t a great future to start with.” This crisis has shown us that the planet can heal when we work collectively towards something. But it has also shown us that the greenhouse gas emissions have not dropped that much. Individual actions such as taking fewer flights using more public transport, or working from home is important, but we need collective action; we need governments and businesses to act. We shouldn’t go back to the ‘old normal’, we need a ‘new normal’. How will BITC deal with the many economic forecasts which predict huge job losses because of the pandemic? We will probally see a drop in our membership, but we must also continue to focus on how we bring value to our existing membership. Business want to build back responsibly – we’re here to help them. If the government focuses on a green recovery, there will be new jobs. Have you had much success in

getting businesses in Northern Ireland to back a green agenda? We want to challenge and support businesses in Northern Ireland to address the climate emergency. We want firms to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to support our climate action pledge. We have witnessed a good reaction to our campaign so far. Do you think there is still a vibrant future for the high street given the huge rise in online shopping? It is a concern. I believe it’s imporant to have lively cities, towns and villages. Also, as witnessed during the lockdown. people need human interaction.You can’t get that online. Are you optimisic or pessimistic about the future? I’m an optimist. And finally, your profile, on the Business in the Community website, says: “In her spare time, you will find Geraldine singing musicals on her bicycle or on a perpetual search for the perfect cup of coffee.” Do you care to elaborate on this description? I cycle to work every day. I love to sing songs from musicals as I pedal, such as the hits from Grease. My favourite cup of coffee can be found at Output Espresso on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.


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COMMENT

National wellbeing should be the goal Sarah Davidson, Chief Executive of Carnegie UK Trust, argues that we need to embrace a balanced approach that recognises that social, economic, environmental and democratic progress are interconnected hose of you who follow the work of the Trust will know that our calls for governments to focus on societal wellbeing aren’t new. We have been working on this for over a decade now, as have many others. But we have never seen so much interest in a different way of thinking about social progress. Personally and professionally, it feels as though we have all been talking about the things that make life worth living: physical and mental health; connectedness; access to greenspace; a sense of control; job security – as well as concern about the deep and structural inequalities that have been so evident through the Covid crisis. Governments will need to take all these things into account in designing and planning the recovery; not least because the choices are going to be tougher than ever in a tight public expenditure context. Governments everywhere need a blueprint for recovery in the medium term, and that blueprint needs to put wellbeing at the heart of the recovery and do so from the outset. We have set out six propositions for putting wellbeing at the heart of the recovery process. These focus on the positive outcomes that we seek through this process of disruption; the new society that we believe has the potential to emerge from the current storm. We are not naive about the challenges ahead. People are experiencing pain and suffering now, and many of these problems will become deeper and wider as the crisis extends. Securing a positive new future from where we are now will be challenging, and success is by no means a given. There are many long-standing hurdles to progress, as well as new ones which have been brought about by the crisis. However, the first step to a new future is to imagine a vision of what it might look like. This is what we hope to contribute, in order to inspire governments and others whose decisions will shape the way ahead. National wellbeing can be the goal: Governments should no longer put economic growth above all else. We need political will to turn decision making

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We must all be part of the next phase of recovery and renewal around and embrace a balanced approach that recognises that ultimately social, economic, environmental and democratic progress are interconnected. The relationship between citizens and the state can be reset: Rebuilding public services after the pandemic is going to be a long journey, but we shouldn’t lose sight of what we have learned about people’s ability to bring their capabilities to the table. The role of the state should more explicitly be to enable people to flourish. The future can be local (as well as global): A new settlement between central and local is required that adheres to the principle of subsidiarity (where powers to make decisions should be held at the most immediate, or local, level possible to ensure wellbeing outcomes) At a hyperlocal level, governments and other funders can create the conditions by providing support for collective actions. Our relationship with work can be remodelled: In the recovery, governments must not only consider the need to protect and create jobs – as vital as this is – but also imagine the types of jobs and labour market that we want to create for the future. Work is important to wellbeing, but fair work – which values purpose; agency; relationships; mental health; diversity; inclusion, and voice – is even better.

We can build a new level of financial resilience: Many of those most severely impacted by COVID-19 and the subsequent economic shock have very limited financial resilience. While we may never face a shock quite like this one again, we will face different challenges. So we urge governments to think seriously about how to learn from the response to the crisis and create a baseline of financial security in the face of an increasingly turbulent global economy and the need for a just transition to a more environmentally friendly future. Technology can be for all: The crisis has exposed the vital role of digital technology in almost every aspect of life. Governments need to tackle the significant inequalities that currently exist in digital access. This work must go beyond providing devices to ensuring that technology is affordable; that people have the skills and confidence they need to use it effectively; and that the design and deployment of technology for private enterprise or public service enhances rather than diminishes wellbeing. Eight years ago, we called for a wellbeing movement to strengthen calls for economic growth to be balanced with social and environmental outcomes. We would never have asked for a crisis like this to accelerate the growth of such a movement, but given the experience of the past four months, few serious people are suggesting that recovery be built on a quest for quick economic growth at any cost. At Carnegie UK we have spent much of the last four months listening and reflecting on what we have been hearing from communities; public services; charitable and voluntary organisations; universities; and businesses. Over the next few weeks we will put some more of our emerging thinking into the public domain. We will do this in an open and collaborative way, since no one ‘owns’ this territory. We are all travelling through this storm (albeit in different boats), and we must all be part of the next phase of recovery and renewal. Watch this space.


VIEW, Issue 57, 2020

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New Belfast panel set up to strengthen the voice of communities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic sectoral advisory panel, made up of leaders from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors has been established which is aimed at strengthening the voice of Belfast’s communities in helping to shape the city’s future in a post Covid-19 world. Councillor Christina Black, the Chair of Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, said: “We recognise the vital role that community and voluntary organisations play in city life, and this has been very much evident over recent months in responding to the Covid-19 crisis in neighbourhoods across the city. “As we look ahead to rebuilding and recovery of our economy and communities over the coming years, strengthening representation and participation from the third sector in community planning is vital to strengthening collaboration, and to ensure that voices of our communities are heard.” Irene Sherry, head of Health and Wellbeing for Ashton Community Trust in Belfast, and who is a member of the new panel, said: “What we had before Covid-19 is gone. We need new ways of working, and new ways of adapting. “I’m very passionate about a personcentred approach. It’s how we work with individuals and families. There is a real sense of passion from communities who want to embed and build upon a sense of hope for the future. “The new panel is part of the Community Planning Partnership in

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Passionate: Irene Sherry, head of Health and Wellbeing for Ashton Community Trust in Belfast

Members of the new advisory panel • Irene Sherry – Ashton Community Trust (Chair) • Jim Girvan – Upper Andersonstown Community Forum (Vice Chair) • Laura Feeney – Save the Children • Joe O’Donnell – Belfast Interface Project • Michael Briggs – East Belfast Community Development Agency • Paula Powell – British Red Cross • Susan Russam – GEMS NI • Jim Bradley – Belfast Hills Partnership • Craig McGuicken – NI Environment Link • Natasha Brennan – Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group • Joan Devlin – Belfast Healthy Cities • David Babington – Action Mental Health • Dearbhla Holohan – Include Youth • Kendall Bousquet – Migrant Centre NI • Christopher Eisenstadt – Parenting NI Belfast,” she said. “And 15 people, who are representatives from the community and voluntary sector and social enterprises, have been appointed to it. “Our role is to bring forward the views of our sector, and to help shape community planning in the city. We’ve had a number of meetings since the panel was established. “We want the voices of our bottom-up approach to be heard. We want to see citizens and communities being at the heart of decision-making in

Belfast,” said Ms Sherry. “There are many challenges ahead of us, and we can’t hide from them. “This panel is quite unique. It’s the first time that something like this has been brought together. “In the midst of Covid-19, it’s hard to see what lies ahead. But we need to measure how we can address the poor mental issues in the city, and also to try and improve the wellbeing of citizens who live here. “I’m excited to be on this panel, and we will do our best for the city.”


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