We’re delighted to announce that the Transition Network’s REconomy Project has received funding that will support our work for another 3 years, thanks to significant awards from Friends Provident Foundation and the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation.
This funding will enable us to build on our achievements of the last 2 years, and will be focused on supporting more Transition Initiatives (TIs), or other community groups, to begin or continue their local REconomy activity in the UK. We will be staging some regional REconomy events where you can come and find out more about how to get REconomy started where you live, and hear from inspiring new Transition-oriented enterprises.
We’ll develop event-in-a-box toolkits that will help you stage your own events to engage your local councils for example. And we will be investigating more ways that you can resource yourselves to do this work, as well as rolling-out our online training course about fundraising. We’ll also be offering more online courses and support in ‘how to do an Economic Evaluation’ project, and sharing other examples of similar ‘leadership’ activities.
We have been asked by TIs to get the REconomy ideas and examples out into the main stream, so that when they connect with local councils and businesses for example, they are more likely to have heard of the new economic thinking that underpins our approach. So we are now able to build a communications strategy that will help us do this, working alongside other organisations in our fledgling Alliance for a Better Economy group – one of our collective aims is a louder, joined up voice that talks about economic alternatives (more about this group in the New Year). And we can continue to build our international online social media network, where new thinking, great innovations and practical projects are shared daily.
We are particularly excited about now having the resource to build on our Economic Evaluation (EE) work and take this to the next stage. The EE process identifies a range of local economic opportunities – which these kinds of Transition-oriented enterprises will benefit from – and we want to ensure these emerging enterprises get the kind of support and investment finance they need.
However, business start-up support services (like Business Link) are in decline due to public spending cuts, have variable results and tend to be ‘traditional’ in their business advice, often undervaluing social and environmental aspects. And it can be a struggle to find the right type of finance in the early stages particularly.
So we will be working closely with 2 TIs to explore how this support and investment finance can be provided from within the local community, in a low-cost, sustainable yet professional and effective way. We’ll also be mapping out all of the larger, national sources of investment finance, loans and grants that would be of interest to Transition-oriented enterprises – this is a fast moving field so we will keep this current as it changes.
Therefore part of our grant will be awarded to two TIs so they can participate fully in this work. For the optimum results, we suggest these TIs ideally meet the following criteria which underpin the REconomy approach so far:
* The TI is playing an active leadership role in development of a partnership of local organisations focused on the new local economy;
* This group has agreed a suitable (wellbeing-based?) purpose for their local economy, and are taking a strategic, systemic approach to bring it into being;
* This work is underpinned by some research work that lays out both the challenges and the local quantified opportunities for key sectors for community-based economic development;
* They are seeing a number of new enterprises emerging that need support and investment; and
* The TIs together represent a rural and an urban setting, to ensure learning is most widely relevant.
As far as we are aware, only Transition Town Totnes (TTT) and Transition Town Brixton (TTB) can meet these requirements, so our intention is to continue to work closely with them to explore these new areas of enterprise support and investment. This paid activity will involve identifying and delivering practical means to support local emerging Transition-oriented enterprises – each TI will receive about £25,000 in total over a 3 year period.
We appreciate it’s a bit chicken and egg – that having already had access to funding to do the EE work, this means TTT & TTB are better placed to meet the requirements above (note that we have always run an open, transparent selection process for involvement in REconomy, that TTB & TTT already participated in – see below for more info). However, we feel that maintaining momentum and maximising the learnings here will better serve all the TIs in the end, and we will be able to share a more fully tested, complete and integrated approach to REconomy – in fact, year 3 of the work is focused on capturing and sharing learning and proven processes as widely as possible.
As far as we are aware, no other UK-based TIs are in a similar position to TTT and TTB and meet the requirements that might enable them to participate in this imminent work. But if you feel your TI does meet the criteria outlined above, we would love to hear from you and we are open to thinking again – but please contact me by 5pm on Sunday 12th January 2014 latest, otherwise we will proceed as planned.
Meanwhile, our existing work that’s supporting other Transition national hubs to explore what REconomy might look like in their countries continues.
If you have any questions or comments please get in touch.
Some background on recruitment of REconomy TIs, including TTT and TTB
When we started the REconomy Project in early 2011, we ran a process to recruit 10 UK Transition Initiatives (TIs) to work with us. We had 25 applications and from these chose the following: North Howe Transition Toun (Scotland), Sustainable Thornbury (near Bristol) , Transition Durham, Transition Finsbury Park, London, Transition Hereford, Transition Ipswich, Transition Leicester, Transition Manchester, Transition Omagh, N.Ireland and Transition Town Totnes, Devon.
Our criteria were that the TIs be ‘official’, have some sort of ‘business and livelihoods’ activity underway and at least 1-2 people already active in engaging local businesses and/or stimulating social enterprise and who have some extra volunteer time to commit to this project unpaid. These TIs then attended a 2 day launch event in Totnes in early 2011, and gave input and feedback through the early stages of the project, acting as the initial pilot group.
Later in 2011, from this group of ten and with their agreement, we selected Totnes, Hereford and Manchester for the Economic Evaluation (EE) pilots as (a) they represented the geographic scales we wanted to work with and (b) they had a REconomy team member living there who had the skills and capacity to do the EE work, and it made sense for this to be a local person. The REconomy team had also been carefully selected from an open recruitment process – the budget allocated to each place was around £9,000.
However, we switched the funded work from Manchester to Brixton at end of 2012, as the work was not progressing in Manchester for various reasons. The work was at risk of stalling or not producing anything useful in our committed time frame, so we needed to make an urgent change to avoid further impact on our deadline.
Why Brixton? Brixton were already extremely active in REconomy type activity, had strong links to their council, known capacity to deliver the work, and great enthusiasm for the EE approach. We needed a city in the pilot group, and no other city-based TIs were in this same position as far we knew, and so with funder and trustee permission we switched the work to Brixton. They also met the criteria of the original recruitment and had been one of the original applicants.
It’s important to us that we continue to implement transparent and open selection processes, both for TIs and individuals, who benefit from funding secured by the Transition Network for REconomy work. Please contact me if you would like to know more.