Monday 19 May 2014

How do we co-create a more sharing and caring community?

For the past five issues, I’ve been advertising on this penultimate page of the Hastings Independent. And I’ve had some feedback: apparently, I’ve broken all the rules of design and been cryptic beyond measure – producing something that while laden with meaning for me, is confusing to others. So here, I’m going to try again, in writing.

I'm attempting to encourage people to come to Southwater Community Centre and talk about a number of themes. My mission is to co-create a more caring and sharing community. For me, this involves building good will & co-operation as well as addressing grievances.

I set up the Gallery Space at Southwater Community Centre in February this year, and intend to keep running it for two and a half years. My goal is to provide space and resources for the linking together of ideas such as offering your possessions to strangers in such a way that it responsibly builds trust, which, in essence, is currency.

A few year ago, together with Edmund Johnson, I created a website called, which in 2010 was describe by leading environmental think tank Forum for the Future as years ahead of it's time in imagining the low-carbon economy. Since then, we’ve given way to, which does much the same thing but perhaps in a more user-friendly format. Both sites trade mainly in low-value items such as garden tools.

To assist the sharing of more valuable items, I've created a system of cashless deposits – timebank hours. Thus a carbon-fibre racing bicyle that I bought for £550 can be borrowed for a deposit of 108 hours of timebank credits. I am "Lend-It-All Man" – anything I own can be borrowed, for I am just a custodian of community resources and ideas. 

The main vision I am attempting to transmit in the Gallery is the idea of generating pensions through timebanking, inspired by a conversation with Prof Heinz Wolff (watch a three-minute video here: The basic premise is that when you are young and healthy, you spend a certain amount of time each week looking after the elderly and vulnerable, while earning timebank credits for each hour spent caring. Then, when you yourself become elderly and vulnerable, you start to cash in those credits with the young and healthy. Something similar exists in Japan, as explored in Radio 4’s "Would that work here?" series

I would like to invite you to a community meeting at Southwater Community Centre on Saturday 14th June, 4pm-6pm, to talk about things such as these – or just listen, if you prefer.

Amongst the most valued visits to date to the Gallery that have arisen from the series in the Independent has been that of Richard from the oldest mental health charity in the UK. He works works with a woman who at the time was due to appear at the Magistrates Court for anti-social behavior. However, as the same woman cooks an evening meal almost every day for an 88-year-old neighbour, I was happy to propose that she be given 5 hours of Timebank credits a week for this work – and thus to pay off her fine. Each Timebank hour has a locally redeemable value of £5 (though not for alcohol or cigarettes), though I hope that in future they will be traded not for money but directly for services.

Visitors to the Gallery have sparked dialogues about all kinds of wonderful community regenerative ideas. Amongst these is a street party, as well as ideas for an action plan to address the unhappiness generated by living in an increasingly unequal society – including better dialogue between those who own property and those who do not.

What does the prospect of getting to 100 look like for you? For me, my centenary will be in 2066. Some people believe their wellbeing lies in the bank, some believe it lies in property – me, I believe it lies in community. There's still all to play for, in my humble opinion. I hope my words prompt your next step boldly into that future, or even into the Gallery on a Friday or a Monday afternoon (open again from June), or a 2nd Saturday of the month.

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