Enabling local collaborations to support our highstreets and local communities...
Lockdown has had a huge impact on our local businesses and communities. Many of our favourite cafes, independent coworking spaces, affordable event spaces, bars, pubs and restaurants that we have taken for granted are now struggling to survive. Losing these community assets will have a massive cultural and economic impact on our local neighbourhoods. So how can we help these independent businesses and spaces become more financially resilient? How do we save our highstreets? How do we breakthrough our lockdown blues?
Perhaps an answer could be establishing a Citizen's Action Network that could in time evolve into a Platform Cooperative.
Let's first define these two terms...
A Citizens's Action Network or CAN is a community building methodology that has been developed by The Alternative UK. The CAN model has been prototyped in local communities across the country. The idea is to begin with 'Friendly' gatherings for neighbours to meet and listen to each other's stories and perspectives on how to improve their local neighbourhood. The best ideas are then taken forward into a 'Collaboratory' format which is designed to create practical solutions and working groups that citizen's in the network can participate in.
What begins as a network of volunteers can eventually evolve into a Platform.Cooperative, which can be defined as a cooperatively owned, democratically governed organisation that establishes a website to facilitate the sale of goods and/or services. Platform cooperatives are an alternative to venture capital-funded platforms insofar as they are owned and governed by those who depend on them most—workers, users, and other relevant stakeholders.
Imagine inviting small business owners to present their challenges and then having a diverse network of engaged citizens using their skills to help out. We could even go one step further and facilitate collaborations between local businesses through a local accelerator programme, creating shared digital tools and resources that can deliver immediate and tangible value.
Local collaboration is one of the most effective and scalable ways to help local businesses to reduce costs, improve processes, engage with more local customers, increase venues and increase their chances of attracting investment or funding.
However, collaboration is hard. It's a messy and human process that is often hard to navigate. We have been trained through school and society to be competitive. We have been raised with a mindset of scarcity in a culture of individualism.
Before we jump into task we must first establish high trust relationships with a clearly defined shared purpose and set of values. Once this has been established it is equally important to have the right projects to work on together. This takes time. It requires a journey of personal and collective transformation where we become aware of and break free of the limitations of our scarcity mindsets. It requires deep listening and dialogue combined with creativity and a diversity of skills and perspectives.
A robust collaboration model must combine legal frameworks that enable everyone to sail their own ship. Instead of fighting over the steering wheel everyone is free to set the course they feel is best. Sometimes we will sail together and other times we will sail apart.
However, what is also important is a higher purpose; something that no one party can accomplish on their own. This is why I was drawn to the name dreamspaces. For effective collaboration to happen, we need to create the space for collective visioning. There needs to be an imagined future that we all aspire to. This dreamspace motivates and inspires everyone to keep going, especially during the difficult moments.
Commitment, consistency and communication is what often makes the difference between a successful or a failed collaboration. This is why having an affordable physical meeting space is so important. Without such a space everything takes longer to organise and manage. The momentum is lost and people disengage. The design of the space also makes a difference. Having a kitchen for community dinner and drinks is important. Having beak out rooms for workshops. Having a stage for some live music and presentations. All of this makes a big difference to facilitating effective collaboration and inspiring creative solutions.
We have created such a space in East London called House of Transformation. We are also building up our own Citizen's Action Network and Platform Cooperative called the Dreamspaces.Collective. Our goal is to learn by doing and then to open source and share the lessons learned so that other communities and neighbourhoods can do the same. We are working with the UK coworking assembly to contribute to a nationwide forum and community of practice. We see the UK CA as the go to place for enabling knowledge sharing and dialogue on a national scale.
This article is an invitation to anyone who wants to support or participate in the collaboration process. If you would like to get involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org and add your for our mailing list.
We are looking to build partnerships, co-create events and spark collaborations with likeminded neighbours and nearby spaces.
Let's make 2021 a year to remember!