From Counter Coin to Counter Community

SSM collective member Mike Riddell has been involved for some time in a grassroots project seeking to implement transformative change in Staffordshire, which ties to Steady State Manchester’s vision for a more viable economy. He and his colleague Brian Leyland are excited to share the latest developments.

We are pleased to announce that we have changed our name from CounterCoin to Counter Community. This new name better reflects what we do: operating in local communities to help stakeholders (from voluntary organisations and the public sector to businesses, social enterprises, and individuals) , measure, record, reward and celebrate everything they do to improve their community’s wellbeing. The reward element, which was represented by the Coin is still a major pillar in our work, but sits alongside and complements our other activities. As part of our work, we are developing a digital platform that will enable us to build a network of stakeholders who wish to come together to improve the wellbeing of communities. Our conclusion from this was that a new name was necessary and that is how ‘Counter Community’ was born, which is who we are today!

In the remainder of this blog, we offer a bit more detail about Counter Community, point to several trends driving our work, and set out our main objectives as an organisation in response to those trends.

What is Counter Community and how does it operate?

Counter Community is a rapidly expanding membership network & digital platform that enables voluntary organisations, charities, social enterprises, local businesses, and individuals to work together to create positive social, environmental and economic change and thereby boost both the local community and economy. It is currently funded by The National Lottery.

It is our belief that the real positive change referred to in the last paragraph is a prerequisite if our communities are to survive and indeed thrive. As an example, many community groups and social enterprises need to diversify their income streams to become less reliant on the state. They need to look, for example, at the possibility of developing closer links with the private sector, which could provide support not only by way of knowledge sharing or but also by direct funding linked to pre agreed reporting of outcomes which result directly from this funding. Businesses on the other hand need to recognise that social enterprises and voluntary organisations play a crucial role in the welfare of the community as a whole and that a thriving and successful community is integral to their own objectives of generating long term sustainable profit. There are three trends that support this shift in focus.

Trends driving Counter Community

The first is a culture shift away from individualism to collectivism. Already faced with widening inequality, climate change and a post industrial world in which they feel they have no part to play, for many there is now the spectre of mass-unemployment as a result of COVID-19. As a consequence people of all ages are beginning to re-imagine what we want the future of our society to be. Each of us as individuals will have a role to play, but it all starts with a willingness to share and contribute to the collective good – a shared experience of collective action.

The second trend is that there is an increasing recognition that the term social value is ill defined and also means different things to different people. What is required is the re-imagining and re-defining of social value in a manner which does not come top-down from the Government, but comes from the communities that understand their social needs and are capable of delivering real social value regardless of whether it fits within the Government’s narrow and rigid boundaries.

And the third and final trend is that the funding model for the delivery of essential local services needs to change. There is general acceptance that the current process is long winded and cumbersome, benefiting the larger organisations at the expense of the smaller ones, which are very often those which are playing a critical role in community cohesion and growth. The introduction of Social Impact Bonds, whereby the return to the investor is measured not in financial terms but by reference to pre agreed criteria linked to social needs was a welcome move in the right direction but these have not taken off as anticipated. What is needed is a streamlined, more efficient funding model along these lines that brings together businesses and voluntary organisations in a manner that is more suited to the objects and operating model of each of them.

Counter Community’s Objectives

Counter Community’s aspiration is to be the leading provider of digital tools and member services that enable organisations and individuals to connect, contribute and measure the impact they make helping improve society and protect the planet.

At the heart of the new business model is the collection of data and the development of a methodology which enables it to be used as a golden thread to pull together three primary objectives in response to the trends noted above.

These are:

  • to support the rebuild of community.

  • to define clearly not only what social value is, but also how it is measured and reported.

  • And finally to support new models of frontline funding.

We are aiming to share more details about Counter Community in the coming weeks, including a blog that will explore each of the trends mentioned above in a little more detail and another that will present an overview of the digital solution we are developing.

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