Unpacking how community business could make Greater Manchester’s economy more viable

May’s Café Conversation was held on 17.5.17 at Methodist Hall, Manchester.

15 people took part in a highly engaged, enthusiastic, structured discussion as part of Steady State Manchester (SSM) working on its journey on how to practically envision a shift to a real viable economy in Greater Manchester.

The session collectively addressed such questions as what is a community business, what makes a community business successful, how do we define success. As well as, if we want to achieve a viable economy what are the barriers to scaling up community business, and how can we overcome them?

Amongst the participants there were people from across Greater Manchester (Wigan, Bolton, Salford and Manchester and beyond), currently working for and with a range of community businesses – those represented included: Broughton Trust, Great Rock Coop, Greenslate Farm, Ethical Consumer, Persona and Treestation.

Greenslate Farm #1

Image credit: Greenslate Farm, Wigan

To open the event, we introduced an open definition of community business, paraphrased from Power to Change:

‘There are many types of community business. They can be shops, farms, pubs or call centres, among many other types of business. What they all have in common is that they are accountable to their community and that the profits they generate deliver positive local impact. They are locally rooted, trade for the benefit of the local community, accountable to the local community and have broad community impact’. (www.powertochange.org.uk)

The following blog reports on highlights from the discussion and maybe of benefit to other individuals, businesses and organisations working in, or researching community business:

A range of community businesses (mainly in GM) were identified as being successful:

Greenslate Community Farm, Styal Community Shop, Persona, Unicorn Cooperative Grocery, Kindling Trust, Glebelands Growers, Stockport Hydro, Treestation, Sunshine House Community Hub, Hulme Garden Centre, Hillary Step, Ethical Consumer, Work for Change, Broughton Trust.

Additionally, a range of reasons why they were successful as community businesses were identified (in no particular order):

Why successful - croppedWe introduced Steady State Manchester’s (SSM’s) vision for achieving a more viable economy, entitled Viable Economy (VE).

The ‘Viable Economy’ seamlessly interlinks the economic, social, political, cultural and ecological spheres to create a framework for a more viable economy.

It addresses the perilous state we are in ecologically, socially and economically. Its proposes a path to a resilient, more localised, stable economy that delivers what we all need: a frugal abundance or true prosperity. The document is based on the values of stewardship, justice, conviviality, solidarity, co-operation, equality and respect.

VE recommends a focus on the ‘foundational economy’, described as food production, food processing, transport infrastructure, health, education, welfare, social care, energy, utilities such as sewerage etc (from CRESC).

A range of barriers to scaling up the number of community businesses were discussed in each group:

  • Lack of know-how
  • Raising capital for premises
  • Regulations/red tape
  • Lack of contacts
  • Lack of time and energy
  • Unaffordable
  • Confidence, self esteem
  • Lack of support
  • Competition
  • Over supply or demand outstrips supply

We addressed what practical measures we could take to overcome these barriers – coming with ideas such as:

  • A network of mutual community businesses, to support new companies
  • Building alliances
  • Specific advisory services
  • Financial incentives and loans
  • Crowd sourcing
  • Training, workshops or online
  • Use timebanking
  • Community share issues
  • More market research to find niche
  • Set examples, good local models
  • Lobbying
  • Sharing services, models
  • Create avenues for sharing beyond websites

And finally addressed who might take a lead on overcoming these barriers included:

  • Us (those in the room)
  • SSM
  • The Cooperative
  • Cooperatives UK
  • Triodos Bank
  • Government
  • Councils
  • Trade associations
  • Community associations
  • Schools and parents
  • Grant providers
  • The mayor
  • Commissioners

Several of us, wanted to keep in touch and possibly share more about community business in the future. If anyone is undertaking any further activities to support community business and its development in GM, please get in touch at steadystatemanchester@gmail.com.




Posted in Business, community, community business, economics, environment, Greater Manchester, Greater Manchester City Region, Viable Economy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Policies for the City Region – serialised: Part 6, radical economic localisation

We continue the serialisation of our report, Policies for the City Region. In this  installment we explore the idea of “Economic Localisation” something that certainly distinguishes our approach from that of others suggesting policies for the city region.  And there’s plenty more to come!  But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.

5. Economic localisation

In the report that launched SSM we argued:

To meet the twin challenges of planetary limits and accelerating resource scarcity, we need to look at a strategy for re-localisation of the economy. This means arranging production, distribution, ownership of means of production/assets, trade and enterprise so that much more of the economy is localised within the city, and the surrounding bioregion.” p. 24.

Localise West Midlands defines localisation in terms of,

Local trading, using local businesses, materials and supply chains

  • Linking local needs to local resources

  • Development of community and local capacity

  • Decentralisation of appropriate democratic and economic power

  • Provision of services tailored to meet local needs.1

Localise WM’s extensive literature review2 found evidence that more localised economies had superior indices of return on investment, quality of life, jobs per capita, income equality, the local multiplier, job creation and unemployment reduction, and income growth.

Despite the evidence there seems little enthusiasm for a strategic localisation of the economy among orthodox economists and leaders. As we point out elsewhere,

The viable economy uses the concept of strategic localism which means that things that can be sourced locally should be. ……….This means not just playing to the strengths of local economies but actively building those strengths. It does not mean turning our back on the world, but playing a responsible part in the world while becoming locally more sufficient. Finally it means living in greater knowledge of our own bio-region, its strengths, its delights and its vulnerabilities. (p. 12)3

We therefore argue that a viable alternative economic strategy needs to include an explicit strategy for localisation4 as a way of stabilising and strengthening the local (viable) economy. There are already elements of localisation in existing strategies and the proffered alternatives: the need is to make localisation a cornerstone of the strategy which will also help in addressing the many other issues that challenge us.

  1. 5.1 Reduce reliance on long, vulnerable, global supply chains.

Policy 5.11: GMCA to adopt economic localisation as a policy aim and produce a localisation strategy.

The thinking behind it:

If re-localisation is a valid principle for a more resilient Greater Manchester that shares its wealth with its people and that treads lightly on the planet, then it is worth adopting as a strategic principle and aim together with the detailed strategic and implementation planning that will be necessary across all sectors. We suggest that a start is made on those sectors where imports could most easily be substituted locally and whose ecological footprint is the greatest. This therefore requires a combination of sound business economics together with ecological literacy.

Policy 5.12: Measure and monitor the scale of imports to the region.

The thinking behind it:

This follows from the previous point: we need to understand where we are now. What do we import, from where, with what consequences and with what risks?

Policy 5.13: Discourage wasteful trade contraflows (e.g. dairy products exported and imported).

The thinking behind it:

Product contraflows (our term) take at least two forms.

  1. Products (e.g. non-speciality cheese) are produced in area A and sold in area B while identical or equivalent products are produced in area B and sold in area A.

  2. A product (e.g. milk) is produced in area A, processed in area B and then taken back to area A for sale and consumption5.

Orthodox economic measures such as GDP and GVA are blind to this absurdly wasteful situation. Indeed cash value of (say) potatoes exported plus that for potatoes imported are both added to those measures, incentivising this unsustainability, something akin to pointlessly digging holes and filling them in in the name of economic activity. Policy incentives therefore need to be devised to make this situation less likely.

  1. 5.2 Work near home.

Our roads are clogged with traffic. People spend a significant part of their working day travelling. Moving people and vehicles around generates carbon emissions and air pollution. It is a pressure on incomes too.

Policy 5.2: For each institution, devise incentives for employees to live locally.

The thinking behind it:

This is an example of how a policy initiative can bring together several desirable things, in this case, of anchor and other institutions supporting their local economy (since more of the salaries they pay will go into the local area), the improvement of work-life balance as less time is spent away from home travelling6, and carbon reduction. Such incentives have been deployed before. Back in the 1970s, Manchester City Council would make a contribution to the legal costs of buying a house for staff living within a certain radius, and paid for rent if a purchase was made in the first six months of employment. More recently it ring fenced its lower paid jobs for city residents. Each of these has its flaws but indicates that employers can incentivise local residence. It is up to the participating institutions to devise schemes that enhance social and economic equity while reducing resource use.

5.3 Just Trade

Policy 5.3: Establish co-operative arrangements with producers of selected products elsewhere.

The thinking behind it:

Localisation does not mean forgetting our responsibilities to people in other parts of the world. Establishing such co-operative arrangements (for tea, sugar for example) can help ensuring just terms of trade while reducing transaction costs otherwise paid to “middlemen”. This would build on but go beyond Fair Trade so that the key institutions and industries of the region all pursue “Just Trade” in their procurement and trading relations – an approach adopted by the Ethical Trade movement7. A “Just Trade” mark could be developed to aid in this.

…..to be continued, or if you want it now, download here:  https://steadystatemanchester.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/policies-for-the-city-region-the-longer-version-v3-final.pdf

You can also see our policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.


4Further resources: Local Futures. (n.d.). Going Local: the Solution-Multiplier: short introduction to economic localization. http://bit.ly/2jVdoEo Norberg-Hodge, H. and Read, R. (2016). Post-growth Localisation. Greenhouse think tank. https://t.co/SqPoMaXgE4

6Lobel, B. (2016). National Work Life Week: Working near to where you live pays off. Vitesse Media. http://smallbusiness.co.uk/national-work-life-week-working-near-live-2534427/

7Ethical Trading Network (n.d.). Ethical trade and fairtrade. http://www.ethicaltrade.org/issues/ethical-trade-and-fairtrade

Posted in Greater Manchester City Region, key concepts, Policies for the City Region | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Policies for the City Region – serialised: Part 5, Anchor Institutions

We continue the serialisation of our report, Policies for the City Region. In this short installment we explore the idea of “Anchor Institutions” as key actors and resources in moving towards a viable Regional society and economy.  And there’s plenty more to come!  But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.

4. Anchor institutions

CIS Tower and One Angel Square

The Co-operative: an important Anchor Institution in our region. By The Co-operative (One Angel Square) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/

For CLES1 directors Jackson and McInroy

…an anchor institution is an organisation which has a key stake in a place. It will have significant levels of spend and numbers of jobs, and is extremely unlikely to leave due to market forces. Anchor institutions typically include: local authorities, universities, further education colleges, hospital trusts, and housing organisations.2

A government sponsored study gives some more detail:

The concept of anchor institutions emerged from the US where it has become an integral part of urban regeneration policy and practice. It is typically related to spatial immobility, large size and strategic contribution to the local economy as purchaser and employer. …..
Anchor institutions must have a social role, a social purpose which enables it to develop mutually beneficial and sustainable relationships within the host community.
Possible anchor institutions include non-profit organisations such as higher education institutions…, for instance, university business schools, academic medical centres, cultural institutions including museums, libraries and performance arts facilities, religious and faith-based establishments and performance arts centres, utility companies, military bases, sports clubs and, under certain circumstances, large private sector organisations

Our own thinking emphasises using the wealth generated and located locally to invest in local pro-environmental and pro-social development, rather than following the path of dependence on capital external to the city or region4. The work CLES has done with Anchor Institutions in Preston (also Manchester5 and Belfast) has focussed chiefly on their role in procurement of goods and services6. They demonstrate their positive impact on local employment and value retained locally. Another study, by Leeds Beckett and York St John Universities7, found similar results in the Leeds city region. Similar thinking underpins our earlier work on pay inequality in local government and its supply chains8 and the requirement of the Living Wage Campaign that accredited Living Wage employers also mandate the Living Wage in their supply chains9.

But there are other aspects to the role of Anchor Institutions: Jackson and McInroy10 suggest that this could focus on two areas: local financial enabling and local ownership enabling. The following proposals build on the CLES work in relation to our concept of the Viable Economy, thereby going beyond the merely economic benefits of these institutions.

  1. 4.1 Maximising procurement and employment benefit.

Policy 4.11: Anchors promote good diet, housing, exercise, nature, equality and waste reduction through procurement, employment and place-outreach.

The thinking behind it:

If Anchor Institutions are potentially so influential, then they can exert an effect that is not only economic. They can influence all these additional areas, both through their economic leverage in procurement and contracting, partnership activity with other players, and as employers of large numbers of staff. Examples include preferred procurement from local social enterprises rather than big corporate suppliers, contracts to reduce pay ratios, contracts to prefer low carbon, low waste suppliers. Some universities, for example, have embraced the issue of environmental sustainability in procurement, but other dimensions of sustainability are less well developed11. Central Manchester Hospitals NHS Trust does specifically address the encouragement of local social enterprises bidding for tenders12.

Policy 4.12: Organisations, public and private can be encouraged to pay the Living Wage as a minimum, using the both the hard power of procurement and the soft power of agenda and consensus-shaping.

The thinking behind it:

Our city region has very high levels of economic and social inequality. As a recent Resolution Foundation report showed, reductions in inequality between 2004 and 2008 were reversed between 2008 and 2012, with disparities between high and low income groups reaching a new high13. Indeed reading this report it is hard to escape the conclusion that economic expansion both the pre and post crash period have resulted in increasing inequalities, both within and between neighbourhoods.

Implementing the Living Wage for an organisation’s workforce, and through its supply chain is one way of improving this situation. The Living Wage Campaign has been one of Greater Manchester’s relative successes14. It encourages organisations to not just pay the Living Wage, but also go public with their commitment through independent accreditation. Of the local authorities in the conurbation, only Salford has done this, although some 100 other local employers have done so.

Policy 4.13: Maximum salaries, and pay ratios between the highest and lowest paid, can be defined, implemented (and kept to) and also mandated through the supply chain.

The thinking behind it:

At the other end of the income distribution, salaries can be obscenely high, a sequestration of money that could be distributed more fairly. Some organisations, especially those in the co-operative sector, specify narrow pay ratios and do not experience difficulties in recruiting committed and skilled senior staff: these ratios can still be in the region of 1:8. Our survey of local government found higher ratios and little in the way of coherent justification for paying such high rates other than a reference to market competition15.

Note that these two policies only go so far: other issues are poverty of the self-employed, under-employed or those excluded from employment, and those unable to do employed work for a variety of reasons. They also do not address inequalities in wealth. Nevertheless the two policy proposals for anchor institutions are feasible while potentially transformative.

  1. 4.2 Educational anchor institutions to maximise their usefulness and impact locally.

Policy 4.21: Universities as citizen resources, open to all.

The thinking behind it:

Our universities are typically seen as elite institutions, not somewhere where many ordinary citizens of the region would feel welcome. This is despite some traditions of public access and service. Universities, however, are Anchor Institutions, with a “licence to operate” in our community. There needs to be a persistent demand that their primary responsibility is to serve that community whilst recognising that many have already built commitments of this sort into their strategies (see, for example, University of Manchester’s Inspiring Communities16 and Manchester Metropolitan University’s strategy17). Examples could include offering free and low cost consultancy to non-profit and small-profit initiatives, courses on environmental, economic and political literacy, and pursuing a research agenda that is at once locally responsive and internationally reputable. This “community in-reach and university outreach”18 needs to tap all the resources of Universities, not just education and research but facilities and networks too.

Policy 4.22: Schools and colleges as community hubs.

The thinking behind it:

Likewise, schools and colleges are not going to go away. As common reference points in our neighbourhoods their role, accessibility and impact could be enhanced by partnering with health, housing, leisure, and adult learning: some of which happens (or has happened in the past) in some places but on a haphazard and unsystematic basis19. Now, with city-regional devolution there is an opportunity to establish a Mancunian model of “full service”, extended, community schools and colleges. To help build and strengthen community, facilities could be available to citizens free or very low cost outside teaching hours.

4.3 Co-operative enterprise and governance.

Policy 4.31: Properly fund local not-for profit, co-operative and smaller, quality orientated providers.

The thinking behind it:

If we want institutions and economic arrangements that serve people then the co-operative model, with its deep roots in the region, should be widely supported. This will make it more likely that business and social priorities will be appropriate, that wealth is retained locally rather than leaching out into profits invested elsewhere. Similarly, many small and medium sized businesses are locally based, staffed and owned, with loyalty to their district: are less likely to ruthlessly seek profit extraction and more likely to return value to the community20. Anchor institutions can both procure from such organisations and also support them logistically. To take the example of social care, such providers can be helped, for example with common services and preferred provider status, constructing an alternative to profiteering corporate firms under the new DevoManc health and social care regime21.

Policy 4.32: Public bodies redesigned on co-operative model. Adopt co-operative council model across the region, including at GMCA level.

The thinking behind it:

A number of UK councils have adopted a co-operative approach to both their relationship with the public and to the way services are delivered. This means being more open and collaborative in the way policy and decision-making are approached, and following co-operative principles in the delivery of services. The council’s spending power is deployed so it achieves a greater social return for citizens than it would in a typical purchaser-provider market model. Oldham is a co-operative council22 and both Rochdale and Salford are members of the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network23. Signing up to co-operative principles does not necessarily mean real change although councils like Oldham can point to real benefit24.

Our proposal is for the extension of this model throughout the public sector in the city region, applying it to all councils and the Combined Authority, and (in appropriately adjusted form) to the variety of public bodies such as NHS Trusts, Housing Trusts, and the Police and Fire Services. Such a mainstreaming of the approach could make co-operative working the norm, a viable alternative to the narrow marketised model of public service that has dominated the last thirty years. This would have benefits in terms of citizen engagement and the renewal of democracy as well as in the more equitable creation and distribution of social and economic value.

…..to be continued, or if you want it now, download here:  https://steadystatemanchester.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/policies-for-the-city-region-the-longer-version-v3-final.pdf

You can also see our policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.

1CLES: Centre for Local Economic Strategies, a Manchester-based NGO.

2Jackson, M. & McInroy, N (2015). Creating A Good Local Economy: The Role Of Anchor Institutions. Manchester: CLES. http://www.cles.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Anchor-institutions.pdf p.7

3UKCES (2015). Anchor institutions and small firms in the UK: A review of the literature on anchor institutions and their role in developing management and leadership skills in small firms. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/414390/Anchor_institutions_and_small_firms.pdf p. 9.

4See Appendix to our previous Working Paper “So What Would You Do”: https://steadystatemanchester.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/so-what-would-you-do-v2-0.pdf.

5Jackson, M. (2017). The Power of Procurement II: The policy & practice ofManchester City Council: 10 years on. Manchester, CLES. https://cles.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/The-Power-of-Procurement-II-the-policy-and-practice-of-Manchester-City-Council-10-years-on_web-version.pdf

6Jackson, M. and McInroy, N. (2017). Community Wealth Building through Anchor Institutions. CLES. https://cles.org.uk/our-work/publications/community-wealth-building-through-anchor-institutions/

7Devins, D., Gold, J., Boak, Garvey, R. and Willis, P. (2017). Maximising the local impact of anchor institutions: a case study of Leeds City Region. https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/maximising-local-impact-anchor-institutions-case-study-leeds-city-region?

9Living Wage Foundation. (n.d.) How to become a Living Wage employer. http://www.livingwage.org.uk/how-become-living-wage-employer

10See also the wider framework from CLES allies New Start: Goff, C. (2016). Creating Good City Economies in the UK. London: New Start. Retrieved from http://newstartmag.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Good-City-Economies.pdf

11University of Manchester What is Responsible? (web page) http://www.procurement.manchester.ac.uk/procurementexcellence/responsible-procurement/
Manchester Metropolitan University (2016). Sustainable and Ethical Procurement Policy. http://www.mmu.ac.uk/policy/pdf/policy_ref_sustainableprocurement.pdf

13Resolution Foundation (2016). New Order: Devolution and the future of living standards in Greater Manchester. http://www.resolutionfoundation.org/app/uploads/2016/11/New-order.pdf Table 1 p. 34.

14GM Living Wage Campaign (2016). We’ve reached 100 Living Wage Employers! https://gmlivingwage.org/what-is-the-living-wage/

16University of Manchester (n.d.). Inspiring Communities: Working together for mutual benefit -Local community social engagement plan, 2016‐2019. http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=30998

17Manchester Metropolitan University (n.d.). Our Strategy. http://www2.mmu.ac.uk/about-us/our-strategy/

18Kagan, C. and Duggan, K. (2007). We Don’t Believe You Want a Genuine Partnership’: Universities’ Work with Communities. Manchester: RIHSC. https://www.publicengagement.ac.uk/sites/default/files/publication/we_dont_believe_you_want_a_genuine_partnership.pdf

19Cummings, C., Dyson, A. and Todd, L. (2011) Beyond the School Gate: Can Full Service and Extended Schools Overcome Disadvantage? London, Routledge

20CLES (2013). Local Procurement: making the Most of Small Businesses One Year On. Federation of Small Businesses/CLES. http://www.fsb.org.uk/docs/default-source/Publications/publi_spec_scotprocure_july2013.pdf?sfvrsn=0

21Co-operative Party (2016). Taking Care: A co-operative vision for social care in England. http://www.councils.coop/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/taking-care-FINAL-web.pdf

22Oldham Council (n.d.). Our co-operative approach (web page) http://www.oldham.gov.uk/info/200572/co-operative_oldham/1189/our_co-operative_approach

23See Co-operative Councils Innovation Network website: http://www.coopinnovation.co.uk/

24Brownridge, B. (2017). Becoming a co-operative council isn’t a quick fix, it takes time, effort and a genuine desire to work with communities. Co-operative Councils Innovation Network. http://www.councils.coop/becoming-co-operative-council-isnt-quick-fix-takes-time-effort-genuine-desire-work-communities/

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Check the party policies with our Viable Economy tool!

Bemused by the many promises on offer from the political parties?  One way to evaluate them is against our “policy checker” based on our Viable Economy framework.

We want to live in a world that is viable, rather than one that risks tipping into decline or crisis.  At its simplest you could just ask three questions about any policy:

  1. Is it economically viable? that is resilient and dynamic, providing enough for all with the likelihood of stability?
  2. Is it socially viable? supporting social well-being and wellness for all, helping people lead their lives with dignity and discriminating against nobody?
  3. Is it ecologically viable? not causing further damage to the earth’s fragile systems without which life is not possible but instead improving our stewardship of them?

But to help you break each of these questions down, we’ve put together a more detailed set of questions.  Have a go with it and tell us what you think.  After the election you can go on using it for plans and strategies, wherever they come from.

Click HERE for a pdf file and HERE for a word processor one.  And finally,
HERE is a worked example for Universal Basic Income and some of the alternatives to it.

Policy checker for the Viable Economy

For any policy proposal or plan, ask these questions. If you like you could make comparisons by rating alternative policies on a five point scale and calculate a total score.


Is it economically viable?


Does it promote resilience in the face of bubbles, crashes, supply chain interruptions and the whim of governments?


Does it help more money to stay local and more democratic and local control over savings and investment?


Does it help the economy to deliver (and measure) what we need rather than growth for growth’s sake?


Does it help us move towards a more balanced economy without the over-development of some sectors (e.g. financial speculation, armaments)?


Does it help create an economy that does not have to keep expanding overall (noting that some sectors, like renewable energy, will grow, while some, such as fossil fuels, must shrink)?


Does it encourage investment to come from within our economy rather than from exploitation of other peoples or as profit-seeking from external investors?


Is it socially viable?


Does it give people and government more control over the economy rather than the economy controlling us?


Does it build and rely on equality, solidarity and cooperation among people, here and elsewhere?


Will it more and more increase equality rather than inequality?


Will it mean less exploitation of the majority world while keeping open channels for communication and learning globally?


Is it rooted in the stewardship of everyone’s human and social capital rather then the waste of people’s energies and talents?


Does it enable people to live with dignity, free from prejudice, discrimination and stigmatisation


Does it increase the space for non-commercial transactions, supporting a collaborative or solidarity economy?


Is it ecologically viable


Does it help to radically reduce both the exploitation of finite resources and the emission of pollutants, including greenhouse gases: a one-planet economy?


Is it based on production and consumption for need rather than expansion and profit for its own sake: a frugal abundance?


Does it help protect the environment from further destruction, meaning more security for us all?


Does it build resilience to climactic and other ecological shocks?


Does it contribute to the stewardship of the natural world that we depend on?

Based on our paper, The Viable Economy. Steady State Manchester, 2014.

Download at this link: https://steadystatemanchester.net/our-reports/

steadystatemanchester@gmail.com @steadystatemcr

licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.




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Living within limits to Growth: How?

Living within limits to Growth – how do we do it?

Talk given by Mark H Burton, Steady State Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, 6 May, 2017.

Mark Burton giving the talk with last slideHere are the notes and illustrations used in this talk.  It covers the following issues:

  1. Limits to Growth, Planetary Limits and Climate Change
  2. GDP and its problems
  3. Alternative Frameworks
  4. Feasibility of Degrowth and Steady State
  5. What practical policies does this entail?

click here for the talk (pdf)

It was part of the event: A Sustainable Newcastle: What does this really mean? and we are grateful to Alison Whalley and Newcastle Green Party who organised the event for the invitation.  Other speakers were Chi Onwurah, Labour Party spokesperson for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Andrew Gray,  University of Durham, Alistair Ford, University of Newcastle and Helen Jarvis, University of Newcastle.

Note: the event was organised prior to, and was not part of, the General Election Campaign and speakers were asked to avoid making party political presentations.

Posted in Climate Change, degrowth, economics, environment, key concepts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Seeking a resilient, local, stable ‘viable economy’? The role of community business.

Café conversation: Wednesday 17th May 6.30-8pm – If you haven’t already, book Now

Lounge at Manchester Methodist Hall

Central Buildings, Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JQ

Do you wonder what kind of an economy we need to ensure community businesses can flourish and thrive? Are you involved in or interested in community business? What makes a community business successful? And able to keep going? Do you want to be part of a conversation about how can community business contribute to a more resilient, local, stable and ‘viable economy’ delivering what we all need: frugal abundance/true prosperity?

If any of these or other questions about community businesses and a viable economy are important to you, this conversation is for you.

There are many types of community business including shops, farms, pubs or call centres. They are businesses which are accountable to their community and the profits they generate deliver positive local impact.

Steady State Manchester believes an alternative approach to economic development in the city and region is essential so that all can live well and within planetary limits. We call this viable economics. Among other things viable economics involves:

  • Re-localising food and other production, providing decent green jobs and more income equality.
  • Localising money and using wealth for needed developments, for example energy efficient, affordable housing and investment in other local, green and ethical enterprises
  • Less exploitation of the majority world and open channels for communication and learning globally

This conversation will consider the degree to which community businesses need a viable economy and a viable economy will need community businesses. Come with your questions to discuss:

Book Now

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Designing a viable Greater Manchester?


Is now the time to grasp opportunities and make the best of them? The highly successful film  Demain  which a packed audience saw in Manchester on  Wednesday night  suggests just that. The showing was organised by the Kindling Trust and the University of Manchester. The filmmakers were desperate to show, in the face of the threats to us all,  emerging examples of  a world which is socially rich, environmentally sustainable and viable economically. It creates a much needed and wonderful picture of the multitude of things that are happening and the great potential of a good life.

These include abundant food growing in places as desperate as Detroit and as a basis for transforming Todmorden in Yorkshire, emerging complementary economies in all sorts of places including Totnes, Brixton and Bristol, democracy leading to high and low caste people living together in Tamil Nadu, India and education for a full and good life in Finland.

The film illustrates how essential it is to offer a vision of what we want to achieve; and very relevant to our elections, the possibility of designing cities for a viable economy; example – Copenhagen.

A recent presentation we gave, argues the need to design a safe, sustainable future.  In a nutshell, that we have a lot to learn from public health, a discipline with a wealth of experience of transforming norms and behaviour.   Over time, public health practitioners have learnt that influence and education can go so far but in the end what works is  making it as easy as possible for people to change what they do. So we need to  design a world where the ecological, viable choice is the easy choice. We are doing this already, to a too limited extent, an example is through recycling.

So can the new order of city-region devolution lead to the design of a viable Greater Manchester? Certainly it is no foregone conclusion that it will.  There will be lots of pressures on the new Authority to do precisely the opposite. But are there possibilities?

Marc Stears of the New Econmics Foundation recently said:

Everything we know about what is going on in our country today, tells us that fundamental change is not going to begin from (Westminster and Whitehall ) …The primary mechanism for change is working out who out there is rooted in the community, who actually can start this process going now be it a process of … community economic regeneration… or a newly elected mayor trying to think about pushing the boundaries of the authority that he or she has within that situation,’

We are delighted to see some of our policy proposals are in both the Green Party manifesto (including GM Carbon budget, Fossil Fuel divestment, re-localisation, complementary currency) and the Labour Party manifesto (including non-monetary exchange via points, climate change is a central challenge, greater ambition on emissions reductions, GM energy company).

More broadly, community input has been significant in shaping thinking prior to the election, including pledges developed by women via the Women’s Equality Party and  Divamanc,  publication of the Peoples Plan, Andy Burnham’s use of people’s ideas in his crowd-sourced manifesto and Jane Brophy’s co-production of the section of hers about young people with the youth NGO Reclaim.  And the power of community protest will now lead to a major re-write of the flawed, developer friendly, Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

We celebrate all that is happening in Greater Manchester, not forgetting the vibrant, innovative community business sector, to create a viable future with and without the help of government organisations on which we can build.

Let’s insist on designing our way out of an economic and political system out to destroy us, in every way we can.

So the new region is an opportunity we have, at this frightening and challenging time. Let’s cherish, nurture and share the hope given by the many fabulous examples we have of viable living.  Lets build on these for a viable economy within Greater Manchester and beyond. I am sure most Greater Manchester residents reading this will  vote on Thursday; we are looking forward to working with you and your communities within and without the local state to design the future we all need.


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Policies for the City Region – serialised: Part 4, Fossil Fuel Divestment.

We continue the serialisation of our report, Policies for the City Region. In this short installment we explore the ethical necessity and pragmatic benefits of NW institutions dumping their investments in fossil fuel companies and putting that money to better use, for example in the local, social and/or low carbon economy.  And there’s plenty more to come!  But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.  The party manifestos for the GM mayoral election are out.  See how much overlap you can find with our proposals (hint: there is quite a bit in at least two of them).

Update: at the Greater Manchester Environment Hustings on Friday 28 April, all four mayoral candidates (Anstee, Burnham, Brophy and Patterson – in order of speaking) said they would call on Greater Manchester Pension Fund to divest its fossil fuel investments.

  1. 3 Divest from fossil fuels.Fossil Free logo

    Policy 3.1: The Greater Manchester Pension Fund (a significant financial “anchor institution”) redirecting a sizeable proportion of its £1.3Bn fossil fuel investments to the local economy, with emphasis on environmentally and socially beneficial areas that yield a return to continue its primary responsibilities of paying pensions.

    The thinking behind it:

    This policy focusses on the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF), the largest local authority pension fund (also providing pensions for some other employers). It has a portfolio of investments, used to fund its pension commitments, of which approximately 10% are in companies primarily concerned with the extraction, processing and distribution of fossil fuels. There are two principal aims of this proposed switch in investments.

    1. Climate change requires assertive action to leave most fossil fuel reserves un-exploited. Yet the fossil fuel companies continue to invest in exploration. “Engagement”, or efforts to directly persuade these companies to stop exploration, have not yielded any significant results. An international campaign1 is encouraging investors to move their money out of the fossil fuel companies, thereby sending a strong signal to the markets, reducing the money available for further climate damaging fossil fuel extraction and incidentally securing the value of assets against their being stranded as a result of global action on climate.

    2. The GMPF holds around £1.3Bn for potential re-investment. It can be directed to socially and environmentally positive, or at least benign, investment especially in Greater Manchester itself. A responsibly managed programme of divestment and reinvestment could have a catalytic impact regionally, especially if it was deployed to projects like pump-priming a regional public bank and to the (LCEGS) sector discussed under policy 1.41 above.2

    Policy 3.2: Other anchor institutions to divest from fossil fuels.

    The thinking behind it:

    Manchester Metropolitan University has already divested from fossil fuels but as we will see in the next section, there are other key institutions3 in the region that can have a significant impact on our society and economy. If fossil fuel divestment is needed then all institutions should be doing it, multiplying the environmental, economic and social benefit.

    2For a detailed briefing see Fossil Free Greater Manchester (2016) What councillors need to know about the Fossil Free Greater Manchester campaign for fossil fuel divestment. http://fossilfreegm.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/FFGM-Councillor-Briefing.pdf

    3Not least the University of Manchester which despite still hosting the world leading Tyndall Centre on Climate Change, has yet to divest.

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