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Militant Optimists

Militant Optimists

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Published by David Barrie
An Essay for Hand Made: “26 innovative perspectives and projects from around the world”. A book on social and environmental activism, social innovation, learning and public involvement, compiled and published by Tessy Britton - Preview: http://www.blurb.com/books/1541053. More at Web: http://www.tessybritton.com/
An Essay for Hand Made: “26 innovative perspectives and projects from around the world”. A book on social and environmental activism, social innovation, learning and public involvement, compiled and published by Tessy Britton - Preview: http://www.blurb.com/books/1541053. More at Web: http://www.tessybritton.com/

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Published by: David Barrie on Sep 02, 2010
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02/13/2011

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The Militant OptimistsBy David BarrieAn Essay for
Hand Made: “26 innovative perspectives and projects from around the world” 
 compiled and published by Tessy BrittonPreview:http://www.blurb.com/books/1541053 Web:http://www.tessybritton.com/ September 2010
 
 
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One thing that makes life worth living is the Thirteen Tribe of community life – call them ‘The Militant Optimists’ - people who are committed to improvingsociety, prepared to organize and give it a go.Recession may invite pessimism. But if there’s a mission for prosperity,growth and confidence in hard times, it has to be to find ways and means bywhich these citizens can be mobilized and the multiplicity of their socialstruggles realized and grown.And if they can’t mobilize within the current system, new opportunities need tobe created to enable them to thrive and prosper - and convert ‘militantpessimists’ along the way.Two initiatives that I have supported have attempted, in a concerted way, tocreate opportunities for optimists to come together, make change and in turn,convert others by inspiration and word of mouth.I think that a clue to the effectiveness of these initiatives rests in theiremphasis upon re-using local facilities, their interactive, idiomatic design,dispersed entrepreneurship and commitment to becoming, in the words ofeconomist Muhammad Yunus,
" engines that never stop running and need no fuel from the outside." 
 
The People’s Supermarket
In Spring 2010, a group of social entrepreneurs, commercial retailers andactivists committed to creating more sustainable urban economies opened anew supermarket in central London - a retail outlet determined to offer localpeople healthy food at affordable prices.The People’s Supermarket is co-operatively owned and managed. Inexchange for an annual membership fee and four hours volunteer time eachmonth, members win a discount on their shopping.You don’t have to be a member to shop in the supermarket but the aim is toconvert customers to members once they see the quality of the produce, itsprices and a corner shop that can be theirs.Rather than be over-righteous in its product offer, the supermarket sellsproducts that you’ll find in an ordinary mid-sized shop but also offers a simplechoice between a standard product and an healthy, locally sourcedalternative.The People’s Supermarket can hold down the price of the healthy optionthrough members giving their time to work in the store, expert sourcing fromindependent suppliers, equipping almost the entire operation with recycledfittings and capturing maximum value from waste generated.
 
 
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Only about 10% of the value generated by a conventional supermarket iscaptured by its neighbourhood - in staff salaries. We aim for 90%+, asmembers and shoppers recoup the benefit of investment of their time andshopping in a new, local, non-profit venture.The People’s Supermarket has been supported by an army of localvolunteers, pro-bono advisors from the world of social business, retail,property and urban renewal and investment of time and money by the LondonBorough of Camden, Development Trusts Association, Esmee FairbairnFoundation and Transition Bloomsbury.
Dott07 Urban Farming
Since 2007, thousands of people in the town of Middlesbrough, North EastEngland, have become ‘urban farmers’ – with their efforts rewarded by arecent award of £4m investment by the U.K. Government to support healthyliving in the town, with urban agriculture at its core.The commitment of the town to self-sufficiency and pioneering a moresustainable, local food supply chain was triggered by Dott07, an initiative ofregional economic agency One NorthEast and the Design Council,Middlesbrough Council, real estate developer BioRegional Quintain, NGOGroundwork South Tees and the Soil Association.The Dott07 initiative sought to brainstorm ways in which North East Englandmight support sustainable growth and invited service designer Nina Belk,artist and educator Debra Solomon (http://www.culiblog.org) and me toconsider the design of food supply and systems in the region.Building on the commitment of Middlesbrough Council to improving thehealthiness of residents, the popularity of food-growing and surplus ‘leftover’space in the town, we asked the people of Middlesbrough how they felt theirtown could become more productive in terms of health and well-being.Their answer: progress an initiative in which people could grow food in publicplaces, learn how to cook their crop in special cookery classes and then sharethe final harvest in an epic ‘town meal’.In 2007, over a thousand ‘urban farmers’ grew food in over 250 places acrossthe town. Professional chefs led cookery classes. And the final meal wasenjoyed by over 6000 people.Where people chose to grow food was mapped by a team of architects and anew spatial plan that highlighted urban agriculture was created - and hassince been adopted so that urban food growing now forms part of the townplan.

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