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Success factors for the ESF in CLLD 15 October 2013

Posted by cooperatoby in social economy.
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Recently I looked at four cases where the ESF has been involved in community-led local development (CLLD) – Cybermoor in Alston (UK), Cloughjordan Ecovillage (Ireland), InWest in the Rheinische Straße in Dortmund (Germany) and Barka Foundation in Poznań (Poland).
What makes them work? My analysis came out with the following common success factors: they rely on a base of values, social innovation, networks, models, information, premises, entrepreneurial initiative, mixed funding, economic sustainability and celebration.

CLLD success factors wordle

– Values
The cases show that effective local action is built by people and organisations that are inspired by a strong set of values. Barka has developed a local development practice based on social psychological approach to individual self-development. InWest is based on the twin principles of ecological sustainability and self-management. Cloughjordan Ecovillage is driven by the need to pilot an ecologically sustainable way of living, based on the principles of transition and resilience. Cybermoor is also committed to making Alston more resilient, but in this case the threat against which resilience is being built is the decline of public service provision by higher tiers of government.
The self-conscious development of a locality depends on the existence of a vision of how things could be different and better, which is expressed in the objectives of the civil society organisations that lead the process.
– Social innovation
The cases are implementing social innovations to put these values into practice. Cloughjordan Ecovillage is developing systems to guarantee its sustainable future, in a ‘soft’ organisational as well as a ‘hard’ technological way. In order to distribute power and decision-making fairly among all the members of the community, it is using two methodologies. The first is the Viable Systems Model (VSM), first developed by Stafford Beer, which analyses how plants and animals survive and make a system in nature viable, and transfers the lessons of this model from biology to society. The second is sociocracy, which is based on trust, discussion and consensus decision-making, supplies insights about effective management. Blending these together, The Ecovillage is developing a new ‘operating system’ for sustainable living. Organisations such as the Permaculture Association in the UK are also adopting the system.
The Barka Foundation imported the new organisational model of the social co-operative into Poland, piloted it and then mainstreamed this innovation into national legislation. Cybermoor was inspired by the telecottage movement to bring online connectivity to an isolated town. InWest is scaling up the successful experience of its member Union Gewerbehof to assist new future-oriented enterprises to establish themselves in disused industrial buildings.
– Networks
The initiators of these projects are well connected to external sources of new ideas and models. Cloughjordan is part of the Global Ecovillage Network. InWest is connected to European co-operative federations such as CECOP (European Confederation of Workers’ Co-operatives, Social Co-operatives and Social and Participative Enterprises). Barka is a member of EAPN (European Anti Poverty Network).
These networks both supply incoming models of good practice and facilitate the outward dissemination of experiences.
– Models
The cases rely on models of organisation which meet community needs. A number of different models figure, including association, foundation, co-operative (worker, social, enterprise), viable systems model and sociocracy.
– Information
Concerted action by the members of a community can only happen when there are effective paths through which information can circulate among citizens. All the projects use websites, a community newspaper is published in the Rheinische Straße, and Cybermoor is training community journalists to perform this messenger function. It is also developing a ‘community data explorer’ to open up for practical use by the community the masses of hitherto incomprehensible information that public authorities publish, and is piloting a telemonitoring system for care recipients.
– Premises
Communities need physical places to interact in, and the projects have usually acquired these with the help of the local authorities. The Barka communities got their start by being allowed to operate at little or no cost in unused building such as schools. It was later able to buy and renovate two half-built blocks of flats which had belonged to a collective farm that was being privatised, and turn them in to affordable housing. Cybermoor operates from an office in Alston Town Hall. Union Gewerbehof, founding member of InWest, was brought into being by a group that first squatted the office buildings of a derelict steelworks, and later renovated it with Structural Fund support, making it a cornerstone of the area’s regeneration.
This ‘in kind’ help from property owners is an invaluable resource for local groups, and has been moved up the local government agenda in the UK with the passing of the localism Act in 2011.
– Entrepreneurial initiative
The projects share a “can do” attitude to addressing the problems of their locality. Faced with a local issue, they have made an inventory of the resources available and put them together to create a durable new business which can contribute to its local economy. The businesses in question run the gamut from domestic services for elderly and disabled people through public works such as grounds maintenance and cleaning to retail, property development, education, operating tourist attractions and high-tech services such as broadband telecommunications and 3D printing.
– A funding mix
The projects share an attitude of what might be called “principled opportunism” in accessing a variety of different funding streams to finance aspects of their work. This phrase is not meant to have negative overtones, but is a rational response to the continually changing funding opportunities that arise. They are not shy of accessing funds other than the ESF. LEADER is present in Cloughjordan and Alston, and the ERDF in Dortmund. In the area of technology and research, Cloughjordan has accessed the FP7 CONCERTO programme in renewable energy, and Cybermoor has used the Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) programme to finance a telemonitoring project for carers. Barka used PHARE.
They also access private foundations: the Carnegie Trust funds community journalism training in Alston and a number of foundations such as the Danish Grete Mikaelsen’s Foundation have given sizeable support to the Barka Foundation.
– Economic sustainability
While grant funding is often a key enabler for community action, it would fail unless the underlying projects are economically sustainable. Hence the projects typically combine grant income with earned income in a process where the grant allows an activity to be developed, after which it can survive through the sale of goods and services. The trainees at Barka’s Centres for Social Inclusion spend part of their time on practical job training, which creates an income for the centre, and may eventually enable an independent social co-operative to be floated off, to serve both to private and public clients. This also constitutes a seamless transition for the trainees from unemployed to employed status. The Alston Moor Partnership is investigating establishing a wood fuel supply activity to create an income to finance further developments, and Cybermoor sells broadband services. InWest will offer services to property owners, and possibly neighbourhood services to householders. Cloughjordan Ecovillage runs training in sustainability skills and in its new We Create business centre is opening a ‘fab lab’ (fabrication laboratory) where prototypes can be made on a 3D printer.
– Celebration and awards
This is another important factor in motivating community members to engage in joint action. In Dortmund, the Rheinische Strassenzeitung is full of pictures of community members enjoying activities and street parties are held. Cloughjordan Ecovillage holds a monthly open day and communal meals are organised. Alston prides itself on being the first winner of the national award for Social Enterprise Town of the Year. Barka communities celebrate national and church festivals, and its funders have been fêted by the World Economic Forum.

2. Barriers to the use of the ESF for CLLD

The cases reveal the following barriers to development:
– inconsistent funding
This may be caused by changes in policy or simply by the short-term design of programmes. In Ireland, SPIL ran the successful ‘Green Works’ training programme in ecological building and related skills, which proved very popular and had good outcomes. ESF support enabled it to be offered free of charge to trainees, and meant that innovative courses could be developed, modernising the vocational training infrastructure. One of them has been exported to Sweden. Yet there was no opportunity to continue.
– ‘dumb’ indicators
Over and above the administrative complexity that the project initiators have encountered and found burdensome, and which may be thought inevitable when ensuring accountability form the use of public funds, their comments bring out a deeper issue. Cloughjordan and Cybermoor found that the additional costs entailed in ensuring that the wider community benefits from ESF projects can make them uncompetitive when set against standardised training products offered at large scale by commercial providers. Where simple indicators such as hours of training delivered are used, without looking at the medium-term effects on the trainees and on the local economy, the ESF will not be able to engender the changes in the workforce that are needed to help economies to adapt.
This shows the value of a ring-fenced funding stream for innovative projects which allow budgetary freedom to develop curricula in new areas that are crucial for our evolving economies and to reach out to remote areas where the number of trainees is small. By contrast Barka, in its work in Poland’s national social economy development programme, has been able to include relatively expensive actions such as transnational study visits need to implant innovative ideas.

3. Promoting future development

The cases show different development paths:
• Barka started solving the needs of excluded people locally in and around Poznań and has spread its method across Poland using the technique of social franchising. It has piloted new types of institution for work integration, inspired notably by the Italian model of social co-operatives. It has leveraged the success of these pilots to reform the legal framework at national level.
• InWest is the latest in a series of community-based economic structures that have been established in the Rheinische Straße neighbourhood. It acts as an umbrella for the previously established value-led business incubator Union Gewerbehof and other co-operatives and associations, aiming to move one more step up the scale in regenerating this depressed multicultural industrial suburb
• Cloughjordan Ecovillage has implanted an internationally established model in a locality that was ripe for it and offered the necessary conditions (land, village commerce and rail access among them).
• Cybermoor in Alston has brought new technologies to a small isolated town in order to regenerate its economy, following on from the early Scandinavian concept of ‘telecottages’.
The common thread running through the cases is how the project initiators have:
• been aware of developments in the wider world, and have selected and applied the tools that could help them address local issues: in the case of Barka the social co-operative, in Dortmund the co-operative consortium, in Cloughjordan the ecovillage and in Alston the telecottage.
• done social innovation by setting up new community institutions
• acted with principled opportunism to gain the necessary resources, whether these be derelict buildings, land or funding (various types of public and private)
• established an economically viable enterprise by combining this seed funding with a commercial income stream, from the sale of services to a variety of clients: public sector organisations, enterprises and individuals.
The common thread that fuels community-led local development in these cases is a social enterprise approach: that of establishing a sustainable business that meets social needs by the nature of its activities, and reinvests its surplus in its local community.

4. Policy to support the spread of CLLD

CLLD policy components wordle2

Public policy to support the future widespread adoption of this methodology should therefore embrace the following principles:
– Accessible seed funding
• ensure that small amounts of seed funding are available with minimum administrative complication, to allow project initiators to take the first step. The ESF Community Learning Grants used by Cybermoor and BIWAQ used by InWest are examples of this.
• this should apply to funding in a wide range of policy areas: not just employment and social inclusion but also housing, food production, energy, transport, communications and information technology, health and social care among others.
• funding providers should be aware of the cross-links between policy areas: for instance the very many policy domains that need to be joined up to effectively address poverty and social exclusion
– A transmission methodology
Once innovations have been proven at the local level, a framework is needed within which these can be disseminated. From then point of view of the local initiative, the mechanism of social franchising provides a way of spreading new ideas to other locations. A social franchise allows a ‘kit’ of tried and tested components to be taken up and applied by a new group of people, who can benefit from support and quality assurance provided by the originator. The group of franchisees would typically be joined to the franchisor through a secondary structure which can share and transfer good practice and develop common tools.
– Community rights
National governments should delegate power and control over resources to local communities, who know about, and are in a position to remedy, local problems. A strategic framework is given by the UK’s Localism Act of 2011, which aims to empower local communities to take over the provision of public services in the context of austerity in central government spending. A set of Community Rights has been established, which enable local people to draw up a community plan, build affordable housing and community facilities, bid for contracts to provide services, take over redundant assets such as buildings for community use at a discount, challenge planning decisions and closures of facilities and ‘pause’ the sale of assets such as pubs, giving the community time to mount their own bid for it.
Locality, the UK’s leading network of multipurpose, community-led organisations, offers local groups direct support worth £9,500 (€11,000) plus grants of up to £7,000 to prepare neighbourhood plans, and has so far helped nearly 400 groups to do this.
– Strategic framework
This must take place within a regulatory and cultural framework which is propitious. In Poland, Barka, faced with a lacuna in the legal framework for work integration, lobbied successfully for the passing of a series of laws which regulate social employment, social housing, volunteering and social co-operatives. The ESF has now stepped in with a national development programme (Integrated Support System for the Social Economy) which is surveying social economy activity around the country, establishing good practice guidelines and quality standards, and facilitating the dissemination and creation of new local initiatives. The components of the programme are delivered by eight different organisations. This top-down systemic action, guide by the high-level Working Group for Systemic Solutions in the Social Economy which advises the President, is a necessary corollary to the encouragement of community-led local development initiatives. It is based on a partnership between the government and social economy sectors, and is coupled with annual conferences which facilitate dialogue. This Working Group was one of the good practices analysed at the first peer review meeting of the Social Entrepreneurship Network (SEN) ESF Learning Network in Trento in September 2013.

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