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Sustainable Communities
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TOPIC: Empowering Communities to Create Economically, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Solutions

Empowering Communities to Create Economically, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Solutions 2 years, 3 months ago #1

SIFE is a not for profit organisation working towards the mission of bringing together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business. This is achieved through mobilising university students to form volunteer groups to go out into their communities, find the needs through research and networking, and run projects to tackle these needs. In the UK there are currently 48 SIFE groups comprising of around 2,500 active volunteers.The projects aim to empower people in need by applying business and economic concepts to improve their quality of life and standard of living. A key aspect is that all projects must consider and account for economic, environmental and social factors, ensuring a holistic approach to the project and long-term sustainability. We believe that by having a positive impact on all three of these areas and ensuring economic and social sustainability as well as environmental sustainability we can create lasting, realistic solutions. Empowering others with new skills and using the positive power of business as a tool helps them and their community to take ownership of the solutions, increasing success. Thoughts?

Re: Empowering Communities to Create Economically, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Solutions 2 years, 2 months ago #2

In the 'How do you tackle sustainability in the community' debate, I have mentioned how we have invested 'Rural Renaissnce' and 'Modernising Rural Delivery' funding in Cornwall, in projects that are locally developed, managed and run by members of the community. Thes have included energy efficient buildings, renewable technologies, local labour and local produce, in a way that encourages other unfunded initiatives and businesses to flourish around them. These catalyst projects give communities a sense of being supported and able to do things for themselves. The biggest issue is that you rarely get more than 10% of the community actively involved in a committed way to get things started or to keep them going, although many more will support initiatives through local events.

Re: Empowering Communities to Create Economically, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Solutions 2 years, 1 month ago #3

I believe the work being done at a local level is very important but in order to be able to deliver a greater degree of sustainability there does need to be a national strategy that links the local projects together, unles of course that community is completely self contained and does not want to travel outside its borders. In order to do this the Government needs to take a lead in developing and promoting more sustainable forms of transport such as the national rail network and ensure that any sizeable developments are linked to this network. The Government needs to lead by example.

Re: Empowering Communities to Create Economically, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Solutions 2 years, 1 month ago #4

Very true. We've found that these initiatives work better when they come from the needs of the individuals within the community, rather than a pre-designed initiative that is not completely tailored to their requirements. When the request and design for programmes comes from those who will be implementing them and affected by them, they tend to be more successful. In these cases, the 10% actively involved tend to be the 10% that are most in need of the schemes and will work harder to embed them into their communities. The Government does need to lead by example, not just with transport, but with listening and responding to the needs of society in general.

Re: Empowering Communities to Create Economically, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Solutions 2 years, 1 month ago #5

I am currently working on a project called Local United. It is based on the belief that rapidly developing social ventures aimed at tackling sustainability issues will help to tackle problems such as peak oil and climate change at a pace and scale that can make a real difference. Our aim is to help as many community groups as possible to establish their own social ventures such as sustainable local transport schemes, community led sustainable food schemes and community led wind power. We have already written a number of action packs which are freely available on our website, these packs provide detailed guidance on how a group would go about setting up their own scheme and include legal documents, example business plans and practical tips. We hope to increase our support to give communities face to face hands on guidance and also hope to build a network of groups that can share ideas. Any thoughts on whether this sort of project can offer the help you think is needed?

Re: Empowering Communities to Create Economically, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Solutions 2 years, 1 month ago #6

I've worked for most of the last 5 years at The Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies, Community Environment Park (CERES for obvious reasons) in Melbourne, Australia. This community enterprise initiative began around 1980 on a former landfil site owned by the local council and was utterly derelict. I suggest you look at www.ceres.org.au to see the purest example of an out and out success story that is exactly what your topic states. The government is important, obviously, but they also react to the power of persuasion of voters. In my time there I led guided tours and presentations to Local, State and Federal Environment Ministers. Also with delegations of foreign businesses and political representatives coming to experience the reality of one of the most remakable human and social transformations for sustainability one may encounter. It now employees over 160 staff, visited by over 350,000, hosts million dollar enterprises, is powered as much as possible by onsite renewable energy 25kW mixed generation sources, etc etc etc.
There may be better ways to empower communities but to be at the heart of a community with an expanding network of influence and a purity of belief in sustainable living is very powerful. It's founding principles are as relevent today as ever: Community Invovlement, Cultural Inclusion, Social Equity and Sustainable Environment.
Check it out.
Say hello on tuesday as there's so much to talk about.
:-)
Ian

Re: Empowering Communities to Create Economically, Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Solutions 2 years ago #7

As a Steering Group we have just had commissioned a feasibility study under the auspice of Project EARTH (Environment And Religions Transformation Hub)to discover the appetite among faith groups across the West Midlands for Project EARTH. The study focussed on the key elements of Project EARTH like a “Human Library”, shared information, collaborative working, training and learning, roles and responsibility. Our aim is to ignite the passion in all the faith communities to take responsibility for the environment and promote environmentally and socially sustainable solutions, We must win hearts and minds and make people the architects of change not victims of it;get the buy-in and we will be half-way there. We know that many faith scriptures talk about "mother Earth" - who would not want to protect their mother? We also need to work in partnership - this has got to be the way forward. We have come across many project / groups that appear to be competing for limited funds - work together and unite in the challenge.
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