Weeknotes 2021
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Weeknotes 2021

Weeknotes 2021 — week 48

In the month since I last wrote one of these a lot has happened. Joe Biden had a nap, Boris Johnson went to Peppa Pig World, and Richard Madeley became unwell after sliding head first into a sewer of fish guts and offal. All in all, a great showcase for what old white men can achieve these days. The ceiling has been well and truly smashed!

R,D & D

On a related note, I’ve been working with colleagues to explore the intersections between social justice and climate change. And I’ve been inspired by two separate talks from Dr. Alison Parken at Cardiff University Business School, and Dr. Gyorgyi Galik from the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. Both independently made the same point that, globally, women are worst affected by climate change. They both also made two interrelated observations about how the policy solutions to the climate crisis also tend to favour men.

Take bike lanes for example. In London there has been significant investment in cycling infrastructure to help commuters get in and out of central London. Most of these cyclists are male. Yet as Gyorgyi highlighted, the data suggests that women are more likely to cycle shorter journeys in their local area, yet there is not the same investment or infrastructure to support this. Relatedly, Alison also made the point that the skills and competencies required for green jobs, and the pace at which they need to be implemented, risks replicating existing gender inequalities, as the easiest option will be to draw from the existing pool of construction workers etc, who are overwhelmingly male.

So as we continue to design our support for community-based climate action, there is a lot to consider with regards to ensuring it addresses social inequalities, rather than replicating them. That requires using evidence to question assumptions, breaking down silos to encourage cognitive flexibility and diversity, and taking risks and having the tenacity to stick with them.

Another idea to spill out of discussions recently has been about leveraging the heterogeneity of the community business model to achieve a shared outcome. In some ways I see this process as akin the ‘mission-oriented innovation’ model I’ve mentioned before. As you may already know, community businesses take many forms — from community hubs, to food and energy production to community transport. Imagine if they were all united by a shared objective, such as working together to create 15 minute neighbourhoods in their local areas. This could include working together to reduce private vehicle use, promote active and more sustainable travel and develop local supply chains (e.g. food, energy, waste). Not only would this reduce carbon emissions, but it would also improve the circulation of money within a local economy as well as potentially having health benefits for individual users (e.g. reduced air pollution, improved active travel (such as walking) and better access to fresh food). It could also be a good way to offset the impact of some of the policy changes required at a national level (e.g. if tax on fuel increases, alternative transport provisions needs to be made available in poorly connected areas). I think this colourful bricolage of business models could be a great way to scale the idea of community ownership too.

Impact!

We have a whole raft of new research and evaluation reports coming out over the next few weeks, but here’s a couple to draw your attention to, looking at how to support the development of community-led housing:

What I’ve learnt

It was great to have the opportunity to cast my mind back to the first lockdown in March 2020, and reflect on how we used data to inform our emergency response and support for community businesses. I’ve written more about it in the latest edition of the Social Research Association’s magazine, but essentially we used a whole range of novel data sources — including debit and credit card transactions data, to predict the likely impact of lockdown restrictions on these businesses. That enabled us to ensure we were making the right amount of emergency funding available, and to date our evidence shows that very few community businesses seem to have closed because of covid.

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Stephen Miller

Stephen Miller

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Social researcher and writer. Putting theory into practice, to make the world a better place.