Weeknotes 2021
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Weeknotes 2021

Weeknotes — week 45

This week’s notes are a homage to my missing cat

A major distraction this week has been the disappearance of my cat, Marlon. The little tyke popped out last Wednesday to catch some mice and never came back. At one point I thought I might snap in a John Wick-style, and take my revenge on this cruel world for snatching away my (other) true love — most likely armed with some witty barbs and sassy missives.

Imagine me as Keanu, and the dog as my cat, and you catch the drift.

But as support and contributions from our friends and local community poured in, my cynicism waned. It’s been amazing how many people want to help. So instead, I’m holding on to the vague hope he may one day return, whilst enjoying insights from our neighbours into the secret life he lead, such as the CCTV footage of him chasing a fox across a park. I know he’s out there somewhere, being a badass.

Marlon

Now I bet you’re thinking — so what’s new pussycat? Well, in between taping ‘Lost Cat’ posters to telephone poles and wondering around shaking a bag of dreamies, here’s what else has happened this week:

R,D & D

The last 18 months have shown how important digital technologies are to our economy, organisations and communities. But we were always on this trajectory — online retail has been growing for years, impacting on high streets, whilst investment in intangible assets has been higher than that in tangible assets for almost every year since the turn of the century. Yet when we talk about community ownership, we still default to the latter.

Source: ONS, (2021), Experimental estimates of investment in intangible assets in the UK, 1992 to 2018

As we have all seen first-hand, not only does this have the effect of creating inequality between firms, it also creates inequality between places, often with the most deprived neighbourhoods being left behind.

The conversation around digital and community business to date has focused on everything they are getting wrong and what they need to learn. Through our work on Twine, Community Tech and now digital capabilities we are seeking to address this, as we realise we can’t keep reinforcing the existing narrative.

Fergus Arkley has been capturing insights from this work as we develop it, along with colleagues from The Catalyst. Definitely worth giving their first and second weeknotes a read.

Talking of things that can’t go on as they were, within the last week we’ve also co-launched a new campaign celebrating local climate heroes, with photography by Rankin. You may well have seen the billboards if you are travelling around but it’s well worth checking out their incredible stories and magnificent portraits.

We also this week co-signed a letter with supporters groups from the Football League calling on the government to bring more clubs into community ownership. As I wrote last week, there are alternatives to the extractive model that predominates so much of our economy. This is another example of such an alternative.

I’d also recommend checking out Bonnie Hewson’s latest post about how co-production can help rebuild trust between councils and communities. In it she explores the six principles for developing a shared narrative for an area.

Finally, it was great to hear more this week about the work of Rachel Coldicutt and colleagues on the development of a civil society foresight observatory. Whilst the work is ongoing, they have consciously considered ways to ensure all foresight is equal and valid. All too often, it is only a small group of people who get to imagine and project what the future holds, making them better positioned to bring it into reality. They are exploring a much more relational approach, and have been applying a range of creative techniques, including backcasting and creative writing, to engage a broader spectrum of people in this work.

What I’ve learnt

Apparently cats sometimes get lost. One way to help them find their way home is to create a trail with a familiar scent. So my partner convinced me to cut up a beloved old t-shirt I’d been wearing, and leave scraps of it around the local area. Cue bedlam on a local Facebook group.

Thankfully, we quickly rectified the situation and the post was taken down (although so too was my sacrificed t-shirt). But it’s interesting to see firsthand how ingrained the fear of crime is, even though the most exciting thing to happen before this was a local scarecrow competition!

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Stephen Miller

Stephen Miller

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