Ten Ideas for Change: Birmingham and West Midlands

spring_0556. Bournville Village Trust: A model of integrated housing since 1900.
When George Cadbury began building homes for his factory workers and others in Bournville (pictured left) on the south side of Birmingham at the turn of the 19th century, he probably had little idea that the village would become a model for successful housing schemes more than 100 years later. The model village laid the foundations for the garden village movement and also for mixed communities, with a specification for a 50:50 mix of tenure that continues to this day. The village has one of the highest qualities of life in England and 95% of its residents describe is as a ‘good place to live’.

7. Turning Timebanking into a city-wide currency: Birmingham is developing a ‘whole city’ approach to boosting the city’s time economy. A number of timebanks across the city, including in Summerfield and Ladywood and Kings Heath will be connected together as a network to see how people across neighbourhoods could tap into the time economy. Some ideas are around building city-wide communities of interest through the timebank network, such as childcare or gardening groups.

8. The Jericho Foundation: Social enterprise creation to help disadvantaged people back to work: The Jericho Foundation, based in Balsall Heath, began as a drop in service for local people run from a church hall in the 1980s when unemployment was high. A skills shortage among the population was quickly identified and a fundraising mission was started to set up a training centre to improve local skills. Today the Foundation has a wide range of social enterprises – from printing services to catering and construction that employ disadvantaged people and help them gain skills and training. It works particularly with people who have significant barriers to gaining skills and employment and helps them through both real work experience and holistic support.

9. Holiday Kitchen: Combating hunger among school kids: Holiday Kitchen was set up by the Ashrammosely housing association in response to rising levels of hunger among poorer children outside of term time when they no longer had access to free school meals. Operating in Birmingham, Sandwell and north Solihull, it runs activity days that provide food as well as learning and play sessions during the school holidays.

10. Balsall Heath Forum: When the local council failed to do anything about the prostitution – and growing violence – in their neighbourhood, the community of Balsall Heath decided to do something about it. They formed Street Watch teams to sit on street corners and note down the registration numbers of cars coming into the red light district. From there the Balsall Heath Forum was created and became a model of community-run neighbourhood renewal that continues to thrive today. It is now one of the first areas in the country to pioneer neighbourhood planning, with a referendum on its plan due this September.


Clare Goff is Editor at New Start magazine

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  • Gemma

    This is great stuff.

    Coventry has also made timebanking a citywide currency. Time Union is a timebank open to all with a connection to Cov. It launched in December 2014, alongside Food Union, another citywide venture which aims to address issues surrounding food poverty, whilst creating connections & celebration around food.

    Let’s all keep up the good work!

  • Mike Riddell

    Wow – there’s so much going on in this area. Here in Manchester we’re working on the digital concept of ‘community loyalty points’ that are earned into existence for time contribution to community.

    In our world, rather than earning points for shopping at Tesco, you’d earn points by the hour for being a decent citizen – for teaching, for learning, for giving, for volunteering and so on.

    Until today, we weren’t aware of what was happening elsewhere in the country. Thank goodness for New Start!

    Here in Manchester our focus is on scoping developing the digital platform we need to deliver and distribute the points. We’re already quite well progressed but would love to hear from others that are interested in a points-based system and marketplace.

    Fundamentally we can part of the solution if we all come together. Digital changes everything – it’s a totally different paradigm especially for a generation that have grown up as digital natives.

    Indeed the design of such a system has to have this generation in focus. Why? Because these are the people that are going to be using the system in 10, 15 years time and their mindset is totally aligned with radically changing the agenda and we want to support and develop their sense of ownership.

    There is the possibility that we can leapfrog an old world of legacy that acts like an anchor on the change agenda that’s going on, just as happened in the digital revolution that’s gone to Asia and to Africa where fixed telephone line projects no longer matter because it’s all about moving at speed using a totally different technology solution.

    As a movement, we need to build up our capability hugely. Why? Because there’s a whole new digital civic infrastructure waiting to happen. How efficient would that make us? It requires collaboration though and not everyone in our sector is willing to talk to industry but really in order to make the change that we all want to see, all of us need to work together no matter what the sector and what the history.

    By working with industry and working with SMEs around delivering digital services we can begin to develop a new business model for the sector that improves citizen services, user services and public services at a fraction of the costs of the old way of working. Not just 10% or 20%, but cost reductions of 80% and 90%.

    Time banks sit at the heart of this new civic infrastructure because time contributed to community should be the only way that success is measured.

    Please do get in touch with us here in Manchester if you’d like to learn more about what we’re doing as a collective of eight organisations. There’s safety in numbers!


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