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How can we make our communities more financially sustainable? And what are the deeper issues of the economy that affect the sustainability of communities? This section will look at alternative economies, drawing on innovative examples of communities who are walking out of unsustainable economic models and into models of economic resilience that are good for people and good for the planet.
What are ways we can sustain ourselves as individuals, families, as a community group and as a wider community – economically, socially and environmentally?
How can we begin to challenge some of the unsustainable elements of the current economic development model within our community? E.g. Zero Waste, local currencies, alternative means of exchange, cooperatives, etc.
Research some alternative economies. How can we integrate some of these approaches or ideas into our community? Examples of alternative economies include green economy, circular economy, blue economy, solidarity economy, sharing economy.
Work towards financial security
Check out the ’10 steps to financial security’ from the Funding Handbook from The Wheel for ideas and support:
Be innovative and collaborate!
Groups that are open to change, creative and prepared to find innovative solutions to problems in their community, are likely to be sustainable and successful.
Ensure your group or organisation is a living wage employer
Encourage local employers to become Living Wage employers. This is a wage which makes possible a minimum acceptable standard of living. It represents the income that allows employees afford the essentials of life.
Nurture, support, validate and celebrate your volunteers
This can ensure their sustainability and contribute to the sustainability for your organization. See support for how to sustain volunteers on the Volunteer Ireland website:
Encourage those in your organisation and the wider community to buy local as much as possible to keep money in the local economy.
Support your local Credit Union
Promote the credit union locally as an ethical and sustainable way to save and borrow money. Encourage and support a savings scheme among any employees of the organisation.
Join a Community Supported Agriculture scheme
Forge stronger links with the people who grow your food. Visit: http://www.communitysupportedagriculture.ie/
Set up a Trade School
Learn from this example of a Trade School set up in Dublin – the idea is that workshops are offered to members of the community in exchange for a trade (i.e. no money exchanged):
Establish alternative local currencies
Kinsale in Cork trailblazed the way in 2005, when a local currency was introduced – the idea is to introduce currency that can only be circulated amongst local trade, businesses and production – working alongside (not replacing – the Euro. This idea has since been replicated in many places across the UK.
Establish Positive Money in your community
Positive Money’s vision is for a money and banking system that serves a fair, democratic, and sustainable economy.
Promote Community Cooperatives
Organise an information and networking event on community cooperatives (e.g. energy, housing, food, childcare), inviting people from existing successful cooperatives around the country to inspire the establishment in your local community.
For specific information on energy cooperatives see the following websites:
Campaign to increase the community sector budget
Get your voice heard by joining in demonstrations around the budget – getting behind the community sector as a whole as opposed to fighting for one group over another. The Spectacle of Defiance and Hope is a carnival type demonstration using creativity to get the voices of community groups heard.
Campaign for a basic income
All work should be valued in our community, not just work in exchange for money, e.g. parenting, carers, artists, etc. The 35 – 40 hour week is not sustainable for individuals, for families, for the environment – a basic income would enable people to have their basic needs met while recognising the importance of all types of contributions to society.
Talk to your local elected representative about possibilities for Participatory budgeting locally – see South Dublin County Council’s 300K: Have Your Say project as an example.
Purchase from Zero Waste shops and bring your own containers
Encourage local shops in your area to reduce packaging by allowing customers to bring their own reusable containers.
Promote the use of reused materials in your group or community
Reuse and recycling are at the heart of the Circular Economy, the European strategy aimed at maintaining the value of products, materials and resources within the economy for as long as possible, and to minimise the generation of waste.
Reuse ensures that goods – like clothing, appliances or furniture – stay in our economy for as long as possible. It includes trading or swapping (e.g. in charity shops, second hand stores or online), repairing, borrowing, leasing and upcycling.
Community Resources Network Ireland (CRNI) is the all-Ireland representative body for community-based reuse, recycling and waste prevention organisations.
They have produced a series of useful toolkits for communities, workplaces and individuals.
Further Reading / Resources
A Governance Resource for Sustainable Communities: