From Dagenham to Detroit, neighborhoods are struggling to cope with our rapidly changing world. How can places ensure people can access the entire economic system? This is the second part of a transatlantic report on an UnLtd social entrepreneurship event and a series of field trips that took place in early 2018. It explored what support entrepreneurs need to make their communities better places to live, work and play.
Initiatives across East London are also working to develop leadership and innovation where people’s passions intersect their communities’ needs. Participatory City, in Barking and Dagenham is championing hands-on and inclusive design processes to impact the future of the borough and beyond.
Geraud DuVille at Participatory City said: “Historically Barking and Dagenham has been a very challenged area. It’s one of the poorest in London. There’s many reasons for this. But a lot of people have many resources which are untapped.”
Participatory design processes set the stage for a dynamic exchange of information between stakeholders and experts like engineers and architects in redeveloping community’s places.
DuVille explained: “What we should do to actually help this community thrive is to allow people to get their talents and skills out there and to start building the future of Barking and Dagenham with them, together.”
Collaboratively the borough’s programs and places can be co-designed to meet needs as informed by local wisdom.
Models of community development that emphasize profit priority see physical spaces, built or vacant, as potential real estate while an approach that emphasizes people treats it as place.
One Love Community, currently headquartered in Isle of Dogs, is showing people how repurposed places and products can take on a new life and use for residents.
Junior Mtonga, One Love’s founder, said: “When you activate a space in a community where people have moved past a dead space for years without realizing that they could use the space, you are able to put imagination back into the process of building community.”
They are currently working on and running a community kitchen, office spaces for various uses, a gym, youth center space, studios, a training center for construction work, a store, and event space, furniture reuse project to repurpose and resell items, and more.
New Build Creative Resources is one of the organizations benefitting from the spaces that are available through One Love Community’s efforts. They use the office space to carry out their work showing participants how to tap into their passions to build transferrable skills to enter the job market ahead of the game.
New Build’s founder Oliver Kinzonzi emphasizes passion, specifically London youth’s passion for Grime, in the organization’s approach to supporting youth entering the job market.
“Grime to me is like… it’s the soundtrack of London. It’s really a platform where young people that were socially excluded and weren’t part of the mainstream society have a way to express themselves in an artistic way. And use that as the platform to progress and move on with their careers.”
He added: “Once you can turn your passion into your paycheck you don’t have a job, you have a life. And that’s really what the project emphasizes on.”
Farther east, Uncut Studios in Thurrock is leveraging relationships built during creative processes of music making to impact change in the lives of youths at risk of falling into a life of crime. Thurrock is part of the Riverside Community, a Big Local area supported by the Local Trust to enable residents to make their communities and areas even better places to live.
Conner Hammond is a Grime MC who goes by Smallz Deep in the booth and on the stage. He shares his time and talents, ultimately, to build relationships that help to bridge the gap between youth’s interests and their education and career.
“I think what it is… it’s like sitting in the studio is important you know? Although music itself is great, it’s the studio environment as well that helps. I’ll be sitting in the studio sometimes and I’ve like three or four youths in the building. And we’re working on some music and then we’re just having conversations… Talking about stuff that’s happened in my life, stuff that’s happened in their life.“ says Hammond.
His reputation as an MC gives him the opportunity to build with youth who haven’t performed well in traditional institutional settings like school, church, or in their interactions with the law. And music has given him the confidence needed to be that force in their lives.
“Music is a great way to help out youths because music gave me confidence and taught me about passion, which I didn’t have before… (So) what I hope to give to the youth, mainly, is confidence. It’s something that I never had and it affected me in my life decisions and choices.”
Through exploring music the youth at Uncut Studios have the opportunity to learn new skills, and even have a shot at a public or behind the scenes career in music as they learn their way around the studio.
This holistic approach is leading to a currency exchange in community development that is equitable, effective and efficient in supporting communities in meeting their needs—starting with the assets they already have between them.
To read the first part in this series, click here
Erik Howard was one of the guest speakers at UnLtd’s Enterprising People conference in early 2018. He is the co-founder of Inside South West Detroit, Young Nation and The Alley Project. Erik has been building communities and neighbourhoods through cultural and place-based activities such as low-riding and street art. More information on his work is here: http://erikpaulhoward.com/
UnLtd is creating a future where enterprising people are transforming our world for good. With social and economic inequality growing in the UK, more people than ever are using innovative and sustainable business solutions to help drive social change. Supporting social entrepreneurs in their local communities is one of three impact areas for UnLtd. More information on its work is here: https://unltd.org.uk/our-work/our-focus-areas/resilient-communities
The Local Trust helps residents to develop and use their skills and confident to identify what matters most to them and to take action and change things for the better. More information its work is here: http://localtrust.org.uk/