Archive for January, 2009

House price

January 29, 2009

“Financial market have been bailed out before – there is no reason to stop and take a hard look at how we arrived here. That would be too painful and would force recognition of the brutal truth – such an uneven society breeds asset bubbles. Rising inequality explicity leads to extreme house price cycles. If we want to get off this destructive rollercoaster, the limits to unbridled trade need to be acknowledged. ” (Graham Turner, Credit Crunch. Pluto Press. 2008.)

“What would a more sustainable and stable housing market look like? Perhaps one where houses are built to last, to high quality standards, rather than of cheap materials for a short term profit. Where homes are brought to live in, to raise a family in, for instance, and to be part of a community.” (Community Finance Solutions: An Initiative of the Uni of Salford.)



1929 Crash

January 29, 2009

Good documentary on iplayer at the moment –

Was interesting to see the cultural similarities with now – the idea that everyone could be rich and citizen speculation or debt equaled prosperity or productivity. I wonder how we are going to deal with the transition from a society validated through consumption to a society validated by something else… what might that be? We are going to have to understand the new ‘capitals’ such as community and time we have to draw on in the absence of financial capital and liquidity – and make this a positive cultural shift as opposed to a total collapse its a challenge but potentially a massive opportunity


Hyperlocal initiatives

January 26, 2009

As part of a general interest in the the way online social-networking tools are promoting localism and instigating community action (and the now well-documented adoption of the ‘hyperlocal’ tag to describe the phenomenon), I’d like to draw eveyone’s attention to the following:

This is a great tool from the clever people at mySociety (creators of the vastly popular, and PledgeBank)… Now also available on the iPhone! One of today’s posts regarding gang-related graffiti in London was posted and forwarded to the relevant local authority within 4 min!

Talking about Pledgebank, Justin McKeating has created a great pledge to hire the services of an ex-cabinet minister to convey citizens concerns directly to governement (a little optimistic perhaps, but an interesting thought nonetheless) –

William Perrin last week announced the launch of his ‘Talk about Local’ proposal, in partnership with 4iP… “Talk About Local will train several thousand people in 150 disadvantaged places in England to set up locality/community/neighbourhood based websites”.

If such incentives for applying political pressure can be tied into successful hyperlocal fund-raising models like those employed under PledgeBank (and the brilliant story of MyFootballClub and Ebbsfleet United) then we may see a community action agenda, empowered by ICTs, that comes full circle.


NESTA weBank event | social lending platforms

January 23, 2009

I went to this event on wednesday evening at NESTA, part of a series called weBank to explore whether people can replace institutions.

Some interesting learning about micro credit unions called ROSCA’s – an historic form of micro finance from India (still in practice I understand) “Rotating Savings and Credit Association or ROSCA is a group of individuals who agree to meet for a defined period of time in order to save and borrow together. “ROSCAs are the poor man’s bank, where money is not idle for long but changes hands rapidly, satisfying both consumption and production needs.” [source:wikipedia]

Three P2P finance models were presented : Kubera Money, Zopa and Midpoint & Transfer. Each, in their own ways, are predicated on cutting out the middleman (ie the banks – also termed as Disintermediation) and enabling direct lending and borrowing by harnessing the internet. None of these models call themselves banks, instead using terms such as “social lending platform” and “social finance models”. The interesting thing about these models is that other than cutting out the “unreasonable”, “unnecessary”, “opaque” fees incurred by banks is the elements of fiscal responsibility of the individual (ie what you choose to do with your money and what you area able to do with it) as well as the opportunities for community building. Models such as Zopa, Grameen Bank and Kiva ( show that these models work – though each have a particular context.

There is a challenge to be overcome in how these models might be applied as part of the “institutional revolution”  – an idea raised by a member of the panel, Umair Haque (Havas Media Lab). The models from India and Kenya rely heavily on trust networks and social rules which have a significant value in those cultures where the participants are not economically or socially mobile. Those models have unlocked the 95% unbanked individuals into the money market. The Zopa model is reliant on a different community “There is not a great deal of engagement within Zopa on a community or social level, as the primary aim is to save lenders and borrowers money by ‘cutting out the middleman’, not to create a community of lenders and borrowers.”

Another model that was mentioned was Caja Navarra which is not about P2P lending, but customer rights and is being called Civic Banking. When it first started, the bank had an agenda to invest responsibly, so customers knew their money was being invested into social projects. The next step was customers being able to vote on the amount of investment, then the amount as a ratio to the profit which was being earned by the bank to be invested in social projects. The current evolution includes customer rights on dictating the specific areas to which the money is directed (You Choose You Decide Programme).

What is the potential in creating/strengthening/seeding community using contextual versions of these models? In a country where a majority of the population is “banked” but where community is lacking, is it an inverted model of Kiva/Kubera where the use of an alternative form of lending can be used to enable community building?


Founder of Adbusters on “consumer america” back in 2006…

January 23, 2009

Scarily fortuitous and a little resonant of Bush’s denial to the existence of climate change. Clearly there was resistance to the idea that consumption could have any negative impacts – and although we might agree with the core of the message, its clear that the clarity of the message – ie how and why it is relevant to other people is so important. We need to be so precise, and more importanatly, relevant in our communication of ideas for there to be acceptance and understanding of their goals.


Airplot – i’m an owner

January 22, 2009

Airplot – im an owner Airplot - i am an owner

Yes We Can. Take Action.


building round up 01

January 21, 2009

brick study

Hello, here is a quick round up of architectural projects from the past week that have caught my eye in one way or another:


runway or no runway?

January 21, 2009

Democratic Land Ownership Part II : Time to take a stand. Between the debate on the environmental impact of flying, versus the affect on business & trade, is there a viable alternative?

“That is a convenient claim, relying on some questionable assumptions. First, that the aviation industry will soon design and deploy a new generation of cleaner jet engines. Second, should such technology fail to materialise on time, that the government can be trusted to restrict flight numbers to meet its emissions targets.

In other words, the environmental “compromise” is a pledge to build the runway, but not necessarily to use it. That rather undermines the economic case for increasing airport capacity in the first place. Besides, promises to limit Heathrow’s expansion have been made since the 1960s. Every one has been broken.

This government declared its intent to build a third runway in 2003. So it has had many years to formulate a credible strategy for mitigating the environmental harm of such a project and to place it in the context of a wider, greener transport policy. Instead, last week’s announcement was only superficially dressed up as a broader statement on infrastructure. Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon re-announced plans to open motorway hard shoulders to car traffic. He spoke about “analysing the affordability” of improving railways and announced that a company would be set up to “advise on the credibility” of new high-speed links.

Those are very vague assurances. They must be followed soon with detailed proposals. Britain needs a railway policy designed to carry passengers, not spun to sweeten an unpopular decision about airports.”


Unemployment predictions hit 3.25 m

January 20, 2009

The projected unemployment figures just keep getting bleaker…

‘The Ernst & Young Item Club says the number of those out of work in the UK will pass 3.25 million by the end of 2010, and hit 3.4 million in 2011. “All of the economic statistics are now in free-fall,” it said in its forecast. It warned the next 12 months would see the UK economy suffer its largest contraction since 1946.’

The crucial difference here between the loss of 3 million jobs in the 1980s and now – is that the most grave effects were localised to post industrial communities. The impact of a post credit recession is ubiquitous – there are going to be millions of unemployed people effectively pepperpotted throughout our suburban landscape without adequate access to local centres [given they’ll find it tough to afford petrol for their cars] and without the community capital to forge alternative survival tactics.

This is pretty grave. In addition we don’t have the luxury of a boom in financial services or export trade to keep the national economy afloat. I can see why its going to be as bad as 1946.

We can all understand that the banking bailout has a role [though the extent at which it stops being viable needs to understood…] – and I hear it being talked about as only one part of a raft of interventions – I just want to know a little bit more about what the others might be. Where and into what do we really need government to invest? 3 million depressed, isolated unemployed people compels us to make sure we are making the right response…


Gender & Recession

January 19, 2009

Looking beyond the “gender debate” in this article, there is an interesting element to be understood in terms of the impact of  job losses in the female workforce : the socio-economic affect on the family household, single parent families, spending patterns mentioned in the article.

“In previous recessions, such as the 1980s downturn in the UK, women provided a backstop against male job loss because the sectors in which they typically worked, such as retail, catering and services, were not badly affected, but this time around it is precisely those areas of the economy that are in the front line.”

“Professor Marilyn Davidson of Manchester Business School agrees. “This impact on women is a very new phenomenon that we haven’t faced in this country before. We have far more women in work, far more one-parent families, and far more female breadwinners….The figures suggest that more female managers have been made redundant than male, and that the credit crunch is having an impact on young women leaving university. The predictions are for a sharp drop in recruitment and service industries will be hard hit, which will harm female graduates most.”

Considering the post recession landscape, what are the likely impacts for the future and what vehicles can be built to avoid the inevitable negative social impacts of a female workforce “retired early” in their careers.

“Experts also warn that the financial crisis may have a second wave effect on female pension provision, condemning more older women to poverty. Insurance group Scottish Widows reckons that the “pensions gender gap”, with only 46% of women preparing adequately for retirement, compared with 55% of men, is significant; that could widen if more lose their retirement provision along with their jobs. As Ros Altmann says: “There is already large inequality between men’s and women’s pensions and this will exacerbate it.””

Is there an opportunity within neighbourhoods to utilise the vacuum of time and effort vacated by job loss, and positively use the skills that do exist, complementing them with further skills to firstly prepare a workforce for the future but also to contribute to what that work should be.