There’s no doubting the enormous challenges this period has created. For some, lockdown has been very tough indeed. For others simply surreal.
Yet the crisis has also created the opportunity to do things differently.
The team and I have been incredibly inspired by the surge of local organising, the entrepreneurial response by councils, and the wider spirit of society pulling together to get through a tough period.
And like millions of others we glimpsed how things could be different in our own communities. Between handling user support queries from the kitchen table or coding new features in the backyard we got to know our neighbours better, spent more time in our corner of the city, enjoyed streets without traffic and air without pollution, and felt a new solidarity with struggling local businesses and key workers delivering services on our behalf.
In an increasingly globalised world, this new community spirit and localism feels powerful. I hope it can be harnessed over the long term.
Polling shows very few of us want things to go back to the way they were. So there’s a unique opportunity to take stock, re-think, and set a new and better course:
- To build on people’s stronger sense of connectedness to their neighbours, local area and local economy.
- To boldly reimagine the way we use civic space (in response to immediate restrictions around social distancing and beyond).
- To rethink the local economy (particularly in light of the threat posed to the high street from the accelerated uptake of online shopping and social distancing).
- To embed a new collaborative way of working – where communities, businesses, government and foundations pull together to deliver what local places need.
- To strengthen the resilience of communities by making it easier to access funding and deliver change.
In short we should seize the chance not just to recover – but to #BuildBackBetter so that communities, local economies and the natural environment emerge more vibrant and resilient than ever.
We believe civic crowdfunding can help to channel this new energy because it empowers local people to decide what their area needs, whilst allowing everyone to come together to get things funded and delivered.
So to help communities #BuildBackBetter we are:
- Working with our partners funders to focus support on projects that help places recover and thrive – everything from creating a neighbourhood book swap to launching a socially-distanced street market.
- Aligning programmes with relevant policy actions like pedestrianising streets, transferring land and property to the community and repurposing business growth hubs, to support social economic growth and community ownership.
- Bringing new funders on board to help.
- Launching a series of online events where change-makers across the UK can share ideas about how to #BuildBackBetter in their area.
- Creating a library of inspiring project ideas and “recipes” for how to achieve them.
- Continuing to offer free use of our platform for projects helping people who remain in voluntary or enforced self-isolation (e.g. food banks) for the rest of the year.
They say you should never let a crisis go to waste. This one could have a bright silver lining if we are decisive and ambitious about the change we want to to see.