Spring 2023 #41

The 41st issue of STIR is out now - order your copy below.

Democratic Business series: The Question of Scale – A group interview with Co-ops UK, Power to Change, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and the Co-operative Party

Is the local scale more inherently democratic than the national economy? Is the national level the only possible scale to create really meaningful change? These debates and tensions still feel underdeveloped in terms of how action in different parts of our economies – from local to national – can reinforce and support each other. We speak to a range of advocates to get their perspective on the question of scale within their efforts to create a democratic economy.

Democratic Business series: The return of ownership? How to really make the economy ‘fairer’ – Jonny Gordon-Farleigh

If we really want to be serious about changing business, we have to confront the fundamental structure of ownership. The term ‘democratic business’ is not about the promotion of a single model, but a description of the powers that can exist in almost any legal structure. A really simple test for any government or infrastructure body is to focus on the basic characteristics of business – who owns it? Who benefits from its value? And who makes the decisions?

Interview with Theda Skocpol – Jonny Gordon-Farleigh

The political scientist and sociologist, author of Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life, is interviewed by STIR editor Jonny Gordon-Farleigh.

A review of the Jumping Fences report by Naomi Terry – Nicola Scott

Who do you see when you think of a UK farmer? Nicola Scott reviews Jumping Fences, a new report commissioned by the Ecological Land Cooperative, Land In Our Names, and the Landworkers’ Alliance, which investigates the barriers faced by BPOC farmers and landworkers in Britain, and reflects on the report’s suggestions of how these might be challenged or overcome.

The Question of Community and Rewilding – Alastair McIntosh 

This is an abridged version of an article originally published in Bella Caledonia in January 2023, an invited response to Highlands Rewilding’s Jeremy Leggett by Alastair McIntosh on rewilding in Scotland. In this excerpted article, Alastair explores the tensions between a capital-driven rewilding model and a politically-driven approach that foregrounds community involvement and ownership. Is this the ‘next best thing’ to community ownership, or a new form of land colonialism?

Beyond Meanwhile: Unlocking access to town centre property, for good – Bex Trevalyan and Frances Northrop

New social enterprise Platform Places is on a mission to unlock town centre buildings for amazing ideas. Co-founders Bex and Frances explain how our depleted high streets can be revitalised through a localised and democratised model of ownership, and set out a simple roadmap for unlocking buildings in your own town centre. 

Project spotlight: Makespace Oxford – Andy Edwards in conversation with Georgina Bowman

Makespace Oxford unlocks vacant or underused spaces that are revitalised for use on a “meanwhile” basis, offering the revitalisation of spaces in return for affordable, if only temporary, leases, and ultimately working to restructure models for community-led practices and ownership. We speak to their co-founder Andy Edwards to find out more.

Thinking in common? Woolf, co-operativism, and the Women’s guild – Grace Crabtree

Founded 140 years ago, the Women’s Co-operative Guild found a perhaps unlikely ally in Virginia Woolf, whose curious and at times conflicted forays into co-operativism are considered in this essay through the socially and politically volatile situation of Woolf’s adult life. This was a world pushed to its limits by societal upheaval in a break from certain Victorian constraints - accelerated in no small part by the endeavours of the Bloomsbury orbit, in which Woolf played a pivotal role - and by two world wars.

Excerpt: People Without Power: The war on populism and the fight for democracy – by Thomas Frank (Scribe UK)

Everything we think we know about populism is wrong. Donald Trump. Brexit. European right-wing extremists. All have been accused of populism. But what does this often thrown about, yet generally misunderstood, term actually mean? The real story of populism is an account of enlightenment and liberation; the story of democracy itself, of its promise of a decent life for us all. In this excerpt, acclaimed political commentator Thomas Frank reminds us just how much we owe to the populist ethos. 

Playground for the New Economy Festival programme

Our annual festival is coming up soon - this year held at Manchester’s community-owned Stretford Public Hall. Explore the programme of panels discussions and workshops in this issue, and at stirtoaction.com/festival

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