Plugging the Leaks is a free open-source Local Economic Development programme to facilitate basic economic literacy in communities and motivate them into participation in decision-making.
Economics is a topic that most people would rather avoid and leave up to the ‘experts’. However, the economy affects all of us possibly in the most significant way of all, our income. Plugging the leaks teaches basic economic literacy. But more than that, it creates a core-team of local economic development leaders.
Using the metaphor of a leaky bucket to illustrate how money flows into and out of a community, the programme opens up conversations in communities about a local economy and how it works. For example, money comes into a community through grants, wages or donations and flows out through spending on groceries, hair cuts, child care, etc. The community then considers all of the different ways that money leaks out of their communities, and how they can stop this. In a ‘Plugging the Leaks’ approach, the outflows of money could well be potential enterprise opportunities for local people. The workshop builds up a community’s confidence in its own ability to determine its economic destiny, to make decisions about how the community wants the local economy to develop.
The issue is not necessarily that too little money flows into a neighbourhood. Rather, it is what consumers, public services and businesses do with that money. Too often it is spent on services with no local presence, and so immediately leaves the area. Plugging the Leaks is about learning how to make the money that enters a community work harder in terms of more local expenditure. This is called the ‘Local Multiplier’ effect.
Because each community has different needs and infrastructure, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to LED does not work. Our starting point with this programme is creating the impetus and enhancing the skill-set for changing the local economy from within a community. It is for empowering and making use of the natural resourcefulness, skills and passions of local people. The principle behind this approach is that people who live and work in a place, and others who care about its future, are best positioned to find enterprising solutions, implement them and reap the rewards.
In many places, local energy and creativity become trapped, and different parts of the economy – local businesses, voluntary sector agencies, and the public sector – do not talk to each other to maximise local opportunities. For the local economy to undergo durable and robust change, the capability and energy of everybody needs to be harnessed. We believe that promoting and supporting local enterprise should be part of any strategy for economic regeneration. Local enterprises are more likely to employ local people, provide services to improve the local quality of life, spend money locally and so circulate wealth in the community, promote community cohesion and, by reducing transportation of goods from across communities, are likely to have a smaller environmental footprint. The approach also recognises that communities do not develop their local economies in isolation.
The workshop involves learning of basic economic skills and then creating an on-going core Plugging-the-Leaks team. It concludes with the creation of an action plan which includes drawing on local networks of support for development as well as bringing in resources to facilitate on-going development.
When an area is poor it seems like a basic economic fact of life that it needs money to be poured into it. This night be by attracting in inward investment that will create new jobs, a regeneration grant to develop local infrastructure; or building tourist attractions that will have people flocking in. Everyone assumes that somehow the money will improve the area, eventually ‘trickling down’ to reach those who need it most. But does it?
Plugging the Leaks is a means therefore, for ensuring that the money stays in the community and enriches it.
A possible follow-on from this workshop include starting a community currency. Creating your own Community Currency. A community exchange system is a great way for giving value to services that are regarded in mainstream economy as having little value. Click here to see the Cape Town Talent Exchange
Plugging the Leaks is one of the many programmes created by the New Economics Foundation (nef) in London. I worked for the South African New Economics Foundatio (SANE) for two years during which time I learned how to facilitate their workshops, including Plugging the Leaks which I successfully ran with the Price Waterhouse Cooper’s Social Justice programme in 2003.
.ABOUT NEF: The New Economics Foundation (NEF) is the UK’s leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. Our aim is to transform the economy so that it works for people and the planet.The UK and most of the world’s economies are increasingly unsustainable, unfair and unstable. It is not even making us any happier – many of the richest countries in the world do not have the highest wellbeing.From climate change to the financial crisis it is clear the current economic system is not fit for purpose. We need a great transition to a new economics that can deliver for people and the planet.NEF’s mission is to kick-start the move to a new economy through big ideas and fresh thinking. We do this through
- High quality, ground-breaking research that shows what is wrong with the current economy and how it can be better
- Demonstrating the power of our ideas by putting them into action
- Working with other organisations in the UK and across the world, to build a movement for economic change
NEF is fully independent of any political party. We rely on donations and help from our thousands of supporters to effect social change.
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