“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about” 

Margaret J. Wheatley (2002) Turning to one another: simple conversations to restore hope to restore hope to the future

I write this on 27 March, a few days after lockdown was officially ordered in the UK. Citizens and organisations are getting orders from the top of central government – broadcast directly to our homes by the Prime Minister – and then working out their responses at a local level. Much of this is literally at street level: knocking on neighbours’ doors to offer help, setting up street WhatsApp groups, clapping for carers, exercising in local parks…

It feels like, for the first time in a long time, local communities are forming. We are supporting the most vulnerable, recognising the value of our local resources and businesses, learning to use only what we need: in other words we are working for a socially inclusive and sustainable economy.

Of course, this is occurring at the worst time, with illness, death, fear, financial uncertainty, health and social systems impossibly stretched, and draconian limits on basic freedoms.

But we hope that, when we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, we will keep the good stuff and work on rebuilding a more diverse, redistributive and prosperous economy that benefits local communities and in which more people have a meaningful stake.

The words in bold are taken from the welcome message on this very website.

What is missing is all the stuff about decentralising political power. Right now, the situation is so fundamental that we must accept sweeping, top-down decision-making and proclamations (and spending). In the future, when things aren’t so serious, we must convert our new-found local connections and conversations into confident political engagement in our neighbourhoods, towns, cities and the West Midlands region. That way, we can rebuild a better society than the one currently being turned upside down.

As a think tank promoting localism, we will use this blog to promote local responses to the COVID-19 crisis. We will post links to the new and creative ways that local authorities, businesses, charities and groups are supporting our communities. If you are involved in something good, or hear about something that others should adapt/copy, please share! You can email me: sandra@localisewestmidlands.org.uk

Photo by Noah on Unsplash