Plugging the Economic Leaks

MF Outreach team also conducted two door to door surveys. The first was a survey of 650 Marsh Farm householders to ‘map the economic flows’ – in other words to find out roughly how much money comes into Marsh Farm every year in the form of residents incomes, plus spending on the estate by public and private organisations .

We then asked people to tell us exactly where their own personal money is actually spent, and on what items. This information helped us to determine where there are currently large spends being made by Marsh Farm residents, in outlets that are NOT based on the estate, but which could be via the OW process.

Once this economic information had been gathered a ‘Plugging the Leaks’ (PTL) economic awareness raising event was held on the estate by MF Outreach, working in partnership with the New Economics Foundation, to publicise the findings.

At the PTL event the findings of the survey were put on very public display when representatives all of the key service providers (police, council, PCT etc) took to the stage and poured an amount of water equivalent to their annual budget spending on Marsh Farm into a large barrel representing our local economy. This showed the combined spending by public agencies on Marsh Farm to be £42 million per year.

They were then followed by a few residents pouring in an amount of water equivalent to our collective contribution of £53 million, meaning the total amount of water in the barrel added up to £95 million – a fact which left most people in the room a little bit shocked to say the least!

This event was attended by hundreds of residents and was a great way of raising awareness of where our money really goes, but more to the point, we also demonstrated how most of this spending ‘leaks’ from our local economy by spending in outlets not based on Marsh Farm and, crucially, how we could ‘capture’ some of that leaking spend by setting up community businesses offering the same service ON the estate.

After this, we carried out a second survey of another 650 households asking residents whether they would use a brand new community business, set up specifically to employ and train local people, with any profits returned to the community, instead of buying the service from the non Marsh Farm based outlets they already use.

The results of this survey were very encouraging, with the vast majority of residents strongly supporting the setting up of businesses providing (amongst others) services as diverse as:

  • car repairs and MOTs
  • fast food delivery
  • a membership based family friendly social club
  •  a building company
  • a childrens indoor playground
  • community organic farm supplying fresh vegetables directly to residents
  • childminders agency

So after further work to examine the general business case for the OW and on the individual plans for these community businesses, we are now ready to pilot the first ever Organisation Workshop (OW) in a UK setting.

The old Coulters factory is due to be redeveloped and turned into a brand new Community Enterprise and Resource Centre in line with the vision set out in the Phoenix Rises – The Jewel in Marsh Farm’s Crown.

So in summary… Marsh Farm is a proper soul lifting place to live for lots of reasons: because there’s a refreshing and intelligent radicalness about the people, because its a real melting pot with lots of people of different cultures, races, faiths and fashions all getting on really well with each other, because it has a history of standing up for itself, because there are lots of green spaces, because theres tons of young people, because we now have the biggest community owned building in the UK, because we have an ancient monument as old as Stonehenge, etc, etc, etc..I could go on.

Soon – God willing – it will also be a great place to work in meaningful and worthwhile community jobs for lots of our people who need it the most, and a model of genuine grassroots economic development and community self help that will inspire people living in other ‘deprived communities’ throughout the UK and beyond.