The Marsh Farm Organisation Workshop (OW)
COMMUNITIES ‘TURNING DUST TO SOIL’
The Organisation Workshop is a community scale ‘learning by doing’ experience noted for enabling self-creation of jobs and social enterprises, by and for large groups of unemployed people. Originally developed in Brazil, the OW approach has been used by unemployed people in many different countries throughout the world to improve their lives. Now the first ever Organisation Workshop to take place in the UK is happening in Marsh Farm, directed by Ivan Labra of Integra Terra, Chile, who is one of the most experienced OW directors in the world, supported by the Marsh Farm Outreach team who are facilitating the project.
The OW puts all of the tools and equipment needed for participants to set up social enterprises directly into the hands of the large group of participants, who must then get themselves properly organised to carry out ‘work based learning contracts’ in the community; This hands-on, ‘learning by doing’ experience is known as ‘capacitation’. It enables participants to build up the skills and knowledge needed to a) organise effectively, as a large group b) bring wasted lands, buildings, skills and opportunities back into productive use, and c) use these newly rejuvenated assets to set up sustainable community enterprises and create jobs.
Experienced mentors and advisors are available to act as ‘driving instructors’ in every area of work being undertaken if participants require it.
Incubating New Enterprise
The 4 week OW is part of a 12 week ‘enterprise incubation’ period. The OW is the kick start needed for learning of large group organisation, before further learning in community wide organising, running new social enterprises and participatory business planning takes place – not in the classroom but by doing it all for real.
When the incubation period is over, everyone taking part should have a clear idea on which community business ideas are viable, and whether they want to carry on with developing them, so the incubation period serves as an ideal primer. For those that do want to carry on, in addition to the tools, equipment, skills and knowledge already gained, further support is available by way of 26 weeks payment of New Enterprise Allowance and loans of up to £2500 per participant from the Job Centre to develop their new enterprises.
Marsh Farm Outreach say:
"The OW is an amazing opportunity for unemployed people who want to take up the challenge of self-creating our own co-operatively run community businesses by transforming wasted local assets. Research we conducted in Marsh Farm showed that by better use of wasted local assets like Marsh House and the Underwood Close site coupled with people spending more of our money locally, dozens of jobs could potentially be created in areas like catering, childcare, farming and gardening, education, music production, book keeping, go karting, home/office removals and lots more.
The OW provides some of the tools, equipment, land, buildings and support needed to kick start some of these ideas into action, but as in any new business it’s ultimately up to the people running it to get organised and make it work.
That’s the challenge.”