August 4th, 2009
“Let’s take on Tesco’s with a People’s Supermarket”. This is the new project by ArthurPotts Dawson – the chef, who in partnership with the Shoredtich Trust, launched Acorn House, “London’s first eco-friendly training restaurant”.
His next venture – the People’s Supermarket is a not-for-proﬁt co-operative supermarket that will open for trading in a high-street location in October 2009. The concept of the People’s Supermarket is based on the Rochdale Principles that has been around for 150 years – a food co-operative. Members will be expected to pay a £25.00 joining fee and commit to working in the shop for four hours per month. There will be a request to invest a further, refundable £25.00 over the course of the ﬁrst year of membership to generate working capital. In return for their commitment, members will own a share in the business and be promised a discount on the cost of their shopping of at least 20%. The more members that the supermarket attracts and the more each member spends in the shop, the higher the proﬁts and the greater their ability to reduce prices.
So is this just a cheap locally run supermarket? No. It is a much more powerful sign of an emerging trend that might transform our local high streets and communities. It is one example of an emerging economy that harnesses the resources available at the micro level of each individual citizen, but at the massive scale of the community to enable time, finance or skills to be invested together to enable the provision of a service in combination as a means of investment. This trend has the potential to construct a whole new architecture for investment by taking advantage of the dispersed capacities that are available to deliver public services at a massive scale whilst building trust bridges across our communities.
Potts isn’t alone – other such stories span from the local filling station in the remote Scottish village of Applpecross, where the small community of less than 200 residents formed a Community Company to run the petrol station that was vital to the community’s survival, because the manager couldn’t individually afford to maintain the pumps; to the post office in the Hertfordshire village of Tewin that was revived by the local residents who formed an Industrial & Provident Society to apply for loans with residents matching this with fundraising, time and skills, and is now collectively managed by 60 volunteers. Each demonstrate the power of aggregation across a community of small amounts of time, money, skills – something we are understanding as the “micro massive” – in order to deliver a local service, and at the same time building the relationships that help create, and more importantly maintain, community.
In a post consumer capital post welfare state landscape, in which large sums of funding will be scarce, are these the new architectures of investment and community building?