Category Archives: Pat Conaty

Jane Taylor

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Recently Pat Conaty sent this message: “Some very sad news. Do you remember Jane Taylor the former ITN journalist who co-founded Positive News? She died recently of sepsis”.

I first met Jane at an Energy21 awards event in London many years ago. We discussed Positive News then and on several occasions afterwards. Neither of us was happy with the type of advertisements carried in Positive News and she managed to persuade the editor to add the newspaper style supplement because she needed something more suitable to hand out to MPs. A charming and able woman.

When I sent the news of her death to Jackie Carpenter, saying I’d like to write about her, as I believe several networkers will have known her, Jackie wrote:

“Here is a story you might like to include. Back in the 90’s, Hermann Scheer, a German MP was making amazing progress with promoting renewable energy in Germany. He came to England quite a bit because he thought it was very important to persuade the UK to do likewise, to become a world leader in renewable energy. He soon got to know Jane Taylor, who used to write glowing things about him in Positive News. I met him at the launch of Eurosolar UK and later I ran the UK branch of Eurosolar for a while. Hermann also met Professor Susan Roaf, who was the first person in the UK to have a solar roof. One day he was with we three ladies. “You are my mistresses!” he said, and Jane replied, “No Hermann, that’s not the correct English word for what you mean.” Hermann laughed and went on, “I want you three to organise a lecture about renewable energy to a large audience in London!” The following year I was president of the Women’s Engineering Society and I fixed up for the lecture to be held in the Institution of Electrical Engineers. I introduced Susan who gave the talk, and Jane was the reporter, writing all about it in Positive News.

Pat Conaty ended, “This is a huge loss to co-op economy colleagues in Wales. Jane had been working with us actively in recent years on the Peoples Bank for Wales project. Indeed she played the lead role on our report that convinced the new First Minister, Mark Drakeford to back our grassroots vision in late 2018.”

 

 

 

 

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News from Pat Conaty

Pat writes:

Our work on a People’s Bank for Wales is advancing. Mark Drakeford the new First Minister put it in his manifesto and is committed to making this happen. We are working now with Welsh government to make this real within two years.

We ran an online course Social and Ecological Economic solutions in the past and attracted activists from 24 countries. Our partner is the Open University in Canada. The registrations will go live mid Feb. The course is free.

The need for systemic change has never been more obvious or more urgent – for people and planet. We at Synergia are reaching out to people who are committed to the common struggle for transformative change.

As an international network of senior, lifelong practitioners and community educators we are shaping our contribution around two core areas of work:

  1. a) Designing accessible, high quality educational resources that can be leveraged by change agents everywhere to create system changing solutions fitted to local contexts. Our online learning platform offers discussion and exchange of practical knowledge and strategies for action leading to systemic change and the provision of basic needs.
  2. b) Providing training and education programming to change makers – whether individuals or organizations – through intensive, face-to-face courses that fit solutions and strategic thinking to solving key issues in strategic sectors.

In 2017 we piloted a MOOC (Massive, Open, Online Course) to test our ideas, methods and tools. Over 600 people registered from 24 countries. We learned a lot. We have now targeted March 11, 2019 for the launch of the newly revised course where change makers from many fields can experience and utilize contemporary, cutting edge content to advance their work. The course will be offered in two four week segments.

The Synergia MOOC offers a certificate and we are working to secure undergraduate and Masters level accreditation. The course is free at the certificate level. The cost of degree accreditation is not yet finalized. To learn more about the theories and approaches that underpin our vision and work, visit: https://synergiainstitute.wordpress.com/

The Synergia Team

To learn more about our face-to-face programs, click here: https://vimeo.com/305934867.

If you have questions about the MOOC or if you want to discuss how we can help facilitate group learning that is geared to your priorities and objectives, please contact Michael Lewis at lewiscccr@shaw.ca

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News from Pat Conaty

Pat Conaty, well-known in Birmingham for his co-founding of the Aston Reinvestment Trust with Sir Adrian Cadbury and setting up the Debt Advice Centre at the Birmingham Settlement, moved to Wales where he is promoting community housing and community land trusts (CLTs).

His work with others includes the building of a partnership between the Welsh government, co-op housing activists and non-profit housing developers to run a national demonstration project on CLTs and other forms of democratic housing including co-op rental, co-op shared equity, community self-build and co-housing.

He comments that such partnerships have long been established in Scandinavia where co-op housing is commonplace, continuing:

“As affordable housing both to own and to rent has vanished since 2010, community led-housing solutions have been emerging against the odds. Community Land Trusts in rural and urban areas, co-housing and student housing co-ops have been bootstrapped by activists . . .

“In Wales and South West England partnerships with government and local authorities and housing associations are showing how to develop effective public-social partnerships with local activists to increase the diversity of democratic housing provision and solutions”.

At the Co-op Congress in Wakefield last July, Ed Mayo asked Pat to chair the Reimagine Housing session which led to further developments with Liverpool and Leeds activists connecting CLTs and Co-op housing to speak, the Student housing co-op activists and other innovators.

This led to other meetings in early January with housing co-operatives and the head of a housing association, interested in his Commons Sense report for Co-ops UK on Co-op garden city opportunities and connections with those working in the Midlands on the use of brownfield land to develop new garden cities.

 

 

 

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News from Pat Conaty

In March, on the blog of the West Midlands New Economics Group, there was a post about the work of Pat Conaty and others on behalf of ‘the precariat’, the self-employed, often working in service industries such as fast food, for security firms on temporary, even zero-hours contracts, or in the so-called ‘gig economy’.

The precariat includes many workers who used to have skilled or semi-skilled but relatively well-paid and secure jobs, under-employed graduates, working in insecure jobs requiring a much lower education level, migrant workers, and people from ethnic minority communities. Benefits the self-employed cannot access relate to holidays, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave.

He and his colleagues are editing the final draft of two reports:

The TUC wanted a short report of about 25 pages. The publication date has not yet been decided. One option is to do this conjunction with their annual congress.

The longer report includes more new ways of tackling this problem and has a fuller set of recommendations including one on Universal Basic Income. It will be published by Co-ops UK and the Co-op College in September.

In May, the Office for National Statistics estimated the rapidly rising number of employment contracts (see graph below) that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours. Its estimare is drawn from its twice-yearly survey of businesses, combined with estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) of households, which includes the number of people who report that they are on a “zero-hours contract” in their main job.

This report, first published in March 2017, includes the latest figures from the LFS for October to December 2016 as well as new estimates from the survey of businesses for May and November 2016, respectively.

The results from the November 2016 survey of businesses indicated that there were 1.7 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours, where work had actually been carried out under those contracts. This represented 6% of all employment contracts.

People on “zero-hours contracts” are more likely to be young, part-time, women, or in full-time education, compared with other people in employment. On average, someone on a “zero-hours contract” usually works 25 hours a week. 32% on a “zero-hours contract” want more hours, with most wanting them in their current job, as opposed to a different job which offers more hours.

The Labour Force Survey defines “zero hours contracts” as “where a person is not contracted to work a set number of hours, and is only paid for the number of hours that they actually work”. The LFS counts people who report that their main employment is a “zero-hours contract” and who are aware that their contract allows for them to be offered no hours.

Pat’s heartfelt words were quoted “God knows something has to be done for zero hour workers, growing ranks of exploited self-employed and those working all hours of the week in the gig economy to make ends meet”. He lists four guiding objectives and recommendations for uniting self-employed workers in the 2016 publication: ‘Not Alone’:

  • 1. Recognition of the growing self-employed workforce, by developing organising strategies for self-employed workers, bringing together trade unions and the cooperative sector and operating with the support of national union centres such as the TUC

2. The development of organising strategies will involve consideration of key priorities for action, including:

  • Primary sectors, such as the creative industries, care services and the green economy
  • Primary services, such as a credit union for freelancers, provision of micro-insurance and related services such as debt collection, tax accounting and legal advice, the scope for platform co-operatives and sources of capital for cooperative business development.

The third and fourth advocate government action:

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) should identify how to create a voice for self-employed workers at the heart of government, learning from the way in which wider small business has successfully become recognized over time, in business policy, regulatory interventions and commissioning design. The Treasury and Financial Conduct Authority should develop an appropriate regulatory treatment for mutual guarantee societies; and the Department for Work and Pensions should explore the potential for business and employment co-operatives for people on benefit.

 

 

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News from Pat Conaty – and his tribute to Richard Douthwaite

pat-conaty-bestPat’s work on Community Land Trusts was referred to recently in the West Midlands New Economics Group (WMNEG) blog: At the University of Salford, working with Community Finance Solutions, Pat  has been developing a national Community Land Trusts training programme that has been running courses since March 2011 for new groups and local authorities. He believes that Community Land Trusts offer a community led ‘bottom-up’ approach to housing issues and creative, ecological developments. There are signs of a growing interest in initiatives long advocated by the New Economics Foundation: local currencies, housing co-operatives and credit unions.

With David Bollier, Pat co-edited a report on how different democratic money and co-op capital systems can be united earlier this year. David worked for years with Ralph Nader in the USA. His summary blog follows and the report may be read in full here. He writes:

One of the more complicated, mostly unresolved issues facing most commons is how to assure the independence of commons when the dominant systems of finance, banking and money are so hostile to commoning. How can commoners meet their needs without replicating (perhaps in only modestly less harmful ways) the structural problems of the dominant money system? 

Fortunately, there are a number of fascinating, creative initiatives around the world that can help illuminate answers to this question – from co-operative finance and crowd equity schemes to alternative currencies and the blockchain ledger used in Bitcoin, to reclaiming public control over money-creation to enable “quantitative easing for people” (and not just banks).  

To help start a new conversation on these issues, the Commons Strategies Group, working in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation, co-organized a Deep Dive strategy workshop in Berlin, Germany, last September.  We brought together 24 activists and experts on such topics as public money, complementary currencies, community development finance institutions, public banks, social and ethical lending, commons-based virtual banking, and new organizational forms to enable “co-operative accumulation” (the ability of collectives to secure equity ownership and control over assets that matter to them). 

I’m happy to report that a report synthesizing the key themes and cross-currents of dialogue at that workshop is now available.  The report is called “Democratic Money and Capital for the Commons: Strategies for Transforming Neoliberal Finance Through Commons-Based Alternatives”

Frances Hutchinson, James Robertson and Joseph Huber posted papers on the Democratic Money Initiative wiki which also includes the report by David Bollier and Pat.

New to the writer was a 2011 paper by our late colleague Richard Douthwaite: Degrowth, Money and Energy. The subject of degrowth has recently been drawn to our attention by WMNEG’s Jeremy Heighway, working in Leipzig as a translator in the field of renewable energy.

Pat Conaty writes:

“What strikes me about this wonderful paper is how he creatively frames an outline of the new money commons architecture and he approaches this challenge in a multi-level way from global to national to regional. He links insightfully the fossil fuel crisis to the crash in 2008 and also highlights what the late Margrit Kennedy drew attention to, the embedded interest costs in public services and other essential goods.

“What is marvelous about this paper is the way he shows how the work to build resilience through co-operative innovation in community energy, food sovereignty, community land trusts (are implied) and regional currency can be brought together in a synergistic way. He argues for a provisioning system as Mary Mellor and Frances Hutchinson set out so well in the Politics of Money book in 2002. But he also draws attention to the kilowatt hour forms of money and tethering ideas Shann Turnbull has been articulating.”