AAJ Press
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Compendium for the Civic Economy

To demonstrate your creativity, Jaime Lerner, architect and former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil advocates that non-commercial publicly funded and donation dependent arts organisations should cut a nought from their budget and get rid of the begging bowl. And if you want to be sustainable cut two noughts. Ideas tested in South America have increasing relevance to a Big Society culture steering away from top down public philanthropy to a revival of the 1930s spirit of Mass Trespass and reclaiming creativity as a self generated and fulfilling collective activity. The brief lottery fuelled kermis of state patronage produced isolated iconic art structures and stroky-feely social engineering schemes for disadvantaged communities and vastly expanded the middle ground of cloned art administration. Now the ludic spirit of Samizdat, Fluxus, Arts Labs, garage bands and temporary Pop Up galleries is the current mantra with the motto of Do-It-Yourself resonating from Brixton to Curitiba to Soweto to Porto to… you.

Compendium for the Civic Economy is a book that presents 25 way-finding examples of the civic economy throughout the UK and abroad. The examples – from edible public spaces to a tutoring centre that hides behind a pirate shop, and from self-commissioned housing to peer-to-peer ride sharing websites – are rooted in age-old traditions of the associational economy but built using new organising tactics, ways of connecting with people and approaches to collaborative investment.

The civic economy is defined as comprising people, ventures and behaviours that fuse innovative ways of doing from the traditionally distinct spheres of civil society, the market and the state. Founded upon social values and goals, and using deeply collaborative approaches to development, production, knowledge sharing and financing, the civic economy generates goods, services and common infrastructures in ways that neither the state nor the market economy alone have been able to accomplish.

While there are no specific models for Pop Up art spaces the case studies in the book show that principal of the civic economy has already started to become a real, vital and growing part of many places. They also reveal how local leaders – that is, all those working together to improve places and their economies, whether in the public, private or third sector – can create the fertile ground for the civic economy to flourish and grow. Most importantly, the book starts to glimpse at a future for our cities and a new form of making change that can genuinely help renew our cities, villages, and neighbourhoods


List of case studies

1.     Arcola Theatre – An open house for new ideas
2.     Baisikeli – an ethical bike salvage shop
3.     Brixton Village – a sociable market re-start
4.     Bromley by Bow Centre – a community well-being & enterprise centre
5.     Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. – a children’s tutoring centre
6.     Fab Lab Manchester – a 21st century manufacturing workshop
7.     Fintry Development Trust – a private-community wind energy
8.     The George and Dragon – a community owned pub / shop / library
9.     Household Energy Services – a local energy savings network
10.   The Hub Islington – a platform for change-makers
11.   Hørsholm Waste-to-Energy – a neighbourhood clean-tech incinerator
12.   Incredible Edible Todmorden – an edible public realm
13.   Jayride – a peer-to-peer ride sharing website
14.   Livity – a socially responsible youth communications agency
15.   Museum of East Anglian Life – a museum turned social enterprise
16.   Neil Sutherland Architects  an integrated wood construction &
architecture practice
17.   Nottingham University Hospital – a sustainable food procurement
18.   Olinda Psychiatric Hospital – a closed institution opened up
19.   One Love City – a crowd-sourced public space installation
20.   The People’s Supermarket – a social venture supermarket
21.   Rutland Telecom –  a community internet provider
22.   Southwark Circle – a neighbourhood social support network
23.   Studio Hergebruik – a meanwhile studio for re-use designers
24.   TCHO – a participative downtown chocolate manufacturer
25.   Tübingen User-led housing – a self-commissioned neighbourhood

CABE is the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space, and is now part of the Design Council. CABE provides expert independent design advice to improve the quality of what gets built in England, and help public bodies to commission better design. www.designcouncil.org

NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts – an independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative. www.nesta.org.uk

00:/ [zero zero] are a London based strategy & design practice working with groundbreaking civic entrepreneurs on projects like the HUB and the Bristol Urban Beach. They are driven by an aspiration to create genuinely sustainable places founded on evidenced social, economic, and environmental principles. www.research00.net

image: Brixton Village – Before and After. Image: Sara Haq. Courtesy of Space Makers Agency www.spacemakersagency.org.uk

About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


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