“I think private ownership of the land is a really bizarre concept. It makes no sense. It makes no
more sense than private ownership of water.”
Mary Houghton, Co-Director
The Burlington Community Land Trust has a radical vision: to secure housing as a basic right, not as a commodity to be bought and sold. The Trust enables low-income families to buy homes on land it owns, controls and keeps perpetually affordable. Founded over 20 years ago, the Trust uses the following approaches:
• Pursue a Practical Approach: Low-income people receive subsidies from the Trust to
buy their homes. The Trust also buys the land on which the home sits, and leases it to the
homebuyers. When the homeowners sell, they receive 25% of the increased equity. The
Trust gets 75% and uses this to keep the housing permanently affordable.
• Build a Grassroots Base: The Trust cultivates a membership of 2,400 people. The
organization holds neighborhood meetings before
taking on a new project in a community.
• Institutionalize Democratic Leadership: All members have voting rights. The
community-based board makes all substantive program decisions.
• Balance Opposing Opinions: The organization maintains a diverse mix of grassroots
and conservative interests on its board as well as among its membership and supporters.
The Trust encourages debate. According to one member, disagreement actually serves as
a bond: “We have to get it right.”
This is just one model but it is a bit of the poster child for CLTs. The CLT model has had a lot of success in the US and is gaining some small experience in Canada in both urban (for housing) and rural (for farming and housing). There are hundreds of models that include rental ownership, CLTs that own neighbourhood construction companies, community workshops and capacity building, community gardens. In rural areas, I've seen permaculture and cross-generational farming mentoring. Great example of solidarity economics. There are alternatives.
Proud to be part of this chorus of voices speaking out on the American election. Click on the link below to read the poems.
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Research on Women's Economic Empowerment
Leading a team through Universalia Management Group (Montreal) to assess GrOW research on women's economic empowerment funded by IDRC, DFID (UKAid) and Hewlett Foundation. Over 30 research institutions in 50 countries.
The definition of WEE is "far more than women’s ability to compete equally in existing markets, or than the beneficial outputs of their contribution to growth; it should include women’s access to and control over economic resources, access to decent work, control over their own time and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels from the household to international institutions. In turn, WEE will only be achieved in cooperation with progress in other areas of gender equality like women’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights, meaningful participation in political decision-making and freedom from violence " (AWID, FEMNet, Gender and Development Network).
Most of the research entails a partnership between North-based and South-based universities or research institutions. There is a wide range from randomized control trials to mixed methods, participatory and feminist research. Three broad aims: quality research; policy uptake and capacity building of in-country researchers. Still very much in process but important questions are being raised about what quality evidence is and how it can best be used to influence thinking, policy and practice.
Sisters Ink work on Financial and Reproductive Health Education for Youth and Children
Building on what often works best informally- trust, learning, mentoring and play- we have created a social enterprise that challenges the tired divides between North-South as well as face-to-face and e-mentoring, between rigor and access. We play with solutions across boundaries and disciplines.
We have diverse experience in terms of context, language, nature of expertise and focus on academe, practice, policy work. This is a social business that brings independent consultants from around the world to work on contracts related to capacity building, gender justice and economic
empowerment in the broadest sense. The aim is to partly address the imbalances that exist in consulting and research that have too-often favoured Northern or established candidates. Building a mix within our teams allows us to bring high levels of competence and diversity while also providing our team members with opportunities to further develop their experience, research capacities and skills. We are at work on a peer coaching platform and collective blog to provide e-learning and e-coaching possibilities. We aim to make the best of what's out there in resources as widely accessible as possible.
We are currently working on a contract for FHI360 reviewing financial education programs and studies for HIV/AIDs vulnerable youth, orphans and vulnerable children. Our team is comprised of Meryem F, a Moroccan gender specialist, Sabrina S, a Swiss economics professor, Ida M, a Zambian HIV-Aids organizer and specialist, Patricia R, a Bolivian economist and me. One financial education program in Uganda working through youth clubs captures the situation well -"Women’s empowerment has three dimensions that are interrelated: political, economic, and control over one’s body." These financial education programs are combining financial literacy with awareness around body, sexuality, marriage. Early (often forced) marriage, teen pregnancy, forced sex are some of the biggest risks for girls in the Global South.
Just back from a Social Innovation/Entrepreneurship festival in Finland. So exciting! It was a bit of a Dragon's den format where I was both a judge and a mentor. Invited by Momal Mustaq, an inspiring friend and social entrepreneur. She started a platform for women around the world to share new freedoms in mobility. It's called Freedom Traveller. See below.
Some of the start-ups at the festival included:
- a mobile phone app that turns it into a hearing aid
- a platform to connect Syrians to volunteers and agencies in Germany
- a platform that connects foodies to informal kitchens
- building materials made from plant cellulose
- a gaming type of app that allows people with bi-polar to detect their own early warning signs for depression
Important to ask what types of social problems businesses can really address. The limits of this frame and approach. There is a "New Public" where citizens and social businesses have stepped in to fill gaps where private sector or government have failed. At best, we find creative paths and new roles. At worst, it is offloading what should be a public function. Business will never be the best tool for ensuring justice and accountability. We still need activism for that.
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