“The community groups that I worked with at Locality were expected to be bifocal: to work intensely at local level but also look up and share that at a national level.

"As systems thinkers we are bifocal: we see the big picture through a local lens. We have seen that clearly through this mutual aid network." [tweet this]

“Through these calls we have seen for the first time that we are not acting alone in our local areas, but that this is happening all over the country, and that we can have a much greater impact by supporting one another and raising our voices as a group.

“I don’t think we can have national impact until we make a big deal about how brilliant we are, how we are the only ones that have this view. It feels like a marketing exercise that we have to get across, into the mainstream: that we are a special group of people who are really busy and don’t want to be patronised, and we are the future of systems thinking, we are the people capable of making a big change. 

“But let’s not allow any repeat expectations of Big Society  – using volunteers to replace essential services. These services deserve to be properly funded and valued. To achieve that we need the power dynamics with funders to be reversed.

“We can no longer be “nice and deferential” to suit the existing power dynamic. We need funders to give us the platform because we are the ones that have this bifocal view.” 

Jess Steele is a founder director of White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures, a partnership between the Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust and two other social enterprises, that is acquiring buildings around the White Rock area of Hastings, East Sussex, and transforming them into community spaces.