As the title says, this is a construction project where a small amount of money would be needed to create something that visitors would be interested in coming to and staying at, which would then make money and jobs for local people.
What you would need is permission to develop a council area – one the size of a football pitch would probably be the minimum necessary so that straw bale homes that are powered off-grid could be built. As these would be something of a novelty, this should invoke interest, not just from locals but from people who live elsewhere. In order to make it succeed, it needs to provide something new that is interesting, inspiring and enjoyable to experience.
For the construction, not much money would be needed, at least to begin with – you can build a standard eco-house for around £3000. If you could raise between £5-10,000, there should be enough to build more than this one first guest house. This would also mean that bank loans could be avoided, which I would strongly recommend.
Regarding the work needed, people should be asked to volunteer their services. From the experience, they can gain new friendships and a sense of community, as well as learning the skills and methods for building in this ancient yet innovative way. They could then use their new skills to start another project elsewhere, and therefore their own business.
If the project needs to start small, you should plan what you could build first that would be useful to earn money that would lead to future buildings. A café/ restaurant would be good or an entertainment centre as it would act as a holiday resort. There could also be workshops that visitors can attend and learn about making things from recycled materials, or learn other skills connected to the next era of humanity (tongue is only half in cheek…).
For the completed project, there should be a variety of things there that emphasise creativity, community and living off-grid. All of these things are easily possible – imagine a small theatre with musicians, actors and comedians performing using no more energy than it would need to power some LED lights. You have entertainment, which we already know we like, people coming together to attend it and it gives artistically-minded people a means to express themselves.
You may, in the end have five to ten guest houses, workshops, a café, a theatre, an activity area for sport and exercise that costs very little to create and run, is making money because it is something different and enjoyable, and some people making their living by working there.
In terms of the capital needed to begin this project, I would propose a new way of doing business and investment: People could donate money if they choose to, or they could invest money with the condition that they would only receive the amount they pledge plus something like 10% on top of that, to be gained from the profits once it begins as a business. The ideology behind this is that people would invest in something knowing that it is not just about their own personal benefit but to help start a new kind of community project. There is the small incentive of earning 10% on the amount pledged to give people an incentive to take part.
The question you are then left with is who owns the resort? If many people have invested in it and had their money paid back, who can lay claim to it? Ideally, I would say that nobody owns it and nobody can lay claim to it. It could stay as council land but people would be given licences to work there. I would prefer to move away from the whole private ownership model and have something that is just in the community, for people to work there.
It’s a different way of looking at things and one that throws up some questions, so I would like to leave it to you to consider and maybe feedback on.