One of my biggest goals would be to create an institution (or a number of institutions) in a town that is dedicated to the advancement of the community through active involvement of anybody who wants to take part. This would put all of the principles I have mentioned together in one project. As it is a large, multi-faceted idea, I will put the main points of it in list form:
- If possible, it would be a building that is made from straw bales (see the project based on this) and/ or other recycled materials so that the voluntary constructors of it would get to learn more about what can be achieved without needing a lot of start-up capital. In turn, passing on these skills to other people would be very beneficial to advance their knowledge and to inspire people to see what else they could do. This is the kind of thing that makes life rewarding – knowing that you have found out something new or made something better. It can also be used as a basis for architectural studies in terms of design and re-using materials. It would be something that has been designed by people in the community and something that looks both striking and fits in with or enhances the surroundings.
- It would be powered by renewable energy in a variety of ways; again for people to learn more about what they can do by themselves (e.g. wind turbines, solar power via reflective panels to heat elements, bicycle-powered turbines or water-flow turbines if the building is near a river). Click here to read about renewable energy projects.
- It would have different sections to it to focus on different things that inspire people, e.g. art rooms where people can share their creative skills to make anything listed under the category of art (jewellery, decorations, sculptures, models, textiles, paintings, etc.). Also, renewable energy rooms where people can learn about and create their own energy sources in groups to power their own or a small group of homes. This goes hand in hand with the Transition Initiative to help people see that what might be seen as a problem (reducing how much energy we use) should be seen as a challenge (how to find alternatives that cause no pollution and are free to use). Other areas can be to learn about science, medicine that can be created locally (to provide alternatives to the pharmacological industry to at least a small degree), and anything else that people want to learn about that has some positive and productive value. The whole idea should be that it is intended to develop people’s knowledge and skills. Visit the Transition Network
- It should be open to everyone and not restricted to those people who can afford to go there. If it offers courses that cost something like £100 to join, a great number of people will be excluded immediately. Instead, the building would preferably be run by volunteers who receive donation from those who attend. If anyone who went had to pay a minimum fee of 50p or £1 a time, more people are likely to attend, including people who tend to get fewer opportunities because they are poorer. And remember, that’s who we should look at supporting first, those who need it the most.
- Following on from supporting those most at need in terms of development, there could be courses to help people learn skills that could be applied to jobs. Of course, this would require proper, experienced instructors that should be paid. If the local council is unable to provide the wages of instructors, the philanthropic approach could be considered. Ask rich individuals or profitable companies to help out with funding, who in return have their names on display in the centre to show they are helping to build society. See the Institute for Philanthropy for more details on this approach.
- Environmental education and activities would be good to include. I believe that people should become more connected with the natural world again, after losing it somewhat due to city life. Learning about permaculture, agriculture and landscape design would be of interest to some people and of course, it is a positive and important area to promote.
- The centre should provide activities for adults and children. Children are often more inquisitive than adults as they are still learning more new things and times like school holidays would be great for giving the children hands-on activities that they can learn useful and important things from.
- In terms of how to even begin such a centre, buying land or an already existing building could be difficult. But if people contacted the local council with a proposal like this, where the emphasis is obviously on developing the community, I would imagine that the council would be interested, especially if they knew it could be done relatively cheaply.To create a centre like this, I believe that it would really inspire people to get involved in such activities. People like to know that they are getting better at something or discovering something new that they enjoy. And of course, it has the potential to bring people together more and form bonds between them, in a very meaningful sense. We all need to feel satisfied with our lives and feel that there is a point to what we do. This centre is intended to provide these kinds of real opportunities.