COP24 is right around the corner- and we’re getting prepped.

Burslem Market Hall

Well what a couple of weeks that was. The Burslem Market Hall project is going great guns. Annette from Our Burslem and Dave from the architects Modern City Architecture and Urbanism are really putting in a shift.

This really is going to happen. I can’t see it not.

Then there’s the work with Alex and Lauren that’s called “Resilient Communities” that’s all about systems-change. There was 30 or 40 people on our Zoom last week. Wow — ‘we may not have it all together, but together we have it all’. (Isn’t that right Patsy?)

Then there’s the opportunity presented by the Community Renewal Fund. For those not familiar, the Government have challenged 100 towns / cities to pitch their ideas for how they would spend£3m — the secret to success looks like having the community in support of the bid.

So its right up our street, except that a) bids have to be in by the 24th May, b) the money (which has to be at least £500k) has to be spent between July and May next year, and c) as per usual, the competitive bidding has the potential to create competition between hard-pressed community groups and local charities, at a time when people could do without the aggro.

So we need to be careful about how we react. My first reaction was yes. Let’s do this. But then I’m certain that would have been the case with any number of organisations that have a part to play in the regeneration of our city region.

It’s been a week since I first heard about the fund, and I’m glad that I’ve not jumped into anything. I’ve realised that I am rubbish at working with Government agencies that have bullshit bureaucracy coming out of their ears.

I say this from the experience of Innovate UK where we’re just coming to the end of this project. It’s been such a faff that it’s completely put me off making a bid to the Government ever again!

So we’ve ruled ourselves out of submitting to this Fund.

But we’re very keen to team up with as many other like-minded souls as possible. I put the idea to my mate Danny Flynn last Wednesday and we’ve got a call next week to discuss the idea in more detail, but I’m hopeful given that he and I have done a lot of business before (that includes a community currency and a branded retail outlet). We shall see.

But a few weird things have happened recently. An old mate of mine Dawnie Reynolds got in touch about a network of 51 youth-based organisations (“The SOT Youth Collective) that she’s pulling together in Stoke and has invited me to join — but also another old mate of mine Pete Barker rang me to say that he’s now the asset manager of Stoke’s largest shopping centre — the Potteries.

WTF???

Is this some sort of weird coincidence? Dawnie’s shop is located in the shopping centre that Pete asset manages. And she wants more space for more concepts. The old Debenhams is available and I can definitely bring together the professional team needed to turn that empty space into a community heart.

It would of course be separate to the Burslem project but with the potential to link, and it has the potential to be a very, very exciting collaboration between the private and voluntary sector that takes retail management, asset management and performance management, to a whole new level (think turnover rents that link into Business Rates Reform and which incentivise active citizenship).

And gives the young people of Stoke and North Staffs the stage they need to show the world what good really looks like.

Dave the architect just happens to be one of the UK’s best regeneration and masterplanning experts. It’s been a weird old journey out of the world of retail-led regeneration that for me ended on the 4th Feb 2007 when I entered the world of community-led regeneration.

It feels like I’m back — in the regeneration game.

Dave showed me around his re-creation in Ashton under Lyne on Friday and then pitched me the idea of how Burslem has the potential to become a model for Local Economic Development and Community-Led Regeneration based on the idea of the 15 minute city.

I was blown away by his ambition.

If we can crack that 15 minute model in Burslem with Annette and crew then we can crack that in Hanley with Pete, Dawnie and Danny.

And if we can crack it in Burslem and Hanley, why not do the same for the other five towns of Stoke and Newcastle? These towns have such beautiful architecture and heritage. And all those canals too. If you’re into your regeneration like me and Dave are (as is another old mate of mine: Mr Tim Heatley) then this isn’t just a dream coming true, it’s a dream coming through.

Especially if that ambition can be pulled together into a pitch that the council can get behind and, which creates a huge umbrella for all the good-guys of Stoke and North Staffs play to their strengths but work as a team to become the first, best and only model of community-led regeneration in the world, to truly include those who have up until now, been excluded.

Nah, this is about cutting deals that preserve energy and create capital. Social capital that is built on trusted relationships and the fact that some of us, because we are either Christian or Christian-minded, know a good thing when we see it.

Can you imagine a shared-business model where contribution is linked to entitlement? That simultaneously meets the needs of communities, government and the responsible business community?

Well that’s the opportunity we’re sat on.

I woke early this morning because all these things were going through my head.

I had to put down the idea of how we might work together as a collective and here it is. I’m basically suggesting that me, Dawnie, Danny and everyone else we like working with go into the combined business of show-business —a business that shows the world what good really looks like.

Take a look at this game plan that I’ve put together this morning and let me know what you think.

Seriously, the talent in Stoke and North Staffs is out of this world and more than capable of figuring out how to work as a team and win the support of the council and local MPs before winning the support of the Government, and markets.

Constructive criticism - please #bekind!!!

Ta, Mike x

P.S. COP24 is in 5 months. Let’s not fanny around!

I’m a regeneration practitioner working in Stoke and North Staffs. People, place, tech — it’s all in the mix!