Of mulch and massages – Jonathan Dawson

Published on January 29, 2014 in Blog
Written by Jonathan Dawson and originally posted on the Schumacher College website
25 tonnes of mulch, 25 fruit trees, a radio show, £2,000 in donations and pre-sales, a horse paddock …..and a scattering of massages and free lunches………. What do they have in common?


All were donated to the School Farm’s newly-launched community-supported agriculture (CSA) scheme at the 2013 Totnes Entrepreneurs’ Forum. Organised under the auspices of the Transition Town Totnes REconomy project, this is an annual showcase event for local independent businesses that aims to link them up with potential investors.

As the above list suggests, ‘investor’ is pretty loosely defined. Nor is this in any way accidental. For the event organisers are consciously seeking to promote the ethic that in the new economy, everyone can be an active investor in the place where they live. This is economics with a smile on its face and a twinkle in its eye, actively inviting participation and engagement. It offers the opportunity to experience ‘the economy’ not as some malign alien presence over which we have no control, but rather as something that we can chose to get stuck into co-creating, no matter how much or little we have to invest – for, in truth, all are rich and gifted in some way.


Students on the Masters degree, Economics for Transition that I teach on here at Schumacher College, have spent the last month or so visiting some of the many similar initiatives that are springing up all over the south-west, powered by community engagement and investment. These have included Bath and West Community Energy, which over the last three years has raised more than £1.5 million, almost half of it from the issue of shares to its nearly 200 investor-members, for community-owned renewable energy generation, the Bristol Pound, a paper and electronic community currency aimed at ‘plugging the leaks’ in the local economy by encouraging local trading (and which is now accepted in payment of both business rates and council tax); and the Red Brick Building in Glastonbury, a former sheep-skin tannery saved from demolition by community investment of over £300,000 that is today acting as a community centre providing social and micro enterprise support, arts and community activity, and demonstration of (as well as training in) sustainable construction and refurbishment.


This is the new, ethical, community-rooted economy being born daily all around us: sleeves rolled up, engaged, generous and generative.

Oh, and by the way, if you want to become an investor in the Home School Farm CSA, it is not too late!


Jonathan Dawson, Co-Head of Economics – Schumacher College

Jonathan is a sustainability educator, currently working as Head of Economics at Schumacher College in Devon. Until recently a long-term resident at the Findhorn ecovillage and a former President of the Global Ecovillage Network, he has around 20 years experience as a researcher, author, consultant and project manager in the field of small enterprise development in Africa and South Asia.

Jonathan is the principal author of the Gaia Education sustainable economy curriculum www.gaiaeducation.org, drawn from best practice within ecovillages worldwide, that has been endorsed by UNITAR and adopted by UNESCO as a valuable contribution to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. He teaches this curriculum at universities, ecovillages and community centres in Brazil, Spain and Scotland. He has also adopted the curriculum to virtual format and teaches it through the Open University of Catalunya in Barcelona.


Image Credits : Jonathan Dawson

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