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Nurturing a generous city

One of the main projects we currently run is Zero Waste Leeds.

Through Zero Waste Leeds, we're helping to build a movement to help people in Leeds to waste less in their daily lives, so that we can move towards a more circular economy.

Increasingly, we’re trying to make the link between wasting less and the climate emergency.

Focusing on how to use fewer resources, making better use of what we’ve got, and not throwing so much stuff away can play an important part in how we respond to the crisis we’re facing.

We’re also exploring how to encourage a spirit of generosity — in other words:

How can we help to build a more generous city?

One positive amidst the enormously difficult times we’ve gone through during COVID 19 is a renewed focus on how we can support each other.

It seems like a long time ago now, but mutual aid networks were a key part of the early response to the pandemic, and many of us report that neighbourhood WhatsApp groups, set up in 2020, are still going strong.

Locally, we witnessed some great examples of people-powered responses to the challenges many people were facing during the months when, for example, children couldn’t attend school.

Organisations such as Digital Access West Yorkshire sprung up, asking people to donate unwanted tech — laptops, tablets etc — which they’d refurbish and share with families where children were needing to study at home.

And we have no doubt that one reason that our Leeds School Uniform Exchange project was so successful, so quickly, was that the time was right for a community-led project based around sharing.

More than ever, we understood how difficult life has become for so many of us — and, given the opportunity, people were only too happy to share what they’ve got.

There are many other examples of initiatives based around sharing that have really taken off over the last two years, including all sorts of online groups for sharing unwanted stuff.

All of these initiatives have clear impacts around waste reduction — but I think there are deeper reasons as to why they are gathering momentum.

We are, fundamentally, co-operative, social beings. And despite what we’re often told, most of us instinctively want to help others.

And I think we crave connection with others too — something that’s clearly come into focus over the last couple of years when we’ve spent far more time apart.

It’s a theme that comes up in this article about an online network of Buy Nothing groups.

“The stuff is one thing, but the stories that go along with it — the humour, the poignancy, the memories — those are the things we really want from each other.”

In other words, other important things happen when people share stuff. It’s not just about cutting down on waste, or saving a bit of money — although they are both increasingly important.

It’s also about connecting with other people — and the place you live in — in different ways. Making things better than they are.

And that’s something that interests me a lot, both from a day-to-day perspective, but also when we think of the bigger picture. How do we create a future where we can all thrive, within planetary limits?

There are no easy ways to work this out, but finding ways to build a stronger sense of community in the places where we live, and exploring how we build generosity into our daily lives will undoubtedly help.

Through our consultancy service, Generous By Design, we work with people to design projects that help to build a more circular, regenerative, generous economy. You can find out more about our approach here. If you'd like to explore how we could work with you, please get in touch.

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