Student Profile - Lucy Davis

lucy-davis

1. What had you been doing prior to beginning your PG course at Schumacher College?

Immediately prior to starting the MA Economics for Transition, I was working as Neighbourhood Plan Officer for St Ives Town Council. In fact, I continued part time in this role during the masters programme, commuting backwards and forwards between Totnes and St Ives. My role has been to coordinate the process of drawing up a community-led neighbourhood plan for St Ives area, that will become statutory planning policy if passed at community referendum later this year. It has been a lengthy process by necessity, requiring several rounds of meaningful community consultation and the task of converting community aspiration into viable policy. I also worked in a community café in St Ives.

2. What was it that made you want to take the programme?

As soon as I saw the course advertisement (and I can’t remember now where or when that was) I knew I had to do it! In some ways the timing was all wrong because I was just starting to build momentum in my role at the Town Council and forming strong community ties in St Ives. But the course content and the whole Schumacher approach spoke directly to values and beliefs I have held since my early teens. I’ve had a long-running interest/curiosity in economics and how it is seemingly so detached from the reality of life. I did an MSc International Political Economy at LSE as a way of getting into the heart of mainstream thinking and what drives our global ‘system’ in its current form. I have explored different avenues and outlets in pursuit of bringing ‘meaningful’ change, from European trade policy level to African villages, but something was always slightly amiss. This course was exactly what I had been waiting for, looking for, preparing for. Without all my prior experience, I couldn’t have got so much out of it and I now know it came at exactly the right time.

3. Describe your time at the College?

Maintaining my neighbourhood plan role while at Schumacher meant I couldn’t participate in as many aspects of college life as a masters student usually would - I often had evening meetings in St Ives and consultation events at weekends. But I felt very strongly that I should continue in my role and not let the momentum drop that I had helped to start, i.e. a fresh wave of community involvement and empowerment in St Ives, where years of developer-led building schemes for more and more holiday flats had led to cynicism, apathy and anger. My position afforded me networking opportunities throughout the area and opportunities for spin-off projects soon became apparent – for example, a Community Land Trust, Community Charter and New Economic Strategy. What we were studying and learning about at Schumacher fed directly into all of this and I began some of these initiatives while still on the masters programme. I’ve worked in project management for a lot of my life and the new approaches to working together that we were exploring at Schumacher also began to influence the way I was leading initiatives and engaging with other people involved. In some ways it wasn’t immediately evident, because I didn’t have a sudden, deep transformative experience. I just began working out what was seeping in during my time at college and I can look back and see a transformation in my life.

4. What have you gone on to do since leaving the College / What do you plan to do?

Since leaving the college, I have continued work on the St Ives Neighbourhood Plan in a paid capacity and worked on building up other initiatives at the same time. St Ives Community Land Trust is now fully formed, with a hard-working board, 80 members and growing and already pursuing property purchases and projects in the area. We will be submitting a major funding bid in April this year to the tune of £2 million for the purchase of four properties for community/social and green enterprise use and the construction of a low-impact community centre in an under-served area of St Ives.

The CLT will also be taking the lead on the creation of Community Charter for St Ives. Flowing out of the neighbourhood plan, the Community Charter will be a ‘manifesto of community values’, i.e. things that are important to use but aren’t considered material considerations in current planning law. Isabel Carlisle and Mothiur Rahman of the Community Chartering Network are working with us on this project.

Another strand of work has been to begin the development of a ‘New Economic Strategy’ for St Ives. For the past 50 years or so, St Ives has been pushed down the route of tourist destination, with all investment going into the tourism industry to the detriment of local economic diversity and posing a serious threat to community resilience. A strategy document has started to take shape through the neighbourhood plan process and I will be continuing to develop it, in conversation with the Chamber of Trade.

Going to Schumacher to study also brought me into contact with Transition Town Totnes and I worked with the REconomy team while I was there, specifically on their Local Entrepreneur Forum. This spurred me on to get in touch with my local Transition Initiative – Transition Penwith – particularly in relation to another project at TTT, a Local Economic Blueprint. Since getting in touch with them , we have started work on a Local Economic Blueprint for Penwith, launched at the Transition Roadshow we hosted in February 2015. For the first time ever in West Cornwall, a room full of people (councillors, council officers, academics, people already working on ‘transition’ projects and anyone interested) came together to talk about new economic thinking and what it could mean to the future of Penwith. Ideas ranged from a Bank of Cornwall and local currency to community renewable energy schemes to growing and supply-chain projects. An energy has been unleashed and we are taking exciting steps forward following on from the Roadshow.

I have also taken over management of the café I’ve been working in and plan to make this a ‘Transition Hub’ in St Ives and build on the community base it already has. The café provides the physical space for all of these initiatives (and more) to continue to thrive.

All of these projects were initiated and/or built on as a direct result of the inspiration I got at Schumacher. It is hard work, but for the first time ever I know I am in the right place at the right time doing the right kind of work – at the heart of my community, building the new economy as we go!

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