The power of Caring Places

This week I had the pleasure of contributing to an important conference, #CaringPlaces2021 organised by my friend Brendan Martin, Managing Director, of Buurtzorg., Britain & Ireland.
“Care” was reclaimed out of the marketplace and the sole hands of the credentialed few, and returned to its wider more homely context, where it belongs. In essence, the conference promoted what I like to call the abundance approach to life. Here are some thoughts on the approach.
The only credible antidote to the damage of modern marketplace economics is the community abundance approach. By abundance, I mean that which no matter how much of it is used, it never gets used up. Or more to the point, that which grows the more it is given away. It is the direct opposite of scarce, privately owned commodities. Examples include friendship, song, dance, love: the cultural base of abundance.
Our intercultural and planetary futures depend not on industrial market share, but on friendship; not on market bonds, but on the ties that bind (trust). The future rests not on power or privilege, but on relationships and contribution to others.
Here scale matters, as Polyani (1944) in his seminal work ‘The Great Transformation’ points out: there is a world of difference between a local village or even regional marketplace and the modern markets we see in industrialized contexts. The former is embedded within local culture and community life, while the latter has become dis-embedded from and eclipsing of local culture; it often, therefore, acts in extractive, predatory, and dehumanizing ways towards communities and the human beings that revolve around their economic orbit. Here the offer of the marketplace is analogous to the master offering dependence, not the servant offering service.
That is why the concept of abundant communities is so vital to our shared economic futures. It recognizes the huge reservoir of individual, associational, cultural, economic, and ecological capacities we have in every community, just waiting to be discovered and fruitfully connected. It all at once shifts the narrative from one of mass production to the production of the masses, while also relocating the locus of change from scaling up, to scaling back and down to the local and regional. This is the jubilant truth that underpins the principles of Jubilee, where debts are forgiven, land is returned or gifted, and once again we become our neighbours’ keeper.
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