Community exchanges are a fundamental building block of savings-based organising and can be local, national or international. Locally, communities visit each other to build relationships across the city, to share information and ideas, and as they get to know each other, to learn about particular strategies or approaches, or to discuss how to have a collective voice on important common issues.
In adapting some of the ideas and approaches of Shack/Slum Dwellers International during the action research, community exchanges have been very revealing about the common challenges low income women are facing across Greater Manchester, the social relationships and institutional frameworks shaping the extent to which residents can take a lead in local urban development, and have supported the emergence of four new savings groups and a food cooperative.
A series of exchanges between residents in Benchill, Manchester and residents in the Gleadless Valley Estate in Sheffield held the promise of stronger grassroots links across these two cities.
International exchanges have been a critical and transformative part of the action research process and the most direct attempt to “see from the South”. Women from Manchester, Salford and Stockport have travelled to South Africa and Kenya. Seeing women living in a very different context of poverty and inequality who are organising effectively in response to that situation has made the UK visitors feel motivated that they can achieve change in their own towns and cities. At the same time, for the South African and Kenyan activists, the exchanges have transformed their perceptions of the ‘developed’ West, encouraging them to question a common emphasis in their own culture on learning from or adapting capitalist models of development from the Global North.
Highlights from community exchanges 2017-2019
March – Women from Mums Mart (Benchill), Miles Platting Savers and the Anson Community Grocer (Rusholme) came together to exchange ideas about running savings and food cooperatives and tenants association organising, and to discuss a resident-led forum for community groups in areas of long term deprivation they are organising in June 2019.
March – Brinnington Pantry, Mums Mart and PEACH
May – Lower Broughton Life, Involved Salford and Mums Mart
September – Mums Mart visits Gleadless Valley in Sheffield
July – Manchester and Salford Mums visit FedUp and the ISN in South Africa (the South African SDI Alliance)
November – Joseph Muturi (National Coordinator for Muungano Wa Wanavijiji) and Jack Makau (Director, SDI Kenya) visit Wythenshawe and Salford during a teaching visit to Manchester.