Turner Prize win recognises the power of collective action

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Collective community action made this year’s The Turner Prize win possible, writes Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of Power to Change

The Turner Prize is no stranger to controversy, and this year’s winner, Assemble, is no different.

But whilst the art world debates whether the collective of architects, designers and artists was worthy of taking home one of the world’s biggest art prizes I’m delighted that for the very first time a community business with a social purpose is at the heart of this debate.

Assemble’s partnership with Granby Four Streets is a fantastic example of what is possible when a group of people with a shared goal come together to create real positive change.

Over the past 20 years, the community of the Four Streets triangle of Beaconsfield, Cairns, Jermyn and Ducie Streets have joined forces to tackle the decline of their local area in Toxteth, Liverpool, themselves; successfully preventing the demolition of the four remaining original streets in the mid 1990s, and cleaning, planting and painting their streets and the 100 plus boarded-up terraced houses since.

Through the establishment of a Community Land Trust, local residents have begun to bring the streets back to life with a monthly street market and the renovation of previously empty houses to provide affordable social housing in the area. The grant from our organisation, Power to Change, is also going towards the refurbishment of five of the initial ten houses – and the Trust has its sights on more.

Granby Four Streets is now the most high profile example of this growing movement of community businesses in the UK – profit-making businesses run for and by communities, focused on delivering social and economic benefit to their local area.

They are just one of an estimated 5,000 community businesses in England, where communities are responding to local need and difficulty from within rather than looking to local government for help and support.

In many of these successful businesses, as with Granby Four Streets, collaboration is the crucial ingredient in turning intention into action. It was the vision and passion of a creative collective, Assemble, joining forces with the dedicated team at Granby Community Land Trust, that made the Turner Prize winning project possible, and it is these same qualities that are allowing community businesses across the country to thrive and grow.

Whilst there is nothing new in the idea of community businesses, the conditions are now in place for them to really take off. As funding and public services are squeezed, alongside the ongoing struggle to kickstart the local economy, many people are taking on the challenge of revitalising their communities from the ground up, looking at how they can develop businesses that spark things back into life and generate benefits for that community.

We hope that people experiencing challenges within their local communities will be inspired by Granby and what they have achieved through collective action, and will start thinking of ways that they can apply this to solve social and economic issues on their own doorsteps.

Vidhya Alakeson is chief executive of Power to Change

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