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Belinda Gannaway

Building a home

It’s a week since Meaning, but the memories are still fresh. Not least how inspiring it was. From amazing speakers – including inspirational women taking centre stage for once – to the tireless work of some brilliant NM people. And I can’t remember another conference that made me cry (let alone twice – and it wasn’t just me).

In the week that’s followed we’ve loved seeing some real commitments from senior business folk to dare to think differently. As one attendee said in an email that night: “What you offered yesterday was out of the ordinary, which is where we want to be.”

But there’s also been something bubbling away closer to home. And that too is affecting me, my family and community.

If you were at Meaning you’ll remember Iain Chambers taking an impromptu five minutes to talk about a campaign to save a community hall in Brighton. It’s at the end of my road. The roof leaks and the church wants to sell it to minimise their liabilities.

A bit of a tangent to a business conference you may think. Well I would argue not. But I’ll let Iain explain. Here’s part of his letter to Caroline Lucas MP who he met at Meaning.

Indy Johar said in his Meaning talk that ‘stripping us of our assets makes us all feel vulnerable’. That roof, and the space that lies beneath it, is our community’s asset.

Several speakers made it clear we do need to gather. We need to do things differently, and we need to do them together. As a community, we in Prestonville have started to do that.

The Hall Get Involved group is using a Victorian vehicle to save this Victorian building – an Industrial and Provident Society. We have sold more than 100 shares.

But far more valuable, more hopeful than that, we have rediscovered the benefits of what happens when a community acts in concert.

We have heard from older people that they feel a little safer in the street. We have longstanding neighbours who now know each other’s names and ask each other for help. We have streets that feel connected socially rather than just physically. We’ve used our pub more. We’ve asked our schoolchildren to help.

The campaign to save the hall has become our greatest ally, because it has revealed to us what can lie beyond if we still have a roof to gather under. To build trust, to build hope, to build a better community, a better life and a better world, we need to start by building a new roof.

If all those speakers at Meaning are right, it’s much easier to achieve change when there’s momentum and focus – a home perhaps. If our first Meaning conference is to achieve anything lasting, perhaps it is that – a home for people who feel, know or just have an inkling that business could be better.

There will be a Meaning next year, and, let’s hope the year after and the year after that. It will be a place for all of us who want change to come together and start making change happen.

And in the meantime,  if you want to help rebuild the roof under which one local community gathers then you too can become a shareholder.

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