Walker SOUP is a locally-based micro-funding platform to tackle a range of development challenges. It has an asset-based approach, placing outcome of funding allocations in the hands of local communities. At a quarterly meal local residents and a cross-section of community and voluntary groups make a donation in return for food and a vote. Four pitches, with an idea for Walker, are heard and the audience then votes on which initiative(s) they feel will be of most benefit with the winner taking the sum of entry donations to fund their project. Simple, inclusive and all about encouraging more and more actors to get involved in concrete action to improve their local area.
Europe is a global centre for environmental and off-shore business with Eco-industry seeing rapid growth to become one of the biggest sectors of the EU economy. Companies can, however, sit adjacent to challenged river or seaside communities. This is the case in Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne, with a successful offshore oil and gas industry, but perception is that opportunities and benefits of green business are ‘not for us’.
Through GAIA, we explored how Walker SOUP might stimulate, with the aid of business, new green pitches meeting local needs. The process of development focused on activities that empowers and enables residents and groups to develop projects that support environmental behaviour change as well as contributing to the strengthening of social fabric. This whole approach centred on catalysing the involvement of new actors into the process of sustainability at a neighbourhood level and asked companies to think (across Europe and wider) how they can become involved in developing new approaches to environmental sustainable development.
The process of delivering Walker environmental SOUP builds on a partnership with a community-based organisation. Significant investment in preparing pitches has been undertaken in 2015 and the first hearings will be in early 2016 (likely March). Walker is, by a number of indicators, our most challenged neighbourhood. Many people are distant from the labour market, so environmental concerns are not prioritised as people manage difficult economic and sometimes chaotic lives.