You may have seen news via our social media of a new initiative, led by Lord John Bird, founder of the Big Issue (Hope is the local wholesaler to local sellers), on social trading. Read his article, which mentions Hope, here.

The core idea is that you can build community and drive economic benefits by encouraging trading locally between local partners. So instead of sourcing your office supplies from somewhere in China, you buy locally; instead of importing veg for your cafe from Holland, you buy it from someone who grows it in Bugbrooke. If you want to get your office premises cleaned you work with a local employer, perhaps a local social enterprise, to source locally.In turn, these suppliers buy from you. I am simplifying here quite a lot, but this is the main idea.

It trades on various themes and approaches we all know: at a more national level (Buy British!) but also in terms of local community and economic development. Some local authorities are active in this area, notably Preston. See here and here  Big supply chains that large companies or organisations operate can have real value to the local economy.

Hope already does a lot of this kind of thing, and this is the reason why Hope is getting involved in the partnership developing the idea. We buy in to the concept that too much local money  goes out of the community and does not offer local economic development. We have been actively exploring this with regard to food, partly directly – we grow food for our own kitchen rather than buying it – and also through our participation in Northampton’s embryonic sustainable food strategy, which aims to increase food quality by local peer to peer supply and availability. Read about this idea here. Our catering business illustrates the value of a local business or organisation buying its catering from local people (especially ones who need help and support to get involved in the local labour market). Much of our engagement with local companies on fundraising is closely related to this idea of mutually beneficial relationships between partners: if a company works with us by encouraging its employees to get involved with us as a local charity, this can lead to productivity benefits for the company: a happier, more motivated and even a fitter workforce, if their fundraising is based around physical activity. Everyone benefits, including our service users. It’s a circular economy model, another phrase sometimes used in the local trading context.

We believe that the poorest in society benefit from strong local economic development in which they are active local participants. This was the origin of our social enterprises, creating little local businesses which offered work to people a long way from the labour market and who were disadvantaged, and which offered services to other local businesses, recycling money spent here back to the benefit of local people. We have written this up already on our Enterprises website, here .

As a result we are really proud to be handpicked by Lord Bird and his team to be the local charity/social enterprise partner, and working alongside the Borough and County Council and the University too. It’s a great idea and we hope we can give a great kick-start to more inter-business and organisational trading through being involved, and in doing so, benefit the poorest members of our society.