|Enabling Life in Vacant Spaces: A partnership approach to evaluating holistic wellbeing in disaster recovery contexts
This report outlines two approaches to assessing the intentions and outcomes of the non-governmental organisation, Life in Vacant Spaces (LiVS), in Ōtautahi Christchurch. Ōtautahi Christchurch presents a useful case study for wellbeing as it continues to recover from the physical and psychological trauma of earthquakes.
|Food rescue as collective care
Recent research into waste has moved beyond focusing on individual behaviour change to the wider practices, systems, and social norms that construct and perpetuate waste. Running alongside this work on waste, community economy scholars have been exploring how communities form around and care for commons. In this paper we draw on social practice theory and community economy thinking to illustrate how a food rescue organisation, Kaibosh, based in Wellington, New Zealand, has created practices and mobilised meanings that enable people to collectively manage surplus food, address food poverty, and reduce waste. We show how these food rescue and distribution practices push back against individualised despair, moralism, or guilt, and connect people across food systems. Recent critiques of food rescue and wider food philanthropy argue that such practices can be used to justify further welfare retreat, or distract from the need for genuine agri-food sector reform. While we are sympathetic to these critiques, our findings suggest something different: people get involved in food rescue as a practical way to address food injustice and waste. We show how social practice theory can be used to understand how communities form around a commons that responds to pressing socio-environmental issues in the here and now.
|Food for people in place
The COVID-19 pandemic and associated response have brought food security into sharp focus for many New Zealanders. The requirement to “shelter in place” for eight weeks nationwide, with only “essential services” operating, affected all parts of the New Zealand food system. The nationwide full lockdown highlighted existing inequities and created new challenges to food access, availability, affordability, distribution, transportation, and waste management. While Aotearoa New Zealand is a food producer, there remains uncertainty surrounding the future of local food systems, particularly as the long-term effects of the pandemic emerge. In this article we draw on interviews with food rescue groups, urban farms, community organisations, supermarket management, and local and central government staff to highlight the diverse, rapid, community-based responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings reveal shifts at both the local scale, where existing relationships and short supply chains have been leveraged quickly, and national scale, where funding has been mobilised towards a different food strategy. We use these findings to re-imagine where and how responsibility might be taken up differently to enhance resilience and care in diverse food systems in New Zealand.
|Community led initiatives for climate adaptation and mitigation
Planning for climate change is complex. There is some uncertainty about how quickly the climate will change and what the anticipated localised effects will be. There are also governance questions, for instance, who has the mandate to make decisions around the management of collective resources (like council infrastructure) and private property. Underlying these questions are issues of justice, equity and agency – who pays for the costs of adaptation and mitigation, and how do decision-makers engage with communities when what is ultimately needed is transformational socio-economic change? We use a case study in Te Awa Kairangi – Lower Hutt, Wellington, to show how a community initiative called Common Unity Project Aotearoa (CUPA) is fostering everyday practices of adaptation and mitigation amongst people who have traditionally had limited participation in more formal planning processes. We use the example of CUPA to demonstrate the significance of local community-led development initiatives for adapting to a changing climate. We argue that local government engagement with people around climate change cannot be separated from broader community development and wellbeing initiatives, and needs to be understood as longer term processes, rather than one-off project consultations.
|A Community Economies perspective for ethical community development
Community Economy theory has gained much traction over the past two decades as a language politics and an ethical tool kit for researchers and practitioners in the field of community development. This chapter examines Community Economy approaches to development using two empirical examples from quite different contexts that highlight key ethical concerns. In the two empirical examples we show how communities can move towards surviving well collectively by mapping their existing diverse economic practices and relationships, and how people can shift from focusing on their individual survival to collective survival. We use the Community Economy approach to suggest that ethical questions are best negotiated through relationships and in specific contexts, rather than adopting an individualist or universal prescription of what ethics is, or should be in any given context.
|Can the commons be temporary? The role of transitional commoning in post-quake Christchurch
We use two Christchurch case studies to think about the temporality of commoning, concluding that even transitional and temporary commoning can help normalise and make visible the practice, thus enabling commoner subjectivities.
|The violence of (in)action: communities, climate and business-as-usual
Climate change is creating challenges and opportunities for community development. The challenges arise from declining biophysical conditions and the socio-political and economic barriers that delay, delegitimize or co-opt genuine community responses. Opportunities are arising from global climate change activism networks that provide new resources and discourses for activists and community organizers. These challenges and opportunities are unevenly shaped by the possibility for genuine democratic contestation in different contexts. In this article we draw on recent climate justice mobilizations in Aotearoa New Zealand. These mobilizations called for divestment from fossil fuel activities by blocking access to major banks around the country that directly support the industry. While most actions in the campaign were peaceful and effective in closing down business-as-usual for the day at specific bank branches, one in particular provoked police and implicit state-sanctioned violence against the activists, pitting bank customers against climate activists. We use this case study to illustrate the complexity of contemporary climate activism and tactics within communities, and draw on the work of Judith Butler to show how violence and stigma are used to discipline certain bodies who contest more dominant development trajectories and investment.
|Radical equality, care and labour in a community economy
The reproductive and care work predominantly undertaken by women has historically been undervalued in traditional measures of the economy. However, calls for more work, or better work for women (and men) doesn’t necessarily solve the issues surrounding waged labour such as zero hour contracts, the ‘double work day’, and other forms of increasing precarity and competition. In this article I explore how alternative forms of labour exchange in the Wellington Timebank provide one way in which subjects can partially operate outside the waged economy. I draw on Jacques Rancière’s understanding of how a radical equality underpins a democratic politics to explore the everyday negotiations around labour that occur in this alternative economy. I connect work being done by the Community Economies Collective to ideas of radical equality and a feminist ethic of care to show how embodied and everyday practices like timebanking enable subjects to challenge the inequalities of waged work and in Rancière’s terms, partially construct alternative ‘distributions of the sensible’.
|Negotiating contradiction: work, redundancy and participatory art
Within participatory geography and relational aesthetic art literature there have been calls to focus on how participation is framed, who is included and excluded, the types of relations involved and the effects of such practices. Linked to these concerns, questions have also been raised around how participants are framed and understood in participatory projects. For instance, as self‐determining and knowing subjects who become politically affirmed through participation, or as subjects caught up in complex processes of becoming. In this article I show how the participatory art project ‘Productive Bodies’ in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand, enabled participants to articulate the complex contradictions surrounding waged work, redundancy and unemployment. I suggest that participatory art projects can be a useful way for subjects to explore these complex processes of becoming. Useful because in this case, the project enabled participants to both acknowledge dominant disciplining discourses around waged work, while also creating space to imagine and enact alternatives to more dominant and limiting discourses. I argue that participatory art projects like Productive Bodies can help subjects move away from cognitive understandings of social change and political demands because the process understands subjects as always‐already affected by wider societal discourses. Such an understanding recognises the complexity of subjectivities whereby subjects are both complicit in perpetuating and subjecting themselves to more dominant discourses, but also often desirous of change. Participatory art projects like Productive Bodies can enable subjects to articulate these complexities, while also catching glimpses of other selves and other societal relations through affectual‐embodied encounters.
|Negotiating interdependence and anxiety in community economies
The burgeoning literature on diverse and community economies has been relatively hopeful, exploring how people learn, enact new and reclaim other ways of meeting their needs outside of capitalist practices. For good reasons, much of this work has sought to avoid a conventional critical-leftist orientation, instead adopting what Gibson-Graham call a ‘weak theory’ approach ‘that welcomes surprise, entertains hope, makes connection, tolerates coexistence and offers care for the new’. Within this literature until recently, less attention has been given to how community economy collectives negotiate the everyday ethical dilemmas to enact interdependence. In this article, I draw on Jean Luc Nancy’s understandings of subjectivity and what he terms an ‘inoperative community’ to explore the everyday anxieties and relational tensions in the Wellington Timebank, a community economy in Aotearoa, New Zealand. I use Nancy’s framing of the inoperative community and Gibson-Graham’s engagement with his ideas as a lens to explore the ethical tensions involved in enacting community economies. I show how Nancy’s ideas help us to better understand the apparent contradictions experienced in communities, by exploring the tensions between community myths of diversity and labour equality, which are unworked and interrupted by everyday anxieties and fears. This is not to suggest that community economies like the Wellington Timebank are a failure, but rather that openly discussing such examples help us as researchers to better understand the everyday tensions collectives necessarily negotiate in enacting interdependence.
|Community Economies: Responding to questions of scale, agency, and Indigenous connections in Aotearoa New Zealand
This commentary was invited by the special editors of this issue and is partly based on the Community Economies session that the four authors organised at the Social Movements Conference III: Resistance and Social Change in Wellington, 2016. During the session, a number of questions were asked by participants. Some of these questions were new for us, while others have been asked of Community Economy scholars before. All of the questions however, point to ongoing pressing concerns around how to act ethically with human and non-human others in ways that decolonise our colonial, capitalist-oriented economy and society. In what follows we briefly outline some key theoretical underpinnings of Community Economies scholarship, and then provide some reflections on the questions asked during the 2016 conference session.