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21 Aug 2012

Transition Network conference 2012 preview: No:2 – Introducing some leading social innovators

In the 4.30pm workshop slot on Saturday at the 2012 Transition Network conference is a session which brings together three leading social entrepreneurs, who will talk about their work outside the world of Transition, bringing different models, passion, enthusiasm and insights you may not previously have encountered.  We are honoured to have them, and who knows what collaborations, overlaps and connections might arise from it.  So, in no particular order, they are Lily Lapena of MyBnk, Ken Banks of and Junior Smart of the St Giles Trust (SOS Project).  A bit more about each of them:

Lily Lapenna is empowering young people to manage their money effectively and make enterprising choices.  Lily created the first independent peer led youth banking program approved by the national banking regulatory body (Financial Services Authority—FSA) in England. In doing so, Lily is developing the next generation of financially literate and entrepreneurial citizens. In less than three years MyBnk has reached 20,000 young people across 57 partnering organizations (see more here).

Junior Smart is transforming the way people leaving prison are supported, dramatically cutting reoffending and creating a positive role for exoffenders in their communities. In deprived areas of London, increased violence, theft, and drug use have contributed to the rise of crime among young people. To address these problems, Junior has developed an ex-prisoner led peer mentoring system that provides services to prisoners to address the broad array of problems they face in prison, before release, and as they integrate back into society (see more here).

Ken Banks is making real the possibility of SMS-enabled communication for social change organisations across every sector and in every geography.  He is bridging the digital divide in the citizen sector by bringing the tech revolution to the last mile: To the isolated, small, and resource-poor organizations in the developing world. Having been one of the first innovators using mobile phones for social change, Ken is now creating a rapidly scaling user-led movement that enables local changemakers to co-create the solutions they need to solve their own problems, based on simple and readily available technology: Ordinary mobile phones. The core platform has been downloaded over 20,000 times by users in more than 70 countries, inspired a number of sector-specific spin-offs developed by user citizen organizations (COs), and is reaching millions of people (see more here).

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Annie Leymarie
21 Aug 12:56pm

Not long ago in the “developing world”, people would spend much time relating to each member of their community, telling beautiful stories, singing songs, dancing together and communicating at length with all the other beings and features in their environment. Now, to quote (a shortened version of) the paragraph above, “SMS-enabled communication is made real in every geography, bridging the digital divide in the citizen sector through a rapidly-scaling user-led movement, with a core platform inspiring sector-specific spin-offs developed by user citizen organizations”. Should we only rejoice?

Tony Buck
21 Aug 2:31pm

Way to go, Annie. So here’s a story for us all:

So, I’ve been talking to this youngish fellow (40 years old) at the Cville Farmers Market, PA, USA, for about 8 weeks, sharing with him our New Era ideas about how we’re going to have to re-localize the food system and how we should revalue food growers and how food will be worth more than gold one day. And that the weather will disrupt everything and on… and he looks at me a bit …OK, and says he likes the bit about being more valued.

Well about a month ago he lost about ten acres of apples to a hail storm. He had some examples under the counter to show me the dents it put in the apples and that he couldn’t sell them as Eaters. Of course I immediately said can you sell them for juice? Sure he says, for $5 a bushel instead of $14.

Well two weeks ago he found an Amish guy who paid him $8 a bushel for an acre because he was going to use them for jams and apple butter and stuff. So that was a small blessing. He couldn’t insure them because this is his second big annual crop and you need to establish a couple of years crop to get the insurance.

Anyway this week he waves me over all enthusiastic saying ” It’s coming true buddy, I’ve been thinking of you all week. The things you been saying, come true for me this week.”

Turns out fruit buyers from Chicago came into the area and he sold his damaged 10 acres for over $20 a bushel because the early blooming on the apple trees in New York, Maine and CT got frozen and frosted and severely reduced the fruit crop, so these juice manufacturers are desperate.
He’s delighted of course, but not at the expense of the northern growers.

I’d mentioned to him that I had some DVDs to watch about some of this stuff and he said if you want to bring me one of them next week, I’d like to see em!

Rob Hopkins
22 Aug 10:58am

Hi Annie

Thanks for the comment. I think that your concerns about Ken’s work are unfounded. Mobile phone technology has spread at great speed across Africa, and in many cases is a force for good. Ken’s work allows, for example, farmers to organise better what they take to market, using simple SMS in new ways. Allowing people to share ideas, organise themselves better, organise the use of scarce resources more effectively, bring healthcare advice and support to remote communities, can only be a good thing surely? The best person though to talk about it is Ken, who has been widely recognised for his work and its social benefits, perhaps this is a conversation you might have with him at the workshop?

Annie Leymarie
22 Aug 11:34am

Thanks Rob! I realise advantages of mobile phones and am in no way ‘blaming’ Ken but also with sadness observing the inexorable dismantlement of ancient cultures and relentless advance of technology, speed, monetarisation and other forms of modern ‘progress’. I was noting that the vocabulary used to report increased connection smacked of disconnection, to my eyes…
Had to walk out recently of a TTT/Oxfam showing of ‘Black Gold’ film, where Ethiopian farmers are shown ‘benefiting’ from turning their mixed subsistance homestead into mono-crops for export and becoming salaried – having lived many years in wonderful Ethiopia and seeing the damage done by such ‘sustainable development’.
So glad you published Charles Eisenstein’s interview and hope you can read his books (both, if/when you can) as he articulates such concerns so well and positively!

11 Sep 2:00pm

Hi Annie

Thanks for your comments. As an anthropologist (by degree) I spend a lot of my time thinking about the very same questions. My work has always sought to promote grassroots, indigenous innovation (even with “outside” technologies such as mobile phones). I’d obviously be happy to talk more if you’re at the workshop.

Two articles you might find interesting on this overall topic:

Thanks also, Rob, for your comments here and apologies for only just picking up on the conversation.


Annie Leymarie
11 Sep 6:07pm

Hi Ken
Many thanks for this! I can see your sensitivity to these issues and thoughtfulness in your work. Unfortunately I am unable to attend the Conference!
I see no easy wisdom emerging about the fast development and spread of communication technology. Let’s hope we can together learn to keep the benefits and reduce the drawbacks!
Reading one article you suggest I note the irony that many in the West, including myself, are working at disengaging from the current monetary economy – based on a vision of scarcity – and engaging more in a gift economy – with its vison of abundance -, whereas you deplore that “the majority of African rural communities remain excluded from the mainstream modern banking system”. To me, some of these might be our role models!
I worked many years for development agencies in Africa and Asia until I felt that the flow of information needed to be reversed, that I had more to learn from many of the communities that we were hoping to ‘develop’.
But these are complex issues and I’ll again refer to Charles Eisenstein, who I feel articulates them very well in his books, or for a short version in an interview such as the one here (the first 3 minutes can be skipped):
Enjoy the Conference and hoping we might get to chat on another occasion!