Resilient Local Communities: How will we trade, bank and eat?

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Resilient local communities are those that have developed a robust capacity to adapt, withstand, and recover from various shocks, whether they be economic, environmental, or social in nature.

Such communities prioritise self-sufficiency, sustainability, and interconnectedness, often relying on a combination of factors including local manufacturing, trade networks, banking systems, and even local currencies. These features collectively contribute to their ability to navigate challenges, support economic growth, and foster community well-being.

When we think about local resilience, we have to remember our communities have developed during a time of advanced globalism. The products we use come from everywhere on the planet. They may have been assembled in China, with pieces from all over the world.

And in the area of food, the diesel powered trucks that deliver to the supermarket in our town, arrive every day. We can only go a few days without them. Our food is imported from all over the world and only a small proportion is sourced in New Zealand.

When it comes to housing, we haven’t even got a sawmill. These were common in small towns fifty years ago. So imagine if our town was cut off from supplies from both the North and the South. Maybe a bridge was down after a flood. Maybe a road was washed out and would take months to repair.

And what about that diesel we depend on for food eh? Is it always going to be available in the quantities we now enjoy? Diesel is always needed for generators as it was in Hawkes Bay after Cyclone Gabrielle came through. Everthing seems to need electricity these days.

And if power was out and there were no EFTPOS machines working, could we go to the local bank? Oh sorry, the bank closed down three years ago. The nearest bank is beyond that broken bridge. What resources do we have in our community? What manufacturing? Has there been an audit done of our resources and strengths? That might be a good idea. 

  1. Local Manufacturing: Diversifying Production Resilient communities prioritise local manufacturing to reduce dependency on external sources. This approach encourages the development of a diverse range of industries that can supply essential goods and services within the community. By fostering local manufacturing, communities can create jobs, retain revenue, and build expertise, thus increasing their ability to adapt to changing market conditions and disruptions to global supply chains.
  2. Trade Within the Country: Building Self-Reliance Local communities that prioritise trade within their own country promote self-reliance and reduce vulnerability to external economic shocks. Encouraging intra-country trade ensures that essential goods and services are readily available even during disruptions to international trade routes. This approach can also help to balance regional economic disparities and support equitable development.
  3. Overseas Trade: Diversifying Markets While self-reliance is essential, There is still a role for overseas trade. Countries need to diversify their markets and sources of income. Establishing strong trade relationships with other countries can provide access to resources, technology, and markets that may not be available locally. However, the emphasis is on balanced trade that does not compromise the community’s core needs or jeopardise its self-sufficiency.
  4. Local Banking: Strengthening Financial Infrastructure Resilient communities prioritise the development of local banking and financial institutions. Local banks understand the unique needs of the community and can offer tailored financial services, including loans for local businesses and infrastructure projects. Local banks contribute to economic stability and support local development initiatives by keeping financial resources within the community.
  5. Local Currencies: Fostering Economic Resilience Some resilient communities explore the use of local currencies alongside national currencies. Local currencies, often issued and accepted within a specific geographic area, promote money circulation within the community. They encourage spending on local goods and services, thus supporting local businesses and boosting the local economy. Local currencies can also serve as a tool to promote community engagement and strengthen social ties. A good example is the WIR Bank of Switzerland which accepts the WIR franc and has been operating since 1934. It allows trade between businesses.
  6. Collaboration and Networking: Building Social Capital Resilient communities prioritise collaboration and networking among local businesses, government agencies, community organizations, and residents. Strong social capital enhances information sharing, resource allocation, and collective problem-solving during times of crisis. This sense of solidarity fosters a community-wide commitment to resilience and empowers individuals to contribute to their community’s well-being.
  7. Sustainable Practices: Ensuring Long-Term Viability Resilient communities embrace sustainable practices that balance economic activity with environmental stewardship. Sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, waste reduction, and conservation efforts contribute to the community’s long-term viability and reduce vulnerability to environmental risks. These practices also help maintain the health and well-being of residents and the natural environment.
  8. Education and Skill Development: Empowering Human Capital Investing in education and skill development is crucial for building a resilient community. A well-educated and skilled workforce is better equipped to adapt to changing economic conditions, embrace innovation, and contribute to the community’s growth. Lifelong learning opportunities ensure that community members remain adaptable and resourceful in the face of challenges.

Conclusion

Resilient local communities are characterised by their ability to balance self-sufficiency with engagement in regional and global networks. They prioritise local manufacturing, local banking, and a widely acceptable local currency as key components of their strategy to navigate economic uncertainties and disruptions. By fostering interconnectedness, self-reliance, and sustainable practices, these communities build a solid foundation for enduring economic prosperity, social cohesion, and a high quality of life for their residents.