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“I’m less scared to discuss the economy in Birmingham and the local area.” Fiona

“Brilliant facilitation and complex ideas delivered in a simple and accessible way.” Emma

Shift Birmingham- a course for changemakers

On a sunny day in June, an inspiring group of changemakers from across Birmingham gathered at Soho House in Handsworth for the last session of People’s Economy’s Shift Birmingham. Over the last year this diverse group from across the city has met monthly to explore how power and resources in the city can be rebalanced to help their communities thrive. Apply now for the next Shift Birmingham, starting in January.

We’ve played ‘GDP bingo’, and learned from each other about different ways to keep money local. We’ve puzzled over how to address Birmingham’s housing crisis, and marvelled over what other cities and countries are doing to provide better quality jobs to their citizens.

Learning, getting confident, and making connections

Learning about the economy can sound daunting, boring, or even pointless, but even participants who had their doubts at first, really enjoyed getting a general grounding on these crucial issues that affect them and their communities. They found the special focus on what’s going on in Birmingham very helpful, and they’ve told us that the approachable style of facilitation made it easy to engage.

They also found it invaluable to meet and share experiences with others from across the city with different backgrounds and experiences. Getting together in person in the few face-to-face sessions was definitely worth battling with Birmingham’s traffic! Chatting over a coffee and a cake meant there were plenty of opportunities to share ideas and experiences.

“It has been uplifting to meet others working toward a fairer society.” Clare

Crucially, participants’ understanding and confidence leapt up after the course. See below for a snapshot of this.

“I feel I now hold a better understanding of how economics affects us as individuals and as communities.” Florence

Taking action

The group have started to use what they’ve gained in the course to make change in their communities.

“It’s tough to explain to decision makers how they should be doing something different, if you don’t have the grounding that the course provides – to be able to explain to them that sometimes they should be trying something different.” James

Bonus sessions supported them to translate their learnings into action, for example on how to craft stories about their work and engage with journalists. They had the opportunity to work with the West Midlands division of Global, a major radio broadcaster. One participant was interviewed about the impacts of the 2023 Spring Budget and five of the cohort are due to appear in a week-long special about Shift Birmingham and the connections they’ve built within the programme.

In April the cohort got a chance to meet with the leader of Birmingham City Council and put their ideas for a better Birmingham to him, and they were invited to a special performance of the play “All Our Money” by Stan’s Cafe, about how the council spends its budget.

People’s Economy is now supporting the group to continue to meet to translate the course learnings into action. With the extent of Birmingham City Council’s financial crisis now very clear, this work is more needed than ever.

People’s Economy is grateful for funding from Barrow Cadbury Trust and Birmingham City Council’s Neighbourhood Development Support Unit that enabled us to offer this course for free.

The future of Shift Birmingham

Following the success of the course, People’s Economy is running Shift Birmingham again from January 2024. Find out more about it here. The deadline to apply is November 2nd.

Clare Birkett is the Editor for the People’s Economy.  This blog is cross-posted with Clare’s permission.