It always rains in a movie just before the scene where the answer comes along.
At 7pm on April 25th the first public meeting of Oxford’s People’s Supermarket will open it’s doors.
Why are we getting excited here at The Community Manifesto about People’s Supermarkets?
And for that matter “how does a People’s Supermarket work?”
The response on Oxford’s TPS website sums it up for us: “Well, the true answer is, we simply don’t know yet”
Oxford’s People’s Supermarket could have an exciting future, but it’s important not to forget that until you’ve gathered your community, you’re not working within it. Once the community is gathered you get the exciting, heart racing, exhilarating bit. The bit that is actually going to drive an organisation.
Building genuine community led enterprise, with honest community engagement at it’s heart isn’t easy. There has got to be an openness to what the community’s needs are, and this might not be what you expect.
To build genuine community engagement an organisation has got to be:
1. Creating a forum to hear what your community’s needs.
2. Responsive to what your community brings through the door.
3. Dynamic in it’s decision making.
Get all those right and an organisation is half way to having a super future. In the High Street shop sector offers communities the opportunity to put the “Super” into Supermarket.
We’re going to be following the journey of Oxford’s People’s Supermarket very keenly over the next few years. In an area of deprivation, it’s a project that appears to have arrived just in time, a midst a flurry of new community owned co-operative enterprises starting up in Oxford. The website of this exciting project goes on to say:
“The basic idea is very simple.
To become a member of the supermarket, you pay a nominal fee to purchase a “share” of the supermarket, and commit to volunteer four hours of your time every four weeks, to run the supermarket. Your “share” means you own part of the supermarket, and as an owner, you get a say in how the supermarket is run – what products we sell, how they are sourced, how any surpluses generated are spent – everything is decided by the members. You also get a great discount on all your shopping.
Integral to the supermarket is The People’s Kitchen, where close-to-date food that would end up in the bins at a normal supermarket is cooked into ready meals, drinks and cakes for sale in the supermarket.
The aim is to have a supermarket shaped by the community, with low running costs enabling us to sell healthy and nutritious food to local people at a lower price than the “big” supermarkets like Sainsburys and Tesco. Rather than a massive corporation sucking profit out of Oxford, we can reinvest our money in local suppliers, training, and other good causes. As well as a a great discount on our low prices, you get to be part of a diverse team, meeting your neighbours and running an essential service for your community.”