Jess Steele
Jess Steele Director, Community Organizing at Locality (UK)
Jess bridges policy and practice to develop new intellectual territory, ventures and programmes to support community organisations and neighbourhood regeneration. She initiated and led the national Community Organisers programme and is currently Associate Director for Community Organising with Locality.
As a community activist and entrepreneur in SE London Jess founded a creative outreach charity, led the award-winning ‘Get Set for Citizenship’ regeneration programme, established several local social enterprises and published extensively on local history.
She was Deputy Chief Executive at the British Urban Regeneration Association, before joining the Development Trusts Association in 2007 where she established the practitioner consultancy service and the Meanwhile Project.
Jess is based in Hastings and has been the Treasurer of the Hastings Pier & White Rock Trust since 2006. After a long campaign the trust successfully raised £14m to rescue and renovate the pier. Work starts in July 2013.
Over the past year, Jess has been developing the concept of self-renovating neighbourhoods and recently launched Jericho Road Solutions, echoing Martin Luther King that playing the Good Samaritan is only an initial act; instead we must “transform the whole Jericho Road so that men and women are not beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s history”. Jericho Road Solutions specialises in unlocking the hidden resources that can make this possible.
“Make Hope Possible Rather than Despair Convincing”: Local Communities at the Heart of the Social Economy”
In the face of terrifying threats to our survival and wellbeing, I want to focus on what we must do and what we can do.
Rising to these challenges is not a role that can be out-sourced to individual leaders, diplomats or academics – their role is to make sure we’re all thinking about it and supporting our collective endeavours.
The presentation will focus on three aspects that the social economy must address:
• People power – through organising and enterprise
• Land and buildings – where power is held in tangible form
• Welfare for a social economy
It will introduce Locality as a solidarity network of community organisations from neighbourhoods across England and draw on work by Locality and its members in community organising, community enterprise, physical asset development and welfare reform.
Throughout the presentation it will be argued that local neighbourhoods are the key site for genuine social, economic and cultural transformation. Locality members are ‘bi-focal’ – they know their own patch in great detail but they are also able to look up and around and take inspiration, lessons and comfort from each other.
This solidarity approach offers a potential model for the global forum that respects local autonomy, spreads innovation, and builds strength in numbers and diversity. It can keep us hopeful. "Pessimism and despair make us collaborators in our own fate" (Tony Benn, Feb 2011) whereas “good ideas happen in networks. Chance favours the connected mind.” (Steven Johnson, Oct 2010)