Digital technology is an area Action Acton needs to better utilise and get up to speed on – the Community Knowledge Transfer project is an ideal opportunity to explore how digital technology can help us to innovate, learn and share our experiences of how Street markets, can act as regeneration catalyst for tired and declining High Streets.
Mary Portas in her Town Centre and High streets report recognises the attraction of markets to local shoppers and traders.
Acton is the 4th most ethnically diverse borough in London, and we have been running Acton Street market for over 4 years now. The Market was started from scratch with funding from the London Development Agency as part of Acton Town centre Market regeneration project.
Education, training, employment and community cohesion
Action Acton won the national Chris Woodcock DTA award for the Market project which was described as ‘an excellent example of community entrepreneurship which also brings diverse communities together and aids community cohesion’.
Run as a social enterprise, the key objective of the Market project has always been to give local people – youth, adults and the older generation – including NEET Young people, School Children, ex offenders and refugees the opportunity to develop skills. relationships, and experience that will help them get employment and gain a sense of belonging.
At the same time to ensure that the Market is high quality and provides a range of goods experienced traders and traders from other Markets are actively encouraged . Current work includes developing an ambitious 'food court' zone (maybe even locally sourced 'pastys' to capitalise on the current 'pastygate' publicity!).
Acton Market and our very successful training courses have given many locals the opportunity to start up in self-employment — with stalls such as Indian, Afro Caribbean, Italian, Arabic, Polish and Spanish hot food ; handmade cards, jewellery, clothes and fashion and general goods relevant to our local community.
Some stall holders have gone on to bigger (and pricier) markets, some have moved into shops and others have learnt skills that have helped them get employment in other fields.
Sharing learning and knowledge.
Action Acton’s community market model has attracted interest from many quarters. We have had visits from other Development Trusts and organisations wanting to set up a similar model.
However, so far our knowledge and experiences has only been gathered and shared in a very limited offline way. This is why the Community Knowledge Transfer project will be so important. Digitally we can share our knowledge with many more organisations and individuals not only in London but throughout the UK – and even internationally!
Small steps first! We start by integrating Social Media into what we do and we have set about writing a specification for a new online community – a network ready to connect market traders across the UK so they can innovate, share and access opportunities for learning and experience from our very own Living Lab on the ground in Acton...
...more of which to be explained in more detail in our next blog by my colleague and our project lead for Community Knowledge Transfer, Patrycja Nowak