The multiplier effect is seeing a proliferation of ‘totally local’ markets themselves, which are in turn supporting an expanding catchment of regional grower and producer supply chains.
As Australia follows Europe into an era of small government, the conditions are ripe for a paradigm shift in the spheres of urban planning, place-making and locally-based economic development. ‘Community empowerment’ (replacing community consultation) is the new black in this arena. The nourishment and empowerment of local communities has been a key platform of the UK government’s Big Society thesis, now impacting increasingly on Australian public sector policy. Big Society policies have however been criticised for transferring public wealth to corporate-like non-government entities, while disempowering small business, community organisations and the public sector. Ongoing austerity measures in the UK and elsewhere are on the other hand spawning a host of interesting DIY initiatives at the local level. Grass roots movements like the fast-spreading Totally Locally campaigns are raising awareness and building pride in regional towns, and impacting on local economies in refreshingly simple ways. Totally Locally is an award-winning social enterprise and ‘shop local’ movement which supports independent retailers with a free branding and marketing campaign for their town. Teams of volunteers use the campaign and branding tool kit to promote the value of local shopping, celebrate their main street, create community events, and ultimately to lift the local economy. The concept operates on a positive celebratory platform rather than pushing the more negative ‘use it or lose it’ ethos of less successful campaigns. In a deliberate attempt to cultivate ‘people power’ over political power, the Totally Locally tool kits are supplied free, directly to punters. Government bodies, local authorities and even business associations are not supposed to use the resources or run the campaigns. There must be no formal membership, no committees, and no hierarchy so that anyone can join in at anytime. (And nobody is told what to do.) The brainchild of brand consultant Chris Sands, the movement is having significant economic and social impact on the 30-something towns involved to date. The concept grew from an initiative in Chris’s hometown in Calderdale, in the foothills of the Pennines in West Yorkshire, where the first shop local ‘fiver’ campaign was tested. In Adelaide recently to conduct workshops in the Barossa and the city, Chris explained where his idea came from: “On holiday in the North Portuguese town of Viana Do Castelo, I came to wondering how a small town, miles from anywhere else, seemed to thrive as it did. I sat in the square and noticed that the cafe owner would walk over to the bakery for bread, the baker would walk over to the accountants with her books, the accountant went to the stationers, the stationers went to the cafe and the circle started again. It was then I realised that when everyone uses each other, the money in the town circulates round and round, each person supporting the other.” Rather than try to get people to give up their supermarket shopping habits in one hit, the ‘fiver’ campaign simply suggests that punters allocate five pounds a week to shopping locally. According to Sands, if all residents participate, that fiver can amount to millions of pounds circulated locally over time. Similarly, Totally Locally’s Tale of a Tenner film demonstrates how a 10 pound note has a multiplied effect in the local economy, amounting to 50 pounds of turnover in a single day, as it shifts from tourist to bike shop, to barista, to butcher, to printer and back to bike shop. Research by British-based independent think tank the New Economics Foundation backs the five-fold multiplier effect thesis. They have created a rating tool to follow the money trail in local economies by measuring the first three rounds of spending by local government, community organisations and local businesses. Pilot studies involving 10 communities in five sectors across the UK quickly demonstrated that local procurement has far-reaching impacts on local economies. That result will come as no surprise to those observing the multiplier effect of farmers’ markets here in South Australia. Zannie Flanagan, founder of the Willunga Farmers’ Market, has often described the market as ‘Viagra’ for the town, which was struggling to lease out commercial space when the market was established just over 10 years ago. Willunga is now a happening little township and key tourism destination on the Fleurieu, with numerous coffee shops, restaurants and retail outlets selling local wares. “I always know that a market has made the grade when the real estate advertisements start including it in their location descriptions,” says Flanagan, who also set up the Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market in Goodwood. The multiplier effect is seeing a proliferation of ‘totally local’ markets themselves, which are in turn supporting an expanding catchment of regional grower and producer supply chains. The Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market recently opened up a Thursday evening sub-branch in Prospect and a brand new Sunday morning local organic produce market officially opens at the Market Shed on Holland in the CBD, as this article goes to press.