Video: A new economy based on Christian justice and inclusion

Published: Tuesday April 2, 2024

Hollowed-out department stores and people with nowhere to go; nobody likes to see a high street on its knees. But with the rapid decline of traditional high street business comes an opportunity to create a new type of economy, based on Christian justice and inclusion.

The Diocese of Gloucester has partnered with the Grace Network to establish Social Enterprise Hubs in Aston Down, Brimscombe Mill, and is now working to establish one in Cirencester – on the site of the former House of Fraser building.

Bishop Rachel visited the Cirencester project as building work was underway. She said, “I think this is a really exciting vision for how we live that ‘Kingdom of God coming on Earth as in Heaven’ here together. Together and with are really important words in this partnership.”

What’s the plan for Cirencester? Watch:

 

These hubs are not profit-driven but seek to combat injustice, environmental degradation, exclusion and isolation. (Click here for more on our LIFE Together Vision.)

The Grace Network makes money by running social enterprises, and all the profits are recycled into the local community through higher staff pay, community events and giving away free/subsidised goods.

Against a backdrop of struggle, as the Guardian reports this week, the Brimscombe Mill site is a ‘Radical pay-what-you-can restaurant facing eviction from the mill it refurbished’. Such a turbulent environment requires a clear vision. As Will Mansell, Founder of the Grace Network said, “The Diocese’s Life Together vision, and the Grace Network’s economic vision work together. The Grace Network’s Social Enterprise Hubs will trade, but then give all their money away.

The hubs have the body of a business but the heart of a charity. Our goal is to give people second chances, help people who are trapped to get freedom. And we do that through social enterprises; growing small businesses by enabling people to have the space and resources to get started, and to form a part of the wider network.”

Through this lens of a circular economy, the hubs are catalysts for revitalising local communities. Sarah Beaumont, Operations Officer at the Aston site, said, “We’re investing in the wholeness of people, it’s as simple as that.

“We’re investing in the wholeness of people, it’s as simple as that.”
~ Sarah Beaumont

Everything we do is about relationships, and if you want to deliver any change or any meaning, it’s all about relationship. And takes time. It’s a new way of doing things, a new way of eating together, being together.

Everything we do brings dignity, it brings power for people, it brings employment.”

“A place of radical hospitality and justice.”
~ The Revd Ed Sauven

The Revd Ed Sauven, who is a member of the Grace Network’s leadership team at the current Brimscombe Mill site, describes it as “A place of radical hospitality and justice.” He continues, “For us, doing justice is enabling high quality social enterprises, which provide work opportunities for people; bringing in new staff and offering places of connection.”

The Revd Adrian Beere, a Pioneer Minister and CEO at the new Cirencester site, said “At the moment we’re doing about 2,500 hot meals for kids each week, so we’re going to grow that; with Kitchen Companions we’ll also be doing ‘meals on wheels’, but with the added benefit of spending time with people. We hope to do about 5,000 meals each week in total.”

Stroud resident Liz said of Brimscombe Mill, “This place is amazing, it’s such a great community space. The food is delicious, the staff are friendly, and I honestly think it really helps people…to get back on their feet.”

Perhaps this all points to the future of the Church. A future where worshipping communities operate in partnership with social enterprise hubs like these, sharing the vision for radical justice and inclusion that we see at the heart of the Gospels.

 

Take it further:

Brimscombe Mill site facing eviction (Guardian article)
Grace Network website
The Long Table on Facebook
Our Vision as a diocese

Key businesses hosted at the Social Enterprise sites:

Brimscombe:
• Kids Stuff
• Long Table
• Furniture bank
• Bike drop

Cirencester
(House of Fraser site, currently under development):
• Kids Stuff
• Long Table
• Furniture bank
• Bike drop

Aston Down:
(A business operations site, not currently open to the public):
• Great Plate
• Kitchen Companions
• Kick Off Stroud
• House clearances

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