Monday, 30 December 2013

#L4GLocal ? ... What is it? ... and what's happening in Watford?

So what is #L4GLocal ? This is an initiative as part of the +Link4Growth community to begin to raise the awareness of the importance of supporting Local businesses. As part of the community rebuilding programme our local traders and businesses are vital to the local economy. 5 times as much money remains locally if our hard earned cash is spent with local businesses rather than if we spend with big multiples and supermarkets.

Now it is not easy, we are all very very busy, and we have now tailored our lives to 'need' the convenience of supermarkets and the 24/7 availability that they provide. It is true... and as a massive EX-fan of Asda's for price / convenience I went along with their marketing and sales message... that is until the end of September 2013 when I realised I had bought their sales pitch... of course it's more expensive to shop locally, of course it will take you more time... and you won't get the quality or the variety. You'll probably have to pay for parking... and end up going into shop after shop to get everything you need... I believed them.

Well... what happened then?  Some of what they had been softening us up with was true... I do have to pay for parking, and I do have to visit more than one shop to get what I need... but... let me tell you what I have learned.

The actual time I spend shopping has gone down. Now I do the majority of my food shopping on a Saturday morning at Watford market. Not only this I have started a Coffee event for Link4Growth on the market to enable anyone who wants to come down at 10am to meetup, talk and maybe even pick up some provisions from the many excellent stalls there. So it is now a social, community event as well... not a sterile get in the car, park, shop, self service checkout, back home in the car without ever speaking to anyone experience.

To do my shopping on a Saturday takes effort though. I must work out what I am going to COOK during the week, with all my FRESH ingredients... but don't worry, if I can't think of something there are stall holders there who have 30 years experience... they have even given me recipes and recommendations of what to cook! ... Where in a
supermarket does anyone with 30 years deli knowledge stop to give you advice on what cheese to go with the wine you're drinking? ... or on the fresh fish counter advise how to cook scallops with an old family favourite recipe? And if you are having difficulty finding something then all you have to do is ask and they will steer you to the right person for the job!

We are losing these markets folks, we are losing them because we chose the supermarkets sales message at the cost of community. We are losing local knowledge, local expertise right now, right across the country...

What else has happened though? ... Guess what... when you talk to people, you make new friends, I've even starting helping some of these traders with their online presence... they are now starting to get interested in how they can improve their businesses, help stop the rot... all because someone took an interest with intent. But this initiative also brings other benefits... I'm not buying processed convenience foods because I've convinced myself I have no time. I'm working out what I am going to cook... this means that I am making time to cook and eat healthily, eat proper food, that can't be a bad thing can it? ... and I'm eating what is in season... and guess what... my shopping bill is less than it was at the supermarket... yes LESS, than I used to spend at the supermarkets! ... that was one of their untruths I bought too!!

All this took was a decision to change... to stop and think, to decide to do something different and then take action. I know that there will be those that won't or can't make the change, but if just 10% are inspired to take action and start to buy local we can reverse the decline... and yes, shopping locally needs to get better, it has been allowed to deteriorate and the local traders need our help to raise their game. They need to focus on what they have that supermarkets don't... they can adapt quickly, they can give expert advice, they can provide a personalised service... they do need to stop whinging about the supermarkets and start playing to their strengths... and together we can make it happen! ... will you join me? or come and meet +Alex Murray and myself for a coffee one Saturday morning?

Check out this link from +Nikki Pepper about two local traders and how to survive!

If you'd like to keep up with my regular weekly updates on my blog you can find that here.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

L4GYouth & Why I am Involved

As 2013 rolls into 2014, I’m sure a few of you have seen the words L4GYouth posted around and my name alongside them and wondered what exactly is going on, so I thought as we have a few quieter days now, I’d explain who I am and what L4GYouth is about and what it’s means for the L4G community.

I’m a recently graduate who lives in the Bushey area of SW Herts and studied History and Criminology at University. Having got a degree, I struggled initially to get on any graduate schemes and it seemed that there was no-one who could help me. I was at the Job Centre every week and apart from one or two members of staff there, they couldn’t seem to understand why I was there to be honest. I eventually decided to do the law conversion course and I am now on the route to being a solicitor.

However, this is left me in a situation where I feel I need to build up other skills that are vital to getting a training contract (the equivalent of the Holy Grail) with a law firm. I was lucky enough to see a tweet that +Chris Ogle  put out on Twitter looking for young people to help with a project involving Watford Market. I replied and met up with him a few days later and found the meeting very enlightening and learnt that some of the old ways and methods that we still use are becoming irrelevant in the 21st Century. One area we agreed on was how the education system puts young people in a position where they are under-skilled in traits they need to succeed in business and in a market that is saturated with other graduates.

Having given this thought over the recent months and a brief bit of research shows the severity of the situation. Statistics from August-October 2013 show that 941,000 (20.5%) young people are unemployed. That combined with the increasing levels of young people going to university means that more and more graduates are taking non-graduate jobs, which boasts the question of why did I go to university and get a degree to end up working in places such as Tesco’s.

I too am one of those people who could be saying that if I can’t obtain a training contract but I am determined to do so and will look for opportunities in Link for growth to help me show employers what skills and contacts I have and this is where I feel L4G can help. Not only does L4G have the ability to teach young people what skills they will need and give practical advice on a range of things from CVs and interviews to how to Network; it also has the potential for young people to take part in local community and this can help them show their skills to employers.

Some of you who have got this far are most likely wondering how this affects you and what you could do to help this project. If you know anyone between the ages of 16-25 who could benefit from L4GYouth, I urge you to get them to contact me and I will see how we can work together to improve their situation. Also, if you think you could help someone then get in contact with me and I will be more than willing to talk to you about ideas and how we can solve this situation that young people find themselves in. 2014 will be a big year for L4G with more events and more people joining the community but I firmly believe that by this time next year, L4GYouth will be making headlines also.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Blogger goes live for the Link4Growth SW Herts District!

As we approach the end of 2013 and begin the brand new year 2014, we have not been idle at #Link4Growth. We have now introduced several new features from the Google stable of applications in the South West Herts District.

A brand new YouTube channel has been created specifically for the SW Herts district. This means we can keep the focus on what is happening local and relevant. The second introduction has been the creation of this Blog (with the blogger application) which is where we can report on all the local Link4Growth community building stories as they happen!

The first few stories will include updates on L4GYouth a recent development started right here in Watford to reach out and begin tackle a couple of major issues. Not only youth unemployment but also sharing how the world has changed and how this means taking personal responsibility and re-igniting problem solving and creative thinking will be essential going forward... +Alex Murray a local law graduate from Bushey will be working with me on this project.

The second story will be to cover my first 3 months of stopping using supermarkets. In rebuilding community we have to recognise that every £1 we spend locally more of this stays in the local economy, and we need to support our local traders who are our neighbours too! I have been keeping a blog of my journey and will be sharing some of the early challenges with switching away from convenience but back to community!

2014 is going to be an exciting year... and these two new introductions will mean sharing local good news stories will become far easier...