Author Archives: tomnixon

Reducing energy costs sustainably in Brighton

This is a guest post by Kayla Ente – Director of Brighton and Hove Energy Services. If you have a project or business that is working towards the Brightoneers vision and would like to submit a guest post, please get in touch.

Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative Ltd is an energy supplier run as a social enterprise. We apply our expertise in energy efficiency and renewable energy to help
people take action to reduce their energy costs. Because we do not distribute dividends
to our shareholders, we can reinvest our profits back into the community, improving our
collective quality of life.

We do this by offering a three tiered programme of energy services:

  • By gathering thousands of people together in collective buying, we offer discounted prices on electricity and gas,
  • For no upfront payment, we conduct energy assessments, prepare energy plans and undertake retrofits, lowering energy consumption,
  • We finance the installation of renewable energy micro-generation where economically attractive and suitable to the property. The more micro-generation we install, the more leverage we have against rising costs due to increased wholesale prices of fossil fuels.

We are especially targeting vulnerable people, those people who are currently paying 20%
more on their energy bills because they are on prepayment meters. We want to take over
these relationships from the energy suppliers and provide these people with a lower price
for their heating and electricity. We are also interested in retrofitting draughty, thermally
inefficient properties occupied by vulnerable people. Approximately 25,000 people die
each year from winter cold. As energy prices increase, more people struggle to keep warm
in the leaky homes that are especially prevalent in Brighton and Hove.

We are looking to the community groups to spread the word around about us to their
members, to help us identify and provide assistance to those most in need.

You can support us by registering your interest in our service on our webpage.

Please contact us if you would like more information about our new, revolutionary
community service at info@bhesco.co.uk.

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Next three Brightoneers events

Here are the next three Brightoneers events. Get involved!

12 Feb: Alternative currencies and smartcard pilot. Led by Good Money, we’ll be working together on moving towards a pilot of a smartcard system in Brighton that helps the local economy.

19 Feb: How can we use crowd funding to build a better economy? We have speakers covering the use of crowd funding for equity, rewards and lending, then time to break into groups to start making stuff happen.

5 March: The first Brightoneers film night: Shift Change – an awesome film about the power and potential of employee ownership – check out the trailer. I’m planning on making this a monthly event screening documentaries that will inspire us into action.

Awesome Brightoneers launch, now it’s time for the real work

Let's make shit happen people

It was incredible to see over 100 people coming together last night for the Brightoneer’s first event. Dave and I thought it would just be a small gathering, but with 150 people registered it had grown to something much bigger than expected. I was getting nervous when just a couple of hours before the start, some people were saying that they wanted something with more structure, and at the same time I was getting messages from other people saying that they wanted to keep it very free-form. I guess you can’t please all the people all the time! Then someone wise said to me that the people who come will be right people, and that’s exactly what happened. I’m glad to say that included some of the ‘structure-seekers’ who I had some great chats with and who brought a positive energy to help with more focussed events in the future.

It was a truly inspirational group of people and many I’d never met before. Here are just a few examples of Brightoneering in action:

  • The Happy Startup School – a fantastic idea to bring more meaning to entrepreneurship
  • Conscious Business UK – spreading the word about Conscious Business and other related initiatives
  • Undiscussables – how to out the elephant in the room
  • hiSbe Food CIC – the ethical supermarket opening this year
  • Brighton Energy Coop – helping people in the city generate their own sustainable energy
  • BHESCo – a social enterprise bulk buying energy for people in Brighton
  • Wired Sussex – launching the amazing Fusebox project
  • Stay Up Late – promoting the rights of people with learning disabilities to live the lifestyle of their choosing
  • Exeter Street Hall – the campaign to secure an important community space into community ownership
  • The Bevy – a community owned pub
  • Drop – a coop that exists to help web developers
  • The People Who Share – a social enterprise dedicated to building a Sharing Economy
  • purple dot – a non-profit organisation that supports and connects people, businesses and organisations who are helping to create a better economy
  • NixonMcInnes – my good friends working to make large organisations more social, and moving towards employee-ownership
  • Feel free to add others in the comments.

It was also great to have our MP Caroline Lucas there, engaging with people, listening and supporting as well as Thurstan Crockett from Economic Development at the council. There are people in government that care as much as we do, which gives me a lot of hope.

So we’re off to a great start. We need to make Brightoneering projects like these the main thing in our economy, not just a small ethical sector. We need to grow this economy to provide everything that local people need from energy to food to transport as well as exporting the things that Brighton is best at – like the creative and digital sectors – to the rest of the world. We need to build this pioneering new economy by collaborating and working together. We now have a community of almost 200 people and growing who want to be a part of this. Let’s make stuff happen.

After a nice informal start, let’s plan some more events where we can working on things together. There’s already a lot of energy around a focussed event for coops which I’m very excited about. If you have other ideas, remember that this is OUR community – it’s not ‘a Tom Nixon thing’ – so you can instigate whatever you like. You can discuss ideas on the message board.

There is also CityCamp 2013 coming up on 22-24 March. This is a fantastic opportunity to kick off new Brightoneering projects. I will be there and so should you.

So THANK YOU again to everyone who has helped to kick off the Brightoneers movement. We have purpose, people and energy. Everything we need to make Brighton better.

thank you

5 Brightoneering things I’m excited about for 2013

2013 is set to be a year of practical action to develop a pioneering new local economy in Brighton. Here are five seven things I’m excited about:

1. The Brightoneers networking event and launch party

With well over 100 people registered, this might well be the largest gathering in the city’s history that brings together people who want to build a new local economy that creates greater wellbeing for everyone in the city. If you haven’t registered yet then grab a spot before it has filled up.

2. The launch of hisBe

For me, hisBe perfectly embodies the Brightoneer spirit. hiSbe stands for how it Should be and it’s a new ethical supermarket that will bring healthy, affordable, local and sustainable food to people in the city. I can’t wait to start shopping there and I hope hisBe inspires other entrepreneurs to be as ambitious in setting a higher purpose for their businesses.

3. CityCamp 2013

CityCamp already has a fantastic track record for creating innovative new ideas that make life better in the city. This is the first year that I’ve been able to go, and I can’t wait. What I love about CityCamp is that it’s focussed on generating ideas and actually making things happen. It’s a huge opportunity for Brightoneers to get together to kick off new projects. Save the date now: 22-24 March.

4. Brightoneers Summer Fair

Just a seed of an idea right now, but I’m excited about the prospect of getting pioneering businesses that are working towards the Brightoneers vision for a better local economy to be showcased in a fun public event during the summer. If you’re interested in this idea too then add a note to this thread on the discussion board.

5. New legislation for coops and employee ownership

It’s not often that I get excited about a government report, but the Nuttall Review into employee ownership is one that has the potential to pave the way towards big changes in how businesses are owned. Don’t confuse this with George Osbourne’s Rights for Shares plan which is an unrelated (and terrible) policy. The Nuttall report has been embraced by the cooperative and employee ownership communities and the early signs are that many of his recommendations will be implemented by the government. I hope this will make it much easier to set up cooperative and employee-owned businesses, and incentivise owners to transition ownership of businesses into cooperatives rather than the traditional sell-out. It’s exciting to think how thing could change the world of work and the economy if we make employee ownership the default.

[UPDATE] Had to add two more things to this list:

6. The Fusebox

This was announced last week. It’s an incredibly disruptive and exciting project – a physical space where Brighton’s creative and digital industries will be re-writing the rules of business. I’m particularly excited about the incorporation of co-operative and mutual ownership models in this.

7. Good For Nothing

Kicking off this Friday, 18 Jan. What excites me about this project is the intense, high speed help that it will provide to pioneering businesses in Brighton. Over the course of a long weekend, specialists in a variety of fields immerse themselves in helping three businesses.

So that’s my list. What are you excited about for 2013?

Our first week of Brightoneering

Last week was the first full week since we launched The Brightoneers with a tweet. Here’s what’s happened since:

  • We’ve had some clarity about what The Brightoneers actually is. It’s a network of people (rather than organisations) that have a shared vision for the local economy and want to take practical steps using business to realise it. This network will spawn new projects, businesses, events and collaborations to make the vision a reality.
  • 50 people have now signed up for the free networking event and launch party in January – a real critical mass of people. This is the first event of its kind, bringing people together who share a vision for a pioneering new local economy in Brighton, so please come along if the vision resonates with you.
  • Some people didn’t really get it which is to be expected, so Tom wrote his personal story about why he started The Brightoneers and what he hopes it will do.
  • Getting the vision out into the wild has attracted the attention of local government and politicians, who have been very positive. Tom and Pete are meeting with people from Economic Development this week and Tom is meeting MP Caroline Lucas in January to talk about The Brightoneers and gain support for the vision. I’d personally love to work with politicians from all parties on this – The Brightoneers is not wedded to any particular party.
  • Dave was over at the launch of The Bevy – a community owned pub in Bevendean. You can buy shares in the pub (how cool!) from £10 here.
  • hiSbe (How it Should be) – a perfect example of The Brightoneers approach to business were featured in The Argus. Tom has been giving them some help and support.
  • We’re starting to look at how we can bring more next generation thinking into business education in the city – from schools right up to the universities.
  • Tom is using his connection with WorldBlu to investigate how workplaces across Brighton can be more democratic. Democratic principles are a key part of realising the vision.
  • Sven is particularly interested in using a cooperative business approach to help the housing problem in the city, and is working on some early stage ideas for this.
  • We’ve started working on a new website that will be much more decentralised because at the moment it’s too centred around a couple of people which isn’t a true network. The new website is likely to be much more social network and/or wiki-based so it can be used as an online platform to enable collaboration.

How about you? Please tell us in the comments what you’ve been up to that’s working towards the vision, or share ideas and questions about what should happen next.

The Brightoneers’ vision for Brighton’s economy

Wouldn’t it be great if the economy in Brighton existed to make life in our city better for everyone, now and for future generations, in harmony with the natural world?

Wouldn’t it be great if the local economy was not just for the people, but owned by the people – the workers and citizens?

Wouldn’t it be great if the local economy could provide everything that the people here need from food to energy to banking to transport, as well as exporting the things that it is best at to the rest of the world?

Wouldn’t it be great if money cycled round and round the local economy, making us all better off, and not into the pockets of the few?

Wouldn’t it be great if businesses that worked in this way collectively became the largest employer in the city, creating jobs that deliver happiness and meaning as well as a salary?

Wouldn’t it be great if we created a model that inspired other towns and cities across the world to build better local economies for the benefit of everyone there too?

This is neither socialism nor capitalism as we know it. This is a vision for a local economy in Brighton where the power of money, markets and thriving commerce is put to use to increase the wellbeing of everyone in the city, forever.

This is not a pipe-dream. The work has already started and there are some incredible pioneering businesses in Brighton that are making this vision a reality today.

The Brightoneers are a group of people working to set up, join up and celebrate pioneering businesses in Brighton, to create a city full of wellbeing for everyone.

Like the sound of this? Please blog about us, tweet about us, and get involved.