The COVID- 19 crisis is exposing deep underlying fragilities in our economic and social systems. At the same time, as evidenced in  SURF’s series of special bulletins,  many under resourced communities and their organisations have responded effectively to meeting immediate local challenges. Policy makers are increasingly interested in how it might be possible to sustain raised levels of collaborative community action, in a way that could rebalance local regeneration power, resources and decision making.  

SURF is using its community focused, cross sector role and networks to better inform those considerations. One aspect of SURF’s broader contribution to building back better is a series of articles here in the SURF Journal.

The Rev David Cameron, is Chairperson of Celebrate Kilmarnock  – a community-led partnership that encourages stakeholders to collectively re-imagine and reinvent our public spaces.  It promotes cross-sector collaboration that confronts disadvantage, poverty and exclusion, and promotes active citizenship, learning and community development.  At its core, is community-based participation and ownership which fully recognises the importance of a healthy ‘human infrastructure’ to a vibrant town.


David Cameron is “passionate about people giving voice to what really matters”. In this reflective essay for SURF’s Journal, he proposes a moral and ethical framework for building a better post-COVID world.

Collaboratively Building Back Better – A Blueprint from Celebrate Kilmarnock

Against a background of debate and disquiet about the workings of our modern economy and the social and moral vision which underpins it, Celebrate Kilmarnock seeks to make positive contributions to the Build Back Better solutions that will be discussed over the coming weeks and months.

Covid 19 pandemic has hit our communities at all levels.  Severe international recession and instability, high and increasing domestic unemployment, falling living standards and profound social and economic inequality existed pre-crisis.  The acute awareness of the impact of this crisis on top of existing hardship focuses the mind and prioritises our goals.

The call to renew and transform economic life in our community is not motivated by any sense of superior knowledge, moral pride or self-righteousness.  It echoes the call we have heard from across Scottish society.  The call to transformation of life is about our whole lives – our politics, our cultures, our economics, how we spend our money and our time.

We believe this is a time of crisis and opportunity – both for the economic life of our country and a time when all who seek the common good must be prepared to speak out and to take action.

From these considerations, Celebrate Kilmarnock recommends that Building Back Better should seek to answer a number of substantial questions, including:

  • How can communities best offer Scottish society a new vision of what might be achievable in the economic, social and community life of the nation?
  • How can communities be encouraged to become more engaged in transformative economics?
  • How can quality of life, wellbeing and values such as justice, cohesion and sustainability, become the measures for economic activity?
  • How should inequality be addressed, ensuring that appropriate levels of choice are available to all?
  • What changes in people’s attitudes and beliefs towards the economy might be desirable?

Our starting point is to ask what the economy is for.  The question is answered with profound simplicity with the words – it is for my neighbour.

Love for our neighbours is the ultimate test of our economic arrangements.  All economies are embedded in social relationships.  Refusal to name this has created a situation in which society too often seems to exist for the benefit of the markets.  Is it any wonder that alienation and isolation are rife in our communities?

The UK has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialised world, where many are being deprived of basic survival needs. That it has been allowed to develop and continue, indicates an unhealthy degree of complacency and detachment.

We have allowed elements of our social and economic system to degrade human beings, and the environment, instead of seeking a holistic approach to life which incorporates a balanced view of social, political, environmental, and economic dimensions.

To support the wellbeing of people and communities, we need to change the economic conversation from productivity to inclusive economics.  We need to consider economic, environmental, social and democratic factors, and to develop measurements that reflect the importance of all of these.  We need to start measuring what matters.

There are four priorities which need to be recognised:

Reducing inequality;

Ending poverty;

Ensuring sustainability; and

Promoting mutuality.

Celebrate Kilmarnock recognises that developing new measures that better reflect prosperity are vital if we are to commit to a wellbeing economy, an inclusive economy and sustainable economy.

A MORE EQUAL ECONOMY can be created when the freedoms people cherish in their economic life are held in balance with the values they cherish in their social and political life. It reflects an understanding that severe economic inequalities undermine the bonds which hold societies together, and diminish us all.  It prizes the opportunities which material security gives to new generations and seeks to extend these to all children in our society.

A ‘POVERTY FREE’ ECONOMY is both a hope and an imperative.  Realism about the difficulties of achieving it should make us more determined rather than more cynical.  It is an economy which ensures that all members of society have a minimum income which allows them to live dignified and healthy lives.  It is an economy which is inclusive of people with different physical and intellectual abilities, which is insistent that this generation of children are offered excellent opportunities to learn, contribute and thrive.

A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY is one which exists in a healthy relationship with the earth’s population and environment.  It thrives without polluting the earth, poisoning the rivers and seas or destroying our climate; it thrives without impoverishing and depriving some, while others live by waste and excess.  It plans for a future where energy is drawn mainly from renewable sources and where raw materials are either renewable or reusable.  This we owe to our children, and to the planet.

A BALANCED ECONOMY is one which exists in a healthy relationship with the whole society of which it is a part.  It is the product of a society which is clear about the common good and brave enough to shape its common life towards it.  It grows by empowering the many, not the few, and by encouraging people to work and stand together in solidarity.  It rewards those who share as well as those who speculate in shares, those who co-operate as well as those who compete.  It promotes people into becoming participants rather than simply reducing them to consumers.  This we owe to our children, to one another

GENERATION OF CHANGE We call upon civil society and government for the urgent transformation of our social and economic life towards these four goals. We cannot wait for another generation to bring about change. We challenge civil society to engage in a new era of vision and action and to work towards a society where love and faith in each other becomes a higher human goal than faith in money, and where moral, economic and spiritual deprivation has been eradicated.

We believe that we need to re-imagine our economic life in a spirit of hope and realism. We want to see our shared imagination shaped by the task of reducing inequality, ending poverty, ensuring sustainability, and promoting mutuality – a task rooted in our understanding of and commitment to the common good.

Celebrate Kilmarnock will encourage and facilitate where practically possible the development of projects that are systemically transformative and which build sufficient capability that the members of our town community can individually and collectively achieve full human flourishing.

Our shared hope is that in working in partnership with all sectors of our community we can continue to be a powerful force for good.  At a time when the moral vision of Scotland needs to be deepened and renewed in relation to major economic, social and environmental challenges, our public voice, visibility and presence needs to continue.

  1. We urge the endorsement of four priorities for economic life – reducing inequality, ending poverty, ensuring sustainability and promoting mutuality.
  2. We affirm support for the living wage, and urge that payment of the living wage be made a criterion in awarding goods and services contracts over the value of £100,000 in any year.
  3. We support the reduction of levels of inequality in wealth within the Scotland.
  4. We support the growing of the ‘mutual’ and co-operative sectors of the Scottish economy towards 10% of the total, and the promotion of business models which emphasise positive social impacts, and call for fiscal incentives to promote these.
  5. We note with concern the links between deprivation and health, calling on all to unite in support of positive public health initiatives as a priority.

Celebrate Kilmarnock recognises that whilst we need to think long term, we need to act now, and that the way we approach our work will lay the foundations of the new normal.  Our approach has always been about collaboration and collective action, and we reaffirm our commitment to focus on the pillars of:  Engagement, Inspirations and Community Ownership.

Change is, and has always been, about people and the systems we create: the how and who on decision making.

SURF’s Journal is running several themed reviews of the way in which the COVID19 crisis is exacerbating inequalities. SURF’s unique position as Scotland’s regeneration forum allows us to access the views of frontline workers, academics, policymakers, politicians and those people living and working in the communities which are being hardest hit.   Our intention is not only to record the damage that is being caused – or to rejoice in the innovative and collective creativity of those who have stepped up to meet the challenges. We also want to present ideas and processes which will encourage debate about how our many national and local partner organisations should support and sustain the most effective of these responses to collaboratively build back better.

Among the themes that we are exploring are food insecurity, child poverty, the gender divide and homelessness.

SURF welcomes all feedback and suggestions for future areas you would like to see covered. Please email Elaine Cooper at Elaine@surf-old.local.