Within our community a Cornerstone was begun as a central place for a community of 3,000 to build on the trust and self-reliance established during the health crisis. The template should be promoted and encouraged across Britain.
As in many neighborhoods, towns, and villages, there are underused community spaces. In our case, an empty property was rented and decorated and a hub for giving and receiving was begun. Originally a response to a growing number of people who were finding it hard to feed their family in a time of joblessness, Cornerstone developed into a place where surplus could be donated, and shortages made up. Excess produce from people’s gardens and allotments, books, toys and games which had been used and enjoyed but were no longer wanted, outgrown school uniforms with plenty of life left in it; all these things flowed into the Cornerstone – and out again.
All types of people use the Cornerstone, removing any stigma as recipes involving quinces were swapped, and fresh eggs from over productive hens eagerly seized upon. Other organisations began to look to Cornerstone as an outlet for their giving, whether fresh meals, information on funding or resourcing. Staffed by paid and voluntary workers, it became a place to meet and chat, giving and receiving so much more than was originally imagined, a symbol of what could be achieved if a community worked together. Had it not been for the lockdown, Cornerstone would probably not have happened. Had our old way of doing things not been broken, we would not have found a new way.
Starting a Cornerstone requires: a small start-up grant of about £5,000; an intrepid local leader of which there are thousands in Great Britain; a local administrative group such as a church or a community organisation; available space to rent on a short-term basis; local part-time paid staff. Once established, a Cornerstone can become self-sufficient through local donations and available grants.
If we were to be awarded funds from the Heywood Foundation the funds would be used to help another Cornerstone get started in another community. We will help with our experience and advice to get new hubs started. We have seen how communities and individuals have gained from giving as well as receiving and have increased their understanding of their neighbors. This is not an opportunity to be missed as from here it can lead on to helping communities deal with future crises – health, economic, and environment.