London’s global residents: smart, committed and investing in the future of the city
Media coverage of London just now is dominated by two themes: inequality and exodus.
Neighborhoods are being ‘cleansed’ of the poor. High costs of living are forcing millenials to migrate. Global investors are turning boho landscapes in to ‘ghost mansions’.
Seeing the city as a new den of iniquity, worthy of the opening scene of ‘La Grande Bellezza’, Cory Doctorow writes that he is leaving London because:
“London is a city whose two priorities are being a playground for corrupt global elites who turn neighbourhoods into soulless collections of empty safe-deposit boxes in the sky, and encouraging the feckless criminality of the finance industry.”
Rowan Moore in The Observer isn’t leaving, but sees The Doctorow Effect as leading to a loss for London of “essential tissue”, with “delights and beauties available only at a high price”.
For Alex Proud, it’s the opening frame of new era in which ‘Cool London is dead, and the rich people are to blame’:
“The future is a clean, dull city populated by clean, dull rich people and clean, dull old people. The future is joyless Michelin starred restaurants and shops selling £3,000 chandeliers.”
Putting aside the assumption that all Dirty Spoon cafes and recycled light bulbs are full of joy, after invasion by tribes of eau de cologne oligarchs and zombie old people, no-one appears to have an answer to the storm of hyper-gentrification, other than escape to the countryside — oh, and gentrify that instead.
How to develop a new soul for the city, after the rain of super-gentrification?
There is an answer — but only if the new wave of Colonel Blimps set aside their assumption that foreign investors and residents in London are simply a force for elitism and exclusivity, and recognise that they can be a force for cosmpolitan communitarianism in a city of ambition.
Since 2002, alongside working in the media, I’ve been an advisor to urban development, helping residents, landowners and Government revitalise local economies and their communities.
A common thread has been to design and deliver ways and means by which people can act on their pride, sense of belonging and make change.
An enemy of endeavour is often what John W. Gardner, the great American educator and activist, called “corrosive melancholy.”
“Today the skeptic is the status quo,” Gardner once wrote. “The one who must make the effort is the one who seeks to create a new moral order.”
It has always seemed obvious to me that community participation in urban development is essential — but that whoever writes the cheques determines the design and demographic beneficiary of the outcome.
Real estate companies and designers talk ‘placemaking’ and popular involvement in development, and communities often think that this offers equity in a scheme. It does, but only to an extent. Communities are not the same as consumers.
We end up surrounded by cityscapes that serve projections of consumer, not community need: avenues of French baby wear shops and High Streets full of betting shops. And new forms of market failure: where the property market decreases densities and an area like central London has as many empty properties as some of the country’s most decaying seaside towns,even though those residents who remain enjoy the highest weekly average earnings in the country.
It stands to reason that if communities want environments that are more responsive to their needs, we need to find ways and means by which users can become more directly involved in it — beyond taxation, beyond local democracy, in every judicious and direct which way that comes.
In 2014, with support from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea andWestway Trust, I founded a network of business ‘angel’ investors in West London called Wild Blue Cohort.
The venture is growing a community of investors in the area who want to profit from the success of early stage companies and benefit the local economy. They are global citizens with an acute sense of the local; and earlier this week, we announced their sixth investment.
With support from Deepali Nangia, a specialist in businesses, mentorship and evaluation, our community of over thirty private investors has invested £300,000 to date, with all of the opportunities offering traceable value return to the local economy, should the investee thrive and prosper.
More than three hundred entrepreneurs have approached Wild Blue for finance: we estimate that one third are local and a second third would like to or could grow their operations in the area — for more on investment criteria, see our listing on the website of the UK Business Angels Association.
According to the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, nearly 50% of the world’s entrepreneurs are between the ages of 25 and 44, with 25 to 34 year-olds showing the highest rates of entrepreneurial activity.
Wild Blue has value as a vehicle for mobilising such populations, through investor matchmaking at the most local level. It also enables private capital to de-risk some of the barriers to entry for enterprise in London, set by very high real estate and other costs.
But more than this, we think that just as people increasingly buy and eat local, in the future either they will invest local or at least look for assets in a diversified portfolio that generate value return to the place that they call home.
For me, born and brought up in this part of Central London, what is exciting — and distinctive — is the profile of our membership. Many attended business school in Europe and the U.S.A., are under 50 and not English.
Historically, the culture of the area has been slightly sat on by circles sharing gap year yarns and fond memories of Biba and the flamingos at Kensington Roof Gardens — absolutely fabulous as this is.
Wild Blue is capturing a new global community who want to support an effective, diverse and soulful local economy, work together, share expertise and serve and support the companies in which they invest.
This is a new cohort of London resident, utterly at odds with the key cast who feature in miserablist London-lit.
Smart, progressive and international, members of Wild Blue want to belong — and private investment in the local is one way that they are realising it.
We know about gentrification. We are getting to know about hyper-gentrification. Is Wild Blue, its appetite for the local and our membership’s excitement for entrepreneurship, a new kind of ‘Cool London’?
If you would like to know more about or join Wild Blue, please contact David Barrie, Founder & CEO — firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re an entrepreneur seeking finance, please contact Investment Director Deepali Nangia- email@example.com. You can find and follow us at LinkedIn and on Twitter: @WildBlueKC.
London’s global residents: smart, committed and investing in the future of the city — Medium:
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