In the daily rush of Palatinate emails, we sometimes get an occasional gem. A bar steward from one of the college bars contacted us about an event she was planning in June, and it chimed perfectly with my interests in sustainability. Its name: the ‘cash mob’.
I’ve written before about encouraging students in Durham to take a greater interest in their community. If students don’t show a greater desire to be involved economically and politically, Durham can only function as a bit-part economy that will never be able to boom on its own accord, such is its unsustainable bias on the student market.
The ‘cash mob’ concept started in America and prominently reached these shores earlier this year with the formation of a cash mob group in Cambridge. The Cambridge group describes the initiative as the following:
“You’ve heard of flash mobs, where people gather and break into elaborate song and dance routines. But now, a new phenomenon, called “Cash Mobs,” is spreading.
“Instead of breaking into song, members of cash mobs break open their wallets to spend money at locally owned businesses.”
Not only is the economy struggling to grow once again, but small businesses in local communities are finding it harder than ever to expand and even survive. Cash mobs are an attempt to raise awareness in the local community about all the fantastic things that are on offer.
In Durham we have an incredible indoor market, the like of which I’ve never heard of before. Yet it stocks almost everything you could need to eat and manage your home, from meat, bread and fish, to hardware and cleaning products. Who needs Tesco?
This kind of quality local service needs to be supported as not only does it build greater community ties (the kind of intangible ideal that we rarely think of nowadays) but it puts money directly in to the pockets of local citizens, your civic neighbours.
Now, I’m often highly critical of anti-consumerist protests and gimmicks. Personally, I believe that the antics of organisations like Adbusters is a complete waste of time. Why graffiti a billboard when you could be choosing to live differently and encouraging others to do the same?
However, I cannot wait to get involved in Durham’s Cash Mob when it kicks off in June. Certainly, by focusing on one store at a time, the initiative gives an instant cash benefit to a local outlet. But, at the same time, it raises awareness of all the wonderful things on offer at these independent stores and will encourage people to patronise them again. It’s not just a transitory, warm, fuzzy feeling, it can bring sustainable change to a community as it increases awareness.
I’ll post details about the Cash Mob when it eventually happens in Durham this June. But, for now, look out for one in a town near you!