• The Story Behind Bridgedale360


    I just had to leave…


    I had been walking aimlessly, as if my body just carried me along, for what seemed like forever. I still didn't know where I was heading or what was propelling me forwards. Except the reverb of that thought - I had to leave - and a name. Bridgedale360. My fist tightened around the scrap of paper on which it was written. I didn't have to open it, again, to see it. By now the name and the X that marked it on the spidery map was already etched into my mind. Instead, I looked up and wondered whether the turn in the road was starting to look - not exactly, but still - like the curve of one of the lines on the map. Like one of the spider´s legs. All roads lead to Bridgedale360? I first heard about it from a friend a few months ago and then later, overheard it in a bar. Just people talking over loud and dull pop - but I heard it for sure - and then I found this map, or it found me. I had to leave, my heart needed to believe, I had to believe.


    I picked up the pace, my heart beating out a rhythm for my legs to follow, and my right side stung. Exhaustion and fear tugged at me, and perhaps it was regret that made me look back every now and again, but this time I wasn't going to let it get the better of me. Not this time. I threw some of what was left over from my bag of dried fruits into my mouth, hoping it would hush my hunger. My feet yelled out in pain; my new boots had still not been broken in. Instead, the boots seemed bent on breaking me in. Blisters and all. My insides screamed at me in revolt.


    Suddenly I heard voices. I got cautious, a bit afraid, but my curiosity brought me closer. My ears twitched like antennae, trying to figure out where the voices came from. I stood still. There. “Bridgedale360”, I heard it. My heart rattled my ribcage. “Over there, not so far anymore.” I had to get to them. “Wait!” I think I said and cut through the row of trees, hesitantly at first, but then found myself pushing and shoving shrubs aside, until I saw them and they saw me. “Hi,” said the woman, smilingly. I gasped and smiled back and my insides kept quiet, for once.


    We were walking for days, mostly quietly. But there was a sense of unity that I had never felt before. We were all following our dreams somehow, but without really knowing what it was. Layla showed me some pictures of her family, and said that she didn’t know any longer where they were, if they were alive. Could we blame the “system crisis”? But I also felt conscience-stricken, because I saw how privileged I was. Yet, I was unhappy. But happiness does not come with abundance, I learnt it the hard way. I could not imagine myself continuing like before. I desperately needed Bridgedale360 to be more than a silly fairy tale…


    Once we started off together, everything fell into step so to speak. We moved as if we were one, people from the west, people from the east, just people...fleeing the old system and searching for that unknown place. Conversations bubbled up here and there, naturally without any haste, but then we would retreat into a silence again, as we mulled over things we had just heard, and I imagined how life was for them before in the countries where they were coming from, and how much it sounded like my own in some ways; while in others, mine was completely foreign to theirs. I remembered the things I used to enjoy, but that was in the past, I told myself, as I shook off an all too familiar sense of heaviness. Excess does that to you, somehow. But, here on this dirt road to Bridgedale360, I was just like them. Bridgedale360 was and will be the great equalizer for us all.   


    Arriving happened by surprise. We came to a stream and a little further up a girl was playing in the water, singing for herself. We came closer and when she saw us she smiled. “Ahoy there, comrades!”, she said. And she smiled and waved at us. I was surprised by the openness with which she was greeting a bunch of strangers. In the middle of nowhere! But it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, we soon found out. Further up the stream we saw a mill and some mechanism pumping water. And then it all just opened up. Without waiting for us, the girl skipped ahead and we followed, not skipping like her, but feeling a slight hop in our own step. We exchanged glances and before we knew it, buildings and gardens and people working appeared from behind the trees. Everybody stopped to greet if only briefly, and smiled before they got back to doing what they were doing. Cows grazed past us. Even they seemed to smile.


    Our little guide, we could see, had come to a stop before the most impressive of all the buildings that we had passed. A man stood there rubbing his hands and then approached us, as if he couldn´t wait for us to get to where he stood. “Welcome,” he said, while his hands rubbed and patted our weary shoulders, ”first some rest and then I´ll show you around Bridgedale360, ok?”

    • The Marketplace

      LOCAL ECONOMY, ECONOMIC RESILIENCE, ENTREPRENEURSHIP

      “Small is beautiful.”


      “Think globally and buy locally.”



      Introduction

      Hans, baker, economist


      The global economy has its advantages. In the blink of the eye, we can get anything we want from the world. One click on the screen. Almost any product, service, or experience… legal or illegal. It’s like an endless combination of everything out there on the market, for sale, to anyone who can afford it. This might bring a certain sense of freedom. After all, the choices are endless. However, monetizing everything also restricts our freedom.


      To begin with, we only have freedom if we have money. There is a small segment of the population that has an endless amount of money, but the vast majority struggle. Some struggle to have  their basic needs covered, and others their dreams, desires, and self-realisation. As more is monetized (even things like fresh drinking water & plant seeds) - we move power and freedom away from people to a small number of powerful people and corporations. This is called capital accumulation. Take debt and interest, the very basis for the economy, and you’ll see that the whole system is set up to move money from the borrower to the lender. In other words, from the poor to the rich. Therefore, the gap between the rich and poor widens; the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.


      Here in Bridgedale360, you could say that we have mainly ‘unplugged’ ourselves from the old monetary system. We still interact with the old financial system in certain ways, to buy goods we can not make ourselves or to travel. But in the town and the marketplace, we do not use ordinary money. Instead, we use our own currency named “Local is Beautiful” (LIB). It can be exchanged from the Euro at the stall. With our own currency, we make sure that the money stays within the system, and does not disappear into middleman banks. We also do not use interest so the money is less likely to accumulate in only a few places. Because of this, the economy does not grow and brings a lot of stability to make significant steps toward a de-growth system. Everything you see in the stalls is locally produced, and can only be bought with LIB. This allows us to keep the circulation of money and goods within our local territory. With this transparency comes a peace of mind: that all products are ethically and sustainably produced, and that no money is trickling away to banks and multinationals. It also brings independence and resilience, since our economy doesn’t rely on the global economy to be healthy. There are, however, times when we buy from the outside. But when we do, we insist on buying fair-trade and organic, so that we know that no workers from other countries were exploited.


      The good thing is that you don’t even need money to live here. Apart from our local currency-based economy, we also use bartering a lot; exchanging things. For instance, if you have problems with your plumbing you would normally check with your neighbours first and often someone will be able help you. Perhaps you give a few litres of fresh apple juice in return, or something else that is of value for your neighbour. Even here in the marketplace bartering is common. Just have a look around! You can see that also the customers often bring their goods, so that they can trade them. As you see, it makes up for a very lively atmosphere, and good relationships are created along the way. But our bartering “rules” are not in the form of: “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” - actually, we try to foster solidarity among all the inhabitants here, so if you need help with the plumbing in your flat, someone might offer to do it even without expecting anything in return, because we know that mutual aid is intrinsic and important for our survival as species.


      Psst.. a little secret… not everybody here knows about it. I worked as a stockbroker in Frankfurt before I came here. It’s true. For many years I was living an illusionary life. I was measuring success in how much money I made and my status in the company. I enjoyed driving my Porsche and living in my fancy flat. My ego was growing and growing while I was enjoying more and more success. I was “content”, but only on the surface. There was something missing on the inside. I wasn’t genuinely happy after all, even though I thought I should be. One day, after many years, I just couldn’t bear it anymore. It became absolutely clear to me, that this was all worthless. That my idea of happiness was flawed. Totally. I am thankful I found this place. Now I’m a baker! And I have flour instead of blood on my hands, if you know what I mean. I get up at ungodly hours, but on the other hand, seeing happy people with a healthy economy where there is enough for all helps me sleep like a baby! So… Would you like a baguette? Or this sourdough rye bread? How’d you like to pay? In LIBs, massage or broccoli?


      Learning Outcomes

      • To form a healthy attitude towards money and the means of exchange

      • To identify the local sprouts of change in the direction of alternative economy

      • To experience alternative economic systems

    The Free Store and the Bike PoolThe Workshop