Activism

This man let 12 strangers give £100,000 of his money away. Governments should follow suit

Liverpudlian David Clarke gave away £100,000 to local beneficiaries, but he allowed strangers to decide where to direct it

Illustration: Big Issue

When he inherited £100,000, David Clarke decided to let 12 strangers give the money away. Clarke brought together 12 people from Liverpool’s L8 postcode, in a project called Wealth Shared. The strangers met for four two-hour sessions, where they debated how to use the money.

L8 is in Liverpool Riverside, the 37th most deprived constituency in England. The total median income is £7,000 lower than the national average. Participants had seen wealth disparities first-hand, from boarded-up buildings to rough sleepers. They also knew the reputation of local charities and organisations working to address these issues.

Wealth Shared recently revealed how the 12 participants gave the money away. 

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They split the funds between four local organisations: £25k each to The Florrie community centre; The Dingle, Granby and Toxteth (DGT) Collaborative – a network of schools; the Team Oasis children’s charity and the Granby and Toxteth Development Trust.

The money could prove vital to the DGT Collaborative. Headteachers in the group’s schools say they have “never known” such financial pressure. Food banks on school premises have seen a surge in demand and the schools are providing extra meals to children who would otherwise go hungry. Staff have resorted to whip-rounds to cover rising utility costs. 

The headteachers say that the money will improve life prospects for around 1,000 kids in their care. Beyond the direct impact of funding, some of the chosen organisations describe a “morale boost” from being selected by local people.

Participatory budgeting, similarly, allows community members to decide how government money is spent. Developed by the Brazilian Workers’ Party in the 1980s, participatory budgeting has been used in local government in Scotland. Take the ‘Wee Green Grants’ initiative. In 2019, Glasgow City Council allocated £150,000 to be spent on green spaces. Eight community members from across the city formed a panel, allocating funding to 28 applicants.

In their book City of Equals, Profs Jonathan Woolf and Avner De Shalit say participatory budgeting isn’t about the money; it’s about giving participants a “sense of meaning” within their community. The Wealth Shared report concluded that “perhaps the lasting impact for us… is the culture of trust, mutual support and altruism.” It’s hard to put a price tag on that.

Chris Poole is a freelance journalist.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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