The story of LocalSwitch; Problem, Opportunity, Solution and Mission

My colleague Ross Rabette has penned a few words on the reason for LocalSwitch and our shared mission..

The LocalSwitch Story

The problem

Second highest youth unemployment rate in Europe

Over the last six years, Ireland has seen huge changes in it's economy, which has massively impacted the economic prospects of it’s population. Over 1 in 3 young men (aged between 18-25) are now unemployed, and many more are emigrating, as they see few employment prospects in Ireland. These young people are quickly forming a 'forgotten generation' where they are not getting the needed opportunities to master livelihood-generating-skills in their formative years.

Second most oil dependent country in Europe

Ireland now comes close to top of  the european league for fossil fuel dependency, and imports over 90% of it's energy requirements. As energy prices rise, this added burden strangles the real economy, and sucks much of the remaining wealth abroad to the energy producing nations.

The opportunity

Ireland's unique position

Paradoxically, Ireland has the ability to solve both of these problems using assets which are uniquely prominent here, more so than most other countries in Europe. These include a highly educated workforce, a favourable demographic situation, a strong history of grass-roots movements, and a very low ratio of population to productive land.

The era of expensive energy

Since imported fossil fuel energy has become more expensive in recent years (oil - 15% yoy, natural gas 10%, electricity 5%), we are now approaching the point where it is cheaper for consumers to get some products locally, which only five years ago would not have been the case. Examples include wood for heating, locally produced organic food, or small scale electricity production.

The solution

Locally Owned Infrastructure

The proposed solution is to generate most of the communities required energy, transport fuel and food, through locally owned service companies, using proven technologies and cooperative business models. Through our experience and research, we have found that it is possible to create 1 job per 20 head of population simply by switching to local consumption in these areas. Therefore, by making this local switch, it is possible to virtually eliminate youth unemployment, and reduce imported energy by over 80%.

The best thing about all of this is that it doesn't need to be a financial burden on the community, since all of the proposed initiatives are either cost neutral or significantly cost saving. A key requirement is that a critical mass of the town’s population commit to supporting these newly established local service co-ops, through subscribing locally for the services on offer, and in doing so, cut their own cost of living too.

All over the world, we are seeing a switch over to local food and energy production as a natural response to the pressing challenges of our times. LocalSwitch has been formed as a social enterprise to help structure this transition, and assist in creating confident and thriving communities, with full employment and manageable living costs.

The LocalSwitch mission

In 1926, William Clifford was elected President of the GAA, and brought a grass roots policy with him - demanding a GAA ground in every parish in Ireland; an ambitious policy that ultimately succeeded.

Likewise, the LocalSwitch mission is to be in a position to guarantee the virtual elimination of unemployment and poverty through enabling every town and village in Ireland to switch over to buying their food and energy needs locally. This guarantee will be facilitated through the buy in of a critical mass of citizens, who, in looking after the needs of the young, will enrich their own lives through the spirit of community cooperation and lowerrd living costs.

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