About Civic Shop
The Civic Shop wants to move us collectively from a consumer modelled society to a participatory and equitable one. It's the start of piecing together what is possible.
Each initiative that we include here adds to a body of imaginative ideas and practical works that are demonstrating how we, as individuals, groups and organisations, can together create stronger neighbourhoods and Cities through an open and participatory society.
The Civic Shop is currently in the process of:
- Building a fully functioning web platform that functions as a shop window for a growing number of these initiatives.
- Developing a basic kit that others can use to set up their own Civic Shops. We'd love to see them in railway station coffee shops, libraries and community centres.
- Planning a tour so that we can go to where people are, find more initiatives to add to the platform and make neighbourhoods more aware of what others are already doing.
For further information whilst the site is in progress, please get in touch with Cassie Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Background to the Civic Shop
The Civic Shop started off as a residency space at Somerset House between December 2014 - April 20 15, and has since also been at the Victoria & Album Museum as part of their Civic Futures exhibition and their Design & Digital weekend at London Design Week 2015. We introduced it as:
Look around you today. Where does the commercial sphere stop and the civic space start? Our sense of the civic is still closely associated with the public planning of the ‘50s and ‘60s - the word seems to belong in bold, sans-serif signage. But today, this post-war civic infrastructure is struggling to maintain its relevance in the face of austerity and new technologies. Our public libraries are closing. Our town halls are being restructured. And our community centres are failing to serve a new generation.
In response, civic organisations are increasingly borrowing from commerce to restore their currency. Councils become corporate. Libraries are rebranded as Ideas Stores. Community groups commission marketing. Civic initiatives are learning the tricks of the trade.
Has the world of commerce encroached irrevocably on our civic spaces, and how much do we care? How much is civic exclusion growing because of what participation demands or expects of us?
The Civic Shop is designed for people to explore these questions and their own attitudes to the commercialisation and privilege of modern life. Like Aristotle, who argued that virtue is something that is cultivated through practice, we believe civic behaviour and participation needs to be practiced to take hold. Altruism, generosity, solidarity, and civic spirit are not like commodities that are depleted with use. They are more like muscles that grow stronger with exercise.
The Civic Shop showcases the work of a new generation of civic activists and social designers - inventors of new public spaces, new economies and champions of public good in everyday life.
By bringing these civic ideas into a commercial space, the Civic Shop asks where markets belong, and where they don’t, about how we want to live together, how we want to behave towards one another and about how we want to, and are able to, participate in a collaborative future.
At the Civic Shop, there are some things that are for sale and some things that are free. Any money made goes back into the causes that inspired the products in the first place. Most of all though, each of the initiatives showcased here is an invitation to participate.
Works from leading designers like Snook, CoHere, 00, FutureGov, Open Desk, Common Office,Tech For Good TV and Union feature in the Civic Shop, alongside work of long-standing institutions like Citizens Advice, Crafts Council and Womens Engineering Society. With its rich history as a public institution that has held many types of public records ( Sick and Hurt Office, General Register Office for births, marriages and deaths and the Inland Revenue ), it seems a fitting place to host this concept at Somerset House.