We started Star & Crescent in February 2015 and it was a project born of frustration with the existing local media in my hometown of Portsmouth. This was particularly true of political coverage in the city, which too often duplicates the official line of people in power over the voices of local activists, critics and communities. We believe that journalism can be a catalyst for positive social change, and this was very much in our minds when Portsmouth journalist Tom Sykes and I created the site.
I heard of the SUSY project when a colleague of mine invited me to a Think Global workshop in Portsmouth. I was interested in how projects from different parts of the world were changing their communities for the better and I was particularly interested in what we, as a small and early stage social enterprise with big ambitions, could learn from them. I wasn’t disappointed.
In the workshop, Think Global’s Catherine Richardson introduced us to the ‘social and solidarity economy’, a term I’d not heard before but have come to prefer to ‘social enterprise’ because it more accurately captures what we do at Star & Crescent. We are a small team of volunteers currently running the website with limited funding from reader donations. All of our content is sourced online, via what we call our ‘virtual newsroom’ of volunteer writers and editors. Most of our writers are not professional journalists or writers, so we work very closely with them on stories. Solidarity and the social economy are at the very heart of what we do.
The case studies we learned about during the development day showed us how other global projects are achieving results in their communities. One of these was Zaytoun, a community interest company focused on finding a market place for Palestinian produce in the UK. In their video for the SUSY project, the founders talk about the importance of ‘being the solution’ and this is at the heart of our mission. We aim to build close relationships with our diverse communities in Portsmouth and involve them in improving and diversifying the local media landscape. To this end, we are currently exploring setting ourselves as a media cooperative that would allow local residents to ‘own’ S&C and have a direct say in the stories we cover and how we operate as an organisation.
We believe independent, locally-owned and run media can be at the forefront of achieving change, particularly for under-represented and marginalised communities – by holding power to account, providing a platform on which to raise up missing voices, inspiring debate about the real issues affecting local people, and increasing local interest and involvement in politics. Our day with the SUSY project not only taught us that placing solidarity at the heart of our work could change our communities in Portsmouth – it showed us the many ways that this exciting economy is already doing just that, all over the world. And that’s got to be good news.
By Sarah Cheverton, Editor in Chief of Star & Crescent.
Take a look at other SSE initiatives across Europe and the globe on this YouTube page.