In ancient Greece, the agora, or marketplace, was the lively focal point for the town or city's commercial, political and social activities. Historically, British towns and cities have followed the same model, with marketplaces and high streets offering commercial space, taverns and parks offering social space, and town halls offering opportunities for political debate. In spite of this, many of today’s town centres bear more resemblance to 'ghost towns' (New Economics Foundation, 2003) than bustling agoras. Nearly 60 per cent of towns and cities in Britain are in decline (Experian, 2002) in spite of their importance to many disadvantaged groups (low-income, non-car owning, disabled, the elderly), and to many of the UK's 300,000 small shops (source: DTI). Aims
Agora is a GB-wide partnership of organisations, including Manchester Metropolitan University and the Association of Town Centre Management, that aims through joint working to empower local communities in predominantly deprived areas to manage their town/district centres as sustainable social enterprises, thereby reversing economic decline by using local human resources and ensuring that town/district centres are run to the benefit of the community. This community-led approach ensures that local people have a vital input into the regeneration of local retail districts by building on the experience of existing town centre management schemes while creating innovative models adapted from the social economy sector. Objectives
To create an AGORA observatory that measures and evaluates the role of social entrepreneurship-based models of town centre management in terms of their impact on various stakeholders such as local residents, disadvantaged groups and small/medium-sized enterprises.
To facilitate the development of alternative models of town centre or district management for eight AGORA communities whose profits are reinvested into the improvement of the area’s quality of life and the creation/facilitation of enterprises considered vital to the sustainability of those communities, such as local food supply chains and community services.
To create a sustainable ‘Town Centre Management Academy’ so that local stakeholders (including existing town centre managers) can gain the skills and knowledge necessary to make improvements to their districts, both now and in the future. This includes the development of a knowledge transfer service so that relevant information can be accessed by AGORA communities through local access points (e.g. libraries).
To network with people and places across Europe who have a passion to improve their localities through the principles of social entrepreneurship.
Eight AGORA communities in a variety of disadvantaged areas: Havant, Longsight and Rusholme, Ludlow, Mexbrough, Middlewich, Saltburn-by-the-sea, South Shields and Stockport.