Joe Lindley and I ran our first workshop with members of the Brixton Pound (B£) community, using design fiction to explore ideas of developing community-based initiatives to make tax fairer and work for communities. The purpose of the workshop was to meet with people who live in Brixton and use the B£, and understand how people think about tax and what practical, community-level actions we might develop to make tax work better in Brixton.
— James Duggan (@dugganjr) March 16, 2015
The aim of the project is to co-produce design fictions with community members, which can be a challenge. Approaching any research it’s hard not to try and work with the theories you know or want to use, map the research feeding into and being illustrated by these theories, and then treading through the dusky shadowed edge of participatory research to get the data that backs it all up. We’re not going to do this but I definitely would like the design fictions we develop to explore the reconfiguration of the aesthetic fields of tax, communities and business… and make sense of this using Ranciere’s notions of dissensus and the distribution of the sensible. However, in the workshop, a number of participants were more interested in talking about the spend in tax and spend. How councils spend citizens’ hard-earned taxes, the procurement of services through private providers that end up (sometimes) offshoring profits, and the general perception that councils are funded by the people yet remain unaccountable and unresponsive apart from faux consultation processes for pre-decided decisions.
Some of the ideas the group came up with were:
- Brixton Jury/ Court for Fair Tax: people would be selected from the electoral roll, like jury duty, and serve for 6 months over the tax affairs of the community. They could look into issues such as how and where the council were spending tax, and if businesses are paying enough tax.
- Community symbols for tax: Businesses that pay tax and good contracts could be rewarded by being able to paint their premises different colours or climb higher on a community ‘totaliser’, a civic monument to businesses that contribute to the community. Another idea for a symbol was that businesses could show how much tax they paid by adding images such as hospital beds to their premises or websites – which is a bit like the way in which fighter pilots represent ‘kills’ on their planes.
Now we have to make sense of these ideas and weave them into the fictional documentary. Hmmmm. Easy.