Can Chipping Norton be a Sustainable Enterprise Town?

“Nothing ever changes in Chippy”. Disillusioned locals have said this for decades. Yet 400 years ago, the small settlement of Norton won its independence and transformed itself into a citizen-run enterprise zone. ‘Chipping’ comes from an Old English word referring to commerce. It speaks of economic enterprise – using and sharing available resources for citizens’ prosperity and security. The resources they had were far less than we have today. And their actions were sustainable – only using things that wouldn’t run out or pile up problems for the future. They left a lasting legacy that we enjoy today. Sustainable enterprise is Chippy’s DNA.

We have recognised we are in a climate and ecological emergency. On our current course, much of what we hold dear today will be gone, and life for hundreds of millions will be literally unliveable where they are now. This has profound implications for our own, and our children’s futures.

We have also seen how deeply many other aspects of ‘business as usual’ are threatening us. Imbalances and abuses of unaccountable power have made our livelihoods and our economy fragile and vulnerable, with wide suffering in pollution and health, inequality and discrimination, alienation and disempowerment, stress and anxiety. In so many ways we are mindlessly ‘following the algorithms’ to our own detriment and destruction.

To address existential threats, we must bring our best human capacities to bear. Arguably this requires each of us, working together effectively at all levels; individual and household, street and neighbourhood, town and region, and playing our proper part at national and international level.


To avoid severe consequences we must go for specific, substantial improvements (like ‘20% for 2020’) in each area of our activity, at every level from your household or workplace to top-tier government. We must coordinate effectively, or we won’t get anything like the future we desire. But at every level there is a role that you, as an individual, must play.


Where are we now, one year after Chippy recognised a Climate Emergency? Before Lockdown, dozens turned out to do drama, literature, music, astronomy, gardening etc. These are all good; to be celebrated and continued! But we have a priority problem: even though we’ve recognised we’re in an emergency, very few of us have come to learn, plan or act on things that would safeguard our (and our children’s) future. It looks as if little has changed. The signs suggest business more or less as usual.

The limitations of existing efforts by town or district councillors, or organisations like TCN, are easily criticised. But if we can see faults, we must be responsible to offer help.

Whatever we may say or think, our actions or inactions express a choice. That choice may be ‘leave it to others’, ‘it’s not really important’ or ‘nothing can be done’. The weighty consequences mean we must be really clear what we’re choosing, and very sure our choice is justified. If we’re not happy with our choice there are things we can do. We can choose to give this top priority, to the true extent of capacity. If we truly commit, that capacity may surprise us.


History shows how humans have astounding capacities. Overwhelmingly they are realised by working together. In this way humans have overcome many massive adversities, and much that’s good today results from this.

There’s a lot we can do too for local livelihoods and economy today. To ‘rapidly rebuild better’ in the wake of Covid and other corrosive 21st century forces requires really creative, committed action. We need many people: to help run events, spread messages on media, design and build, manage schedules and contacts, track and deploy resources, crowd-source funding, and so on. We can wait for others to do it, or we can play our part ourselves. How much of our combined human capacities are we bringing to bear, to build what we wish to see? Does Chippy have the capacity, and the will? Do we have what it takes to transform Chipping Norton into a true Sustainable Enterprise Town? What would our forbears say?

If you want to commit, here’s how you can get started:

  • Take ten minutes reassessing our environmental footprint (or do one for our workplace: tiny.cc/tcnfp)
  • Take an hour to seriously assess your capacities and priorities, and make some clear commitments (tiny.cc/tcnactionlist)
  • Make yourself accountable for those commitments: log and track our pledges (tiny.cc/tcnpledges), and join an ‘eco buddy’ pair or group for your households, street or workplace, to plan some meaningful actions for this next year
  • Ask for help, where your’re uncertain or stuck
  • Offer help – promise something definite, within your capacity, that you will commit to do (tiny.cc/tcnpledges). If we all log these online, we can properly assess where we stand as a community, and make meaningful plans to face up to our emergency.
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