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Martin Simon


Spacer Martin Simon


Martin Simon’s work has extended from that of a poet and a philosopher to a leading social activist, from a left wing radical to a humanist and a social innovator. Throughout his working life he has been driven by a passion for participation, mutuality and social justice. 

He began work as a lighting artist/technician in theatres in West End of London by night and raised social awareness by day through a variety of street theatre and performance art ‘happenings’.
He also distributed the International Times, Oz and other underground magazines across the City of London and had his poetry published in Journals and in the free press.

He then formed a community arts group which built beautiful, experimental air houses and inflatable play structures for use at play schemes and festivals. They also worked with the Maudsley Hospital on designing safe therapeutic play environments for autistic children.  

Later, he set up and managed a residential centre for small groups of young offenders from tough inner city areas. He introduced the first ever asset based ‘treatment’ programmes that combined outdoor pursuits in the daytime with group therapy in the evenings.
Everyone was seen as a part of the solution and the young people as useful human beings with strengths that could be built upon. This took the focus away from the young people’s needs, deficiencies and problems and helped them to discover new ways in which they could make a positive contribution to the local community and society.
During the 18 month programmes nobody ever re-offended.

He developed this approach and took it out to local communities and set up several locality based diversionary programmes for at risk young people. Again, the main assets employed to run the schemes were the local residents and the young people themselves who had chosen not to rely on professional strangers.

After that he created an exceptional ‘locality development’ scheme on an inner city estate where a policeman, a probation officer and a social worker were seconded to work for a resident run neighbourhood centre.
This groundbreaking project was the foundation for the award winning Gloucestershire Network of Neighbourhood Projects which grew, under his guidance, into a massive resource employing over 200 local people to provide services, support and training to a target group of over 100,000 people.

He was head hunted by the Cadbury Foundation and sent to the USA to train as a Community Organiser with the Industrial Areas Foundation.
He has used these skills ever since, over many years, to encourage a return to collective action, to new forms of traditional neighbourhoods where it is accepted that each and every person has a need and the right to be cared for and nurtured and at the same time the ability and a responsibility to contribute back to his or her community.

He has run many successful campaigns for social justice, including stopping the sell off of community assets and the protection of neighbourhood based work.  

He is the founder of Timebanking in the UK having set up the first time bank, Fair Shares, in 1998. In 2003 he became Chief Executive of Timebanking UK and has overseen the development of over 250 time banks, with over 20,000 participants. 

He is recognised internationally as a pioneer of the ‘co-production’ of public services and the active engagement of ‘service users’, their families and the wider community in the planning and delivery of services and he has promoted co-production and Timebanking in person in the USA, Japan, Spain, Italy, Holland and Denmark.

He is the author of ‘Your Money or Your Life: time for both’, ‘On Becoming a Time Broker’, ‘A Bridge to Tomorrow’, ‘Bowling Together’ and ‘A Fair Share of Health Care’.

Throughout his working life he has always participated in voluntary work, including:

  • Providing community development training in Kisumu, Kenya - and long term fundraising for local Women Groups, children and people with disabilities.
  • Providing training in Organisational Development for community groups and voluntary organizations in the UK.
  • Running the ‘Wheels Project’ in Gloucester where young offenders work in teams and put on displays of motor cycle stunts at community events.
  • Organising the annual Forcester Manor World Music Festival for 3,000 participants - 10% of the audience were people with learning difficulties.
  • Director of Just Change, a revolutionary direct fair trade system between tribal people in Gudalur, Southern India, and disadvantaged communities in UK and Germany.