The notable shift of the overton window with regards to testing and piloting a Universal Basic Income in the UK is a significant and emancipatory opportunity for citizens. The UBI Lab Network has played a critical role in this development.
Evidence from small-scale pilots of basic income around the world suggests potentially transformative effects on political participation and democratic engagement. If implemented, would a minimum income floor provide a platform for true active citizenship? Would guaranteed economic security allow everybody – not just the middle classes – to play an active role in civil society? We want to build on the evidence already available using the uniquely decentralised and democratic campaigning & policy functions of the UBI Lab Network.
Many researchers, including Rutger Bregman, have written about the ‘cognitive burden’ of poverty – the well-observed effect that people are unable to engage with civil society or the democratic process in any meaningful way because all their headspace is taken up with worrying about where the next meal is coming from.
The recent, relatively small Finnish pilot with 2,000 participants found increased trust in institutions, increased confidence in the future and self-confidence, less stress and, crucially, better cognitive functioning than the control group. Recipients felt more able to participate in society, improved possibilities of doing meaningful things and a strengthened autonomy.
The UBI Lab Network is hosted by social enterprise Opus Independents, which began facilitating this network in 2016 after a community of like-minded individuals formed around the idea of exploring a pilot of basic income in Sheffield after an event at Festival of Debate.
Since the pandemic and the support of SHED, the UBI Lab Network has grown to host 24 decentralised labs and we are currently seeing a new citizen initiated lab emerge every fortnight. These labs are mainly located in the UK, with some notable international labs in Bucharest, Jakarta and Norway. The network also includes targeted Labs, which focus on specific areas of concern or policy. I.e. UBI Lab Women, UBI Lab Youth, and the emerging UBI Lab Refugees and UBI Lab Disability.
UBI Labs are initiated by groups of citizens, who join the network through a hand-shake agreement centred around a progressive values framework. The network is made up of academics, campaigners, councillors from a range of parties, citizen think-tanks, artists, social entrepreneurs and creatives. All Labs contribute to and benefit from a shared set of resources, which includes things like marketing materials, event formats, and guides – i.e. ‘How to pass a council motion on a UBI pilot’. Each Lab is autonomous in what it chooses to do and has an equal vote on the network steering group which meets each month to discuss the work of the individual labs and the sum of our parts.
Through this decentralised, democratic and collaborative structure the UBI Lab network has had a significant impact across the three-tiers of its strategic framework: ‘Lab Work’ (generating and sharing research and learning); ‘Movement Building’ (broad and diverse public engagement); and ’Harnessing Regional & Local Authority support and influence’.
We are also a key member in a loose coalition of other pro-UBI and civil society groups nationally and internationally, including those organisations leading on the Scottish Government’s £250,000 study into the feasibility of a UBI pilot. This includes representatives from Compass, Basic Income UK, Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland, the Centre for Welfare Reform and others.
Please visit our website or send us an email if you want to find out more.
Below is a select list of resources and notable achievements from the UBI Lab Network in recent months. (decolonisation-and-post-growth-economies
General Resource & Engagement
- Join the Facebook Community here
- Start your own UBI Lab
- Misleading Claims about UBI
- UBI Briefing on UBI Evidence from the UBI Lab Network
- Open Letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak
- Creation of an Early Day Motion – contacted every MP in the country resulting in 99 signatories.
- How a UBI would help young people
- Link to all the different UBI Labs and individual pages for them.
- Link to 18,000 testimonials from the public about how a UBI could change their lives hosted on a google map.
- UBI Lab interviewed on the James OBrien Show (LBC)
- UBI Lab Recovery UBI launch on the front page of the Yorkshire Post
- Growing Support for UBI – Lab Map – Now Then Magazine
- Perspectives on Basic Income – 3x short films
- Hull asks to be first UK city to trial Universal Basic Income
- Norwich City Council pass motion on Universal Basic Income trial for all residents
Pilot and Policy Proposals Generated by UBI Labs
- Sheffield Pilot
- Emergency UBI
- Recovery UBI
- Northern Ireland Recovery UBI
- UBI Lab Disability – UBI + Proposal