Five years ago this month, Paul Harnett and I made French onion soup for 100 people (Paul chopped so many onions he had blisters from the knife). It was served up in the lunch break at our inaugural conference, which was the first in the world to explore the potential of making basic income truly universal.
In the run up to that event we went to a seminar and Paul got talking to one of the speakers. When he said where he came from, she replied, "World basic income - is that even a thing?" Five years on, it's time to consider whether we've made it 'a thing' and what needs to happen to make that 'thing' even bigger.
In July 2017 global basic income made a big leap forward when it was mentioned in a United Nations paper. We were even directly quoted (see the first paragraph on page 12), and the Global Basic Income Foundation, a Netherlands-based organisation whose founder René Heeskens spoke at our conference, got a mention too.
Over the next few years we continued our research and put out videos, articles and papers to articulate the developing global basic income concept. We presented at events in Portugal, India, Norway and Brazil and forged connections with experts and activists around the world, bringing them in-house to form our International Advisory Board (IAB).
By deepening our research into funding options and taking advice from our IAB we were able to raise the starting amount we were proposing for worldwide basic income from $10 to $30 per person per month, including equal payments for children. Our latest research suggests this could be raised considerably further still - watch out for announcements coming soon...
For the first four years, this work was done by volunteers (mainly me and Paul, with support from our Boards) in our minimal free time. During that time I had two babies so time outside of paid work was getting ever-more cluttered.
Then in autumn 2020, when my second child was two months old, a letter came through my door; I opened it and a cheque for £10,000 fell out. The sender was not known to us and we still don't know what inspired such fabulous support, but I wasted no time in taking it to the bank!
This donation transformed our work. The Board decided to use it to hire a part-time staff member, so I applied for and was offered the job. I started in June 2021, working just one day per week (to make the money last as long as possible) and since then we've been able to do so much more, including:
It's been a very busy eight months and I've loved every minute, but it still feels like we're barely getting started. And have we made world basic income 'a thing'? We've come a long way but it's a gradual process.
Taking world basic income from 'dream' to 'proposal' to 'global movement' will be a long road. We can only start where we are, but news is slowly spreading and the network-building, publishing and real-world demonstration projects that we're doing are accelerating that progress.
We don't know how long it will take or exactly how we'll get there, but we believe that one day people everywhere will raise their voices to demand their share of global wealth. Worldwide basic income is a call for global justice - it is an articulation of our desire to push back inequality, end poverty and manage the resources of our planet together.
To bring that day closer we are building the concept, developing versions that are financially and practically feasible so people feel legitimate in demanding their global share. We are joining and facilitating discussions about inequality, exploring how we can address the unjust imbalance of wealth between North and South.
And we are building a movement for change, connecting people who demand a fairer world and finding ways to push that through. In these pandemic days, new routes are emerging all the time as we connect online to people across the globe. It's a different kind of organising, which uses a lot fewer air miles and enables new kinds of connection.
Nevertheless, we look forward to the day when we may once more chop onions in the service of global justice.
By Laura Bannister, Campaign Director of World Basic Income