General Assembly

Dear comrades,

We need a general assembly to reassess our position. We have several projects potentially opening up (Northfield Food Service, PAYF cafe, asylum seekers support) and some huge elephants in the room (incorporation, political direction…). However, not many people is actively involved at the moment, and the meetings are poorly attended. So we need an open conversation to see who’s on board, to what extent, and what can we do without falling in the same boom and bust dynamics or being coopted.

  • Friday 20th November 6pm
  • Saturday 21st November 11am
  • Saturday 21st November 3pm
  • Saturday 21st November 6pm
  • Sunday 22nd November 11am
  • Sunday 22nd November 3pm
  • Sunday 22nd November 6pm
  • Monday 23rd November 6pm
  • Tuesday 24th November 6pm
  • Wednesday 25th November 6pm
  • Thursday 26th November 6pm

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Yep, fully agree. Look forward to the meeting.

Hello everyone, here are the minutes we took from the meeting:

Cooperation Birmingham meeting 21st November

Attendees: Cecile, Paul, Amelia, Seb, Sophie, Nina, Sergio, Sean


  • PAYF cafe idea

  • Northfield Food Service Collaboration

  • Karen from BFOE, happy to support Coop Brum applying for a grant


  • Check-in

  • PAYF idea

Paul: he is keen to continue the solidarity kitchen, because everything was already in place. He reached out to some people connected with community cafes in Birmingham about financing. He developed proposal for one day per week, which is on the forum. Possibility of using coop Stirchley Stores for getting funding. Cecile was the only one keen on supporting the idea at the beginning. They applied for a CIC incorporation and a bank account. Gmail account is also created, and a business plan has been sketched out. All fairly slow because they didn’t have bank account. Paul will be leaving Birmingham in December, so not sure what will be his involvement. Maybe occasionally when he’s in Brum. He was motivated for something to happen quickly, so that’s why he moved ahead.

Seb: the idea is getting donations and cooking food on Mondays when the cafe is closed, so everyone can come and participate with the cooking, eating or other parts of the process. People can also donate money. Idea to try and organise distribution of food if logistically possible, but only one day. Maybe setting up membership rules as well. The name of the CIC is Solidarity Kitchen Cafe.

Sophie: are there shareholders or directors in this type of business?

Seb: there are directors.

Paul: Paul and Cecile are the directors.

Cecile: she doesn’t know if it can be run as a cooperative.

Sean: it is not a coop. It is an organisation in which the directors are the people on the board. They can apply for charitable funding. It is easy to set up, and it should be easy to unset up. A similar version of an organisation with a more democratic basis is a Cooperative Benefit Society. It is more expensive to register, but people would still recognise it when it comes to funding. It might be a better option. We could stil the CIC and later transition assets to the coop if we want to switch. It is a hybrid between a conventional business and …

Paul: the cost so far has been 27 GBP. It was a relatively simple process. It was more about getting started, but he is not particularly tied to the CIC form.

Sean: it is way easier to set up a CIC than a coop, and that’s why people usually choose that… it is also cheaper.

Sergio: happy to start as a CIC, but he would like to transition to a coop or a more democratic form.

Paul and Cecile: the minimum is 2 directors, but there can be more, and more people can be included.

Sean: proposes that we add at least one person to the directors before Paul goes so Cecile is not left in her own. When the lockdown finishes we can start with what we have, and then we can find out if we need an incorporated body. He agrees that it would be better to have an incorporated coop, but we could maybe do with another easier solution.

Sophie: if we look at the memorandum, we could have a system for electing directors to match the legal form. Maybe it could be organised in terms, or in more democratic ways. Maybe not even official.

Sergio: can the govt step into the management of CICs? we should open the debate to the rest of Coop Brum with a post on the forum, as this is an important decision.

Sean: govt very rarely intervene, only in case of fraud or serious missmanagement, or supporting terrorist organisations. What is needed is a way to get charitable funding, but instead of wasting more time on discussing the incorporation form, we should discuss the criteria that we want to apply to grant applications. Coop incorporation might cost 4-5k, so maybe it’s not worth it unless we are sure we’ll get funding.

Seb: gofundme, is that available to use for everyone? For all projects? Are we planning to continue that?

Paul: he will share all the info about the incorporation, and is happy to have another meeting. Is anyone willing to be a director?

Amelia: maybe Sean can also post some of the info on coops on the forum thread where we discuss the incorporation form.

…Nobody wants to be a director…

Sean: he doesn’t mind doing it.He’d rather not, but Cecile is going to be left alone… so he can do it, but doesn’t want to get involved in the day to day stuff.

… exchange of opinions about how to reach the wider membership, and who is the wider membership. Forum seems like a good platform, but we need to encourage participation by posting links in the signal, email to participants, facebook, etc.

Sophie: who took the decision of becoming a CIC?

Paul: it was just him and Cecile, trying to move things forward after the winding down. They originally proposed something in the forum a few months ago, but they didn’t fully describe the proposal.

Amelia: if we are going to have a meeting, it would be useful to have something in the forum to look in advance.

Paul will write a post on the forum.

Sergio: we need someone to be in charge of coordinating and preparing meetings in advance, so they are more productive and communication becomes more fluent and democratic.

Amelia, Paul and Sophie agree to cover that role among the three, so they will meet by themselves.

Sergio: we are collaborating with the Northfield food service, new organisation that Olly put together associated with the Northfield Church and Digbeth Dinning Club, and Olly is interested in us to support the politization of the whole project. We collaborated with the mid therm week and was decided to continue once per week, every Thursday. They are on charge with all the logistics. It is easy to continue with this system and they are happy to cover some costs and put a fundraiser together. However, we are missing the point if we only provide food as they are not being political. It would be very productive for that to provide visibility to that (newsletter, social media, mutual aid examples,…)

Seb: we should cooperate but we need more work on the type of information on what we can do.

Sergio: for him there is not much point on keep contributing without putting effort to politilize it beyond the project. We should be more active on moving these iniciatives forward.

Seb: is there anything we could decide tonight?

Amelia: what is gonna happen when Sergio is moving abroad?

Sergio: that was the second point. He is the main contact but he would like someone to step forward as he will be very busy and focus on other things. Sean is in the whatsapp group.

Amelia: in the short-term, for the daily activities we could do among us (chefs’ingredients,allergies,…). For us she means the people that used to do backroombacktothe SK project. However, pushing the political perspective we would need someone else.

Sean: happy to still remain in the whatsapp group, he is not full of capacity but has interest on it. It will be interesting to know what do they think, what they wanna do with it, the people involved in Northfield, mixing it with the Solidarity Kitchen and the community there. It would make sense to develope it together if we are gonna remain with them in the long-term. Would be good not only being himself.

Amelia: when you were saying about locality, in practical terms, now it is because they deal with the logistics. If we would do that, that would mean extra help.

Seb: the biggest problem is Nina,Sergio and Paul are leaving. We need to make sure other people is ready to take those roles. Should we focus on getting more human resources?

Amelia: if we wanna continue the Northfield collaboration, she thinks we should be ok if someone else is pushing the political discussion. When it comes to bring that project into the whole city, she points out we may not have the capacity for it.

Sophie: happy to bring their capacity as much as they can, and energy as long as they can.

Amelia: she thinks we should keep ourselves focus on what we are doing now rather than expand it.

Seb: is it decided Sean will take the communication that Sergio is doing now?

Amelia: she will do that

Sean: I am in the chat that Sergio is in so happy to stick around. Although we wanna know what we wanna develope in the future with them and have discussions with other organisations. Happy to help with social media and newsletter but it would be great to have support on that as will make things smoothier.

Seb: he could post it on the forum and open the discussion. Let’s move on.

Seb: how we feel about grants? Karen from BFOE

Sergio: regarding grants he thinks we should be careful but not closed. He is fine as long as there are not many conditions and we can keep doing as we are doing now. Although he doesn’t now if that is possible.

Seb: Karen knows what we have been doing and wants us to continue the project, so probably that could be feasible. Seb can have a chat about that on Thursday.

Sergio: to what extend is she familiar with the political views of Cooperation Birmingham? we should agree on these topics among the whole group before applying to something.

Seb: happy to discuss it with Karen.

Sean:another point before leaving. He would love in the coming meeting to explore ideas beyond the kitchen idea and what Coop Brum could become like linking other coops, where it is the most useful to put energy on, deffo there are others interested on expanding the platform, in addition to Solidarity Kitchen. He will try to write something about it on the forum, soon.

Seb: could be hard as it is a quite a job.

Sergio: we already started to think that way in the application Necessity fund. You could use that as a potential guideline to start a conversation? Sergio will double check if that is on the forum otherwise he will post it.