Cooperation Birmingham “Let’s talk politics!” meeting, Friday 8th of May 2020 6.30pm
Attendees: Sean, Sergio, Nina, Dylan, Mani, Ben, Leo, Kaeden, Nick
Aims and principles of Coop Brum (what are we?)
Mani: Doesn’t seem big enough. Needs a statement of intent as well as how we operate.
Sergio: Like them, but not enough. Principles could be integrated with code of conduct. Should work harder on our goals organising in 2 directions: mutual aid/ material relief & base-building.
Nick: Some principles don’t belong in code of conduct but are an extension of the aims. Recognition of how it doesn’t affect people equally.
Dylan: Could say “make own assessment of what their need is”. Response to gatekeeping and having to tell your life story before you get given anything you need. Not same thing as code of conduct. Creating criteria by which we could decide whether to work with someone or not. How we should behave in general not just as individuals.
Mani: Think code of conduct and principles are different things. Need to decide now what we want. Can have aims and code of conduct, or use principles to merge how Dylan’s saying. Either could work. Agree better to be specific about what we mean. We can inform people with it. The way foodbanks stop people getting food is bullshit classism and we’re here to do differently. Think this is different from a code of conduct which is less political.
Sergio: Shouldn’t merge with code of conduct. But could have Aims, and Principles, not exactly the same.
Dylan: Aims and principles follow on from one another. I think code of conduct is quite political as well, because how you respond to behaviour is political. If it’s clear it’s more reassuring to have something like that.
Proposal from Sergio: One code of conduct already done. Aims and Principles. Two documents put on forum for work.
Nick: We should write them up, not so anyone can edit but comment. Have a deadline, and a version we’re OK to show to people actively asking for feedback. Should have a process of building a shared viewpoint around it. Should have another meeting to finalise.
Sergio: Say these will be our foundational documents and share an advanced draft, share as much as possible e.g. email to all volunteers, plenty of time for people to amend. Say we will have one more meeting and deadline and if nothing big comes up it will be approved then.
Leo: Code of conduct has a mission statement so should be seperate.
Sergio: Ensure there is not excessive overlap with code of conduct and principles. Happy to help you actually.
AP : Everyone should look on the thread and comment - everyone
AP: Work on the draft from comments - Dylan, Sergio, Leo, Nick
Organisational structure, shall we adopt it?
Sergio: Made amends from Dylan’s suggestions. Been on forum for 10 days or more. I think it’s quite urgent because it makes changes to our structure, seperating working groups and operations, with idea for expansion, so could we approve it now? Operations could include emotional support group, community allotment.
Nick: Does it have anything in the structure for any built-in accountability and responsibility?
Sergio: Not specified yet, but should be something along that line.
How should working groups be organised internally? Compromise between autonomy and responsibility
Sergio: Should we set a coordinator for each WG so someone is accountable. Trying to avoid what’s happening with volunteer coordination. Cool that so many people helping, but nobody coordinating. Could be a rotating role, and that person would be responsible for the tasks of that WG.
Nick: Think that’s a good plan, maybe not perfect and can come back to it, but good to be getting on with. Consider how many people who are not in this are engaged. Maybe elect people.
Dylan: Like idea of coordinators for each WG. Could thin out that volunteer coord chat a bit. Needs to be a more active process with people looking at what they want to be responsible for. Should make more of an effort to recruit people specifically for the WGs. For some of us it will mean less work but more clear what we can do. Be better for me to not have ambiguity. Happy to sort out logistics & process WG and not think about the volunteer stuff.
Sergio: Think about how to transition, need certain people in each WG and a coordinator. Not super easy, so how do we transition? Forum should include new WG, and somewhere have description of tasks. On Sunday we elect a coordinator for each WG.
Leo: easy to do
Sergio: Leo to implement changes to the forum about working groups
Nina: coordinator should be someone who knows the work
Ben: we have process backwards.[I propose we first say who is in which WG, then give some time before those people who elect a coordinator, more democratic.
Sergio: Working group descriptions are too vauge.
Challenging volunteering narrative
Sergio: Think we change and challenge the label, suggests charity, so should find better way of referring to people working on this project.
Mani: Participant sounds good. Think we should move to a membership model. Unclear whether we can have participants who are not members.
Nina: Carlos suggested members and comrades.
Sergio: I like members. Can we vote?
Sean: Don’t think it’s that simple. If we move to a membership model we need to define what Coop Brum is. For co-ops there are benefits for members: wage, access to housing. But what we’re trying to do is a co-op not operating in capitalism. The economic side doesn’t make sense. We need some overarching structure. At the moment there are aspects similar to charity, but want to deepen its benefits.
Mani: 2 different questions. E.g. half price veg box, 10% discount on food, priority booking for being members. Free meal, etc.
Sergio: We can be transformative as we have no gatekeeping. If we try to implement membership there is soft gatekeeping.
Dylan: Tension between this and sense of responsibility. This and gatekeeping seem different to me. Asking someone to be a member and have mutuality feels different.
Nick: Having an expectation or responsibility based on someone’s ability is different from beauracratic gatekeeping. Commons weren’t just a free for all.
Sergio: Yes of course not the same. But should consider how to make the boundaries easier to penetrate.
Mani: Should be a membership organisation because we need money and it buys people in. Can be used to buy things and do more things. Not saying you’ll only be able to get benefits if you’re a member.
Sean: On the discounts thing, we could do things which are genuinely helpful to people in the city. Would need to do those things before we persuade people to do discounts. Might need to think outside of the box in terms of benefits. Don’t think mambership model is scaleable. Solidarity fund would be used up straight away. We could have something like they have in Rojava or Jackson like a political union or body which can create more commons.
Sergio: Like it more now. Think we’re not in that phase yet. Still a crisis response, so should be as open as possible now, and discussion for future can be transition to membership org
Sean: Suggestive of particular sorts of co-ops and don’t like.
Dylan: Fellow Brummies?
Vote: Participants (5) or cooperators (4)?
Participants decided, including recipients of meals.
Sergio: Should establish this in line with our principles. Said we don’t want to recieve money from public institutions, but some exceptions depending on circumstance. When is it OK?
Nick: Think we should take money from anyone as long as the strings don’t conflate with our principles. Just be transparent.
Sean: Agree but need to make sure we are organising with our aims. Already selling ourselves short, see wage calculation. They are offsetting the costs of our time and the cafe to us. Should only get funding if we see a directional gain for our volunteers.
Sergio: Agree with Sean, but hard to establish criteria right now, so can work on a case by case basis. Make sure there is something in it for us.
Dylan: Strings attached are my main concern. A lot of grants say you need to do XYZ or prove things for charities. Not happy accepting money when you have to do monitoring forms and such. Check on what the terms are. Wrote prefer not to say on many forms.
Dylan: Now in chat between mutual aid groups. Happy to send link.
Nina: Was on international call 3 weeks ago and a lot from London, someone from Glasgow. If these people are not in the call tomorrow, would be good to contact them.
Sergio: SUper interesting and exciting, would like to be in group.