Thoughts on the Coop Brum/Sol Cafe relationship and carpet bagging

The crux of the conflict seems to be perceptions of ownership of the project. From what I understand, Paul had the idea and developed it with Cecile and others. They thought they were taking the idea to Coop Brum in the spirit of mutual support and cooperation. They did not think they were giving ownership of the project to Coop Brum in a way that CB would have oversight over all their decisions. When CB then gave its members a vote on whether the project would proceed, Sol Cafe people felt confused and frustrated.

Meanwhile, CB understood the project to be part of CB, so now that Sol Cafe is pulling away, it feels like a divorce, while to the Sol Cafe it’s a recognition they never consented to be in that type of relationship in the first place.

As for the carpet bagging, I understand the term to mean the transfer of communally owned assets to private control. I have got in trouble myself for using the term to mean the restriction of access to a communal asset, so I’m not going to nit-pick in terms of widening its use, but I am going to challenge its use in this context.

1) What are the assets being referred to?

Leo talked about social capital built up by the Solidarity Kitchen, and I’m taking Sean to mean an investment of time by those in Coop Brum. Have I got that right? Are people including the time investment and grants that people involved in the project have been involved in?

Tldr: I’m confused. Please explain.

2) What is happening to these assets?

I’m interested if anyone believes the Sol Cafe to be taking assets into private control. If so, please explain.

My understanding is that this is a grassroots project, operating as a coop, and using an asset locked CIC as the legal entity. It is not that unusual for a coop to be a CIC (according to Cath M).

It is an open project, where anyone can attend meetings (noone has yet expressed an interest in attending meetings who can’t do Monday mornings, but if they did, I’m confident they would be included).

The very nature of the actual cafe is that it is open to all.
Tldr: Assets will remain communal.

3) Does the Sol Cafe’s use of the Solidarity Kitchen’s social capital take it away from others?

Unlike, say, a house, it’s not making sense to me that social capital even can be carpet bagged.

I guess it could be argued if there were others within Coop Brum who were wanting to run a community cafe, that Sol Cafe’s existence might hinder that (but not necessarily. Sol Cafe people might be able to give supportive pointers). But is that the case? Do Coop Brum members have the capacity? Are there people wanting to do this who feel prevented? It’s just that to my knowledge, no Coop Brum members have expressed an interest in getting involved, so I would be interested if this was the case.

Sol Cafe’s grant applications do mention Coop Brum and the Solidarity Kitchen in the context of explaining the history of the idea and how people involved got relevant experience. I’m curious how this could take away anything from Coop Brum, just as if I write a CV name-dropping impressive places I’ve worked, that doesn’t have any impact on those organisations, even if I then turn out to be shit at my job. Is the problem that the trust isn’t there that Sol Cafe will operate in line with Coop Brum’s values and this will affect CB’s reputation? I don’t see how it will if SC isn’t part of CB.

Sol Cafe could actually add to the social capital of Coop Brum if Coop Brum was seen as supporting the project.

Tldr: Social capital is not a zero sum game. And noone is taking it away.

4) How else is it seen as similar to carpet bagging?

I saw in the minutes to the last meeting that Sean mentioned carpet bagging and said there was an element of this project “taking the collective work”.

I’m interested in what it is that means that the support that Sol Cafe have received from Coop Brum is perceived in this way, rather than as mutual aid.

I’m wondering if it is partly about consent, like, the support was given conditionally, with the understanding that Sol Cafe was part of Coop Brum, and the support would not have been given if it was understood that Sol Cafe did not want to be answerable to Coop Brum membership.

Tldr: I’m confused. Please explain.

I believe there’s still ample opportunities for a mutual aid relationship which benefits everyone. I really do get the frustration and sadness for people in Coop Brum that Sol Cafe looked like it could be such a great flagship project that would have a positive impact on CB’s profile, and it feels like this has been taken away. It seems like that frustration has led to a lot of difficult feelings, which might get in the way of cooperation. I’m really up for creating spaces for processing those feelings and seeing how we can improve this relationship, so please get in touch and we can have a chat where I get to listen to you.

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