I’ve been wanting to post this but struggling to know where everyone might read it and understand, especially the people who need to read it most. I will try to send a link to people for attention.
I can’t glean anything much about this plan to start a PAYF cafe at the Warehouse on Mondays. What I have gathered is there is an idea to create a CIC (community interest company) and apply for grants in order to run it on a voluntary basis.
I have thought about this and I am opposed to it’s existence and think it’s absolutely the opposite of what we ought to be doing. I completely understand WHY people may think it’s a logical progression to our project but it takes on the worst aspects of it in the sense that we are being co-opted into the NGO model and become a kind of charity that aids the state rather than attempts to highlight it’s failures.
To me a mutual aid project must not simply fill the gaps for the state but be in opposition to it. The reason we don’t ask for information or referrals or have any criteria for our receiving food, for example, is to highlight the fact that many food banks and similar DO have to do this because of the way their funding works. To make sure they are helping the ‘right’ people. We could easily fall into this by applying for grants.
Applying for grants leaves you beholden to whomever grants you that money. There’s always a catch. Perhaps there are greater and lesser evils on this but it is a slippery slope in my view. This is why we previously discussed a membership model which would express a more mutual and accountable way of financing our ventures. Grants do not empower us.
To make ourselves an official organisation leaves us open to intervention by the state. A CIC may have it’s board recalled entirely by the government if they see fit. Even if this does not happen often to me it is an example of vulnerablity, a muzzle we fix onto ourselves. Charities/NGOs are inherently non-political. We should be political, we are doing this for political reasons.
We explicitly did not collaborate with BCC in any formal way because we wanted to show them up. In many ways we did - our operations were signficiantly more successful despite our lesser capacity.
To continue - I don’t necessarily oppose a PAYF cafe in and of itself but I am against formalising the organisation, applying for grants without full scrutiny of where the money is coming from and democratic process and if this is going to go ahead I would like to distance it from Cooperation Birmingham and Solidarity Kitchen.
I’m aware organisational capacity and meeting attendance have been low. However, we should seek to operate democratically. If people want to argue for this to go ahead as part of the project then they should be given opportunity to do that. As it is, there’s no democratic mandate for it so it can’t be a part of our project in my view.