Setting up the Ecological Land Co-operative – challenges and lessons for the future

**Please note: This talk was moved from 22 June to the 20th July. **

The next Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS) meeting, on Wednesday 20 July, will include a talk with Zoe Wangler, founding member and director of the Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC).

Zoe Wangler 2014.thumbnailELC was set up in 2009 to address the lack of affordable sites for ecological land based livelihoods in England. The co-op purchases land, obtains planning permission, and installs the infrastructure to create clusters of three or more affordable residential smallholdings.

Zoe’s presentation will set out what the co-op does, its roots, and why the members chose to be a multi-stakeholder co-op. She’ll share some of their failures and successes, their plans for the future and the challenges they face.

Come and join us: Wednesday 20 July at Coachwerks, 19A Hollingdean Terrace, Brighton. If you can, please bring vegan food to share. The meeting will start at 7pm, with the talk from 8pm. 

The Ecological Land Co-operative from Ecological Land Co-operative on Vimeo.

Elc MAIS Talk 20-07

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Reflecting on Co-operative Alternatives event (11th June 2016)

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Chris Funnell (Co-operative Assistance Network) giving introduction to co-operatives and the co-operative movement (see his full powerpoint below). Photo by Adi loosli.

On 11th June 2016 Mutual Aid in Sussex (in collaboration with Free University of Brighton) hosted a day long event called Co-operative Alternatives, with eight separate workshops (plus two plenary sessions) and a number of stalls promoting local and national co-operative projects. The full schedule of the event can be found here. The powerpoints of those who used them on the day can be found below:

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Helen Russell (Co-operative Housing in Brighton & Hove) giving workshop on How to set up a housing co-op (see her full powerpoint above). Photo by Adi loosli.

In total, we had 96 people attend the event (plus about a dozen or so organisers and people helping out on the day).

Feedback from people attending was hugely positive, such as:

Once again, a big thank you for organising the co-operative alternatives event. I learnt an awful lot about the roots of the co-operative ethos & feel very inspired in regards to developing our values after Mike’s presentation plus some good pointers for conflict. I feel very proud to be a part of the co-operative movement. I am definitely up for being involved with MAIS on more events like this and hope to see you all again at meetings soon. – Polly from Kindlings Outdoor Play And Education Workers’ Co-operative

Thanks again for putting on the event – as I said on the day I’ve been really wanting to be a part of something and to connect with people already doing brilliant co-operative things down here, so it was much appreciated! – Sarah Owen

We feel we have both helped many people in their own projects, and also strengthened the mutual aid network in the area.

As a result of the day we have already had people interested in starting up new co-operatives, offering to host smaller events and to get more involved in helping run MAIS, and we’ve had numerous people telling us that the event was directly beneficial to them and their co-op.

The day was a huge success promoting co-ops and strengthening the co-operative network in Sussex.

We were able to raise around half of the costs from donations on the day for the event and also had the support of Lush and the Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund

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One of several stalls at the event. This one was for the Sail Boat project – a workers’ co-operative. Photo by Adi loosli.

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Why Co-operative Alternatives?

It is now less than one week to go until the event ‘Co-operative Alternatives for work, housing, energy, food and more.’

Matt Wilson of Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS) and Bartleby’s brewery has appeared on Latest TV and Radio Free Brighton to talk about the event, why it’s being organised it and the benefits of co-operative ways of living and working:

  • Listen to Matt and Davy Jones on Radio Free Brighton’s politics show here or below.


 

  • Watch Matt with Mike Mendoza on Latest TV here or below.

Co-operative Alternatives is a free event on Saturday 11 June. It starts at 10.30am at the Synergy Centre, Brighton. There is a full schedule of the day, and more details, are available here.

There a few places left for the event – if you would like to come, please register here at Eventbrite.

Any questions? Get in touch at mais[at]riseup[dot]net

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MAIS and Free University Brighton statement on the Synergy Centre and the Co-operative Alternatives event

Several weeks after we organised – with Free University Brighton – the event Cooperative Alternatives on 11th June, concerns were raised with us that some people ‘volunteering’ for or through the Synergy Centre are welfare claimants working under threat of sanction as part of the ‘workfare’ programme, especially through Brightoning Lives.

The Synergy Centre is a valuable venue for many community and activist groups in Brighton and many volunteers who work there find it worthwhile. However, Mutual Aid in Sussex and Free University Brighton do not agree with any kind of coerced volunteering. We also think people should receive a fair wage for any work outside of genuine volunteering.

Since the Brighton Benefits Campaign (BBC) initiated the boycott against the Synergy Centre, Brightoning Lives have agreed a plan with the Trades Council, the local Green Party, the People’s Assembly Brighton and the Synergy Centre. More details here on the Brightoning Lives Facebook page.

However this agreement does not address many of the issues raised by the Brighton Benefits Campaign. A response has been published by them, including a call for the Synergy Centre to sign up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement, which has been signed by 644 other organisations.

We engaged with the Synergy Centre as well as trying to contact and meet Brighton Benefits Campaign.

We also spent many hours contacting and visiting other venues around the city, however we were unable to find anywhere else available or appropriate given the short notice, the size of the event and that two workshops will be happen simultaneously throughout the event.

We had a choice of whether to cancel the event or continue with it, but decided to go ahead after collectively spending hundreds of hours organising it and with the expenses already incurred. Ultimately there is a small group of people organising this event, and everyone is volunteering their time to make this happen.

This was a very difficult decision to make. We want to live in a more co-operative and equal world – because of this we decided to go ahead rather than cancel, which is the only other option at this stage.

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Co-operative Alternatives: Full schedule

Saturday 11 June 20116, 10.30am – 7pm. After party from 7pm.
The Synergy Centre 78 West Street, Brighton, BN1 2RA
FREE entry. Donations welcome on the day

We should all have more ownership and control over the different parts of our lives – our housing, our work, our energy, our media, our food, our land, our technology, our democracy and much more.

This day of workshops – organised by Mutual Aid in Sussex and Free University Brighton – gives an introduction to co-operative alternatives and gives you a chance to meet many of the people who are making them happen. It’s also an opportunity for people already involved in co-operatives and social enterprises in the city to come together, get to know each other and see how they can help each other.

Eventbrite - Co-operative Alternatives to work, housing, energy, food and more
Find out more here

10:30am Introduction to the day: why co-operatives are important as well as an intro to Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS) and Free University Brighton (FUB) – Matt Wilson (MAIS, Bartleby’s brewery workers’ co-op) and Ali Ghanimi (FUB)
11am Introduction to co-operatives and the co-operative movement – a brief history of the co-op movement, different structures that exist, basic decision making and conflict resolution – Chris Funnell (Founder member of the Co-operative Assistance Network) 11am Action learning workshop – members of existing co-ops & social enterprises get together to introduce themselves, ask questions and see if they can help each other out or gain contracts – facilitated by Helen Dixon (South Downs Eco Housing Co-op)
12.15 How to set up a workers’ co-opCath Muller (Radical Routes, Footprint Workers Co-operative, co-author of ‘How to Set Up a Workers’ Co-operative’) 12.15 How to set up a housing co-op – Helen Russell (Co-operative Housing in Brighton & Hove, CHIBAH)
1.30 Lunch – food provided by Hail Seitan! (a workers’ collective)
14:30 Panel: How to fund your co-op or social enterprise?
* Sebastian Handelman (East Sussex Credit Union) on the Credit Union, what it does and how you can join and accessing money from it
* Will Cottrell (Brighton Energy Co-op) on community shares and attracting funds into co-ops (they’ve recently raised £1.2 million).
* Fiona Ras (The Platform – formerly Care Co-ops) on grant funding
* Ali Cannell (Skylark Housing Co-op, The Cowley Club) on getting loanstock to help fund co-ops
14:30 Building your organisational values, your collective learning, your people, your connection with the community and your customers – it isn’t all about business plans! – Mike Aiken (Co-operatives & civil society researcher – Co-ops Research Unit, Open University)
15.45 Open space breakouts on other types of co-ops & social enterprise – take your pick! These sessions will be for people who want to find out more details or discuss a new idea. 15.45 From conflict to cooperation – dealing with conflict within co-ops – Kate Whittle (Cooperantics, author of series of guides ‘from conflict to co-operation‘)
17.00  How to take things forward – Matt Wilson (Mutual Aid in Sussex, Bartleby’s workers’ co-op) and Ali Ghanimi (Free University Brighton)
18.00 Dinner/networking – food provided by Hail Seitan! (a workers’ collective)
19:00 After party – DJs. Beer from by Bartlerby’s brewery (a workers’ co-op).

Eventbrite - Co-operative Alternatives to work, housing, energy, food and more

Event supported by Lush and the Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund solidfund_logo

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Co-operative Alternatives for work, housing, energy, food and more

Free event takes place on Saturday 11 June 2016 from 10.30am at The Synergy Centre, Brighton. 

Have you dreamed of working without a boss?
Of living without a landlord?
Of having a media system owned and run by us, not by billionaires and corporations?
Of having an energy system which is powered by renewables and owned and run for the benefit of everyone?

We should all have more ownership and control over the different parts of our lives – our housing, our work, our energy, our media, our food, our land, our technology, our democracy and much more.

There are co-operative alternatives to the capitalist and competitive system we live within.

This day of workshops – organised by Mutual Aid in Sussex and Free University Brighton – gives an introduction to some of those co-operative alternatives and gives you a chance to meet many of the people who are making them happen.

It’s also an opportunity for people in co-operatives and social enterprises in the city to come together to get to know each other more and to see how they can help each other – whether it be through advice, contacts or contracts.

Eventbrite - Co-operative Alternatives to work, housing, energy, food and more

Whether you’re completely new to co-operatives and social enterprises, or have years of experience, there will be something for you, including:

The full schedule is available here.

We want a world where ownership, decisions and profits are shared, rather than being in the hands of the rich and powerful (the 1%). A world where people co-operate and work together to make this happen. Come and join us to find out how to make it happen.

Cooperative Alternatives at the Synergy Centre 78 West Street, Brighton, BN1 2RA
Saturday 11 June 20116, 10.30am – 7pm. After party from 7pm with great food and drinks from local workers’ co-ops as well as entertainment.

FREE entry. Donations welcome on the day

Event also supported by Lush and the Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund
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Co-operative Alternatives event planned for 11th June in the Synergy Centre

Mutual Aid in Sussex has joined up with Free University Brighton to plan a co-operative/social enterprise training and promotion event in the Summer. It will take place on the 11th June 2016 in the Synergy Centre.

The aim of the event is to:

  • Raise awareness of the existence and possibilities of cooperative working and living and inspire people to begin the journey.
  • Help people who are unemployed, in low paid/precarious work and/or have expensive rents and unstable living conditions to find empowering co-operative solutions.
  • To assist those in existing co-ops and social enterprises to network, grow and help each other.

We are currently confirming speakers and the workshops taking place. A couple of the speakers who have confirmed so far include Cath Muller (Radical Routes, Footprint workers’ co-op, co-author of ‘How to Set Up a Workers’ Co-operative’) and Helen Russell (Co-operative Housing in Brighton & Hove, CHIBAH).

If you’d like to help us organise this event and/or book a place to come along, please get in touch at mais@riseup.net . We will be setting up an eventbrite page for the event once all the speakers are confirmed.

 

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