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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Proposals to develop co-operatives and other social enterprises in Brighton & Hove

In 2016 Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS) in partnership with several others co-wrote a document to lobby Brighton & Hove City council, and the local political parties, to support and expand the co-operative sector.

A previous version of this document was used to lobby the local political parties. Parts of that were incorporated into the Brighton & Hove Green Party 2015 manifesto.

After this document was written, MAIS was very involved in creating and running the Community-Led Housing Programme, led by Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust (BHCLT). Some of the people who wrote the document below were involved with that as well as others. BHCLT, working with Brighton & Hove City Council, implemented some of the ideas  outlined below in the housing section (5.4.4).

Please find the below document as a PDF here.

Proposals to develop co-operatives and other social enterprises in Brighton & Hove

April 2016

1 Introduction

The aim of this document is to set out proposals for co-operative and other social enterprise development in Brighton, Hove and the surrounding area. It is written by Mike Aiken (Co-operative Research Unit, The Open University) and Edward Jones (co-founder of Mutual Aid in Sussex) after consultation with different co-operatives and social enterprises in the city as well as with co-operative academics and development workers such as Dr Rory Ridley-Duff (Reader in Co-operative and Social Enterprise at Sheffield Business School), Kate Whittle (Co-operantics), Dave Boyle (Director of The Community Shares Company, Principle Six), Helen Russell (Co-operative Housing in Brighton & Hove) and Andrea Jones (PhD Researcher on Intentional Communities at University of Sussex). We are all keen to see the development of a strong, vibrant co-operative sector locally which contributes to the local economy and which also helps address social and environmental needs in the area. This document sets out a way forward. Continue reading

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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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solidfund_logo

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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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Summary of MAIS event at Sussex Uni on 6th November 2015

A quick update about the Sussex University student event Make Change Happen, in which Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS) organised a ‘world café’  of Brighton & Hove co-ops, social enterprises and community groups for students to meet, connect with and learn from.

It went down well, with many students learning about projects and co-ops which they never knew existed. Many of the people who did come had intense conversations with the people on the stalls. It was also a good opportunity for people from different co-ops and community groups to meet and chat with each other. Many people who were on the stalls – as well as students – told us that they were happy with the event.

We had 10 tables in the end, with people from each table representing not only their own organisation but others in the same area in the city.

We had planned to also have tables for health projects and food co-ops, but due to illness and family emergencies, those tables had to be cancelled at the last minute. This didn’t matter as there were quite a few other tables.

Thanks to all who helped make this happen.

In the future we hope to do things not just for students, but for people in Brighton & Hove generally. There are lots of ideas for future events – come to our meetings to help decide what we do!

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