How does it feel to co-operate?

Back in June I posted about a conversation on the challenges of co-operation. Last week the conversation continued as 2 facilitators from a number of UK training organisations – London Roots, Seeds for Change Lancaster, Seeds for Change Oxford, Tripod, Turning the Tide, and of course, Rhizome – came together. Most are structured as co-operatives. Those that aren’t are networks with a very co-operative feel. These are folk that frequently meet up at actions, gatherings and events, but not formally, not with UK wide co-operation on the agenda, and not in a financial context where surviving (let alone thriving) is getting harder all the time.

There were a number of important and interesting discussions on the agenda (the value and direction of social change movements, the role of training in social change etc) – mostly too big to conclude in the time we had together. We also talked strategy – not formulating an agreed strategy, but sharing our own organisations thinking. We’ll share more on ours on the blog soon.

The most important work, for me, was the conversation about working together. Before we dived into the details of how to work together the bigger (and more fruitful) question about how we feel about working together needed answering. An interesting go-round followed that revealed excitement and anxiety and raised issues about power and status between organisations.

It was good to give ourselves time to feel. As a group of people, I’m not sure we’re always comfortable facilitating emotion – some do it better than others. So consciously feeling, expressing and receiving emotions, our own and others, is an important practice. It was also a powerful experience, as emotional experiences usually are and achieved more in a short time than a more cerebral conversation might have. Issues that people might have been aware of took on an urgency and importance once the depth of feeling around them was appreciated.

It also raised a big question about how to be open and to share whilst still maintaining our unique organisational characters. Co-operation isn’t about becoming homogenous, but about co-operating despite our differences, because of our differences. I think that Rhizome has a lot to offer this conversation. I say that because we draw our co-op members from a wider context than many social action groups. There’s no one unifying social change ‘tactic’ or agreed and detailed utopian vision. So in some ways we’re a looser collective of people. And yet it feels very tightly knit.

Let’s see how it feels as the dialogue continues at future meetings and in between…