The challenge of co-operation

Just got off the phone to Richard at Seeds for Change. We had a long and useful conversation that ranged far and wide. Lots to think about.

One theme we kept returning to was the challenge of co-operation. Seeds is a network of 2 co-ops, Rhizome is a co-op. There’s also Tripod and a newly forming London collective. We’re all collectively constituted organisations. We’re all well versed in co-operative skills such as consensus decision-making. And mutual aid between co-ops is one of the seven internationally recognised principles of co-operatives. So surely everything in the garden is very rosy (and very co-operative) indeed?

Well, perhaps not. For example, each co-op is trying to provide right livelihood for at least some of its members. There’s a limited pool of paying work for trainers and facilitators working at the grassroots, and grant funding is getting harder to find (that’s for another post!). The temptation to slide into competitive thinking and practice, to promote and protect our own ‘brand’ is there just because we’re all human (and humans brought up in a fiercely individualistic and competitive society). In many ways that’s the default setting.

So it feels like it’s especially important we all walk our talk and live up to those values of co-operation. We’ll all be in the same room in July when UK trainers meet with George Lakey after the anti-oppression training he’s facilitating in Manchester. A space to reflect and find ways to support that mutual co-operation and sharing?

It was only one phone conversation but talking to Richard was useful.  Whilst it can feel hard enough to maintain communication within a co-op – especially those like Rhizome that are geographically dispersed – it was a reminder that making the time for communication between co-ops is the first step on a very productive journey.