Bradley, David, Fen, Gerard, Laura S., Laura W., Lucy, Mike, Peaceful, Phil, Sarah
There were 11 people present, which was a quorum of the 20 presently signed up as members.
Chair: Laura S. (David offered to co-chair if Merry comes and needs to be looked after)
Introductions and purpose of meeting
During the last year, the running of the SSC has dwindled to a few people and has not been focused on collaborative learning or consensus decision-making. The actual teaching has been done by lots of different people who have come and gone. We have had a series of conversations over the past four months about whether the SSC should be closed or its operation can be taken over by enough people with enough energy to keep it going. One purpose of this meeting was to collectively make this decision.
Our options were:
- to close the SSC;
- to keep the SSC open as a ‘space-holder’ for possibility; or
- to continue running the SSC in a way that is consistent with commitments to co-operative pedagogy, organisation and process.
Reading of the constitution
As required of an Annual General Meeting, we read the constitution out loud in turns and discussed various points raised, including whether this approach to reviewing the constitution is necessary and most appropriate. We clarified the process of and options for ‘consensus decision-making’ and passing resolutions for the purposes of this meeting. Key issues raised included:
- ACTION: In the future, we should review the constitution in a way that is accessible for everyone, as reading out loud in turns is not. We agreed to read the constitution out loud at this meeting by consensus with dissent but no blocks.
- Are what we call ‘planning meetings’ in fact ‘general meetings’ according to the constitution? If the SSC continues, we will need to call at least three of them ‘general meetings’ and assure there is quoracy. If quorum is not met at a meeting within half an hour of a meeting starting, the constitution (#29) says the chair has to adjourn the meeting. However, in the past we have instead deferred major decision-making during these times and emailed the membership to ask them to participate in decision-making on that issue within a certain time frame (usually two weeks).
- ACTION: We also need to change the constitution to reflect the new regulations (Registers #51a/b). Lucy will propose a resolution to this effect at the business meeting.
- ACTION: We agreed to change the personal pronouns in the constitution from ‘s/he’ to ‘they/them’.
Financial headlines (pre-business meeting)
Laura S. will stand down as Treasurer at this meeting.
The SSC has been running at a loss for three years – not under budget, but contributions have been gradually decreasing and our spending depletes the balance. If we do not increase our income, we will no longer be able to operate or contribute to local and activist services. Current expenditures include:
- indemnity insurance (annual)
- Cooperative membership (annual)
- Mayfirst email and website facilities (annual)
- community room hire (monthly)
Suggestions for how to respond to this financial situation:
- increase membership contributions to cover the costs
- decrease our expenses
- close the Mayfirst website and email service and use a free platform intsead
- change the legal structure of the group from a co-operative to another form
‘Open Space’ discussions
Co-operatives – what organisational form should the SSC take from this point if any, and how ‘co-operative’ should it be?
Everyone at this table thought that the SSC should continue, in its legal form, as a co-operative because:
- the co-operative principles and values are important
- of do-it-yourself approach to co-operative organisation
- of the pro-sociality necessary for and created by co-operativism
- unlike for charities, there is no curtailment on political position or activity
- co-operative education in the SSC has helped some people facilitate co-operation elsewhere
- need to connect and work more with other co-operatives, particularly HE co-ops
- need to make more explicit that the work of the organisation is everyone’s responsibility
- need to look more into the benefits of Co-operative membership
- need to reduce costs (e.g., speakers who can pay their own expenses should contribute)
Courses – how should courses be offered in the future, if they are?
- There was interest in keeping learning opportunities alive.
- There was a discussion about the purposes of courses, and whether they should be considered ‘higher education’; the discussion focused on the underpinning principles of the curriculum, including that it should focus on research and projects, and promoting open-mindedness.
- To offer shorter, theme or project-based courses (8–12 weeks, or shorter) that are collaboratively constructed and run – as have done in the past, as well as in new forms.
- Running a longer course could help to sustain wider engagement and participation.
Roles – what formal roles, if any, should there be in the SSC?
- What roles are absolutely needed to keep the SSC running in a positive way? It was suggested that, once decided, these should be written into the constitution. They should be collaborative and those holding roles at any time should be supported by other members and able to bring issues to the collective for questions and discussion. Suggested roles included:
- treasurer + assistant treasurer
- secretary + assistant
- engagement and membership
- publicity and website
Notes from AGM business meeting Saturday 26th May 2018.
Attending: Lucy, Sarah, Phil, Fen, Mike, Bradley, Laura, David, Laura, Gerard, Martha, Peaceful Warrior
- Welcome, introductions, members present elect chairperson.
Martha had joined us for lunch and the business part of the AGM so she introduced herself as there were some new members, everyone else had been previously introduced. We elected Laura Stratford as chairperson for the meeting.
- Confirm minutes from 2017 AGM
Minutes were approved.
- Matters arising from minutes of 2017 AGM
We reviewed the actions from this meeting.
Actions complete: Laura did change the cheque signatories and added herself and Lucy McGinty.
Actions not complete: Mike did not give Laura figures on what he had been contributing to so that it could be reported on.
Mike did not find information on the secretary role for the planning meeting following the AGM.
Bradley did not create a googledoc where we could list ideas we were interested in.
- Vote about whether members wanted the SSC to stay open or close: At this stage there were 3 members who gave consent to close and one member who blocked the decision to close.
Discussion amongst members about why they did or did not want to continue the SSC if they wanted to contribute to the discussion.
David – felt the SSC was an important open space to support other projects. It is important for those members who don’t actively attend weekly or monthly to help them think about how co-op Ed can work. David would like to become more actively involved to ensure the SSC continues.
Gerard – believes the SSC is an important space and would like to see it continue.
Sarah – would not like the SSC to just stay open as a good idea but needs to be open for a purpose as a great cost is being born by just a few members.
There was a general feeling that people ought to commit to more mundane roles of running the SSC so the responsibility was spread amongst more members and not just a few.
Laura S – the SSC can’t continue in the manner it has been as it is too much for a few core people.
Sarah – the SSC needs more radical energy to sustain it.
Bradley – also believes the SSC shouldn’t just continue because we like the idea of it. The last two years of the SSC had been run by a very small core number of people.
- Election of officers
It was agreed amongst members in order for the SSC to continue there had to be more roles filled by more members. It was agreed the SSC would continue until at least November and then we would have a review.
Secretary & Co secretary: Laura Stratford & Bradley Allsop
Treasurer & Co treasurer: Lucy McGinty & David McAleavey
Publicity & website: Laura W & Phil
Engagement & membership: Peaceful & Fen
Lucy and Laura S shared the financial report with members. There was a discussion about overheads and whether any could be reduced. We shall stop our contributions to Mayfirst for the website and email facility and try to move everything over to free WordPress. Mayfirst are a radical tech group so it was suggested when we have more contributions coming in we should look at funding them again. Discussion about room hire and David suggested we might like to consider Mansions of the Future as it is a free space. It is a collaborative arts space and the cooperative are one of its funders. David has said in principle they have agreed. Finances are depleting so we can’t keep spending at the rate we are as there aren’t enough member contributions. Lucy and Peaceful will re-start their contributions.
Action: David to look into Mansions of the Future as a venue a little more.
Action: Laura W and Phil to arrange to meet with Joss as he has knowledge of the website and email facility.
Action: Laura S to forward all finance emails with contacts on to the two new treasurers.
Action: Laura S, Lucy and David to meet to handover finances.
Action: Laura S to talk to Mayfirst about suspending account to reopen in future.
Action: New treasurers to close down Paypal and ask the two members who donate through Paypal if they want to continue to contribute can they do it through the bank account.
- Review of the constitution
Proposal to change pronouns from she/he to them/they. This proposal was accepted. Proposal to change 51a) about member date we hold from name and address to name and email address. Proposal was accepted. Proposal to change section 14b) management committee to members at general meeting was accepted. Proposal to change section 27) management committee to elected officers.
Action: Bradley to re-write constitution with proposed changes in
Action: Bradley and Laura S to make a google poll for days and times for sessions as some members had expressed Tuesday evenings weren’t convenient.
Action: Engagement and membership officers (Peaceful & Fenn) to check GDPR and ensure we are compliant. We also need to delete the 50 members who didn’t respond to opt in to membership with the SSC as they are no longer considered members and we need to comply with data protection.
Phil – announced his and Fenn’s engagement. They will be having a commitment ceremony on 21st June.
10am-2pm at Croft Street Community Centre
Come and help shape plans for the SSC in the coming year, and see how you can be involved.
You can find our constitution here: http://socialsciencecentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/constitution-final.pdf
Please bring some food for the Bring & share lunch, and label as appropriate for dietary needs.
28th April – Angel Coffee House
Who: Laura S, Laura W, Phil, Bradley, Mike, David H, Hannah
Met to plan AGM and discuss future of SSC (currently not running sustainably and not cooperatively). Decided that AGM will be space to consider what it means to run as a cooperative (and alternatives) – and to commit/understand roles and constitution (the constitution can change), and the idea of being run by its members and for its members – not a free service of drop-in lectures. There are ways to make it more financially viable too. AGM (26th May) will include different themes including roles, courses & being a cooperative as well as affirmation and elections.
Plan for AGM:
- Read through constitution together
- Open space discussions
- Cooperatives (Mike)
- Roles (Bradley)
- Courses (Phil)
- Surprise! Anything that emerges on the day
- Bring & Share lunch
- Elect roles; change constitution if needed; AOB
Meeting notes (thanks to Hannah for note-taking!)
AGM is on 26th May, we need to think about if the SSC will continue to run before the AGM (so that the AGM is either celebrating of what we have achieved, or giving direction for next year).
Now SSC is running unsustainably – is this still viable? If we want it, how can we make it possible?
What will the AGM look like?
Why is it unsustainable? –
Financial – Running a loss – but there are ways to make that better
People – SSC has a fluctuating group, so there is a feeling that we constantly have to discuss/decide what to do next, rather than getting into anything.
It has become more like drop-in classes (lecturers don’t often come to the other classes, so the dynamic is different).
= not a cooperative?
positive feedback for lecturers but not cooperative.
There is a feeling that this is “not the SSC”- just a series of lectures
(which is the same as what the university and others in Lincoln do) –
Our thing is coming together, cooperative HE, writing together
etc…we’ve lost that.
Just a few members left (Mike resigning as secretary, Laura resigning as treasurer) –
do we have the people to step up without it becoming a burden.
Now there are around 10 core members – it’s enough, but will people actually commit?
Discussion about people’s feelings about this
– Mike has been secretary for a long time, if SSC continues he will resign as secretary, he is ready to stop the SSC, it has been a struggle to keep it going, AGM as a celebration – something new could be created after.
– Laura –
– Bradley- more optimistic – a lot more engagement than previously (more numbers),
Feels that it seems wrong to close it now when we have just put out this
membership survey (?) We cannot decide to close now, people need to have chance
to put their names forward
– Phil- mentions that Joss says it wouldn’t have to carry on as a cooperative- but wants to know what alternatives would be. Also suggests he could do the website (intends to contact Joss about this)
– Laura W – Feels like as a new member finds it difficult to comment on dynamics. But says that it would be shame to abandon it; SSC is fantastic – still so eager –
SO- looks like maybe it will continue= maybe it will take on a different look. – a rebranding?
– Laura S- a “rebranding” is exactly not what she wants – worried that this will be the same thing as the neoliberal higher education but run by volunteers = this is “the opposite of what I want from the SSC”. It should be different from NL HE I’m very concerned about the idea that we’re providing a service: we’re doing this for us, and anyone who joins us is doing it with us.
SSC is a cooperative at its essence.
We want cooperative HE, and we want a way to study together in a way that is
different to the NL uni. .. so let’s think about if it’s possible with SSC:
what needs to be done –
Income = roughly 300 (going down), member contributions
Expense= about 800 at the moment. -room hire, website/email host, insurance, Co-operative membership
venue costs = public cafes -not ideal, make people uncomfortable
mintlane- coffee for 50p? .
Cut costs of website= can be free,
Phil could do this if coordinates with Bradley & Joss.
Insurance = a big expense, protection against being sued about £200 a year – we could reconsider that?
More people might be interested in paying in – at the moment we don’t
really put out the fact that we want contributions – if we have greater
clarity of where we’re going, might be easier to ask for member
(Do we need all of these?)
Secretary – (Mike atm but resigning) arranges meetings, rooms, minutes etc.
Membership – (Joss atm) i.e. list of who’s a member, first point of contact,
Treasurer – (Laura S atm but resigning)
Bradley- How about working groups? A person who does it, but then others that can
be involved in it.
(Can we even have this conversation today?)
Difficult to know if carrying on is viable as not everyone’s in this room?
Laura: But we’ve had the past 2 months trying to get all these people in the room?
Bradley: haven’t had the chance since the membership survey,
Also a way for other people to join who can’t necessarily be there. We can’t
decide this in this meeting
Laura: Worried that in the AGM will have the same conversation, and be unable to
close bank accounts and whatnot
= SO we will have the AGM- and if it’s not viable then, SSC closes, but should be a chance to recommit/establish roles etc
AGM – 26th May.
Venue: 10-2pm Crofts St. main hall; transfer to small room at 1pm
So what will AGM look like?
- Affirming, reading the constitution at the beginning but only affirming it after conversation.
- Widereaching discussion before and then towards the end electing and
the constitution etc.
Do we need a wider discussion about if SSC will be a cooperative.
Mike says that AGM is about affirming what an organisation is – If it’s not a
coop it’s not a SSC, so that’s not the conversation for an AGM
Heart of the problem – we don’t have enough people that
understand/committed to cooperative We do have guests but this
should be the exception. People can come who are not members, but
we need enough committed members to run as a cooperative.
- David asks – what actually are we meaning by cooperative? An organisation run by its members for the benefit of its members (and the community)
This can be a question/point of discussion for the AGM, what is it to be
a coop HE? (and what are alternatives?)
Bradley says – in his entire time at the SSC it’s not been fully cooperative so
this discussion/table needs to have someone who knows about this.
- Working groups – people choose what they are more into, i.e. some people not so interested in the philosophy of running as a coop.
BUT can’t spread too thinly if there aren’t many people.
- Courses (offers historically jointly run by an academic and others)
- Electing roles? – maybe at the end, so understand who/what SSC is first.
- Working groups – people choose what they are more into, i.e. some people not so interested in the philosophy of running as a coop.
Cooperatives (Mike): what does it mean to be a coop? What are non-cooperative options?
Roles (Bradley): What named roles are needed? What do they involve? What support & training is needed? Opportunity to sign up?
Courses (Phil): offers, ideas, pedagogy
“Surprise” table: anything that’s needed that comes up on the day
(a sheet on a table, people can put their name down/comments on roles they
would be interested in, and also any training needs for these).
Engagement with the community?
Could include discussions about research?
Noone- Roll with it
Big paper and pens
Not too much – we primarily want members.
BUT clear message to the group.
In case you missed it last time, here’s another chance to do Hannah’s workshop – I can totally recommend it! This Sunday at Coffee Aroma, Guildhall Street (upstairs room), 10am-midday.
This arts-based focus group is part of my (Hannah’s) research for my master’s dissertation on alternative “counter-neoliberal” higher education. The 2 hour workshop involves reflective discussion and collage-making regarding our perceptions of SSC: who we are, what are we doing here, and how does SSC relate to and within the wider higher education sector.
We will start with some discussions/introductions and then create collages that express/communicate our perceptions of SSC. They can be individual or collaborative and they are yours to keep (although I would love to take a photo of them). For the last half an hour (perhaps longer if there is time) we will talk about our collages, ask one another questions and explore metaphor and meaning. I will provide materials but if you have anything lying around (old newspapers, magazines, prospectuses, textiles, glue, scissors, etc.) which you can bring along please do.
As this is part of my research study I intend to audio-record discussion using my phone. I will also need to collect signed consent forms. I will bring hardcopies of consent forms and study information, but they are also available for you to look over here:
Consent form: https://docs.google.com/
Information sheet: https://drive.google.
Participant sheet: https://drive.google.