Meeting Notes – October 1st 2016

Notes from SSC meeting, 1st of October, 12 Mint Lane, Lincoln

Present;  Andrew, Laura, Ana, Magda, Callum, Bradley, Sarah, Mike

As there were people present who had not attended SSC meetings before, the meeting began with a discussion about the nature and purpose of the SSC.  An important part of SSC’s current activity is to attract new members so it was encouraging to see new people at this meeting.

There was a discussion about how to take the work of the SSC forward this term. It was agreed that we should run the Sociological Imagination course, but that is should be publicised with specific reference to topics that are of real interest and concern to people’s everyday lives. This would include Brexit, unemployment, the concerns of rural communities and the government’s campaign against radical extremism.

The point was made that in order to achieve the aims of the SSC we need to find ways of gaining the trust of local groups in the community.

It was suggested that the SSC has more of a social media profile, particularly on Facebook. Mike will contact Joss to fix up a meeting with  those at the meeting who are interested in working on this.

Mike and Laura are to arrange to contact and visit a local secondary school to talk to Six Form pupils and their teachers about higher education and what is offered by the SSC.

Magda said she would invite members of the local migrant communities to our next event.

It was agreed that we all meet up again on the 5th of November at Mint Lane, hopefully with some new members present from the publicity and new contacts made. One purpose of that meeting would be to agree how to take the SSI course forward this term. An important principle of the SSC is that courses are designed with the participants, teachers and students, in the tradition of popular education.

 

 

REVIEWING OUR HISTORY AND MAKING PLANS

27th August 2016, 10am-4pm
Croft Street Community Centre, Lincoln LN2 5AZ

Please join us at this event to look back at our activities
since 2011 and make plans for our future.

MORNING SESSION (SSC MEMBERS ONLY)

10:00–12:00 – SSC on reflection

A chance for all past and present members of the Social Science Centre to reflect on their experiences in the Centre, our activities, roads we have not taken, changes we should make and hopes for the future. Highlights to be shared with others later in the day.

LUNCH (public, everyone welcome)

12:30–1:30

AFTERNOON SESSION (public, all welcome)

1:30–4:00 – Co-operative Higher Education in Lincoln

Ideas and making plans for the term/year. It has already been suggested we run courses on Brexit, women political writers, ‘where is capitalism going next?’ and the co-operative movement in Lincoln and the UK.

What is the SSC?

We practice a kind of higher education that explores the everyday experiences of our members – who are both students and teachers – through concepts and ideas developed in the social sciences. This includes making critical sense of social problems (like ‘austerity’, racism and nationalism or the privatisation of schools) and important local and global events like ‘Brexit’, learning how they affect us and how we might have an effect on them. Our past courses – The Social Science Imagination, Co-operation and Education, and Know How: Do-It-Ourselves Higher Education – all used different approaches for this learning.

We are a co-operative organisation owned and run by our members. This means that we not only experience higher education, but decide together what this learning should be, how it works and why it matters. All our members can help run the Centre by taking part in democratic decision-making processes and collective ownership and responsibility. No one pays for learning or gets paid for teaching at the SSC because we do not believe knowledge should be for sale. Members with financial means make small monthly contributions to the co-operative to pay for room hire and other running costs. For more information about the SSC, visit our website: socialsciencecentre.org.uk.

Why do we need co-operative higher education?

The Social Science Centre, Lincoln was established in 2011 when the UK Government stopped funding the teaching of social science and other subjects that were deemed ‘non-essential’ in English universities, and raised student tuition fees at the same time. It was also born out of a deeper worry that as universities transform themselves into businesses and focus more on satisfying the short-term, competitive, profit-driven demands of the capitalist market, people are denied opportunities for higher learning and critical and creative thinking (and opportunities for any higher learning not linked to enormous amounts of personal debt).

The state of higher education in England has not improved since that time. Policies to raise student tuition fees were followed by policies to reduce need-based educational grants, and then by policies that changed remaining grants into more student loans. There is evidence that these fees deter people from state schools from applying to university. There is evidence that students are limiting their choices in study based on vocational and ’employability’ criteria which are based on flawed measurements of ‘return on investment’. There has been a very significant fall in the number of mature students applying to university.

At the SSC, we believe even more strongly today that higher learning oriented towards intellectual values of critical thinking, experimentation, sharing, peer review, co-operation, collaboration, openness, debate and constructive disagreement is an essential part of making a better future for us all. This is why we are working to create alternative spaces of higher education whose purpose, societal value and existence do not depend on the interests and decisions of the powerful, places where everyone can learn and everyone can teach.

Minutes of 2016 Annual General Meeting

Social Science Centre Annual General Meeting

Croft Street Community Centre

7 May 2016, 11am-4pm.

Attending

Sarah Amsler, Steve Hanson, Clare Lynch, Andrew McCulloch, Carol MacRea, Mike Neary, Karolina Szynalska, Joss Winn

Apologies

David McAleavey, Laura Stratford, Lucy McGinty, Peaceful Warrior, Wendy Vause

Minutes from AGM of 16 May 2105

Approved

It was proposed that in the future, note-takers should summarise each section of the meetings, including actions, and read this out for approval from those in attendance on the day.

Action: trial this proposal in practice in forthcoming meetings

Matters arising from minutes of 2015 AGM

We reviewed the actions agreed at this meeting.

Completed actions:

  • Met on 28 May 2015 to discuss the SSC [Independent Social Research Foundation] ‘co-operative university’ project; those attending were in favour of using this as a way to discuss governance issues in the SSC
  • Mike circulated a description of the role of the Secretary.
  • Andrew (again) circulated a proposed statement of values; however, it was not discussed.
  • Lucy, Sarah and Andrea drew up plans for a new short course; however, they did not run it.
  • Alex Dunedin from the Ragged University has agreed to work on the SSC website.
  • Members discussed the possibility of paying a co-ordinator and decided against it.

Actions not completed:

  • We did not organise a half-day workshop on decision-making and technologies for decision-making. Sarah did not bring a paper on democratic decision-making.
  • We did not discuss the statement of values that Andrew circulated.
  • We did not organise a year-long project using the constitution to develop meaningful definitions and practices of ‘democracy’, ‘non-hierarchical self-organisation’, ‘membership’ and ‘consensus’, with attention to issues of power and communication and with a view to revising the constitution, our ‘business plan’, statement of values if necessary and producing principles of organisation, teaching, and how to propose and run courses/activities (or whether the constitution should include a stronger statement of SSC values).
  • Lucy, Sarah and Andrea did not produce principles for new short courses.
  • We did not use some of our money to pay for training in decision-making and other relevant skills.
  • We did not ask each member for 200 words about themselves to publish on the website.

Action: Sarah to organise a discussion for members to reflect on the above.

Election of officers

Mike was nominated, seconded and approved as Secretary for the coming year.

Laura was nominated, seconded and approved as Treasurer for the coming year.

Thanks to Stephen for his long service as Treasurer to this point.

Action: Laura to arrange transfer of signatures, documents, etc. from Stephen.

Financial report

Approved. It was noted that this year we spent more money than we earned from member contributions. Stephen had said that this might happen. We will need to monitor this in the coming year.

Action: Future accounting reports to include more details of expenditure and income (e.g., precise figures for member contributions)

Review of the Constitution

No amendments were deemed necessary.

Members attending the AGM reviewed the Constitution and raised the following points for discussion:

  • Membership – did we make a decision about the definiton of ‘active membership’? Yes, and it remains broad to include a range of forms of participation and contribution.

We need to improve the process of ‘becoming a member’ to include face-to-face meetings and discussions, rather than only an online registration and email. It was acknowledged that meetings with new members have been offered and organised in the past, with little take-up.

  • Quorum – it was suggested that we reconsider the number of members needed for quorum, to avoid a situation in which decisions cannot be made at meetings.
  • Expulsion – it was suggested that the language defining grounds for expulsion from the SSC be revised to be more specifically related to violations of the values and principles.

New SSC Manchester

Steve Hanson introduced a new project, the Social Science Centre, Manchester. It grew out of the Manchester Left Writers project (which will continue), and aims to offer its first Sociological Imagination course in September 2016 at the Friends Meeting House. All agreed this is both an honour for the SSC, Lincoln and an exciting project that we are keen to learn from.

Action: Steve to write a brief blog about the SSC Manchester that we can publish on the SSC Lincoln website.

Other business (AOB)

It was noted that elements of SSC organisation have been adapted elsewhere; e.g., the Co-operative Institute for Transnational Studies, based in Greece. Several delegates from Mondragon University came to visit Joss and Mike recently to discuss co-operative education and student-as-producer pedagogy and curriculum.

Action: Mike to update the bibliography of SSC-related news, articles and publications on the website.

The AGM finished around 1pm and we had lunch, followed by a discussion about the research project: Beyond Public and Private.

Minutes from SSC meeting of March 5th 2016

SSC Monthly Meeting

Saturday 5th March 2016

Apologies: Joss, Lucy

Present: Andrew, Carol, Laura, Mike, Sarah, Wendy

Read & agreed last month’s minutes

Curriculum reports: SSI

Andrew outlined our recent seminars looking at dystopian novels, and questioning their relevance and usefulness.  Many people struggled to do the reading in advance, especially whole novels, and we agreed that people should come even not having done the reading, and we will spend some of the time reading during the seminar.

Curriculum reports: Cybernetics with Raul Espejo

People are getting lots out of these sessions, and are stretched by them.  These sessions are attracting a slightly different group of people than our SSI regulars.  Last seminar is a week on Tuesday.

SSI people will discuss what we would like to follow after the Cybernetics course, and brings some suggestions to the next meeting.

Gnawed by Rats

Unable to attend today’s meeting due to snow, but they have an event coming up on Friday 18th March, 6:30-9pm at the Pavilion Building.  Sarah will put this on twitter and the blog.

Website

Joss suggested that we ask Alex (from Ragged University) if he would be interested to do some work on improving and modernising our website for us.  We should pay him for this.  We agreed that this would be a good idea; Mike will get back to Joss to ask Alex.

ISRC Project

We have had the final workshop on transnational networks, which was well attended.  Joss & Mike have written a short article to publish in a journal, and will be working on further articles and presenting it at conferences.  Next SSC needs to prepare a report to share at our AGM, to see how it might develop the SSC.  There is a lot of interest in the establishment of a cooperative university.

Maria & her colleagues are setting up a Cooperative Institute for Trans-National Studies, much like Mondragon in structure; they will charge a fee; a multi-stakeholder coop; working on getting accreditation through the autonomous university in Mexico.  SSC could use them as a proxy accreditation institute.

Mike got a grant this week from the Leadership Foundation, on Cooperative leadership, and putting it into a higher education context.  Suma, Mondragon, a cooperative school, and John Lewis will all be case studies.  Create a tool/vehicle/critical device to assess cooperativeness within university.  It’s one year; £10K, to include a part time research assistant (who can speak Spanish), with a steering committee.

Mondragon delegates are coming over to visit, to look at Student as Producer and what the SSC are doing.

Rituals in Education – Robert Hamm

Joss has invited Robert on 16th April.  We need to check the status of this, and help with advertising.

Distress in the City – Linden West

Linden has written a book on Stoke-on-Trent and the rise of Islamophobia.  Mike will invite him get back to him to arrange a date for him to visit.  We need to get some basic posters made.

Antipode Project

Grant available for scholar-activist fellowship.  “Hull City of Culture” is gentrifying Hull, and resulting in the enclosing and privatising of previously open and public spaces.  Campaign is currently happening around keeping a school building public instead of selling it off; she would like help documenting it.  The SSC could be recognised as an institutional partner in the grant, which would mean we would handle the money.  It would cover materials and space, but not time.  Do we want to contribute? Do we have the knowledge & skills? What would we do with the money?

There were concerns raised about complications around, and the big responsibility of handling the funds, in partnership with people we have not yet had chance to build up trust with.  Might it divert our energies?

There was a concern raised that Lincoln is a long way from Hull – we are not aware of what is going on there; would we spend a lot of the money on travelling between?  Does this make sense as a partnership?  We do have people who are experienced in facilitating community learning who could offer this support on a consultancy capacity.  We are not local enough; we don’t have a capacity; our budget is not set up for this sort of thing.

Savings Pools

A pool is in the process of being set up, including contracts and legality.  It is a closed group, but we will run further workshops in future, and support who are interested in setting up a pool.

AGM

We propose Saturday 7th May at Croft Street Community Centre for AGM.  It will include business meeting, and look at ISRC report and research project and how it can support the SSC, and how we might review our governance structures, and invite people who have been part of the project to contribute (rather than guest speakers).

Actions from last AGM: workshop on decision making process & technology (hasn’t happened yet).  Why hasn’t this happened – there isn’t the energy?  We will discuss paper on consensus decision making at SSI, and bring this back to AGM.

Re-visit values at AGM.

Short course on feminist social theory and gender, offered by Andrea, Sarah and Lucy – this has been disrupted by people’s circumstances, but the issues are still of interest.

Suggestion that each of us write 200 words about who we are, why we’re involved, etc.   Let’s do this ready to re-launch the website.  (We will ask for this when we advertise the AGM)

Stephen has asked to stand down from treasurer’s role.  We need to appoint positions at AGM – treasurer, secretary, etc.

AOB

Next meeting Saturday 2nd April.

Wendy asks to talk about the origins of capitalism, and Helen Meiksins-Wood’s work.

Resurrecting the Commons: A Perspective from Scotland (18 March, Lincoln)

Resurrecting the Commons: A Perspective from Scotland

By Lincoln Voices and Rushton & Tyman

Register here 

SSC scholars and supporters might be interested in this event next week…

“Lincoln Voices resident artists Emma Rushton and Derek Tyman, as part of their project Gnawed by Rats have invited Andy Wightman to meet and talk to Lincoln residents and launch “Conversations on the Commons”.

Andy Wightman is a land activist and writer specialising in land rights, power and democracy and a leading advocate of land reform and community land rights in Scotland. Over the past 20 years his work has focussed on land tenure, land ownership, land reform and, more recently community land rights. His published writing includes Community Land Rights: A Citizen’s Guide (2009) and The Poor Had No Lawyers (2010).

“Conversations on the Commons” is a series of walks planned for over the coming few months. Emma and Derek will invite small groups of people to walk with them on Lincoln’s South, West and Cow Paddle commons to discuss ‘the commons’ as land and ‘as all those things, such as water and health-care, education and the environment, that are held in common for the good of all but are increasingly under threat.

Gnawed by Rats is part of the Lincoln Voices programme of art exploring the contemporary relevance of Magna Carta and The Charter of the Forest.”

WHEN Friday, 18 March 2016 from 18:30 to 21:00 (GMT) – Add to Calendar

WHERE The Changing Rooms – Pavilion Building West Common, Lincoln LN1 1SE, United Kingdom – View Map