Fri 15 Oct 2021 3:47PM

Solidfund for the movement 2022

MSC Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Public Seen by 87

One of the original reasons to create Platform 6 (P6) was to host a "Solidfund for the co-operative movement". Whilst we do have funds available for development (approx £5K) have disbursed small amounts and we are holding some restricted funds from other sources, this is something that hasn't really taken off. We suspect that is because our current model is based on joining P6 as a member with member subscriptions being the source of funds.

We're now looking at how the fund might work with more of a Solidfund type model - where P6 hosted and promoted the fund as a discrete thing in its own right, encouraging regular contributions. Contributors could engage with decisions around the distribution of funds, as with Solidfund, but wouldn't need to be members of P6 and engage with our wider work.

Your thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated.


Martin Meteyard Fri 15 Oct 2021 4:39PM

Why not revive the 'Co-operative Ways Forward' conference in 2022 with this as a major discussion point?


Graham Sun 17 Oct 2021 8:48PM

Hi Martin. We do have plans for a Ways Forward event in 2022. Could be a good opportunity to launch/promote the initiative, probably as part of a wider programme of communications.


matt wilson Fri 15 Oct 2021 5:55PM

A couple of thoughts.

1) Despite having joined up as a member, (and having engaged with P6 a lot recently about a project - see below) I'm still not entirely sure what Platform 6 was/is for, and what the relationship is between members and directors and what the differences in those categories mean. None of that's a criticism, but I suspect I'm not alone in feeling that lack of clarity. if you're thinking about changing your model/approach than that might be immaterial, but it might be that the model was fine, but unclear. Sorry if that's a really unhelpful comment, but sometimes an outsiders ignorant perspective can be useful.

2) As some people in P6 will know, myself and another academic are hoping to secure some funding to do some coproduced research on coop development - if that project goes ahead, I'd really like to use some of the resources made available through that to help faciliate any discussions around this if that would be helpful - and, as we've discussed briefly, I think (and agree with Martin) that the next Ways forward conference could be a great opportunity to discuss some of these big questions - though it may be too far in the future to help with your immediate aims.

3) I thought the Miro project (which ended up being very short lived) was really productive and could have gone a long way to furthering some of these conversations. I'm not sure why it stopped, but maybe that could be reborn as one strand of these discussions?


Graham Sun 17 Oct 2021 8:53PM

Hi Matt. That strand of activity stopped simply because I ran out of steam, and not because I ran out of interest or desire to continue with it. Like you I thought it was really interesting, and I'd be keen to pick it up, but first I need to make room for it so that it can happen without being a major stressor. Very happy to cooperate with you to move it forward.


matt wilson Mon 18 Oct 2021 2:37PM

Hi Graham. Actually, I do remember you saying that a while back. I"m definitely keen to help get it restarted somehow. If you don't mind, I'd like to wait to hear about this funding we've been working on - we should hear in the next couple of weeks; I'll be keen either way, but if we get the funding I could potentially put more of my own time, and possibly other resources, into it.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Mon 18 Oct 2021 6:37AM

My thoughts on this, is that we should simply start doing it and see what happens.

Issues that would then arise are:

  • What to call the fund?

  • Process to administer applications - already developed but may need a tweak

  • What the membership model for P6 would become. It may be that contribution to a common fund would qualify a person or organisation for membership of P6 but other membership criteria/classes would be fine. Member subs could also be reduced as the running costs are low.

  • How to fund the administration (book-keeping) of the fund? This could itself be a simple annual application to the fund from P6.


Graham Mon 18 Oct 2021 8:04AM

I think that Siôn's point over in the other thread where this was raised – that the nature of the fund and what it will exist to deliver – is spot on (over there you talk about a 'Co-operative Development Fund' - not mentioned above).

For some time now I've been attempting to study and understand the cooperative economy as an ecosystem, with a view to developing a platform for products and services that can serve and support that economy and enable it to grow further and faster than is currently the case. I've labelled that initiative 'Making Co-operation Easy', and I think this is a key point: right now, other than perhaps becoming a member of one of the major consumer societies, or patronising co-operative retailers, 'doing co-operation' is quite hard. It seems to largely be a white middle class pursuit.

For me the notion of a 'solidfund for the movement' could succeed if it appealed to an ordinary member of a retail society, or a member of a credit union, or even a member of something like the Nationwide Building Society. I think that looking at the idea through that lens, through the eyes of those people, has enormous value, as it helps us to think about presentation, messaging and engagement.

I think it is important, especially in this context, that what co-operative development even is has to be made visible in ways that are widely understood and compelling. This isn't the first time that I've argued that the vast majority of co-operative development work that goes on is invisible, and that this is highly detrimental, especially if the goal is to encourage investment into that work. So having a place where new and emerging co-operative projects can be made visible, by their founders and/or with the assistance of the co-op development professionals working with them where that is the case, feels pretty important to me.

It therefore follows that this work should be incentivised in some way. As a founder or co-op devt worker I'm going to be pretty busy - why should I bother to fill in a profile on a website about my project? Because it will help your project to succeed, by making it visible to a large and engaged audience – people who may be able to provide funding (and/or labour, skills, expertise, connections).

For me this direct interaction between the emerging co-op and its growing crowd of supporters feels important and full of possibilities. And it feels like a key facet of an ecosystemic approach that could really accelerate the co-operative economy.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Mon 18 Oct 2021 10:14AM

I was one of a small group working on a similar idea that eventually morphed into Platform 6 and changed direction. Our approach was initially focussed on the "rich" parts of the movement i.e. Societies with huge revenue churn, mass community spend. The problem we wanted to solve was "How can we create an easy way for the co-ops with money to fund co-op development in a meaningful way?" (as well as paying for goal posts for 5 a side teams). It would be a shame if replicating the Solidfund (Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund) approach misses this target. A solidarity fund is a really great approach and that's why I was a founder Member of Solidfund. If the aim is to release significant funds from within the movement to help grow the movement, I question whether this is the right model for a movement that doesn't have the interconnectedness that the worker co-op arm of the movement has. If the aim is to try and create an eco-system then that is also worthwhile and this is probably the right approach, but we need to be realistic about how long it will take and how much time might be required for setup and maintenance. When I looked at governance in platform co-ops it became clear that to make up for the lack of "real" connection, largely distributed platform co-ops need to have "community activators" (or some other such bullshitty term) to provoke and remind people what they are part of. In the olden days it would have been called a Member Participation role. If the aim is to have a solidfund for the movement there might need to be several such posts. I wonder if there is a way to bring much of this together by starting small scale on the Solidfund approach - and use that as the decision making/ownership body - but also target large, well off Societies to drop in large chunks of money as a significant revenue source to fund co-op development. The two could be complementary.


Graham Mon 18 Oct 2021 10:42AM

Indeed the two could and should be complementary, but as you say the approach to make the two different strands work is different. Making it easy for the board of Borsetshire society to donate/invest £50K or more is quite different from making it easy for an individual to sign up to a £1 a week commitment. Hence the value of taking an ecosystemic approach - looking for and designing for synergies and opportunities for cross-fertilisation. It will take time and careful design to create, but I think that is a worthwhile investment given the potential benefits, and I think that it's important to take an iterative and gradual approach. Amazon wasn't built in a day. If it was simple, my guess is that it would already exist.


Martin Meteyard Mon 18 Oct 2021 1:20PM

Some good points made above by @Graham and @Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture), in particular the latter's question "whether this is the right model for a movement that doesn't have the interconnectedness that the worker co-op arm of the movement has". Without some appetite from within larger societies then I think the whole fund idea is probably a non-starter. We've talked in the past about engaging with Richard Bickle (Central England Co-operative) - but that doesn't seem to have happened, even though Richard is one of the most open and committed co-operators I know. The same applies to Vivian Woodell (Midcounties Co-operative). It might also be useful to add someone like Steve Gill of VME/Co-op Exchange to the conversation (via @Leo Sammallahti ). Otherwise it's just a bunch of old hands who are very committed to and skilled in co-operative development but don't actually have the means to make something like this happen unless we start to reach out more widely.


John Atherton Tue 19 Oct 2021 9:16AM

Just to add my 10p, As useful as it is to focus on: The what - "The Product" It's also useful to clarify The Who, who will contribute, why will they contribute what is the size and nature of that market. In cheezy business speak what is the "product market fit". Solidfund is built to appeal to a worker co-op type person, so be clear what type of person you want to appeal to (hopefully not the exact same type) and build a model that appeals to that type of person.


Graham Wed 20 Oct 2021 7:43AM

Totally agree. Product market fit is not at all cheesy, and highly important.


John Merritt Tue 19 Oct 2021 11:49AM

My recollection is that the fund was to be a Co-operative Development Solidarity Fund for co-operative development. The what, is a fund to pay for Co-operative Development and the who (will contribute) is those who have a Solidarity commitment to the Cooperative Movement - ie co-operative businesses. I think the fit is good - though as Martin mentions Richard Bickle and Vivian Woodell haven't been able to get this through their Board's (if they have tried?).

I have mentioned at Co-op events (AGMs, Conferences etc) for some years that in Italy, since 1992, three percent of a co-op’s profits have been placed into co-operative development funds. These funds are used to help create new co-operatives, develop existing ones, and to convert private firms into worker co-operatives. It offers practical solidarity and a good way to evidence Co-operation among Co-operatives.

I think this is worth continuing as an ask individual Societies and to continue to try and get the idea adopted across the movement.

Development Coop have a Share Offer https://development.coop/share-offer/ which is aimed at Coop Development funded by individuals and it may be the Solidarity fund could get some philanthropic deposits. However, self-help within the movement seems appropriate.


Martin Meteyard Tue 19 Oct 2021 8:27PM

@John Merritt the Development Coop share offer document specifies a minimum of £75K to be raised by 11 October - was this achieved?


John Merritt Wed 20 Oct 2021 1:26PM

@Martin Meteyard the date has been put back but the document not yet changed. I am not sure of the current level and will try to get it posted in the Dev Coop Loomio thread


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Wed 20 Oct 2021 8:16AM

For clarity. There was a desire that whatever we created in terms of a common fund would be attractive to retail societies and their members. The point hasn't been reached where it was felt that there was something that could yet be marketed to that constituency. In effect what P6 has done so far has been a minimum viable product to test the ideas and process. So there hasn't been a failure to connect with retail societies as no attempt has been made.


Martin Meteyard Wed 20 Oct 2021 11:59AM

Another question: will this fund be simply a grant-making body (like SolidFund), or look at the provision of finance more widely (e.g. loans, which has also been raised as a possibility on occasion in SolidFund)? If so - or even if not - is there a connection to be made with Co-operative & Community Finance as part of this discussion? Loan finance (or a blend) may be something that retail societies would be more interested in. These thoughts arise from coming across Shared Capital Cooperative in the USA, a fund owned by and primarily invested in by cooperatives: https://sharedcapital.coop


Ian Wed 20 Oct 2021 4:49PM

I must admit that I thought that this fund was aimed very much at co-op development.

For anyone that doesn't know, the large retail societies set up and continue to support the Co-op Loan Fund which supports existing and new start co-operatives, often lending at high risk and with little security. This fund will only lend to co-operatives, has about £1.6m available to lend and is managed by Co-operative & Community Finance. I've always seen us (Co-op Finance and Co-op loan Fund), the P6 fund and Solidfund as being complementary to each other with P6 providing development expertise, Solidfund training and perhaps small grants with CCF/Co-op Loan Fund coming in to provide larger amounts of debt finance.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Wed 20 Oct 2021 4:54PM

@Ian and @Martin the fund was originally envisaged as a grant fund to support co-op development - ie the money that could get a group to the stage of taking on loan finance. So yes it could work like the REACH fund with CCF or the ancillary developmental support for LEAP (Loans for enlightened agriculture).

However it's all up for discussion and everything is on the table.


John Merritt Fri 29 Oct 2021 2:48PM

I would like to throw onto the table that hopefully, Development Coop would provide the Development expertise rather than P6. It would be a duplication if both were offering Coop Development services. Currently, P6 and DC have two joint Directors (Graham M and Josef CD) and each co-op is a reciprocal member of each other.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Mon 1 Nov 2021 11:40AM

I would not like to close down provision to one organisation. Some P6 Members are not Development Coop Members but are providers of co-op development expertise. Not just Co-op Development Bodies but also co-ops who are leaders in their sector and might be able to provide the right technical support.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Sat 30 Oct 2021 11:03AM

I don't think that P6 is proposing that it should provide the development expertise, which exists across the movement rather than within any one organisation.


John Merritt Mon 1 Nov 2021 1:20PM

@Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) The thrust of my point is that Dev Coop is a multi-stakeholder Consortium Coop for Development Bodies, Co-operative Development Workers and supporters, created to deliver Coop Development Services, Platform 6 was created to provide resources (especially finance) for Co-op Development. Duplicating roles and services can be less effective than specialisation, though of course, not always.

As a consortium DC has many bodies, and is not just one. Furtther the multi-stakeholder rules allow for other Development Service providers to be members (we have so far unsuccessfully tried to attract legal and accounting services), so perhaps the sector leaders of co-op development services in tech, housing, agriculture etc. should be encouraged to join DC as well. However, I do think some of the funds should be accessible by organisations that arent members of DC (including coops that arent CDB's) and my point was P6 was not created to deliver Cooperative Development Services (though I know at times the thought has been discussed).

I still do think that Dev Coop members should be prioritised or be in some beneficial position vis a vie P6, in order to encourage co-operative working amongst CDB's, Coop development service providers and supporters.

However, it may be that like Trade Unions and Credit Unions there will be various groups that align and dont align to a mainstream associations, and I do think we should be looking at DC and P6 being mainstream leaders of English Co-operative Development workers and resources.

Although I was not 'in the room' when DC was set up, I am sure I am revisiting some of the same things that were discussed at the time. My understanding is that P6 was set up to address the short comings that lack of contracts created for DC and I think it would be helpful to stay with these purposes for the time being.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Tue 2 Nov 2021 8:52AM

I never understood that P6 was set up to address shortcomings in DC.

Telling my co-op - a Co-op Development Body - that it has to sign up to DC to provide services to P6 of which it was a founder member is coercive IMO. I have other words to describe it


John Merritt Tue 2 Nov 2021 1:52PM

Hi Nathan and all,

I think the short comings were in coop development income streams not in DC.

Also, there was no intention of implying only members of DC can provide CDB services to P6 or anyone else. The thread, I believe is about the 'Solid Fund for the co-operative movement'. My position remains that the fund should be ambitious in its attraction to the wider cooperative movement and should support Co-operative Development on a wide scale.

DC was created to provide that bigger scale co-operative development offer and Platform 6 and DC should be working together to make this work.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Wed 3 Nov 2021 9:46AM

I don't disagree that DC and P6 should work together but I don't subscribe to prioritisation for DC Members. Being a P6 Member should be enough.