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.

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