Trip Report part IV – UK to Chicago

We left Manchester for a very brief visit with Leesa in Oxfordshire. Matthew introduced me to Leesa last time I was in the UK, when she offered her home to me never having met me in person. She’s wonderful! She met Matthew initially through a small business organizing and mutual credit effort she runs called 4-11



photo 1-4   photo 4-19We had to leave the next morning in order to return the car at Milton Keynes. The fabulous Anna Peters picked us up from the rental place and took us to her amazing workplace, the buszy. The photo 3-8buszy is a renovated old bus station that is now home to lots of activities that support young photo 2-8people. There’s a coffeeshop, a thrift store, a dance/exercise studio with a sprung wood floor, a recording studio, an art gallery, some container gardens, a skate park, and a photo 4-10park-and-ride service that helps fund the whole thing. And photo 5-10now, after our little visit, they have a timebank! Matthew was able to set them up with a free and open-source timebank site from Community Forge. I’m looking forward to hearing how it works with the young people who use the center. What a cool place!Anna at her Olney house

I also had the extreme pleasure of going to Jade, Denise and AnnaAnna’s childhood home in Olney and hanging out with her friends from Olney and from work. What a great time! And fun ending to the UK portion of my trip…

I left for Heathrow early morning on November 10 to fly back to Chicago, where I stayed a few days for more MAN work

photo 2-4On the way home, though, I saw a sight I’ve always wanted to see: a round rainbow! it was over Greenland, and though the photos can’t do it justice I’m including one. It was much larger and brighter than this shows, with concentric rings of rainbow stretching out over the clouds. Breathtaking…


Back in Chicago, I caught up with Chris Petit, my co-coordinator on the MAN project. And then we prepared for a lunchtime gathering that happened November 14, with Bayo Akomolafe and Manish Jain of the newly formed International Alliance for Localization. I’d met Bayo and Manish last year in Turkey at Giftival. Bayo lives in Nigeria (en route to India) and Manish in India, and their visit was the reason I stayed in Chicago so long. They are wonderful people and their new initiative is really important. And there’s so much synergy with what we’re working on in Mutual Aid Networks. We are now planning to work together and will Skype more this week to figure out exactly what that will mean.

After the lunch gathering I took a detour to see the David Bowie exhibit at MCA (very exciting to see his handwritten lyrics, with changes and corrections among other things).

photo 3-11photo 4-15Then a lovely dinner gathering at the home of Lina Cramer and Dick Durning, two of the people who helped organize last year’s Giftival, with Bayo and Manish, plus Robin McKenna (Canadian documentary filmmaker working on a film adaptation of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift) whom I’d also met at Giftival, and many others including several people I’ve met through Art of Hosting trainings.

I came home immediately following the dinner in order to be back in time to help facilitate an Allied Coop gathering Nov. 15. Next post I’ll update you on all that.

but for now this concludes my reporting on my MAN-building trip. It was a good one!

UK trip part III – Exeter, Manchester

…after a wonderful stay in Bristol, and on Matthew’s suggestion, we headed down toward Exeter to meet James Priest, a Sociocracy trainer.

We were met at the bus station by Nuria and Yaciel, James’ photo 1-15partner and 3.5-year-old son respectively, plus surprise guest Peter – Matthew’s father. (argh!  I somehow failed to get any photos of Matthew with his father, or of his father at all). James was still on his way back from Sweden where he’d been leading a Sociocracy training.

exeter_pastoral_sunsetThey have a very beautiful place in the countryside a couple miles from Exeter.

We only had one day together but that was enough to establish that  yes, sociocracy can be an excellent tool for facilitating complex group processes and could really apply to Mutual Aid Networks. And James also walked me through some ideas he has on fractal organizations. We’ll be talking more to explore the possibility of working together. We could use a hand in creating optimal organizational structure and decision-making processes for our very complex work.

We left early morning on November 6 to get to the Timebanking UK conference in Manchester. Because trains were costing us an arm and a leg and it was uncertain if we’d be able to get to the conference on time, we ended up renting a car for the next few stops on the trip. It was an adventure to drive on the left side of the road for my first time!

photo 4-8The conference in Manchester was really wonderful. First and foremost, it was great to see lots of old friends there. Philippe, Robert and Richard from Rushey Green, Linda and Terry from hOurworld, Sarah and Martin from Timebanking UK, and on and on. And of course we met more great people.

I gave a short presentation about Dane County TimeBank and Mutual Aid Networks during the afternoon panel on Timebanking Around the World. Then I led a workshop on Mutual Aid Networks.

The participants in the workshop had a lot of diverse interests, which was perfect for the topic. We focused on applied timebanking and how connecting it with other cooperative tools could provide the comprehensive resource base that people and projects need in order to thrive.

Some of my biggest takeaways from the conference – the folks in Hull are interested in becoming a MAN pilot site! And there’s a lot of enthusiasm, energy and expertise available to take timebanking much farther in the UK. And a group who are doing the same kind of medical transportation for outpatient surgery that we’re about to start, and they have offered to help us with advice from their experience.

Leesa and GandalfAfter the conference was over we picked up aGandalf and Matthew life-sized cardboard Gandalf to take to Leesa Daymond in Oxfordshire. What luck! and this can also approximate what it would have been like had I gotten a photo of Matthew with his dad…

Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment of this trip report – Milton Keynes to Chicago.


Allied Coop News…

Or… We interrupt our trip reportage to bring you timely news from the Allied Community Coop

I’ll get back to reporting on the rest of my UK (then Chicago!) trip very soon, but in the meantime…

Right when I returned home I went to help facilitate another Allied Community Coop discussion about how we can respond to the food crisis in the neighborhood by applying mutual aid principles and practices.

We made a great plan! First, we’ll pursue finding money to help pay for people’s cab rides and other transportation to grocery stores, and Aaron Perry of Neighborhood Intervention Program (NIP) will provide 2 bus rides per month to people who want to shop that way.

Meanwhile, we’ll work with Willy Street Coop to start a buying club. Ideally the City of Madison would provide space for a neighborhood center which could serve as a staging and delivery area for the buying club. And this will help us build capacity to create our own neighborhood-created -owned and -operated cooperative grocery store and pharmacy, our long-term goal.

Today we’ll testify at the City Council meeting, in support of Ald. Maurice Cheeks’ resolution directing city staff to work on the issue of a grocery store and economic development plan in Allied Drive. We’re ready to try our ideas for human-scaled community economic development!

Thursday we get together with Anne Reynolds of the UW Center for Cooperatives to start drafting our business plan.

Wish us luck! Better yet, give us your support!

Part II of UK tour – Bristol

IMG_20130609_140823_634After my very enjoyable stay in London I headed to Bristol, one of my favorite cities.

I stayed with my friend Naomi who used to work at Mother Fool’s, the coffeehouse I co-own with Jon Hain in Madison.

photo 5-27I was really pleased to find that she lives with some of the wonderful people I met on my last trip to Bristol. And we quickly connected with Richard andphoto 2-20 Chris for dinner the first night I was there. After my last Bristol visit, which included a timebanking discussion at their Zen Center Aro Ling, Chris set up a timebank (through Time/Bank by e-flux) as part of a BMW/Tate Live Thought Workshop.

Since then Chris and Richard traveled to Berlin and learned about the Social Muscle Club (SMC). This photo 1-21Berlin-based project contains some of the main elements of timebanking but is more immediate, focusing on a give and receive game designed to make fairly instantaneous connections, plus performance as a means of deeper engagement and communication. They decided to take Social Muscle Club to Bristol, and will co-host an SMC event at the end of the Ausform Micro-fest on November 29, just before the Micro-fest’s closing party. It’ll be really cool! Which I know because Chris and Richard did me the great favor of scheduling the practice event for while I was in town.

Ten people, most of whom will be helping to facilitate the event, gathered at Chris photo 3-29and Richard’s house to try out the SMC format. What a wonderful thing! We played a give and receive game, similar to ones we do in timebanking but much more immediate (you’re supposed to write down offers and requests that can realistically be fulfilled within the next few days), interspersed with a couple performance gifts. The first performance was by Elena and it was really incredible. She’ll do a version of it at the event on the 29th, so I won’t spoil any of it here. It took my breath away. One of many reasons for you to go to this if you can! And I also offered a performance gift, a version of my song Everyone Singing which we sang as a round, with 3 people playing wine glasses. It was a lovely way for me to experience the song.

photo 3-28Highlights among the exchanges included someone receiving a photo 5-29clarinet and promise of lessons, someone who might find some temporary housing, and a whole slew of other synchronicities. Followed by a group photo in some goofy hats… :)



photo 1-17I spent the next day at the UK Conference of Independent Currencies,photo 5-22 hosted by  the Bristol Pound and celebrating the launch of the Guild of Independent CurrenciesLeander Bindewald and Jem Bendell both presented, and Matthew Slater and I also each got up to say a few words. We all focused on various aspects of connecting different types of currencies in coherent ecosystems and the overall need to accurately identify our goals and the appropriate tools with which to meet them. Then to gain and/or create the support (technical, evaluative, educational, social) necessary to operate photo 3-21effectively in this realm. (or something… I’m probably not doing a great job of representing other people’s talks – but I gave a quick and dirty overview of the MAN)

Met some great people and got good ideas and perspective about what’s happening in the complementary currency world, and hopefully shared something helpful with them.

That night we said farewell to Jem and Leander, and Matthew and I stayed on – he went to day 2 of the conference and I stayed at Naomi’s and caught up on writing, played piano and hung out with Aga.

then off the Exeter to meet and stay with James Priest, a Sociocracy trainer…

More on that later.

My trip so far – Mallorca and London


If you’ve been reading you know I’m on a tour, presenting at the Timebanking UK conference (coming up in a couple days), visiting MAN potential partners and pilot sites, participating in related gatherings, and playing a little music. Lovely! Here’s the first segment of my report-back:

Mallorcaphoto 5

My trip started off quite beautifully, first with a fun short visit with Leander in London, then the next afternoon off to Mallorca, Spain for the Sacred Valley Dialogues.

I had expected the Dialogues to be what they were originally billed as, which was a gathering of business leaders interested in taking their business in more sustainable directions.

However, the scope and topic of the event had changed without my realizing. In thephoto 4 end, it changed for the better – at least from my perspective. There were about 25 people engaging in open space dialogue about how to create sustainable local economies. Good people and good conversation (and very un-thorough reporting on it here because of everything else I need to do – sorry for that).

Jem, Sybille, and Matthew

Jem, Sybille, and Matthew

I was invited by Matthew Slater, the programmer of the Community Forge open source timebanking software that we use. Jem Bendell, professor of Sustainability Leadership at University of Cumbria was scheduled to be one of the speakers and I knew I wanted to see both him and Matthew. Then I learned Sybille Saint-Girons was coming – she’s with Valereux in France and was the person I did the Economistresses activities with in Paris last year. She’s been creating a new open source software package, Wezer, that does much of what we want for the Main MAN. So this was a great opportunity to explore a partnership!

Matthew, Sybille, Jem, and I shared a lovely house in the gorgeous Soller Valley with Stephen Hinton, founder of Transition Sweden and JAK Bank Board member, and Mitch, a wonderful guy (and great professional coffee roaster) from Germany who was helping to organize the event.

photo 1The highlight of the trip (besides a lovely visit to the beach) was having the opportunity to delve deeply intophoto 3 potential partnerships with Sybille, Matthew, Stephen, and Jem.

It looks like Sybille’s Wezer platform can/will be able to do everything we need for the Main MAN, and we’re exploring creating an instance called the Mutual Aid Platform (MAP – appropriate enough since it will map the people and projects engaging in the Main MAN). Sybille will also participate in a leadership role. Matthew agreed to become our Software Coordinator. Stephen helped to figure out some beautiful mechanisms for shifting resources (money, time credits, etc) around to where they’re needed via coop member rebates, and also he and Jem agreed to some kind of active role (these roles are yet to be spelled out).

The trip would have been worthwhile for the beautiful place and lovely people, so it’s amazing that we got to get some serious and exciting work done too.

London again

photo 1photo 4Then back to London, where I played two showcase-style shows – Oct. 27 Voices at the Boogaloo and Oct. 28 Songbook at Apples and Pears.

photo 3October 28 I also had the pleasure of meeting with the staff of Spice UK, an organization that supports a form of timebanking photo 2focused on co-production, especially engaging with human service organizations. This was a discussion focused on Applied TimeBanking (our term for using timebanking to corral the resources needed to carry out community projects) and Mutual Aid Networks.

The staff had great ideas about how these approaches could apply to their work. Spice’s mission is broader than just timebanking, and they may at some point explore adding in additional tools to further their mission. If they do I hope they become a MAN pilot! And have invited them to do so, of course…

October 30 I had a similar meeting at a brown bag lunch gathering at the New Economics Foundation (NEF). photo 5Leander hosted and gave a great introduction so I really didn’t have anything else to add… But really, we explored the ins and outs of connecting these different types of systems, and NEF was a good place for an informed discussion since they deal with all kinds of cooperative economic systems and platforms.

That night I played a show at the Beatrice in Camden, which was a lot of fun. With great sound!

I’ll leave off here so this doesn’t get even more unbearably long… and will pick up again with my trip to Bristol.

Thanks for reading,

Allied Coop ready to rock!


So much has happened/is happening with the Allied Community Coop that it’s hard to keep up with reports, but I’ll try…

Shortly after our Allied Coop kickoff at Taste of Allied we learned that the neighborhood pharmacy and store Walgreen’s would be leaving the neighborhood soon.

Unfortunately, Walgreen’s is the only place left there selling anything like food, and the food sold at Walgreen’s is not sufficiently nutritious or priced appropriately to meet people’s grocery needs.

So the food desert situation that was already urgent has become more of an emergency.

Allied Coop would like to help! Our mission is the overall health and wellness of the neighborhood and you can’t get closer to that than food.

So we’re taking a bit of a detour from our PowerTime energy project to focus on how we can cooperate to get fresh healthy affordable food into the neighborhood.

We’ve spoken with managers and staff at Willy Street Coop and they’d love to help us! Our dream is to partner with them and many others to create a neighborhood center/neighborhood-scale grocery, starting with a buying club and organized ride shares to help with people’s immediate needs while we build capacity for a store owned by and for the neighborhood.

There are a lot of things in the works, changing day by day. So we’ll need to be very agile and ready to roll with things. And we’re feeling pretty hopeful. On Monday Oct. 20 three of us from Allied Coop attended a meeting with Mayor Soglin, city staff, and other stakeholders and got a promising reception to our ideas for neighborhood community economic development. More on that later as we learn how it will play out…

photo 3-2 photo 4-2 photo 5-1We hosted a Town Hall meeting on Friday October 17 in order to learn what neighbors and potential partners would like to make happen. We used the training we received from Art of Hosting and formatted it as a Pro Action cafe. It was really well attended and really fruitful. Here are the notes in their entirety (please read them if you’re working on this project), and here are some highlights:

Participants were asked to introduce themselves and give brief comments on their  particular interests:

•    We need to improve pedestrian safety during the construction, especially before winter makes it worse.
•    Concern about the lack of a pharmacy and a grocery
•    Need access to food when we need it, not limited to certain days/hours
•    We may need to fight for a store
•    Second Harvest’s removal of the mobile pantry is a problem
•    The Fresh Market truck didn’t work out too well
•    If we own the store, and the community works at the store, it will help stop theft
•    We need a spokesperson, who can speak for everyone
•    We need to organize

Then we split into tables of 5 people apiece, and each group discussed the following questions, changing tables between questions so everyone was with a different group each time. The questions were:

What can we do right now?

What could we do in the long run?

What are you willing to do, or to ask someone you know to do?

The short-term and long-term goals and action steps that emerged were:

Short term

  • Create survey for the neighborhood, about shopping preferences and habits. Cassandra will create this and is starting it now.
  • Organize the neighborhood. We will host a monthly workshop/discussion to move this forward consistently. They will be the third Saturday of each month, 12-1:30pm, location TBA. The first will be November 15. In addition, Florenzo will be an active advocate and Alderperson Maurice Cheeks will advocate for us in city government.
  • Organize ride shares to stores. Katy will help as a driver
  • Secure subsidized cab rides for people needing them to shop
  • Work with NIP and Green Cab to get vehicles for shopping excursions
  • Work to get gas cards for ride sharing and buying club
  • Work to get surplus food from Epic and CAC gardens, others. Joe will help with this
  • Conduct outreach with pharmacies and residents to coordinate alternatives for obtaining medications
  • Get more people to help coordinate the free sandwich program currently offered, to add more capacity and serve more people
  • Secure donations from corporations and organizations to help fund these efforts. Laurie offered to help with this

Long term

  • Get policy makers to recognize food as a right
  • Create a Coop grocery store with a pharmacy!
  • Emulate Walnut Way in Milwaukee
  • City staff working to get discount grocer in Walgreen’s space
  • Work with Willy Street Coop to create neighborhood coop business incubator
  • Secure city policies and incentives to bring businesses to Allied
  • Tell a new story of the Allied Drive neighborhood

photo 1-5 photo 2-5Willy Street Co-op is willing to put “boots on the ground” to help start a grocery and Anne Reynolds of UW Center for Cooperatives will help with coop development, and will advocate for us on the Food Policy Council.
Cassandra will write a survey (more notes on the flip charts) and work with Ruth Rohlich to get it translated.  Stephanie asked people to volunteer to go door-to-door.

The issue should go before the Allied Task Force, and Barry will take it there.

Alice will help in any way possible, as will many of the participants.

November 15, Noon – 1:30, meet to develop a plan

Allied Coop Board meets first Thur. each month, 2-4pm. Whole group discussions/workshops 3rd Saturday each month, 12-1:30pm, location TBA.

Thanks for reading! We’re feeling hopeful, and alive with possibilities. We’ll be looking for your support and encouragement as we go.

New Economy Week MAN presentation/discussion online

Hello again NEW

This is a quick one, just to share the link to the lovely conversation I had with Stella Strega-Scoz yesterday as part of New Economy Week.

Here’s the video.

Here’s a little more background on the session, and links to more context and more sessions.

That’s all on this topic. Now I’ll be writing updates on the Allied Community Coop – getting really fun and exciting – and then prepare for my trip to Mallorca and UK, where I’ll learn more and make more progress on Mutual Aid Netoworks.

Please stay tuned…

Thanks for paying attention,



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