MANning up


Progress on developing Mutual Aid Networks is ramping up nicely. I’ve been saying lately that the first half of 2014 is my time to Go Big or Go Home. What that means is that the job of shepherding these into existence is much too big for one person (with bits of help from others who have full-time jobs elsewhere) and I recognized that I either need to get the high-level and large quantities of help that I need to do this on a global scale and move quickly (my ideal) or I need to just focus back in on making this happen here in Madison, sharing our work with the world as we go.Go_Big!

Well things seem to be lining up to Go Big! So, I’ll keep you posted as we go. And if you’re reading this chances are you can contribute to our building the capacity we need, so please get in touch to let me know how you’d like to be involved.

And now for my report on our progress the last two weeks:

We will be holding weekly MAN web meetings into the foreseeable future, until enough people are up to speed. These are mainly for potential pilot sites and supporters but feel free to join just to learn if you like. They are every Wednesday at 2pm EDT (time zone converter here). The first hour is an overview of the project with clarifying Q&A, the second hour is for deepening the discussion among MAN pilot sites. We are currently discussing the core principles we’ll agree to and making our communication strategy and timeline. Meeting schedules and other communications are now here. These web meetings are a lot of fun – there’s great energy and enthusiasm! Slides from previous meetings are here.

I’ll be heading out to the East Coast in June to present at the Slow Living Summit in Brattleboro, VT, and am using the opportunity to visit potential pilot sites on the way out and back. Chicago, Ithaca, Maine, Boston, Lansing and Detroit are currently on the agenda. Let me know if you’re somewhere en route and want to find a time to meet between May 31 and June 14.

Last and absolutely far from least, we held a MAN Design Team meeting on Friday April 4. We answered the questions we feel the bylaws need to address, then turned over the writing of the bylaws to Jon Hain, who has generously offered to take the first crack at them. Jon is one of the founders and directors of Madison HOURS, who stayed with it its whole long life and is now helping to shepherd it into its new incarnation as a component of the MAN. Jon was a primary contributor to the organization of Madison HOURS in addition to having extensive experience with cooperatives from his time as a Willy Street Coop staffer board member. He’ll be working on the overall MAN bylaws alongside the bylaws for the Allied Coop, our first local MAN, in order to set the stage for creating complementarity between local MANs and the overall MAN network – the latter of which has now taken on the nickname the Main MAN, which I really love! (I’ll need to change my slides and writing from MetaMAN to Main MAN.) He will aim to draft them before April 22 and the Design Team meet again Friday April 25, 11amCDT to discuss and move forward. Far-flung participants are welcome to join online (instructions and meeting details here.)

Detailed notes are here. Stay tuned for more, things are starting to move!


As always, thanks for paying attention.


Builder’s Workshop #14: Building Capacity in Your Organization


BW14_groupsLast Wednesday we held our March Builders Workshop, Increasing Capacity in Your Organization.

This was geared toward helping our timebank’s organization members to better connect with each other and timebank members at large, in order to fulfill their mission as robustly as possible while facing the same funding shortages common to most of us non-profit (and for-profit too!) types.

First we had introductions, including each person’s organization or project. We gave an overview using these slides. Then for the bulk of the time we used the Art of Hosting’s World Cafe format for our discussion.

The questions we discussed in the World Cafe:

  1. What would we do if we had all the resources we needed?
  2. What resources have we learned about today that could help us?
  3. What steps can/will we take to make those connections?

As is often the case, the #1 result from this discussion was that everyone got a chance to meet each other and talk more about what they’d really like to do, what they need and have to offer.

And we got some great momentum and action steps from it! We will organize a monthly gathering of organizations and supporters, with hosting duties rotating among participating organizations. We will create more outreach materials geared toward organizations connecting with their staff, board and supporters on the value of timebanking. And we will create a Common Good account in our timebank to make it easy for people to come together for unofficial projects that feed the commons, and to earn their timebank hours from the Common Good account.

All in all it was a fun and productive day. And Kristin Sage made delicious pumpkin muffins too! The notes are here, including the muffin recipe.

And below are the goals stated by participants, along with next steps, written up on the flip charts where we kept notes.


As usual, please feel free to use anything that was generated here and apply it to your own local work. Let us know how you improve on it!

Thanks for reading,



Builders Workshop #13: Building Better Software

This year’s Builders Workshops will be more focused on the work session piece.

Our first workshop was geared toward helping us to develop software teams. While we had a fairly small group of participants, they represented a wide variety of skills and interests, so we made some good progress!

We’re viewing the work as four quadrants: Local or Global, Tweaks and Improvements or Long-term tool and systems strategy.

We’re developing better ways to manage and document the work we do on our local Dane County TimeBank software (we use Community Forge and adapt it to our needs), and training some local folks in Drupal in order to expand our capacity.

This evening we continue the bi-weekly software meetings we’ve begun, where we tweak our timebank’s site and develop our processes for moving forward in a more concerted fashion.

Notes from our workshop are here.

Thanks for reading,


MAN pilot site discussion #1 was wonderful!


On Tuesday March 18 we held our very first discussion among potential MAN pilot sites. The enthusiasm was fantastic and I’m very excited about the possibilities.

Our slides are here. Notes are here.

April 3 we hold our next Allied Coop meeting to move forward more on formalizing that as our first Mutual Aid Network. April 4 we hold our next Design Team meeting here in Madison, and are inviting potential pilot site stewards to join us online.

Very happy to be moving forward!

It’s really Spring.

Thanks for reading,


Met with Mayor, other Allied Coop/MAN thoughts and updates


Today Sina, Selena and I met with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin to talk about the Allied Coop and ask for his support.

It was a really friendly, fruitful, concise and constructive meeting. That’s nice!

The mayor offered to initiate a meeting with city staff who can help us learn to better navigate city systems, including funding systems. He also offered to help us in our search for space, including a grocery store. We are very happy with the results.


The meeting, along with our ongoing experience in applying for government funding, have prompted a lot of reflection on how much our entrenched systems are currently stacked against regular people working in their communities. The conundrum, which the mayor quickly identified – he said ‘Your greatest strength is also your weakness’ – that we’re not professionals, we’re people in our communities doing the work we know needs to be done. And in the current system our two options are to hire a professional to come in and do the work we’ve all been doing, or to build our own capacity to navigate those funding systems. That’s exactly what the Allied Coop, and MANs in general, are being designed to do – to create the formal, legal, social and personal capacity to generate and steward resources collectively… and the constrictions these systems create and our lack of savvy working with/around them are our #1 barrier to getting this work done as quickly and well as we know we could. Sina and Selena continue to put countless hours of excellent work into their neighborhood, and it’s really hard to find funding sources to pay them to be able to spend the bulk of their time doing it. They have to do it in addition to paid work, which is simply too much to ask. We’re lucky they are so giving, so energetic and talented.

So, as it’s been for the last few years, I continue to swim in the irony of the fact that my deeply-felt need to change these systems and their effects on my community causes me to constantly have to navigate these same systems… I can’t wait till we make the MANs work so I can be done with it!! ;)


Coming soon… report from Feb. 26 Builders Workshop #13 on software, notes from our last legal team meeting, updates on MAN design team progress and initial pilot project discussions… but first I’ll be taking the weekend off and visiting the ice caves on Lake Superior.


Enjoy your weekend and thanks for reading,


It’s MAN Day!

MANballoonToday marks the birth of Mutual Aid Networks!

We just sent our Articles of Incorporation and it’s official! Preston Austin and I are the signers and we incorporated at the address of my coffeehouse, Mother Fool’s, where Preston and I first met and had the conversations that eventually led us to this point. In fact, Preston recently said ‘the MAN is a democratization of a conversation that we had at Mother Fool’s.’ And yes, it appears to be so.MANarticles_photo

Another fortuitous aspect of incorporating at this address is that many great cooperative efforts have their roots there, including my fabulous neighborhood grocery coop Willy St. Coop, one of the most successful coops in the country (incorporated 1973), Nature’s Bakery Coop, still plugging away down the street after 44 years, Madison Hours Cooperative, which has now folded into the MAN efforts after its 17-year run – not to mention (not coops but awesome nonetheless:) our parent Dane County TimeBank, and of course Mother Fool’s itself, my home away from home for almost 19 years. I’m a bit superstitious and like to line things up in my favor any way possible, especially with something so enormously important to me. Oh, MAN_mailand our lawyer David Sparer was around for and active in a few of those coop initiatives from years past, and also helped us purchase the building (1997) from another lovely neighborly guy Joe Kirch (some other time I’ll write up the story about how we got and kept Mother Fool’s mainly through the kindness of neighbors).

Next steps in MAN development are to write bylaws, confirm other pilot sites, send letters of request for participation, and get our own local MAN, the Allied Coop, incorporated and ready for action. Although the action there is already well underway, with fantastic people jumping in to make their neighborhood what they dream it can be.

Which reminds me to repeat our mission statement here, because I love it so:

To create means for everyone to discover and succeed in work they want to do, with the support of their community.

You should be getting a request for participation soon and if you don’t, let me know how you’d like to participate. Literally everyone is invited. But I won’t be sending a letter to literally everyone, and I might miss you even if I really want and intend to send you a letter, simply because I’m buried in more work than I can handle. Speaking of which, your participation might help with that too! ;)

PowerTime_training2 PoweTime_training1And at least as exciting, we had our second PowerTime II peer energy consulting training and are really ready to rock with our own local incarnation of the MAN, the Allied Coop. And the PowerTime II trainees love our MAN mission statement! Next week we have our meeting to work out our own local incorporation. I’ll also be meeting with our mayor to get his support for the Allied Coop MAN. Yeehaw!

More later.

As always, thanks for reading. We’re ready to rock!


The Mission of the MAN

To create means for everyone to discover and succeed in work they want to do, with the support of their community.

Unless our lawyer says we need a few last-minute tweaks to our articles, we’ll incorporate Monday, Feb. 24. At which time I’ll fill you in on all the other details, link to notes, etc. Very exciting! We’ll be incorporating as the Wisconsin Mutual Aid Network Cooperative. This will provide the framework for infrastructure Imageand support for ‘local’ MANs. (the WIMAN is the mother of them all! ;)


More later…

Enjoy your weekend!


It’s on! We’re building a MAN


Last week was full of activity. Not easy, but very rewarding in the end.

AlliedCoopMeeting2.6.14First, the very most exciting news – the great people of the Allied Drive neighborhood voted to create our first Mutual Aid Network right in Allied Drive, the Allied Coop. We established weekly office hours and a plan to move forward on incorporating. We started some need and asset mapping, working out how we can pool the money we save on energy and use it to insure and maintain a van for the neighborhood – we just need to get a van. Then Deacon Tony Williams told us he recently purchased a 14-seat van that he will agree to let us use on behalf of the coop! Tomorrow we meet to create an agreement. We plan to use the van to take young people on outings, provide medical and other needed transportation, and do food shopping trips. Fantastic!

This meeting was one of the most uplifting things that’s happened to me this year. You can read the notes here.

The next day the Legal issues work group of the MAN Design Team met to begin hammering out details about our structure and our process for implementation. Like I said, not easy! But very rewarding. Hopefully for everyone, ultimately.

I won’t bore you with the details but they are available in the notes here. And in updated, still-in-progress writing on the MAN overall, here.

That’s all for now. Still in progress on the Knit a Network effort to use the kinds of cooperation, sharing and exchange that we espouse to connect our various efforts into a more functional ecosystem. More updates to come!

Thanks for reading,




Building locally, sharing globally


We’ve gotten off to a running start here in 2014.

photo 3Since I last wrote here we’ve held the first PowerTime II energy consulting training – GREAT! We’re photo 1training twice as many folks as we’d expected and enthusiasm is high. All kinds of surrounding opportunities are presenting themselves now — for example we can have coop members sewing door snakes and selling for timebank hours and/or money to support themselves and the coop, we’re starting a computer refurbishing class to begin stocking our TimeBank store with useful computers, etc. etc. On Feb. 6 we’ll have our official business meeting to revive the process of legally incorporating. Follow the project here.

And we held the Dane County TimeBank Annual Meeting and Board election. We gained five great new board members! Several with fundraising and organizational development experience, one with a big picture view on economy, dctb_biz_cardcooperatives and complementary currencies, all really wonderful new energy. Notes are here. We also tried out a nice easy little game of making fill-in-the-blank timebank business cards. Everyone made a name tag with their offer and request and we gave our cards to people we could work with. We’ll be using these much more!

This afternoon I’ll be meeting with some folks who are working on building tiny houses for people who need them. We’re seriously focusing on being able to  better meet food, wellness, energy, transportation and housing needs this year.

And on the meta-scale, we’re underway in the Knit a Network process. In case you’ve missed it, this is an effort to link cooperative economy (especially timebanking, but not exclusively) practitioners across boundaries of geography, affiliation, software preferences etc. in order to complement and share each other’s work, identify and work together to fill gaps in infrastructure and support. We’ve begun our work groups and participation is great. We’ll work until the beginning of April, at which time we wrap up the whole Knit a Network process. Each group will produce visible, shareable work OR – if that’s not possible – a report on what did happen in the group. The most exciting part for me is that we’ll be holding a leadership retreat on the east coast (most likely in a beach house!) at the end of July, at which time we’ll put a big shiny bow on the Knit a Network process by creating training materials to share, finalizing web pages and peer support infrastructure and the like. Then we’ll offer up our results to the world at the international timebanking/cooperative economy conference in Rhode Island July 31-August 3.

At that point we should have at least one, hopefully several, Mutual Aid Networks beginning to pilot. It’ll be fun to see where it all leads!

Thanks for reading,


Lots of kickoffs last week, plus year in review and things to come


If you read last week’s post you’ll know that we had a whirlwind of a week, with kickoffs for all kinds of projects at all kinds of scales – and in my mind, that’s what makes it manageable – that the work is very similar across different scales, and fits together like Russian nesting dolls.

First, on January 10, we held the Knit a Network 90-Day Wrap-Up Challenge revival meeting. People from around the country plus the UK joined us to plan for a 90-day process to wrap up work begun in Fall 2012, to pull together across affiliation, discipline, and geography in order to use the tools and philosophies we espouse to better support each other and steward our knowledge and resources.

SunPrairieCareTeamKickoffNext, on Wednesday January 15 we held a kickoff for our new Neighborhood Care Team that we’re building in and around Sun Prairie (a smaller city inside Dane County and outside of Madison where much of our activity is based). This was lovely! We’ve been working with 23 families to create timebanking circuits and resources to meet the needs of the family members with different abilities. Katie Pajac, the person we hired to run this pilot, is doing a fantastic job and we’re blessed to have really sweet, fun and engaging families to work with. We talked about ways we can make more connections through the timebank, the needs participants would like to meet, and plans for future events where we invite the community more broadly. We’re off to a good start, building slowly through people’s existing networks. We have a cooking class going and will be focusing on generating more opportunities for social and recreational events, ongoing learning, transportation help, employment skill and opportunity building, art and music.

On Wednesday we also met with lawyer David Sparer to discuss how to incorporate our first Mutual Aid Network. Preston Austin, Michael Hernke, Lorrie Hurckes and I participated in the meeting and explored questions of: classes of membership, their rights and responsibilities, how securities exchange laws might apply and how to steer clear, how to connect the coop with the TimeBank’s existing non-profit organization, board structure, etc. etc. The next steps are to write up scenarios of likely activities and envision how each piece would function. The legal work group of the MAN Design Team will meet in the next couple weeks to dig in.

photo 1-2On Thursday January 16 I led a marathon Builders Workshop, Year in Review/Ring in the New. The first hour was a retrospective (of closer to 2 years, actually) to help lay the groundwork for where we are now. This segment was billed as optional, and there was a break in between this and the Ring in the New segment so new people could arrive comfortably. The next two hours went into the new projects and models we’re developing and plans for moving forward. You can see the slides, which include notes and lots of links to more information, here. And more thorough notes by the great notetaker Morris Sadicario, are here (Year in Review) and here (Ring in the New). And here are videos of the year-in-review presentation, part I and II.

Friday I hosted a small discussion with neighborhood women business owners. They’re excited to get engaged in the timebank and also excited to pursue ideas of business-to-business mutual credit, savings pools and more. It’ll be fun to explore the bigger picture with them as they get more involved.

photo 3And finally, last but not least – Saturday was the Allied Coop’s PowerTime II Kickoff party!photo 5 On Saturday January 18 we held a party – on a cold and snowy day – with cake, awards for our original coop partners, an overview of our new PowerTime II energy project, and best of all, the premier of the energy conservation video we made in the neighborhood. Starring residents, shot and edited by residents, and looking smashing!!! Today we have our first training for PowerTime II enphoto 4ergy consultants. They’ll be earning timebank hours going door-to-door and inviting people to participate in the coop, then offering energy consultations for those who want them. We’ll build toward eventually being able to weatherize buildings and assemble and install solar panels and water heaters. We’re excited!

So as you can see there’s a lot going on. It all fits together like Russian nesting dolls, which helps make it manageable. But we’re actively seeking help and will need a lot of it in order to work on the large trans-local scale we really want to work on! We hope you’ll join us. Either way we’ll be doing great stuff here and sharing it with the world. Your participation makes it more likely to spread far and wide and fast.

As always, thanks for paying attention



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