St. Louis and New Orleans learning trip report – Allied Community Coop, Mutual Aid Networks, Restorative JusticePosted: 29 Jun, 2015
Some of the leaders of Madison’s Allied Community Coop (ACC) had the great fortune to take a learning trip to St. Louis and New Orleans. Thanks so much to the Willy Street Coop, Rebecca Kemble, and our other generous donors who helped make it happen!
Coop leaders who went were Cassandra Sonko, ACC Board President; Sina Davis, ACC Board member and former ACC Coordinator; Gloria Farr, ACC Board Member and representative of Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development and Allied Wellness Center; Lavern Harrison, newly hired ACC staff; and me, ACC Board Treasurer and representative of Dane County TimeBank.
We had a very full agenda! First we had breakfast with the fantastic Renee Marver, one of the organizers of the very first modern timebank in the United States, Grace Hill Settlement House’s MORE Time Dollar Exchange. The neighbors and staff at Grace Hill worked together in 1981 to invent Service Credits, which became known as time dollars and then timebank hours over time. But it was their own creative approach to making up for big cuts in government support of vulnerable people, and the massive success they had is a testament to the strength of that vision. Renee was able to share a lot of their story and the awesome programs they ran, which included a Neighborhood College, six timebank stores, support for vulnerable neighbors, inter-generational care and exchange, and much more. The MORE exchange had tens of thousands of members in neighborhoods throughout St. Louis in its heyday.
After changes in agency leadership much of that activity ceased, but the Patch Neighborhood Center is still going strong. We visited and learned about their timebank store, where neighbors get new toiletries and cleaning supplies for the hours they work in the community, the “Little Macy’s” thrift store where they sell secondhand clothing to support their operational costs, their inter-generational gatherings that connect seniors and kids, their daycare, the field trips they organize, and mostly, the fact that the neighbors run the show. There are a couple staff who started as participants in activities there and have been around 12+ years – including Debbie, who I’ve met at a couple conferences and our previous field trip back in 2007. Great to see people doing what they love!
The leaders of St. Louis’ wonderful timebank, the Cowry Collective, and a new MORE, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, organized two discussions with us. The first was focused on Restorative Justice and included members of the Coalition to Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex, plus people active in juvenile justice as advocates and also as professionals (an arts teacher at the juvenile detention center which seems open to innovation). We had a very stimulating discussion where each of our individual experiences were able to spawn ideas relevant to each other’s projects. For example, we learned about ‘neighborhood accountability boards’ being put into place by St. Louis’ formal juvenile justice system. Pieces of that structure could apply here in Madison, but initiated at the community level which will give us more freedom to keep kids’ needs front and center. We were able to suggest some ways to involve more youth as leaders there and to advocate for some creative approaches that could involve timebanking to help build skills and resources.
The next day we were joined by a few of the same people and a couple new ones for a conversation about Mutual Aid Networks and how that structure could be applied to help us all take our work farther. We talked with attendees about the MAN Up Summit in August and about pursuing further collaborations. We’re all excited to see what unfolds.
Immediately after the MAN discussion we hit the road to get a start on the drive to beautiful New Orleans. It’s 10 hours from St. Louis and we decided to stop near Memphis, so we could take a quick trip by Graceland in the morning just for fun.
Then we arrived in New Orleans just in time for the NOLA Timebank potluck that Gretchen Zalkind, NOLA TimeBank founder and coordinator, organized in conjunction with our visit. This was great! There were organizers of local cooperative businesses, our hosts at Conserve Our Resource Economy (CORE), people ready to engage in the neighborhood in new ways. We shared a lot of our experience with Allied Coop and had open discussion about how we could all take our work farther.
The next morning we visited Backstreet Cultural Museum, one of my very favorite places and where I first learned of Mutual Aid Societies and Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, my inspiration for the cooperative savings and community investment pools piece of Mutual Aid Networks. I was really excited to take my fellow ACC leaders there so they could see the real deal, and think about how they want to apply it in their own lives and neighborhood. We got a great tour and learned a lot. Plus we had the good fortune to have a Jazz Funeral pass nearby while we were there. The museum guides went out with us to see it, and told us that jazz funerals welcome everyone to join in celebration of the life of the person about to be buried. It was very festive and very beautiful.
Later that day I left my cohorts to get some rest and hang out with a Louisiana-based friend while I went to meet Anna Boyer (part of NOLA Timebank also) at the C4Tech & Design Coop where she’s a worker owner. Very cool cooperative business begun in 2008, and I learned details about how it’s run that will really come in handy for our various MAN efforts. C4 Tech has three divisions – a computer repair shop that mainly caters to neighborhood residents (and resonates with a long-standing plan to work with our local Union Tech Coop to build computer repair capacity in Allied Drive). They have a website and graphic design department that works with businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions. And they have an IT support department that works with similar clients from around the world. Each division has a separate but overlapping budget and each division manages its own revenue itself, paying agreed-upon base wages and distributing a quarterly profit share.
We spent the rest of the evening seeing the sights of NOLA, then hit the road the next morning for the epic 15-hour drive home. I walked in my door at 2am. Good times!
And good thing we had this fun break, and learned so much about our potential. Because the Allied Coop is the only applicant for a $300K forgivable loan the city is offering to subsidize a grocery store in the Allied Drive neighborhood. The RFP they put out doesn’t completely match up with our vision and circumstances, but being the only applicant we’ll be in good shape to have some serious discussions with the City about how they could help us move forward with a neighborhood-grown and -owned project.
Thanks for reading this massive missive. More soon on continuing developments…
On Wednesday Feb. 25 we hosted a Builders Workshop on creating Neighbor-to-Neighbor (N2N) Care Teams. We had a special guest – Kathy Perlow, creator and implementer of the Lehigh Valley Time Exchange, a hospital-based timebank in Pennsylvania. There Kathy piloted N2N Care Teams around hospital patients who needed a hand. Kathy has recently retired and will be creating an even more robust model, based in a health center and in the form of a Mutual Aid Network. She came to Madison to share what she learned and help us create our own system tailored to our local needs.
What is a N2N Care Team?
We decided to form at least three N2N Care Teams, based around people or groups who have interest and need. Ryan suggested his apartment complex in South Madison, where we happen to have another member who could use a hand after breaking a bone. We’re forming another care team in Sun Prairie, where we have our Capacity Building Initiative working with families and community members with and without disabilities to create more networks of mutual support and engagement. And another around our efforts in central Madison, working to support people who are homeless.
You can read details in the notes from the workshop here.
The next evening Kathy joined me as we introduced our next steps in building N2N Care Teams in Sun Prairie. We have a follow-up next week and will share the steps we take to get started, just in case you’d like to make one in your own community.
Thanks for reading,
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 Collaboraction.
We 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 buszy is a renovated old bus station that is now home to lots of activities that support young people. 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 park-and-ride service that helps fund the whole thing. And now, 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!
I left for Heathrow early morning on November 10 to fly back to Chicago, where I stayed a few days for more MAN work
On 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).
Then 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!
We were met at the bus station by Nuria and Yaciel, James’ partner 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.
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!
The 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.
After the conference was over we picked up a 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.
We’ve gotten off to a running start here in 2014.
Since I last wrote here we’ve held the first PowerTime II energy consulting training – GREAT! We’re training 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, cooperatives 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,
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, just because I’ve been too busy living, working, driving, visiting…
It’s been FANTASTIC so far. Seeing some very beloved people (including my parents and my 99-year-old grandma), enjoying the working and learning parts, and being treated to some beautiful fall foliage as I’m getting out east (I’m writing this from Northampton MA where I’m staying with a great old college friend)
I’ll post about the first couple stops so this doesn’t get TOO unwieldy (or maybe it does but it could be worse), then pick up next time with Ohio onward.
I began this leg of the tour on Sept. 20 in Chicago at a SkillShare at Lara Oppenheimer’s (Chicago Time Exchange Coordinator) house. A great little event, one I’d like to try at home. They’d put out a call for timebank members to offer to teach a skill. We started with Qi Gong, then space organizing, then went on to Labyrinth Drawing. Then I spoke a bit about our timebank’s history and future and we discussed a number of issues from member engagement to leadership development to applied timebanking. It was a really good time, and we ended it with a potluck.
After a brief rest we headed over to the Trade School Evanston. This isn’t what you might think – I’d thought it might be a school that teaches trades. Instead it’s much cooler. It’s part of a global movement and the way it works is this: someone proposes a class they’d like to teach and says what they’d like to receive in return. The compensation might be massage, classes, transportation, food, whatever. The Trade School and the Time Exchange see their mutual benefits and are now launching a collaboration.
The evening was really really lovely. The space is cool – two of the founders live there and it’s clearly a hub of creative, collective activity. This evening they had a big spread of delicious food and a great singer-songwriter, Mindy, who played and sang beautifully, then brief talks about the Time Exchange and the Trade School, followed by a set of Stephanie Rearick Jr. People were really attentive and appreciative throughout, and it was also a really fun party.
A bonus for me: The lovely hosts gave me a little vintage electric organ they’d trash-picked earlier. It’s really cool! Sounds great. Someone pointed out I should play a Halloween show on it, it has that kind of sound.
Next day I got up ungodly early and drove 4 hours to East Lansing Michigan, where I gave a little presentation at the Greater Lansing TimeBank’s picnic. The drive was no fun at all but the picnic was! Edge Brussel (videographer from Builders Workshops 4 and 6) organized it and there were about 20 really engaging people in attendance. It was on a sunny day in a park with another nice spread of food. I shared stories of our timebank’s history, our project approach, some of the ways we’re connecting things we’ve learned in order to become more effective. I introduced them briefly to BuildFTW and the MAN. They asked a lot of good questions, with a lot of focus on our youth courts (very common aspect for people to be excited about, and with good reason!).
After a short nap I went on to Detroit, one of my favorite cities, where I played a benefit for their local community-supported radio station WHFR. This is in a really cool venue with a great reputation, Trinosophes (Pere Ubu played there the night before!). It was a really good time. The other bands were fantastic and the WHFR folks are a lot of fun.
Next day was our timebank training. Jennie Weakley, coordinator of Southwest Detroit TimeBank, hosted at her office. We were joined by about 10 people, including two teens who work with the timebank and help out Bridging Communities (a host organization). We focused on how to use timebanking to accomplish community goals and did the visioning exercise I like to do at these (I need a good name for it! used to call it ‘the messy game,’ a ridiculously nondescript title). This group’s mission was to create safer communities with engaged people, less isolation and more integration. Here are the flip charts we generated:
And we focused the discussion a bit on what would help make this effort feel valuable to youth. It was great to have the two teenagers with us! They brought us some really helpful perspective.
On Monday I joined some Detroit-area timebank leaders at a luncheon with city managers, assistant city managers and a mayor representing five Detroit suburbs.
It was quite a fruitful meeting! These Detroit suburbs are part of a collaboration called the Woodward 5. Two of them already have timebanks, one has discussed it over the last couple years but hasn’t implemented it, and two have none. By the end of our discussion they were saying they want to create some kind of collaboration to make timebanking happen throughout the 5, and the next day we learned that the Ferndale timebank was awarded a small grant toward this end. Exciting!
On Tuesday I went to the new home of the now-forming New Work Collective, a collective household in Southeast Detroit. I met Ty, one of the organizers, at our Sunday training. That’s where we learned that we are both working on how to redesign work. I went to his house to talk with him and the rest of the collective members more in-depth. 5-8 (the number grew as we went) of us talked about the MAN. I mainly described it, the thinking behind it, how timebank can bootstrap it, etc. Then we had a discussion about how it can apply to what they’re doing and some of what we’re doing in Madison. There are a lot of exciting possibilities and I hope to explore it more with them, and try some stuff out. I wish I’d taken pictures here (and the Lansing potluck too!) but alas, I just forgot.
I did remember to take pictures at Trumbullplex, the anarchist housing and theater collective that’s one of my favorite spaces in Detroit. I went with Edge Brussel and Whitney Bembenek. Whitney was part of the Dane County TimeBank when she lived in Madison and has since moved to Detroit. She’s wonderful, and it was great to be able to introduce her to Edge and Trumbullplex at the same time.
I left Detroit Wed. morning and went 1/2 hour north to Pontiac Michigan for the launch of the Pontiac SUN TimeBank at its host site, Oakland Family Services. Kim Hodge (wonderful organizer of the Michigan Alliance of TimeBanks) is shepherding this project and has helped pull together a beautiful team! 10 people from the Steering Committee each did a piece of the presentation, including some matching games and discussion. The energy in the room was amazing! The people were all so excited and so overflowing with warmth and joy. I kept thinking of the word ‘joyous’ throughout and I’ll say it was one of the most joyous occasions I’ve ever had the opportunity to experience. I’m really excited for them and impressed with what they’ve done already.
From there I headed to Ohio, which I’ll write about in another post so this doesn’t sprawl even more…
Thanks for reading!
There’s a lot to write – but there’s a lot of everything to do, so as usual I’ll do what I can and go back and flesh things out later. There’s a lot of video and audio content from various presentations and gatherings to sort through and post, but it takes time and people to do it. You can see the ways I’m starting to flesh things out and seek help with them in the Time For the World 2013 proposal. We’ll soon be making the first informal Mutual Aid Network functional enough to seek contribution of skills and other resources on that platform.
And a lot of what I’m busy with is getting ready for the 3rd and last leg of my Dreamworld Sharing Economy tour, which starts this Thursday! I’m posting details here, but in a (long!) nutshell:
I start with a trip to Chicago, seeing the premier of Broken Fences, directed by my good friend Ann Filmer. Friday we do skill shares and a sharing economy discussion in Evanston, then Trade School Evanston/CTX Collaboration Launch Party where we celebrate the new collaboration between the Chicago Time Exchange and the Evanston Trade School, and I play some music along with other local artists.
The next day a timebank picnic in Lansing, Michigan and that night a show in Detroit at a great venue, Trinosophes, at a benefit for local radio station WHFR. Cool! The next day a timebank gathering, a potluck, that Monday a lunch meeting with Detroit city managers. Wed. I’ll attend the launch of the new Pontiac Michigan TimeBank! Thur. I play in Canton Ohio, Friday I have an evening event with the Kent Community TimeBank, Saturday a daytime training with Kent folks (with Abby Greer!) then a show in Akron that night.
On to Ithaca New York to meet with Scott Morris and other sharing economy, Ithaca hours, Ithaca timebankers folks. Then to Amherst to talk with Emily Kawano of Solidarity Economy Network.
Really exciting things in the northeast – Boston for 2 great events on Oct. 1, Dartmouth for 2 great events Oct. 2, Providence Rhode Island to see the amazing Lisa Conlan and New Hope Care Exchange, a show in Brooklyn Oct. 4, NYC current timebanking practitioners training Oct. 5, new timebank training in Media PA Oct. 6. Oct 7 + 8 I’ll work with the great Kathy Perlow (Lehigh Valley Care Exchange) on making training materials and video about Neighbor-to-Neighbor Care Teams (which we’re making here in Dane County so I really need to know!). October 9 I’ll take a train to Newark and then fly to Istanbul Turkey for GIFTIVAL!
Upon my return I’ll work with Paul Glover (founder of Ithaca Hours and much more) to learn about and document his efforts and brainstorm about connections between cooperative economic models and practices (which I need to learn about as we’re doing this here in Dane County). Then gathering with timebank, Bnote, and other interested folks in Baltimore, doing some events with the legendary Edgar Cahn in Washington DC and nearby, and working with Edgar and other organizers to document community and racial justice initiatives happening there, and create learning materials on the topic.
I play a show in DC Oct. 25 then hightail it to Tampa Bay for timebank events on Oct. 27 and 28, then hightail it to New Orleans for a timebank gathering Oct. 29. Will stay through Halloween, then to St. Louis for a timebank gathering and show Nov. 2.
Then I’ll be happy to return home and buckle down to build our local MANs.
Yesterday I met with a fantastic lawyer specializing in cooperative law. He will help us build a great MAN, one that can easily spin off others at all different scales. We can make it work and he will help. I’ll be working on Articles of Incorporation over the next few weeks and get it going for real upon my return in November.
And all this is in addition to, in support of, and due to the beautiful developments within and around the Dane County TimeBank as we embark on our PowerTime II energy project with the Allied Community Coop, build neighbor-to-neighbor Care Teams in Sun Prairie, build on our youth court successes by creating our first adult peer court!, connect with more economic tools to increase our impact and improve our sustainability, etc etc. We have a great staff, including Co-Director (promoted from Asst. Director last year) Lorrie Hurckes, who make it possible for me to travel so much this year and who along with our members make all the great stuff happen.
Speaking of making great stuff happen, we had a lovely anonymous donor come through with $10,000 for us, which unlocked $10,000 of our $20,000 challenge grant from Kailo Fund. Hooray! We’re looking for $11,500 more to fund the rest of our year. More gets us more possibilities to commission more work from more people so don’t be shy about giving HUGE amounts. You can donate here to support the tour, or donate to the general Time for the World fund here.
We have a lot of work to do and would love to have your feedback, moral support and/or contributions.
Thanks for reading!