MAN Up Summit reflectionsPosted: 11 Sep, 2015
It was a very rich and rewarding couple weeks at the MAN Up Summit. I’m going to be writing a lot about it, starting at this blog then extending into the paper I’ll present at the 3rd International Complementary Currencies conference in Brazil. We’ll post useful notes and video at http://mutualaidnetwork.org. But meanwhile I’m writing up my own perspectives and recollections, just a brief bit on most parts of the summit. I know I’ll leave some out though. Be sure to sign up for the facebook group if you do that kind of thing, and check in at the MAN website for more perspectives and documentation.
Dinner and music at Jennie Capellaro’s on evening 1- delicious food by Green Owl Cafe owner Jennie Capellaro, served in her lovely backyard, and wonderful music by Duluth musician Mary Bue, playing on Jennie’s upright piano and scrappy guitar. Beautiful, intimate, joyful. All of it.
Funders’ circle – morning of day 2, brought a delightfully surprising mix of funders current and future plus young activists with mad skills, great ideas of how to put them to work, and very little opportunity (with big debt) in the current economy. We found some good ways to connect in both securing resources for our work in the current paradigm and partnering with funders/philanthropists to co-create a new paradigm that works better for all of us. Invitation to voluntary, joyful redistribution of wealth part I.
After a beautiful Friday evening of a community justice-themed picnic in the park, food provided by the fantastic Cafe Costa Rica, many of us retired to the pier to watch the sunset. One of many moments appreciating the opportunity to host people in my lovely home city. While talking about how we’ll change what’s very unlovely about it, its systemic racism and oppressive criminal justice system.
And on the topic at hand – we were joined by a crew of 9 amazing activists from St. Louis, including old friends and new. The great Julia Ho (of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, among others) really pulled things together to make this trip happen for several people, and all of our St. Louis guests had a lot to share with us about their work for justice in their own community. We have lots of ways to build on each other’s work and support each other in the creative destruction of the US Prison Industrial Complex. Along with other partners around the country.
Sociocracy! I can’t say enough good about our Sociocracy 3.0 workshops with James Priest. I won’t say much about them here because they’re going to be the best-documented of all of the MAN Up summit, in the works now. But Sociocracy looks to me to be a super practical way to build really good work and communication flow and governance into any group process. I look forward to using what we’ve learned to shape our work. It’s already clarified things enormously and the bits we’ve used so far have been delightful.
Sociocracy! … like I said…
Fractal organization – this was part of the Sociocracy training and we used the principles James introduced to figure out how to shape the work of MANs, the relationship of pilot sites to the Main MAN, the operations and governance processes for it all… (my first inarticulate stab at a summary, more to come of course…)
The food organizers and cooking team! As is often the case, I left food out of my worldview in terms of planning for this summit. But because I’ve lived in timebankland for the last 10 years, I had faith that people would step up and make something beautiful happen. And they did! First, Lora Garrett appeared in MAN web meetings beginning a couple months ago, which is when I learned that she lives here in Madison and wants to help build the MANs. She stepped up in a million ways, organizing food carts to come out, catering our Burrows Park event with her and her husband’s awesome food cart, Cafe Costa Rica, managing a bunch of logistics. And she lined up the FEED kitchen for a location for cooking our food.
Then we asked for a cooking team and the most wonderful people stepped up. And Sue Hessel jumped in the coordinate the work. They fed us delicious feasts for three full meals plus snacks for our launch party, and cakes for the Allied Coop’s first birthday celebration. It was incredible! All in all we spent about $550 on ingredients for all these feasts. Pretty amazing, and demonstrating our power to become less dependent on money through cooperation. Oh, and the team baked 3 delicious cakes for the Allied Coop Birthday party!
Allied Coop workshop and party! And field trip report!!! As you may know from reading this blog, the Allied Community Coop is really one of the parents of Mutual Aid Networks, as the first vision of using timebanking to help ‘grow’ a pool of shared money that would support collectively-owned resources (a van) was born when we created the vision for PowerTime II. Now Allied Coop is a going concern, we’ve put PowerTime II on hold while we work toward making a neighborhood-owned and -operated grocery and resource center, while taking steps to ameliorate the food emergency in the meantime. This event was an Art of Hosting workshop with Lina Cramer and Renee Haynie-Jackson, followed by a celebration of Allied Coop’s first birthday. We also had a lovely short session of stress-reduction breathing and light chair yoga with Mary Bue. Plus a report on the field trip we took in June to St. Louis and New Orleans! It was great to be joined by a few of the people we visited in St. Louis, who were here for the summit. And the sparkle when LaVern, Sina, Gloria and Cassandra reported on all the learning and fun we had! We gave out Mardi Gras beads, ate cake, and learned about the original Mutual Aid Societies, the African-American tradition that the private insurance industry has worked to coopt and destroy, and which we’ll help to revive within MANs. Plus reports on our restorative justice conversations with the St. Louis people, learning from the Patch timebank store there, new timebank ideas from New Orleans, and new MAN ideas in both places.
Monday August 24, at the great High Noon Saloon — our big MAN Launch Party with The Yes Men!!! They were hilarious as always, and showed clips from their new film The Yes Men Are Revolting. And Bayo Akomolafe, our great advisory board member from Nigeria by way of India, really moved people with his talk. As did the short stories about what various pilots (Hull, Lansing, Providence, Allied Coop!) are doing, and all the musicians – Wendy Schneider, Shawn Neary, Cat Capellaro and Andrew Rohn, Hanah Jon Taylor, and me. It was quite an extravaganza. And a very special treat to have The Yes Men, long-time heroes of mine, up on stage talking about the MAN like a thing that actually exists. Because it does!
On August 25 we had our 3-hour Savings Pool workshop. Guests Stephen Hinton of the JAK Bank in Sweden and Phil Stevens of New Zealand’s Savings Pools, plus Janelle Orsi of Sustainable Economies Law Center dug deep with us to help us learn the possibilities community savings pools can create. Janelle helped us understand what laws we need to pay attention to, navigate around, work to change. We’re up for it! Plus cooperative legal structures go a long way… more on that later…
The savings pool session was followed by our Robust Budgeting and Work/Life Description workshop. I decided to use myself and my own real life as the case study. Because I’m really going to be doing this! This was somewhat shockingly cool, so reassuring, so exciting, so freaky… First off it was great to get help making a budget, because I hate to do it or think about it. And I’m not always that realistic and my good friend, bandmate, and DCTB Co-Director Lorrie Hurckes was there to give friendly reality checks… But then we easily saw how I could, while doing exactly what I want to do with my time, cut my money expenses by 37% and end up with a surplus of timebank hours (that I can easily allocate to getting help with music booking and promotion, which would help my other kinds of income) with resources that can be readily available within the coming year. This is super cool. We’ll be doing more of this together, most likely as the continuation of our online learning series. (Sign up on our mail chimp list or keep checking back to see how to join)
Wednesday we did a software development, cooperation, team-building, capacity-building workshop in the afternoon. Julien showed us around Wezer and we talked about how it works now, how we aim to make it work, how we will connect it with other tools and exchanges systems to create a well-functioning and resilient network. Exciting!
Thursday August 27 was The Main MAN’s first ever General membership meeting and John Rogers showed up! And joined the Board!! Along with these other fabulous folks.
Then we spent more time working with James in open space, getting into the nitty gritty about how we’ll operate. What a wonderful opportunity to have him with as as we stumble through our learning curves. I’m really looking forward to honing our skills and seeing how well we can use this to be a super well-functioning team. Of super well-functioning teams. etc.
The last day, Friday August 28, we had the great treat and very well-timed workshop on Coop Law – how we can apply it to meet our goals. We’re really lucky to have good cooperative law here in Wisconsin, and great people to help us with it. David Sparer, the wonderful lawyer who has helped us with bylaws and vision for the Allied Community Coop and the Main MAN, has decades of experience in the field of coop law and helped to found the Willy St. Coop (incorporated at the same address as the Main MAN, DCTB, and Madison Hours by the way. And you might recognize the Willy St. Coop as our super-supportive partner for the Allied Coop, helping us establish our buying club and work toward a grocery store). David joined us, along with Anne Reynolds of the UW Center for Cooperatives, another great supporter, adviser and helper to us and the Allied Coop. We talked through our goals and how we can apply coop law to meet them. Organizing as cooperatives helps us accomplish some of the wealth-sharing and wealth-transfer goals that we have while keeping us out of things like banking and insurance regulation. More detail at the website as we write things up and edit video. But the long and short of it is, we’re all systems go. And one other cool thing: Wisconsin has great coop law but many states and countries don’t. We learned that as MANs spin up in places without coop law, they can either incorporate as a basic LLC in their state, commit to cooperative principles, and call themselves coops. Or they can incorporate in Wisconsin and operate under Wisconsin law. I got kind of excited about the possibility of becoming the Delaware of Coops!! (in case you don’t know, Delaware has low corporate taxes and tons of businesses incorporate there. One street address is home to 285,000 corporations! I generally like the idea of coopting these kinds of things, why do you think we call it The MAN?)
We closed with a harvest of the summit, and next steps. And a nice little cheer – Let’s rock! Then we went (those who didn’t have a plane to catch) and danced in the rain to a reunion of one of my favorite old-time (well, early 90s) Madison bands (Bootyfroot) at one of my favorite neighborhood festivals (Orton Park), made more pleasantly lightly-attended (it’s generally a zoo) by the nice warm rain. Ahhh…
It was definitely a highlight to be able to host people here and show them what’s great about my city. And of course the biggest highlight was every single person who came to each of the events. They were all better attended than I expected and the enthusiasm and depth of participation was beautiful.
And most of all, it feels like we’re going out into the world as a team of people well-connected with each other, well-grounded in shared philosophy and practice, with a clear commitment to working through our learning curves together, supporting each other to do the best work we can. All in the spirit of Mutual Aid Networks, creating means for everyone to discover and succeed in work they want to do, with the support of their community. Starting with us!