What we’ve been up to in recent months
From time to time we’ll share a post outlining the big or new things Students for Cooperation (SfC) has been up to in the previous months. If you’d like to get more involved then do join our Loomio and get in touch.
In this post:
- Updates from member co-ops
- Edinburgh conference
- National body of student housing co-ops
- Europe-wide network of young co-op’ers
- Leeds delegates’ meeting
- Student co-ops in the news
Member co-ops’ updates
Our member co-ops have been busy, here are some key updates:
- Green Action Leeds are restructuring into three main parts: the food co-op, an allotment, and a political campaigning hub.
- Sheffield Student Housing Co-operative will be moving in as soon as they’ve overcome some very bizarre legal barriers.
- The SHRUB in Edinburgh have secured a large grant, which will include wages for employing several students. They have taken on a second-hand book exchange and ran a series of successful workshops.
- Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative have opened applications for new members, are organising summer lets, have applied a new lick of paint, and are making progress on their basement renovations.
- The Green Bike Project are facing difficulties with their landlord, Birmingham University, and may need to move off campus.
- RE:Cycle Sussex Bike Hire Co-operative have hired out about 150 bikes, refurbished their bike shed, and have given a loan to Scoop, the Sussex student food co-op.
- Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative have opened new member applications, and are making some progress on refurbishing their garage into another bedroom.
At the end of November we held an exciting conference in Edinburgh. The weekend kicked off with a large Hallowe’en party in the basement of Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative, including a live band and pumpkin soup courtesy of Veggies Catering Campaign.
The weekend also included a number of workshops and discussions on consensus decision making; liberation and anti-discrimination; starting worker co-ops, food co-ops, housing co-ops and retail co-ops; consensus decision making and facilitation; publicity and graphic design; mass catering; and a great panel discussion on the role co-operatives can play in radical social change. There was also a tour incorporating Edinburgh’s three student co-ops: Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative, The SHRUB, and The Hearty Squirrel Food Co-operative.
The conference included a general meeting where a number of key decisions were made and policies passed:
- Our democratic regulations were passed. You can find out more about our structures here.
- Policy on making events more accessible for those of us with disabilities.
- Joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation in Palestine, and providing resources for member co-ops.
- Supporting a feasibility study for a national body for student housing co-operatives (see below).
- Policy on Network Coordinators’ wages.
There were also updates on our finances, member co-ops, and the work of the National Coordinators.
National Body of Student Housing Co-operatives
East of England Co-operative Society granted over £6000 for a feasibility study on establishing a national body of student housing co-operatives. The body would be a secondary co-op (a ‘co-op of co-ops’, like SfC), and would purchase properties across the country. These properties would then be leased to student housing co-ops. Forming a national body makes it easier to secure cheaper finance for purchasing properties, pools risk, and surpluses would then be used to fund more housing co-ops. The national body would be wholly owned and democratically controlled by the housing co-ops leasing the properties.
The study is being carried out by Acorn Co-operative Support, and will soon be completed and circulated. The first stage would involve securing approximately £1.5m and involve purchasing over half a dozen properties. A number of large co-operatives have expressed a serious interest in significantly financing the national body, and several banks are also interested in financing the venture.
Europe-wide network of youth co-ops
Network Coordinator Sean has been hitch-hiking across Europe and meeting with a number of youth and student co-ops as part of a planned Europe-wide network of youth co-ops. We are also in the process of applying for a large EU grant to build a partnership between Students for Cooperation and two other European co-op federations. The funding would support exchanges and collaboration between co-ops so we can learn from one another and build cross-national relations.
Leeds Delegates’ Meeting
In February delegates from Sussex, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Norwich, and Edinburgh met to coordinate the work of Students for Cooperation. We also held a workshop on effectively facilitating meetings and consensus, and had a fun evening in Wharf Chambers co-operative club. Some of us had never encountered snotty hardcore/punk from Sheffield before. We have decided to focus on:
- Building regional networks of student co-ops, in particular supporting co-ops to meet with other student co-ops in their region to skill share.
- Establishing a solidarity fund for developing and supporting student co-ops.
- Creating videos about issues such as housing and the economy, which also advocate co-ops as part of the solution.
- Work on getting co-operatives back into university and college curricula.
- Building inter-generational links with experienced retired co-op’ers, as they do in Italy.
- Getting more articles and resources on the website, including articles exploring social and economic issues.
The main decisions made were:
- Approving a thorough safer spaces policy. It is really worth looking into adapting this policy for your co-op or group.
- Using funds to send some delegates to Paris for a Europe-wide meeting of young co-op’ers in April.
- Accepting the Three Bees Worker Co-operative as an affiliate member. Based in Manchester, they make products from beeswax and honey.
The day before the Leeds Delegates’ Meeting, a group of student co-op’ers attended the CBC Ways Forward III conference focusing on how to strengthen the co-operative movement. There was a particular focus on young co-ops. Highlights included meeting members of FC United’s young member’s branch, a large co-operative football club in Manchester, and discussions on how co-ops can better support social movements and change.
Student co-ops in the news
- Students for Co-operation conference: a tour of Edinburgh co-ops – Co-operative News
- How can liberation be applied to co-ops? – Co-operative News
- Student cooperative campaigns to purchase castle – The Gaudie
- Teesside University students open food co-op to the public – The Northern Echo
- Edinburgh’s Housing Co-Op, Five Months On – The Student Newspaper
- Young people are setting up workers’ co-operatives to fight against inequality – The Guardian