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Visualising the interconnectedness of all things 15 January 2015

Posted by cooperatoby in cooperative, Leeds, Social enterprise.
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Twitter just alerted me to the existence of Wikigraph, a brilliant tool which shows the shortest path between two Wikipedia entries – and all the other pages they and the intervening links connect to. Here’s how close Suma is to being a social enterprise:
Wikigraph

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Triple point 17 November 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in beer, cooperative, Leeds, tram.
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It’s always amusing when two obsessions collide unexpectedly – it gives that frisson of the interconnectedness of all things – and even better when three do. I had that enjoyable thrill upon learning that there is a bar in Wilmersdorf, Berlin called Die Straßenbahn (The Tram) and that it bills itself as Berlin’s oldest collective. As trams are a collective means of transport, and beer is best enjoyed in a group, I suppose it’s not so strange.
Die Straßenbahn was founded in 1977, which puts it slightly ahead of the Ale House in Leeds, which was founded in 1979 and opened its doors in 1980. Our take on worker collectives was the common ownership worker’s co-operative, which put a legal form around the loose operating principles of collectivism: non-discrimination, equal pay, job rotation, collective decision-making. In creating this model constitution, ICOM, provided a quick and easy way for radical groups to establish businesses that would express their political values. It managed to bridge the gap between company law (IPS law actually) and the arduous processes of collective decision-making, which at their best are intuitive and rewarding, and at their worst require endless discussion until all opposition is persuaded, crushed or bored into acquiescence, without even the dignity of recording a vote against.
The beer revolution

Timothy Taylor’s Ale Shop, 79 Raglan Rd, Leeds

The Ale House undertook the experiment of transplanting a radical organisational model from the wholefood sector to the licensed trade, which was a much more traditional environment. It coped with the reality that a small retail business – the first real ale off-licence in northern England – was not capable of supporting a team workforce, and would in fact rely on a single manager plus part-time assistants. It may have been, in some of the members’ minds, a ‘dry run’ for a possible future career move into running one’s own pub.
In our case, we diversified into a wholesale operation and eventually a microbrewery, but the co-operative eventually collapsed and the shop was taken over by Timothy Taylor’s – which is a noble enough end for any real ale business. The collective in Berlin have carried on living that dream, complete with equal pay, fortnightly team meetings and a tips pot which goes to good causes – I very much hope to go and drink a pint or two there soon. And the same ideal is coming true across England as more and more village pubs are rescued by community co-operatives making use of the community shares principle.
PS (thanks Hans-Gerd) and not only in the UK:

We call it the white economy 21 October 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in cooperative, Leeds.
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I’ve just been looking at the delightful Beiderbecke Affair – thank you heartily whoever uploaded it to YouTube! It was filmed in and around my stamping ground in Chapel Allerton (indeed one location was right opposite my friend Chas’s house). It concerns the doings of a couple of misfit teachers, played by James Bolam (Likely Lads and until recently New Tricks) and Barbara Flynn. Yorkshire Television commissioned three series, which went out between 1985 and 1987. They are a feast for a nostalgic like me. There are vertiginous cobbled streets (in Woodhouse), sooty Victorian spires, bowling greens, red-brick back-to-backs being demolished (in Beeston), the spacious estates that replaced them and green-and-cream buses passing in the background. In the second series, the Beiderbecke Tapes, there’s even a trip to Amsterdam.
It’s scripted by Alan Plater so the dialogue is witty – for instance the teachers teach at San Quentin High – and full of northern working-class male preoccupations and the politics of the time.
Not only is it crammed with references of jazz and football, by the start of episode 3 we get to the co-op movement. Trevor and Jill are in the basement of the church where Big Al the wheeler-dealer has his Aladdin’s cave of a storeroom. He explains that he started his ‘underground’ retail operation after he was made redundant: “Monetarism – it may be great for the pound sterling but it’s deadly for the building trade.” It goes on:
Big Al: What I mean is, on the average housing estate where we live, everybody knows somebody that can get things through the trade.
Jill: I see.
So we get things that way – cut out the middle man – use the profit for the Cubs’ football team – and other good causes. Of course you do need a very understanding vicar.
Jill: And you’ve got one?
Big Al: Good lad – for a Christian. Reads the Guardian, goes on marches… He says we’re like the Rochdale Pioneers – we’ve reinvented the co-op movement.
Jill: That’s fair.
Big Al: On the other hand I read an article in the Financial Times saying that all this sort of thing was undermining the Whitehall economy, could bring the whole of civilisation toppling to its knees. Don’t see that, personally.
Jill: Oh I think civilisation can organise its own destruction.

Favourite one-liners

Affair pt 4: You need better informers, Mr Hobson – your supergrass is a bit green.
Affair pt 5: It’s like taking a stroll through the Times crossword – each individual word makes sense but you have no idea what’s going on.
Affair pt 6: What do you think of him? – Compared with what sir?
Connection pt 1: Trevor, it’s not a toy! – But you can use it as a toy.
Connection pt 2: Det Insp Hobson: Try not to be obsessive. DC Ben: Noted.
Connection pt 2: After midnight, do they pay you in pumpkins? – Mrs Swinburne, we are the pumpkins.
Connection pt 3: Wood’s been very good to me – it’s my bread and butter.

Hurray for Leeds Community Bakery 18 July 2012

Posted by cooperatoby in cooperative, Leeds.
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I’m sensing a rebirth of the co-op scene that bloomed in Leeds in the 1980s!

Your opportunity to support: crowdfundung site

Leeds Bread Co-op

We’re a small group of bakers planning to set up Leeds’ first Community Supported Bakery.

What is a Community Supported Bakery (CSB)?

A CSB is a bakery which is set up with the support and involvement of the local community. This helps to create a more direct relationship between the bakers and customers.

The idea for Community Supported Baking comes from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which The Soil Association describes as: “A partnership between farmers and the local community, providing mutual benefits and reconnecting people to the land where their food is grown”.

There are currently only a handful of CSB in the UK: The Handmade Bakery in Slaithwaite; Breadshare Bakery in the Scottish Borders. There are more examples of successful CSBs across the pond: Columbia City Bakery.

How would a CSB work?

There are different CSB models around. Some are subscription based (like a veg box) and…

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