At Stirchley Stores we have a lot of meetings. When I first got involved with the co-op this obsession with possibly the most inefficient way for a large group to decide on something amazed and horrified me, but I soon learned it was a necessary evil if Stirchley Stores was be a true co-operative where all members have an equal say. The problem is in the last few months we’ve have 60-80 active members from a pool of 190. If all those people were to come to a meeting and have their equal say… Well, it would probably take longer than an hour.
Meetings have other issues. They tend to be dominated by the confident people with the loudest voices. As time goes on regular attendees of meetings can develop into an unintentional clique making it uncomfortable for others. And they can be a terrible way of communicating the nuances of an issue.
Finally, in order to participate in a meeting you need to be in a specific place at a specific time. Not being able to make that commitment shouldn’t mean you can’t have your say.
I think ensuring all members have an equal opportunity to say how the co-op in run is essential. But it is also essential that the process of equal say does not turn the co-op into a swamp of tedium and awfulness. I’ve been looking for a solution to this and I think I’ve found it.
Loomio is an online tool for making decisions as a group. It’s run by a co-operative in New Zealand and was developed for the Occupy movement, so its ethical credentials are second to none. Here’s a short video introducing it:
If you have some time, here’s one of the creators giving a talk about how and why Loomio came to be.
It strikes me this solves a number of our problems. We have a large membership who cannot physically be in the same place at once. We also have a vast range of things to decide, from the funding for a new shop to the repairing of the fridge.
It’s my intention that Stirchley Stores uses Loomio to discuss issues and vote on proposals, and I want us to start in September and run this alongside the general meetings. It will take a bit of work to get everyone up to speed, but I believe that this will make us more open and accountable to ourselves than the current situation.
I’d like a small group of members to be up to speed with Loomio to iron out and kinks and help the others use it effectively, so if you’d like to help please get in touch at email@example.com and I’ll get you signed up. We’ll have a play and then open it up to everyone later this month.
And if anyone has any questions…