Social Science Centre Farewell Statement

Dear Members, Friends and Followers of the Social Science Centre,

The Social Science Centre is closing at the end of February 2019. Since 2011, we have organised and run free, cooperative higher education courses and community projects in the city of Lincoln. The SSC was created as both a critique of and an alternative to the dominant model of higher education in the UK, and has been inspirational for many of its members and followers. It has created many spaces for intellectual life, learning, solidarity and friendship within the city and enabled many of us to follow new dreams. Running such a project has required considerable time and commitment from us all, and been challenging at times, and we have reached the limit of what we are able to achieve in this organisational form. The ideas that have underpinned the SSC, and co-operative higher education generally, are being developed elsewhere. A Co-operative University with degree-awarding powers is now being established in England and will open in 2019. The SSC was free and relied on voluntary labour; the Co-operative University will charge students £5,500 in order to access government funding and workers will be paid. Although one project is charging a fee and the other was free, both projects, following the historical aim of the Co-operative movement, intend to develop a new form of common wealth. We look forward to working with you in the city of Lincoln and elsewhere on other projects.

Yours in hope and solidarity.



New Year, New Learning Opportunities?

Hi Folks

Hope you and yours all had splendid festivities during Yule and beyond.

It’s now time to reflect on our learning activities from last term and plan for this coming term; alas we had an unexpected hiatus to our scheduled Emergent Learning session in mid-December.

However, we are reconvening on Saturday 12th January 2019 at 10:00hrs until 12:00hrs within the Mansions of the Future building on St Mary’s Street, Lincoln, and envisage having a lively, engaging and collective gathering on Emergent Learning.

Please can you kindly indicate by return of email whether you will be able to attend this Saturday.

Look forward to hearing from you!

All the best

SSC Engagement

SSC 2018 – End of Autumn course: ‘Communities of the Future’ update and next steps


Dear All

The next SSC Scholar event incorporating the usual monthly planning meeting, a mini-workshop on envisioning Emergent Learning evaluations, and a small SSC community celebration with regard to studies completed, the impending arrival of winter et al is scheduled to take place on Saturday 15 December 2018 at The Mansions of the Future commencing at 10am for a 12 noon completion. 

(Oh my giddy Aunt, how terribly corporate and academically tedious the above all sounds – apologies!)

In essence: Hello everyone, just to let you know that we are getting together on the 15th to have a warm, collective conversation on how can we supportively and pragmatically share our learning journey with each other and the wider community. Please note we will be meeting in the first floor Boardroom, and access is via the former NFU building doorway.

In the spirit of openness and co-operative learning, the first session of the 2019 New Year will be billed as ‘Emergent Learning’ – which simply aims to welcome the whole of our SSC community to show what has been accomplished during the previous term, including: what scholars thought of the learning experience, discuss whether the individual sessions raised further queries in relation to deeper understanding, awareness, connections to other issues studied, are there calls for different styles of learning or more of the same, and so on.

A number of scholars felt that a session dedicated to Emergent Learning (EL) was crucial, and that additionally, the New Year EL session will be of particular interest to those former/lapsed/new scholars who have indicated they wish to become more involved next year, and perhaps offer to facilitate some future learning sessions. Further detailed information on the EL session and also the requirement for an AGM will become available to the SSC Community before the New Year. Dates for your new 2019 diaries are: January 12th and 26th

As a recap for all scholars in relation to the EL session, the SSC Autumn 2018 learning schedule “Communities of the Future: Imagining an alternative and more just society” included:

Date Session Facilitator
29th Sept 2018


Ownership Bradley
13th Oct 2018


History of Co-operative Lincoln David
27th Oct 2018


Permaculture Lucy and Laura S
10th Nov 2018


Eco-Anarchism Philip
24th Nov 2018


Women’s Struggles Laura S and Sarah
Notably, all the learning sessions were planned, researched, and delivered exclusively by scholars for scholars, and of course, as always, endeavoured to welcome and include anyone else who happened to chance upon us…

If you were unable to attend during the 2018 Autumn term, some individual scholars have kindly provided their own insights and/or interpretations of the above sessions, and these are available on the SSC website:

As well as preparing for the Emergent Learning session, and after our customary monthly planning discussions, we will be indulging in a social nibble and natter – as you do at the end of term. For those who also wish to use the opportunity to celebrate the advent of winter (but, not necessarily in the sense of the all-foreboding “Winter is Coming”) and/or communally observe your personal belief at this time of the year, there is also a proposal to dress as festive as you feel, although this is entirely optional!

Nevertheless, if you are able to join us of the 15th, in the spirit of sharing, please could you kindly let us know you will be attending and bring something edible for yourself and one or more other persons to nibble upon. Now, to be perfectly frank (or indeed, betty), I like hummus as much as the next veggie bod, and do not wish to be all ‘Victorian Dad’ about it (see Viz for further details), but we did have a bit of trouble consuming the vast myriad of pots of Hummi(?) and innumerable breaded items at the AGM in May.

In acknowledgement of the massive environmental impact of food waste in this country alone, and the heart breaking global crises of food poverty, it may seem so petty to ask, but, if you are willing to ‘Bring and Share’, please would you let us know what your edible contribution is likely to be by emailing:

Already listed is vegetarian pasta bolognaise (lactose free) and veggie Lemon Drizzle Cake. Any surplus contributions will be taken to the YMCA/Nomad directly afterwards.

Looking forward to seeing you on the 15th of December (whether you are wearing a festive jumper or not!)

All the best


SSC Learning Session: Permaculture

Presented by Laura S and Lucy on Saturday 27 October 2018

10am – Mansions of the Future, Lincoln

So you thought Duplo® bricks were merely innocuous kid’s toys, huh?

Take a look-see below:

See those seemingly innocent stacks of bright and friendly looking bricks; they actually had the ability to cause not only a fully-fledged, and at times, heated debate, but also a personal reminder of what matters in life…

The stacks of bricks were a visual representation of average addition to climate change per capita in the UK alone. However, not necessarily accounted for, were also:

  • Trade off emissions (particularly between countries – usually the developed over the developing world)
  • Waste
  • Economics
  • Cows
  • Transport
  • Home energy wastage

Further brick stacks illustrated the cost to the earth of using air travel…

But, what has this got to do with Permaculture?

In providing a detailed, well researched referenced background, Laura S informed us of the principles, purpose and ethics of Permaculture:

Earth care, People Care, Fair Share


Permaculture: as a definition

“Permaculture combines three key aspects:

  1. An ethical framework
  2. Understandings of how nature works
  3. A design approach

This unique combination provides an ethical framework that is used to design regenerative systems at all scales – from home and garden to community, farm and bioregions.

The word ‘permaculture’ comes originally from ‘permanent agriculture‘ and ‘permanent culture‘ – it is about living lightly on the planet, and making sure that we can sustain human activities for many generations to come, in harmony with nature.

Permanence is not about everything staying the same. It is about stability, about deepening soils and cleaner water, thriving communities in self-reliant regions, biodiverse agriculture, and social justice, peace and abundance”.

(Permaculture Association: retrieved November 2018 from


A learning resource in the form of handwritten statements citing the two of the main Permaculture protagonists (Frost and Stevens?) were passed between scholars. Laura explained that although at first the authors were in agreement on the fundamentals of permaculture, eventually their philosophy diverged as they separately considered what ultimate outcome was required and proposed how to achieve it:

A picture illustrating example of the written statements

Based on the learning resources provided, scholars discussed and debated the local, national and global impact of our lifestyles on the earth’s resources. Arguably, the passionate exchanges in relation to Carbon Offsetting caused the most intense and divided opinion, but as an observation, also expertly illustrated the depth and breadth of knowledge and all consuming interest in the subject matter by the scholars present, regardless of their own political persuasion.

It was stated that: “Capitalism is eating itself” i.e. by disrespecting and abusing the very resources it actually needs to survive…

The counter argument contended that: Yes, but we are ALL buying in to it”

Scholars offered suggestions for alternatives, but on observation, did we ultimately blame others and shrugged off our responsibility by using Capitalism and its fanatical proponents as scapegoats? Are we as individuals, daily buying into and knowledgeably using the exact same system, whether we ‘buy’ green products or not, just as guilty of ‘Greenwash’ as those businesses who claim to be mitigating the decimation of nature through utilising technological advancements that rely on as wind, solar, water power instead?

A video on ‘Carbon Offsetting’ is available here:

Lucy then brought Permaculture as an alternative lifestyle into vivid focus through deftly sharing her own experience of recently spending several months living and working ‘off grid’ at The Grange near Thetford Forest in Norfolk. In relating how permaculture principles were enacted at The Grange, Lucy illustrated how self-sufficiency not only created a much-needed haven for nature, but also provided a refuge for refugees through weekly work details (Workday Wednesdays) that professed to deliver physical, mental, emotional and spiritual support. A large team of support agencies/partner organisations aimed to assist those attending The Grange to build their own personal resilience, and in the wider and longer term, advocates of The Grange, (and of such places of a similar ilk around the UK), aim to create a network of places of sanctuary equally for the benefit of all animal and human kind…

A link to The Grange website is available, but please do take time to find a guest post on the website from a young Egyptian Refugee here: (Lucy kindly provided a printed copy of the post to each of the SSC scholars present at the Permaculture learning session).

Laura S and Lucy also spoke of newly-establishing permaculture principle-type projects and protagonists that were beginning to emerge in and around Lincoln/Lincolnshire and elsewhere such as Transition Towns, City of Sanctuaries, etc.

As a personal observation, I felt this learning session enabled scholars to consider how the SSC could be involved and/or support local projects considering permaculture as a way forward in terms of providing breathing spaces for, and of hope, as well offering an attempt to explore an alternative solution i.e. Communities of the Future



Thoughts on Eco-Anarchism at the SSC

Hi folks,
In lieu of proper note taking, please see below some of my thoughts on the fantastic session on Saturday on eco-anarchism at the SSC!
The topic for discussion was anarchism and specifically the social ecology and libertarian municipalism of Murray Bookchin. The concept of assemblies where all members of a community can vote, as well as a higher level of groups of assemblies holding each other to account to some degree on issues that impact multiple communities appealed to me, although there was a discussion of what this would look like in practice. In particular we discussed the idea of what anarchism means, with many definitions aiming for the abolishment of the state, and all forms of hierarchy. We discussed whether this is feasible and whether Bookchin’s theory abolishes hierarchy or simply certain, unaccountable, forms of hierarchy. Is this enough?
Particularly interesting for me were discussions of what we can draw from this mode of thinking and how we can apply it to our lives, in Lincoln, today. The school of thought does not offer an exact blueprint for a utopian society – rather perhaps ways of organising and approaching collective problems. Perhaps attempting to run for positions or influence the structure of local councils is something suggested to us by Bookchin, although within anarchism this is a controversial topic.
We also saw a video of the Zapatista movement in Mexico, getting a glimpse of how they operate along these lines and what life might look like for them (the video has been emailed out to the group). In particular we discussed how there is a connection to an understanding of the land and the produce that comes from it and is then worked with and consumed by the community there that is very different to the relationship we have with food and other products here in urban Lincoln. How would anarchist organising look differently for us in our different context here in Lincoln?
We also discussed the pressing issue of climate change, and how ‘time is running out’. How do we respond to this? And how might Bookchin’s thoughts help us with this? We also discussed how for some parts of the world time isn’t running out – it’s already ran out and climate change is a daily reality for them.
We discussed a lot more – this is just the stuff that stood out to me!
I’d welcome reflections from anyone else there too 🙂
Hope you are all well,

Women’s Struggles – Saturday 24th November

Main reading for this seminar is:

Alldridge (2015) Defense of Commons as Feminist Struggle, Why women will save the planet, Zed books, March 2018

We would also like to suggest that people look at one of the following articles, and especially the concepts of ‘politics in feminine’ and ‘the among women’:

Liz Mason-Deese (2018) ‘From #MeToo to #WeStrike: a politics in feminine’, Viewpoint Magazine, 7 March,

Raquel Gutierrez (2018) ‘Because we want ourselves alive, together we are disrupting everything: Notes for thinking about the paths of social transformation today’, Viewpoint Magazine, 7 March,

For those who are interested in widening the perspective, I would recommend:

Alex Knight’s (2009) ‘Who were the witches? Patriarchal terror and the creation of capitalism’, about Silvia Federici’s 2004 book Caliban and the Witch

Vandana Shiva‘s (2015) ‘Hand in hand: women’s empowerment and sustainabilty’, PDF coming in further email.

Crystal Valentine (2015) #Feminism,

The Women’s Budget Group (2018) ‘The impact of austerity on women in the UK’, OR Runnymeade Trust, ‘Impact of austerity on Black and Minority Ethnic women in the UK’,

Co-operative Lincoln 13th October 2018

David and Karolina gave a presentation about the ways in which the co-operative movement has impacted on the social, economic, educational, political and psychological history of Lincoln, paying particular attention to the built environment.

David talked about the ways in which his involvement with the Social Science Centre has influenced his thinking about the processes of urbanisation. David told us how the city can be designed to promoted pro-sociality. He described this form of design as:

‘A practice that aspires to illuminate our present circumstances and the conditions of their historical emergence, to facilitate the flourishing of possibilities for people to imagine and govern their own collective futures, and to better the chances that these will be humane.’

Present at the event were Sarah, Lucy, Fen, Phil, Laura, Anthony, John, Mike.

See this link to the powerpoint presentation DM_SSC_Co-op_Lincoln_October_2018


Communities of the Future

Notes from the first meeting of the new SSC term – Communities of the Future

Saturday 15 September 2018 commencing 10am at Mansions of the Future, Lincoln

Pleased to welcome four new scholars taking the total attendance to eleven.

We discussed the format of the fortnightly six sessions to follow and the change of dates to ensure we gave maximum publicity to capture the interest of the new students arriving in Lincoln. Bradley agreed to check with David regarding change of date for his session = Bradley

Flyers will be produced for scholars to print and distribute where they think most appropriate = Phil/ALL

If we gain a much larger attendance for a session, we will request use of another room to allow suitable space for learning = Phil

The SSC overhead projector will be collected from Mint Lane to enable its use for anyone proposing a session = Fen

Session format: We discussed whether the person(s) providing each session should have a definitive title such as Teacher, Facilitator, Animator, Guide and so forth; there was no overall agreement, but we agreed that each session was primarily about learning from each other.

Although each session will have a particular subject, and scholars may have no prior understanding of the subject, it was discussed that future sessions should not follow entirely the same format as last term e.g. the ubiquitous ‘jug and mug’ method where there is simply an hour-long lecture and then questions afterwards.

The SSC promotes a co-operative experience of education and does not wish to replicate the standard structure of learning via lectures alone. A new scholar (Annie) whose initial education was provided in China explained how students were given an interpretation of a concept in order to answer and provoke questioning that then enabled improved skills and a personal understanding of different philosophies. For SSC scholars, it was proposed that a much more interactive way of learning via the new term sessions is preferable such as short introductions of the subject, questions put to scholars by the session ‘interpreter’ and vice versa, instant feedback, visual interpretations, shared reading, debates, workshop methods, etc. It was also proposed that an additional session could be arranged to pit one philosophy against another i.e. ‘Socialism and Eco-anarchism on trial’ in a Citizens’ Jury-type session which would be open to all to attend. Date and time = TBC

Those in attendance who will be delivering a session discussed how they expected their session to unfold and the conversation led on whether prior reading would be available to potential scholars. This then expanded the conversation to whether the course should be guided by a particular principal book. Mike helpfully suggested “The education of radical democracy” by one of the SSC scholars, Sarah Amsler. Laura agreed to contact Sarah to gain her permission and seek her advice on one chapter to focus upon for those with limited time to read the whole book or gain access to it = Laura S

Further discussion on suggested reading culminated in a whole host of potential reading i.e. Emma Goldman, Naomi Klein, Rene Eddo-Lodge, Rachel Carson and so on. It was proposed that each scholar could recommend one or two books that other scholars would enjoy. This could be included as part of their personal profile – a new aspect to be added onto the SSC website to help with engaging new scholars. The profiles are not mandatory, but for those wishing to join the SSC, an insight into the diverse background of current scholars may act as an incentive. Personnel profiles and recommended reading can be sent to Phil for updating the website = All/Phil

In referring back to how scholars engaged with learning and studying in the early days of the SSC, Fen remembered that Lucy had recalled that she felt more involved when she produced either a piece of writing, poem, joint collage or artwork – something constructive – at the end of the sessions/term to share with others. It was then suggested by Laura that each session should have a dedicated ‘note taker’ to not only record our learning but share with those scholars who could not physically attend. The ‘notes’ did not necessarily have to be lengthy or even written, visual or pictorial representations, etc., of the sessions would be encouraged. Laura called for volunteers to ‘note take’ each session and these are recorded below.

It was agreed at the end of the term – the sixth session: Emergent Learning – all scholars would be requested to bring along a 500 word summary of what they felt they had learnt over the 5 previous sessions. The summaries would be anonymous and shared in a group discussion. As part of this session, it would also focus on what was missing from the previous sessions and also discuss what topics scholars would like to cover in the next term. The session will also possibly be more of a celebration with a chance to enjoy a nibble and drink. Time and date TBC = Phil

The new session dates are:

29 September   Ownership                     Led by Bradley                      Notes by Mike

13 October        Co-operative Lincoln   Led by David and Karolina    Notes by Laura W

27 October        Permaculture                Led by Lucy & Laura S          Notes by Fen

10 November    Eco-anarchism              Led by Philip                         Notes by Bradley

24 November    Women’s Struggles       Led by Laura S & Laura W   Notes by Lucy

TBA                   Emergent Learning        All Scholars                          TBC

Scholars agreed that the new term appeared interesting and were looking forward to the six sessions.

Laura S helpfully produced a visual representation of the discussions during this format session (as attached).

Fen agreed to contact Sarah regarding the outstanding matter of exploring group dynamics and to include power relations, conflict resolution and creating a common vision as part of the SSC Constitution. On a lighter note, scholars said they would be very interested in hearing of Sarah’s recent workshop adventures in Mexico = Fen

The next Planning and Reflection meeting will be on 6th October at 10am at the Mansions.

We hope you will join us.