Autonomous pedagogical experiments by social movements in Brazil and the UK

From 13–17 October, two researchers will be in Lincoln to talk about new educational experiments in England and Brazil. They have invited members of the Social Science Centre to collaborate on a project in which we can share our experiences, knowledges and questions about this movement, which is becoming important for many social movements and educators across the world. They are interested in issues of self-organization, self-management, the creation of informal education projects, and the development of self-determined knowledges and pedagogies (ways of organising learning). This is also a rare opportunity to learn first-hand about the work of a school run by the Movement of Rural Landless Workers in Brazil, the Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandez, and to explore possibilities for future collaborations. The title of the project is ‘Autonomous pedagogical experiments by social movements in Brazil and the UK’.
  • October 14th, 6-9pm, Croft Street Community Centre: Join Ana Dinerstein and Paolo Vittoria for a conversation to share experiences and ideas (SSC members only)
  • October 15th, 1:30-4pm, University of Lincoln, Joseph Banks Laboratories, 2C04: Public lecture by Paolo Vittoria on ‘Social movements, popular education and universities: a proposal for an international network’ (public seminar open to all)

IF Project – Annual Humanities Summer School



In June 2015 the IF Project is launching its second Summer School and cordially invites members of the Social Science Centre and anyone else who is interested to attend.

“IF is an experiment in alternative higher education where the courses are free, lecturers donate time and expertise, and the syllabus includes taking in the free events happening in the many cultural institutions of London. It is a community of those who want to teach and learn for the love of doing so.”

“The Summer School is designed as a taste of university-level study. Over four weeks you will lay personal foundations in the study of the humanities. Lectures and discussions will introduce undergraduate-level Literature,

History (what do historians do?), Visual Arts and Sound (as critical practices) and Political Philosophy (what is the relationship between freedom and social justice?).

The theme of foundations encourages students to discover how Humanities disciplines provide interpretative tools to get beneath the surface of everyday life: to discover the foundations of the familiar, from personal identity to our visual appreciation, to the laws that govern us, global trends and even our own opinions.”

I have attached a flyer for those who would like further information and a link to the IF Project’s website:

2015 IF Summer School Programme 1.3

Best wishes,


Please donate to our solidarity fund

At a recent meeting of the SSC, we agreed to set up a ‘solidarity fund’ to assist people who want to attend the research workshops to develop a model of co-operative higher education. In particular, we’re hoping it will help students who want to come to Lincoln and get involved but don’t have the money to do so. In short, we’re asking you to donate via the PayPal ‘Donate’ button in the right-hand sidebar of this page so that we can help people out with travel and any other miscellaneous expenses they incur. Any money left over after the project has ended will be retained by the SSC and used to pay for public educational projects. We will report on this in our regular financial reports.

You probably want to know a bit more about how both the SSC and the research project are funded. The full grant application, including outline budget, is published here.

The SSC is a member run and member funded co-operative. Members voluntarily contribute the equivalent of one hour of their net salary each month. Our financial reports show that we usually have somewhere between £1000-£2000 in the bank to pay for building rental, putting on public seminars, our AGM, last year’s conference, etc. At our recent meeting, SSC members agreed not to use the membership fund to pay for or subsidise the research project, but set up a specific hardship fund instead.

The research project is funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation, through the University of Lincoln. The applicants for the grant were Joss Winn and Mike Neary, who are both founding members of the SSC and work at the university. All money received from the ISRF is used to pay for the workshops and interviews. The SSC does not hold the grant funding in its bank account, but does direct how it is spent. None of the grant funding is used to cover people’s time/salaries. The ISRF have a clause in their funding agreement that says that any additional money received for the running of the project (such as the donations we are asking for), must be agreed with them. The ISRF agreed to this via email yesterday.

With that in mind, we hope you’ll consider donating to the project and help people get involved in developing a model for co-operative higher education. When asked to enter the purpose of the donation, please enter ‘research project’ to help us keep track of things. If you have any questions about this fund, please use the comment box below or email Thank you.

Joss Winn

‘A remarkable teaching and learning co-operative’

A new book, Co-operation, Learning and Co-operative Values, is published this month by Routledge in which the authors ‘describe, analyse and assess the growth of co-operative education’. In a chapter by Stephen Yeo titled ‘The co-operative university? Transforming higher education’, he describes the Social Science Centre as

“a remarkable teaching and learning co-operative named ‘The Social Science Centre’. This will be well able to speak for itself, offering ‘free, co-operative higher education’, ‘organised on the basis of democratic, non-hierarchical principles, with all members having equal involvement in the life and work of SSC’ ( The Centre’ s name may be seen as a direct heir of the Owenite understanding – indeed invention – of social science as critique of the anti-social or dismal science of competitive political economy.”


Co-operative universities mailing list

If you are interested in discussing, researching, keeping up-to-date and even creating a co-operative university, there is a mailing list you can join.

The list was first set up by a group of people who attended the Co-operative Education Against the Crises conference earlier in the year. More recently, Dan Cook published a report and the Institute of Education hosted a seminar on ‘co-operative universities’.

Please join the mailing list and introduce yourself. A number of SSC scholars are involved.

The mailing list is hosted by Mayfirst/People Link, a politically progressive member-run collective of technologists.

Recent activities

Hi all,

I have been doing some work over the summer with the SSC. To help keep people up-to-date I thought it would be a good idea to write a regular SSC blog that documents my activities. My first post will provide a summary of my work so far – I will then write on a more regular basis to keep people aware of all of the exciting things that are happening at the SSC.

French Visitors: 16th -17th September 2013

In the middle of September 2013 we were visited by Laila Le Guen and Magali Marc. Laila and Magali are currently in the process of setting up their own free, alternative education project in Paris, Coopérative volante des savoirs, or, the Flying Co-operative of Knowledge. During our stay with us, Laila and Magali met some of the members of the SSC, attended our first public seminar series, Reading the Pussy Riot Act, delivered by Ed Bacon of Birkbeck, University of London, and attended an informal meal with members of the SSC. Laila and Magali also visited the Free University of Brighton, People’s Political Economy in Oxford and the London Free School.

It was flattering to receive interest and receive visitors from Paris, France. Laila and Magali found out about the SSC on the internet and had been inspired the work we do at the Centre. It was great to meet them and share ideas about education and supporting local communities. We wish them the best of luck and hope to see them again in the future – hopefully in Paris.

First Public Seminar, Ed Bacon and Reading the Pussy Riot Act: 17th September

We held our first public seminar and, despite not being as well attended as we would have liked, it was nice to see some new faces there. Despite not having a projector, Ed managed to facilitate an interesting and lively discussion about Pussy Riot, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and Russian politics and theology. The group were passionate about the topic and there were some highly charged debates throughout the seminar.

We would like to thank Ed for facilitating an excellent session and those who attended for participating and making it a fascinating public seminar.

Working with Local Organisations: August and September 2013

Despite being quite well known nationally and even internationally, the SSC is relatively unknown locally. To address this I have been meeting with local voluntary organisations in an attempt to work much more closely with them. We hope that by doing this we will be able raise our profile in the local community and provide higher education that matches the needs of the local community. Moreover, we hope that members of the SSC will also work more closely with these local organisations and there are opportunities to work on research projects and as volunteers. So far, I have met with the Nomad Trust, the Volunteer Centre and Acts Trust. All of the organisations have expressed an interest in working more closely with us and informing their colleagues and the people they offer their services to about the SSC.

I have started to put links to these organisations on our website and will post updates about working with these organisations as they arise.


Upcoming course and public seminars

We’ve updated the SSC calendar to include a new series of public seminars that we will be running each month from September. We’ve also added the dates for this year’s Social Science Imagination course, running from October.

More detail will be posted soon about the Social Science Imagination course, but if you are interested in studying with the SSC, it’s the course you should consider enrolling on. Please do contact us if you’d like to discuss enrolment.

You’ll see from the calendar that we have public seminars lined up from September to January and we hope to add more soon. Here are the titles of the talks, we hope to see you there!

17th September: Reading the Pussy Riot Act

22nd October: Moving the Goalposts: some realities of democratic football governance

12th November: The contradictions of copyright: some essential issues for the peoples of the global South

7th December: What Are You Reading For? Modes of Critique, Modes of Production, and the Pedagogies of Networked Labour

15th January: Hacks and spooks: Close encounters of a strange kind

‘Something new in freedom’ – SSC in the Times Higher Education

Alastair Bonnett has written an interesting article about the SSC and other alternative higher education projects in the UK for the Times Higher Education (23 May 2013), following his talk on ‘Radical pasts, contested futures’. It makes great points for discussion and debate. The link may not be accessible to everyone, though – if you have a copy, please let us know.

Mervyn Wilson: Co-operation or Competition – which way forward for education?

Below are details of Mervyn Wilson’s talk at the SSC AGM on May 11th. All welcome.

Many describe the the education system as being in crisis, with legislative reforms impacting from Early Years to Higher Education. Central to these reforms is a notion that greater competition is needed to drive up standards. Can marketisation and privatisation of the system improve access to and standards in education provision? Will these strategies reduce or exasperate the massive inequalities in the system today? Is there an alternative? Are strategies based on co-operation and collaboration more likely to succeed in addressing these issues?

Mervyn Wilson is Chief Executive and Principal of the Co-operative College. The College has led work to develop alternative co-operative models in the face of educational reforms. Today there are approaching 500 schools using co-operative models, with many more consulting. The national network, the Schools Co-operative Society provides a distinct alternative to the rapid growth of the academy chains. Can these models be extended into Further and Higher Education, and is there now a real opportunity to build a distinct co-operative vision for education provision?

Mervyn has worked in the co-operative sector for over thirty years. He specialised in member education, co-operative identity and governance and has led work to develop a distinct co-operative element in the state education sector. Today there are nearly 500 co-operative trust schools and converter academies and a national network, the Schools Co-operative Society. He is a member of the Board of the Co-operative Institute for Peace and Social Cohesion, a Trustee of the Co-operative Heritage Trust, Chair of the Royal Docks Co-operative Learning Partnership and a Fellow of the RSA.

Annual General Meeting

Our AGM will be held on May 11th, at The Collection (Usher Gallery). Members of the public are welcome from 12.30 and the AGM will run from 1-4pm. SSC scholars are encouraged to arrive at noon.

If you have not been to an SSC meeting before but are curious about what we do, this is an excellent opportunity to find out more. You are very welcome!

If you are a member of the SSC, we would like you to read through our Constitution and if you have an requests for changes, please email the SSC prior to the AGM so that we can ensure there is time for discussion.

We hope that the meeting will be an interesting and enjoyable time spent reflecting on our co-operative for higher education and discussing future plans. To stimulate discussion, we are pleased to have three guest speakers:

Joel Lazarus, SSC scholar and founding member of the People’s Political Economy, will be discussing his work to establish “a network of learning groups designed to promote political-economic literacy outside of the existing and established academic channels.”

Mike Ward, SSC scholar, wil be discussing his recent ethnographic work, which focused on the lives of young men in south Wales.

Mervyn Wilson, Chief Executive and Principal of the Co-operative College, will be discussing the nature of co-operatives and co-operation in education.

This is our second AGM and therefore marks two years of the Social Science Centre. We hope you will come along and celebrate this with us!