Monthly meeting notes 3rd May 2014

SSC Monthly meeting: 03/05/2014. La Vida Café

Those present:

  1. Sarah and daughter Layla.
  2. Mike
  3. Paul
  4. Laura
  5. Wendy (note-taker)

Apologies from Joss, Andrew and Gary.

  1. Report on Conference.
  2. AGM.
  3. Sharing new space.
  4. Geographical Society paper.
  5. Podcast.

1. Report on conference.

Attendance was about 36. Participants came from Southampton; Birmingham; Manchester; Glasgow and Edinburgh. Laura commented that it was ‘wicked’. The conclusion was in the form of two questions, ‘What are we for and against?’, and, ‘What are we going to do?’ Many people gave diverse and interesting feedback at the conference, especially the workshop session in the afternoon, on creating something new in our workplaces and dissolving power structures from within.

East Coast Lincolnshire to set up a new group centred in Grimsby College, working alongside SSC.

The question of whether education is too specialised to be a commons activity arose, but this was resolved by critical feedback. Group work worked well and all participants undertook to send feedback back to the SSC about what they would want to debate at the next conference.

The dinner on Friday night was enjoyable and gave some members a chance to meet and exchange views before the conference, but the lunch on Saturday was deemed not so good as the price was high (£216.00) and the food not especially good. Coffee had to be chased up throughout lunch as well. Next conference we will provide the food ourselves and Wendy and Laura offered to team up to organise the food next time.

A committee is to be organised to begin preparing for the next conference, which is to be in approximately 6 months. The first job is to decide the date, after consultation with conference participants. To be arranged who is going to ‘lead’ on this. Wendy offered to make the initial contact with conference participants to field dates. The place of the conference to be decided following this.

2. AGM.

The next AGM is booked for the 24th May next at the racing ground community centre in Lincoln on Carholme Road. Cost of the booking is £63.00. Joss is looking at certain procedural aspects of the agenda, but the content is as follows:


  1. Review of the SSC values and principles, aims and purposes.
  2. SSC Imagination class/course, the way forward. Some suggestions included Marxist work; production of an alternative Secondary Curriculum; the development of a core project or course, and we may want to run an earlier course or aspects of it.
  3. Who is the course for? Keep it public?
  4. Incorporating a programme clearly defining work that can be communally learned.
  5. Laura expressed great interest in learning about the Steiner view of education, examining the different views and developing an understanding of it at a critical level. This idea met with general interest by the group and appears to be a good idea. Mike encouraged Laura to turn this into a research project for herself, supported by the group learning activities.

3. Sharing space:

Summer picnic on the Common was discussed, and all want to go ahead. Various headings for the picnic were put forward, but Sarah’s daughter Layla came up with the most pleasing, calling it, ‘Simply Sharing Culture’. Sarah also suggested that it incorporate a walk between the two commons. We need to organise a date for the event and it should be public. We will bring food and music, and will identify ways of advertising it. Will discuss ‘chalk graffiti’ with David at the chair painting party on May 11th next. The theme is ‘The Commons’ and the meaning of the common. Reading to include Peter Linebaugh, to be prepared by Mike.

A review of the Hub, Hcak space, and Abundant Earth as potential accommodation for the SSC in future, was decided. The Hub may be expensive. The question of our relationship to the Pathway was raised, as we don’t see much of the residents there. It was suggested that we spend an afternoon with the residents. David could talk to the organisers and see what could be done. But are we forcing something?

4. Geographical Society paper.

Mike to prepare a paper, but it was decided that the cost of attendance is prohibitive and that given that Gary is going to be there in any event, it was proposed that Gary present. Mike will ask if we can attend for free. No harm in asking.

5. Podcast

Wendy to press ahead with this and will contact Richard at the end of May to arrange a time.

David asked us to mention ‘Our Place Our Priorities’ and perhaps this is a better way for us to connect with the people of the Pathway.


Sadly, Paul said he was taking a step down from the SSC for a while, as he needs to spend time on his own work, and partly due to ill health. It was recognised that Paul will be very missed by the group, but it was stated that we do respect individual needs, and Paul will join us again from time to time. We all look forward to that. Paul will attend the picnic party.

Wendy asked Mike for contact information for the Manchester College assisting secondary schools to become co-operatives. Much appreciated.

Notes from SSC Planning Meeting, 1st March 2014, at Revival Centre

Meeting started at 12 noon

Venue – Revival Centre, Sincil Street, Lincoln

Present: Lucy, Andrew, Peaceful, Mike, Gary, David

Apologies: Sarah, Richard, Joss, Adrian

1. Conference

The cost of the venue for the conference is approximately £600.

It was agreed to subsidise the cost of the food – £10 for evening meal and £6 for lunch, but to expect people to make a donation.

We need to check number of registrations so far with JW – Action MN

We need to check if any papers have been put forward to morning session –  Action MN

Sessions to present co-operative work and other similar types of activity in Lincoln and elsewhere need to be identified.

Invitations to be made to like-minded groups eg GS to contact PPE, Ragged, Brighton Free University, AMac to contact Capital and Class.

Adam and DMc to take photographs of the event. Arrangements for recording ( audio/video) need to be made.

Walking Tour – who will be leading this needs to be confirmed – MN to speak with JW

Chairs for sessions – needs to be confirmed.

Press and Publicity – GS to speak with RK

Posters and Flyers – Following LS advice MN to sort out printing of more flyers. These should include times of start and finish.

Check necessary materials will be provided eg Flipcharts and pens: DMc

Walk through – need to walk through the days events before the event. This might have already been done. Check with JW

2. SSC – teaching programmes

We started to discuss arrangements for next term. There was a view that next term should focus on writing projects, supervised and mentored by teacher-scholars. The teacher-scholars can meet weekly with student-scholars, and for whole group to meet every 3-4 weeks as a group to discuss and share progress.

3. Venue

The Revival Centre will soon no longer be available for meetings. We need to find alternative venue for our monthly meetings. Revival will be moving premises and there may be some longer term possibilities for SSC with their new arrangements. PW will keep us informed.


Meeting closed at 1.10 pm

Conference: Co-operation and Higher Education, April 26th, Lincoln.

Click here for more recent information about our conference.

The Social Science Centre will be hosting a conference on the theme of ‘Co-operation and Higher Education’, April 26th, 10.30-4.30pm, at The Collection, Lincoln’s museum and art gallery.

Below, is an outline of how we anticipate the conference being structured and we welcome suggestions relating to the content of the day. We hope the conference will provide time and space to focus on the desires, experiences, issues and possibilities for co-operative higher education. More details will follow nearer the time.

Although the conference is on Saturday, we encourage you to arrive on Friday evening if you wish, for pre-conference food and drinks.

Friday 25th April, 7pm onwards

Pre-conference food/drinks.  For anyone wishing to arrive the night before. Location to be determined. Donations to SSC to cover restaurant costs welcome.

Saturday 26th April

9-10.30am Early morning guided tour of Lincoln’s social and co-operative history for early/overnight delegates.

10.30-11am Arrival/registration

11-11.30. Welcome. Introductions.

11.30-12.30: First session

12.30-1pm: Lunch

1-2pm: Talk by invited speakers

2-2.40: Second session

2.40-3pm: Refreshments

3-3.40pm: Third session

3.40pm-4.30: Discussion/wind up.

If you wish to attend, please could you let us know by completing the form below. There is no registration cost, but donations to the SSC prior to the conference or on the day are welcome. Thank you.

Donate to the Social Science Centre

If you wish to donate to the SSC, you can do so via PayPal using the button below. Please email us if you would prefer to send a cheque or make a bank transfer.

Notes from organisational meeting 1st February 2014

SSC Organisational Meeting

Saturday, 1 February, 12.15 pm, Revival Café

Present: Sarah, Paul, Peaceful, Stephen and David.

Apologies: Joss.

In the absence of Gary, David was chair and note taker.

1 – Financial report. Stephen presented the report (already posted on the site). We have sufficient funds for our proposed conference.

2 – SSI. Paul and Peaceful shared their thoughts about the course. Generally very positive.

3 – Our Place Our Priorities.  Some disappointing news from The Collection about the OPOP display, it may have to be postponed until next year. Peaceful suggested an alternative, Revival are in negotiations with Lincolnshire Co-op for new premises on Free School Lane… watch this space.

4- SSC Conference. We have the funds, and the venue, but as the scholars who had proposed the conference were not present at the meeting, it was decided that it would be best to continue the discussion on the SSC members’ list.


Paul mentioned that when we hold our public seminars, we have a donations/contributions box at the back. Could we do a similar thing for the SSI course? Stephen had no objections.

Sarah, along with some other scholars from the SSC who also work at the University of Lincoln, will be taking part in a ‘Teach Out’ at noon on Thursday, 6 February at Grafton House (Lincoln Labour Club).  The subject under consideration for the session will be student debt. All welcome.

Notes on ‘Co-operation and education’ class, week two: Curriculum design and pedagogy

On Thursday, we met for week two of the SSC’s Social Science Imagination class. The focus this week was on co-designing our curriculum around the theme of ‘co-operation and education’,  and then, in the second half of the seminar, coming to a consensus around our preferred pedagogical approach. From next week, as you’ll see, we will start studying aspects of co-operation and education in earnest.

For the first half of the seminar, Gary and Joss asked other scholars to share their short reflections on the previous week’s class, where we discussed our reading of the SSC’s FAQ and the ICA’s Co-operative Identity, Values and Principles statement. We’ll gather these reflections and publish them separately at a later date. Below are Joss’ frantic notes taken during the discussion. The aim of these notes was to pick out keywords, phrases and themes which all twelve scholars present then synthesised into major topics to focus on each week for the rest of the course.

subjectivities, teacher, students, scholars, co-learning, leaders? roles, responsibilities, want to change power relations, friendship, new learning, ‘clever speak’, ‘rubbish of the mind’, imagination, unique opportunity, ‘treasure’, consensus-decision making, democracy, utopian, praxis, process, critical, autonomy, commons, solidarity, non-profit, polyvocal, positionality, diversity, collaboration, independence, hierarchy, ‘open university’, personal contribution, communal network, social co-operation, anti-capitalist, participation, liberty, changing, energy, positivity, hope, government, art, protests, 1968, individualism, austerity, education for all, voluntary, open, inclusive, equality, local community, learn from each other, teacher-student, organic, collective, co-op movement, ‘in the city’, ‘‘scholar’ as a sign of solidarity’, care, collaborative design, precedents?, cross-pollination, ‘bring and share meal’, nourishment, ‘irreducibly collective’, trust, increasing collectivity, ‘a right, not a commodity’, ‘ownership of my education’, structure of education, education as economic policy.

Most of us had written a few hundred words for our reflective piece. One person illustrated their writing with photographs of posters from protests by students and staff from Hornsey College in 1968. Here’s an example:

Reflecting on the short history of the Social Science Centre, another scholar tweeted:

Once we had shared our reflections, we then tried to draw out themes for each subsequent weeks’ class, and structure them coherently over the remainder of the course. You can see them in the table below. There was very little debate during this process and we found ourselves coming to agreement quite quickly.

During the second part of the class, Sarah encouraged us to talk about the week’s reading (Chapter 2 from Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed) and the way(s) in which we would like to approach teaching and learning (‘pedagogy’) over the next few weeks. You will see from Sarah’s notes below that by the end of the class, we had created an outline curriculum, decided who would take responsibility for choosing the reading and facilitating each week, and we agreed to extend the course by at least one more week.

Social Science Imagination – Co-operation and Education: Winter & Spring 2014 Curriculum






Mainstream education

Peaceful Warrior, Yaroslav



Alternative education

Gary, James



Co-operative principles

and values

Paul and Joss



Co-operative principles

and values

Paul and Joss



Co-operative histories

and movement

Lucy, Mike



Co-operative histories

and movement

Lucy, Mike



Co-operative learning


Laura, Sarah



Co-operative learning

Laura, Jane,




Location, place,

distance, roots

Joss, Paul

Notes from second part of the class

While different scholars will be teaching each session, we can all help each other learn. If you are new to teaching or to a theme, ask around to raise questions, try out ideas, get suggestions for readings or activities, share experiences of teaching and facilitating, etc.

To allow good time for reading and thinking, we’ve agreed to circulate or post each week’s reading by the previous Saturday morning.

How we want to learn (pedagogical approach)

We want the SSC to be a place where learning is, as Paulo Freire once wrote, a ‘practice of freedom’, and a practice for freedom.* So what does this look like in our classes? We put together these suggestions.

Sharing learning materials (writing, videos, sounds and images) helps focus our discussions and provides some common ground upon which we can explore diverse experiences and perspectives and gain clarity on our themes of inquiry. Create a collective bibliography for this term.

Making sure that everyone has time, materials and support to read (or watch or listen or do) and reflect, and to engage in real dialogue about issues with others, are equally important.

Sharing new sources of insight and inspiration that we discover through our personal reading, experience and research helps us expand our collective body of knowledge, ignites imagination and multiplies the lenses through which we can read the world.

Making connections between learning and practice reminds us to pay attention to the time and place of our work, and is essential for those learning to change and ‘learning to make a change’.

Creating a common language of understanding helps us ‘unpack’ the assumptions in our words, understand each other more deeply, and engage in critical and caring dialogue.

Clarifying words for others, both in classes and in public, makes scholarly thinking interesting rather than frightening or mysterious, and creates opportunities for everyone to develop a ‘sociological imagination’. Create a collectively written glossary of terms.

Encouraging everyone to ask questions and take risks creates a culture of co-operative critical inquiry through which we can strengthen our independent thinking, practice the arts of critique, challenge our ‘fears of freedom’, and help others do the same. It also helps us to keep our thinking radically open and ‘unfinished’.

Giving each other space to explore, make mistakes, make judgements, and try out new ideas and ways of being is an important condition of learning. Remembering that transformative learning is often a courageous activity is important, too.

Rotating responsibility for teaching/facilitating learning helps us to distribute authority, multiply our range of perspectives, explore different approaches to learning, and transform the ‘teacher–student contradiction’ into more fluid learning relationships.

* How did Freire understand education as a ‘practice of freedom’ in this book?

‘[T]he dialogical character of education as the practice of freedom does not begin when the teacher-student meets with the students-teachers in a pedagogical situation, but rather when the former first asks herself or himself what she or he will dialogue with the latter about. And preoccupation with the content of dialogue is really preoccupation with the program content of education.’ (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970, p. 93)

‘The investigation of what I have termed the people s “thematic universe”—the complex of their “generative themes”—inaugurates the dialogue of education as the practice of freedom. The methodology of that investigation must likewise be dialogical, affording the opportunity both to discover generative themes and to stimulate people’s awareness in regard to these themes.’ (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970, p. 96)

‘For the dominant elites, organization means organizing themselves. For the revolutionary leaders, organization means organizing themselves with the people. In the first event, the dominant elite increasingly structures its power so that it can more efficiently dominate and depersonalize; in the second, organization only corresponds to its nature and objective if in itself it constitutes the practice of freedom.’ (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1970, p. 177)

Co-operation and Education – Week One

SSC logoThe SSC’s new course, Co-operation and Education, began this week. The course, which runs from the 16th of January to the 20th of March 2014 on Thursday evenings between 19.00 – 21.00, was attended by 16 ‘scholars’ at the Pathways Centre on Beaumont Fee in Lincoln. The room was quite tight with this number of people and we are thinking of other venues to use, as we expect up to 20 people attending some weeks.

The session started with people introducing themselves to other members of the group. Half of the class were new to the SSC, which was wonderful to see. There was a fascinating blend of people, which included members of the SSC, undergraduate students, employees from Framework, academics, people involved in other co-operative projects (Lincoln Hackspace and Abundant Earth Community), members of the local community and some Ph.D students. It was heartening to see some new faces and this helped to create a sense of energy, excitement and curiosity as people were interested to learn more about each other.

Joss provided an introduction to the SSC and explained the rationale and nature of the Co-operation and Education course. He made it clear that if anyone wanted to be assessed on the course, that experienced members of the SSC would help design an expanded curriculum and methods of assessment appropriate to the level they are interested in. We also spent some time outlining the importance of the course as a way of helping us to think, co-operatively, about the SSC. We considered how the discussions we have on the course might be used to inform the content of a co-operative conference that SSC intends to host in March 2014, to write a collaborative conference paper to be presented at the the Royal Geographical Society Conference in August 2014 and to help think about and refine the SSC’s constitution and working practice at our AGM in May 2014.

As part of this process we are looking for volunteers to form a working group to help organise the SSC co-operative conference in March as well as help write, collaboratively, the paper to be submitted to the Royal Geographical Society.

The first task of the session was to read the SSC’s FAQ document, which is two pages long. Some people volunteered to read paragraphs from the text aloud.  After some time for reflection we asked ourselves six questions to help us think about the nature of the SSC and its limits as a new model for higher education. One scholar noted that this is a very traditional method of getting students to think about a text. In this case, it provided a ‘safe’ and familiar approach to stimulating discussion among people new to the SSC and to each other. The questions were:

  1. Describe the SSC in your own words

  2. How is the SSC organised? What’s important about that?

  3. How does the SSC approach teaching and learning? How is it different?

  4. What was the context in which the SSC was created?

  5. How can people be engaged in the SSC? What does it involve?

  6. What are the limits to the SSC as a new model for higher education?

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, people thought about the SSC in different ways. Some people thought of it as a ‘political project’, others as a ‘university without walls’ or as a way of ‘hacking’ the best parts of a university from a form that no longer works and reconstituting one that does.  Other words used to describe the SSC were, ‘organic’, ‘responsive’, and ‘flexible’.

We spent some time discussing the co-operative form of the SSC, consensus decision making and how this works in practice. One scholar said that ‘democratic, non-hierarchical, consensus decision-making’ was put into practice across all members for issues relating to governance, but that the day-to-day running of the SSC often relies on a small group of 4-5 people coming to agreement. When participating in the course, this aspiration is embedded in the pedagogic methods that we try to use.

There were some interesting discussions about how the SSC approached teaching and learning with the conversation centering on the importance of questioning and challenging the ‘traditional’ distinction between teacher and student and, instead, appreciating that both have a lot to learn from each other, but that somehow, this is often lost in ‘traditional’ forms of teaching and learning. Questions were raised about assessment and about how this might work in practice in terms of supervision, assessment and receiving some form of qualification. Whilst the SSC has always intended to offer some form qualification for the courses it offers, it has never done so in practice, although some scholars on the Co-operation and Education course showed an interesting in pursuing this.

We discussed how people could get involved in the SSC with one scholar noting that it was actually unclear in the SSC’s FAQ how people could engage with the SSC. A number of questions were raised by new scholars about the SSC which are not clear from the FAQ but are implicitly understood by some some members who helped set the co-operative up. Understandably, similar questions are asked when people first engage with the SSC and we need to prepare responses to these questions in a more explicit way.

Whilst some commented that the limits to the SSC were financial support and teaching and learning space, two scholars commented that the SSC was ‘limitless’.

The second task of the session (during the last 30 mins of the class), was to read the International Co-operative Alliance’s ‘Co-operative Identity, Values and Principles Statement, which were informed by the principles developed by the Rochdale Pioneers Equitable Society. Again, we gave ourselves time to read and think about the document and organised our discussion of it around three questions:

  1. Pick one value from the text that is important for you and tell us why

  2. Given the context of its creation, how should we read this text?

  3. Pick one principle from the text and state why you think it is important. How could that principle be used to inform the work of the SSC?

We discussed the importance of education, training and information to help think critically about running a co-operative and organisational forms beyond co-operatives. One scholar stressed the importance of concern for the local community and how co-operatives encouraged this. We considered the nature of democracy and its different forms and how this differed from consensus decision making. It was noted that there is no appreciation of ‘class’ in the document.

We concluded the session by starting to think about some of the themes that came out of the discussions with the aim of starting to develop concrete themes that we will examine for the rest of the course.

Download the class plan for our first session.

In preparation for next week:

  1. Produce a 300 word statement or equivalent that reflects on the first session and starts to concretize some of the key themes from reading and discussing the SSC FAQ and the ICA statement.
  2. Read Chapter Two of Paulo Friere’s  Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which we will discuss next week.

The Social Science Imagination course, Autumn 2013

Seeing the world differently with social science

 Thursdays, 7–9pm, from 3rd October until 12th December 2013

Revival Centre, Sincil Street, Lincoln

 This free course is for anyone who wants to learn more about how the social world works and how we can change it, with the help of social science. Today, the economy is in crisis; people are struggling to find work and homes, pay debts and make ends meet; prejudice and discrimination are rife; social policies are changing fast; and new social movements and experiments are springing up everywhere to respond to this situation. This course, which is one of a number of free courses offered by the Social Science Centre, Lincoln, can help.

Read more…