The shared purpose of any community led organisation or community itself for that matter is always a tricky thing to express. There are usually so many different interests, perspectives and life experiences, (this diversity is definitely a strength) but it also means that no two people will necessarily give a similar answer as to what their community/group is about. And yet, there is a shared sense of something… a strange and elusive mix of shared ownership, rebellion, a refusal to accept things as they are, resilience, adventure, creativity, generosity and a willingness to try something new that draws people together in very interesting ways.

The Footscray Maker Cooperative or FMC for short, is one of those ways, and during a few sessions since the start of the year the FMC management circle have asked some questions about why we do the things we do and what we would to be true of our involvement in this thing we call the FMC, now and into the future.

This process is based heavily on the work principally by Dan Palmer, Co-founder of Very Edible Gardens, who has worked tirelessly to interpret and re-imagine the work of Allen Savoury and his pioneering decision making framework called ‘Holistic Management’, so that individuals and groups can create a framework for decision making that not only takes them towards their intended goal, but does so in a way that satisfies the diverse needs of an organisation such as ourselves or an ecology as Savoury’s work has an agricultural and ecological focus. For a great introduction to Holistic Management, please check out Dan’s work Here: (http://www.veryediblegardens.com/iveg/holistic-management/400-holistic-management-veg-part1) or to see Savoury’s original work about holistic management and planned grazing here (http://savory.global).

Stage 1: Beginning

As a group we came together in a deliberately different way to how we would usually meet on a monday afternoon and agreed to work with a few clear guidelines… Be present to your own needs as well as what you perceive to be the needs of FMC, own what you say, try to stay away from details/problem solving, Use an active voice (i.e ‘we are’ instead of ‘we should’) and finally just write it down and make it good later.

Each session in structured in a way that encourages ideas and sharing without getting too hung up on language or details for as long as possible (get it down and get it good later), when the ideas and words start to run out, we move onto the part of the process (for more details check out Dan Palmer’s posts about HM)

Stage 2: First Question – where do you think the Co-op is at right now?

Each member of the board was asked was asked how they felt about the FMC at that particular point in time.

  • Teething
  • Competing Ideas
  • Lots of ideas and passion but not very grounded
  • Building foundations
  • Needs to open
  • Learning (who, how, what, when, where and why?)
  • Why are we doing FMC?
  • Time for outreach/de-cliquing
  • Running at about 15% of what it could be

Question 2 – what do you envision the Co-op to be like in 2020?

  • Deep community links (10- 15%)
  • Diverse
  • Local: Ingrained in the west
  • Cutting edge (holistically)
  • Has babies – propagated (open source)
  • Innovative
  • About members!
  • Recognised
  • Accomplished
  • Popular
  • Stable
  • Freedom
  • Adaptive
  • Prosperous
  • Sustaining
  • Regenerative
  • Powerful in empowering ways
  • Ample money for core functions
  • Resilient

Stage 3: The Statement of Purpose

Clearly then, even from a short reflective exercise there are grand plans for the FMC, Holistic Management (HM) then becomes a tool to drive the organisation towards the goals (vision) that is shared collectively by those involved. At the core of this is the statement of purpose. This short sentence should speak to the core of why an enterprise is exists.

Each person was asked to share their interpretation of the vision of the FMC, these were cultivated into 4 broad groups:

FMC has a solid foundation (in the west) that is popular and has deep community links. We are able to influence and branch out locally, nationally and internationally via open source.

The FMC is innovative, at the cutting edge and recognised for its accomplishments. We are powerful in a powerful way for all involved.

The FMC offers/values stability (well being) and freedom. We increase viability, prosperity and sustainability. (For members?)

FMC is diverse, resilient and adaptive

This marked the end of the first 1 hour session. At the next one a week later, we began by trying to distill these further into a clear statement of purpose. These are the two options as it stands for the moment.

The FMC is a community maker enterprise that uses advanced support systems to drive open innovation, adaptation and whole capital values/change/impact

OR

The FMC is a maker enterprise that uses open innovation, adaptation and whole capital to support its members and the community.

A final statement of purpose has not been decided yet. (Please let us know your thoughts!)

Stage 4: The quality of life statements

The next part of the HM process is the ask – If our collective purpose is to be true, how are we as an organisation going to ‘be’, in order to enable our purpose. Or, how are we going to move towards our purpose effectively, in a way the serves us all.

Each member of the group offered up between 4 and 10 potential quality of life statements

  • Financially profitable to a point
  • FMC values community connection
  • Education and learning
  • Providing space for diverse enterprises
  • Open avenues for collaboration
  • Actively supportive
  • FMC employs highly effective strategies to support member innovation
  • FMC has a structure and management system that is flexible and makes it easy to run
  • FMC creates paid project work for its members
  • FMC makes a positive contribution to social change
  • Self managing/distributive
  • Transparent decision making
  • Leader – inspiring others to learn
  • Innovate – trying new ideas
  • Strong community connections in both directions
  • Supporting members needs and the wider community
  • Facilitate dynamic and powerful collaborations across ‘scales’
  • Co-op serves the members well, members serve the co-op well
  • Solidarity and support between members is high
  • Communication is honest and full of integrity
  • Open reporting and review
  • Our members are front and centre
  • Strong focus on 8-forms
  • Open minnded/non-judgemental
  • ‘Safe’ communication
  • All inclusive
  • ‘Sustainably’ motivated
  • Achieve results
  • Clearly and easily explainable
  • Scaleable
  • Open and regular communication

Thus ended session 2, Session three 2 weeks later was a process of much whiteboard wrangling to combine, collate and group these ways of being into 7-8 qualities of life:

  • We have a positive impact on social change
  • Our communication processes are… [to be added from above and defined]
  • We are financially profitable ( We practice and explore the 8 forms of capital and financial profitability)
  • Our management systems are… [to be added from above and defined]
  • We are collaborative
  • We value community
  • The support systems between members and the FMC are…
  • We value education and learning

Thus ended session 2, Session three 2 weeks later was a process of much whiteboard wrangling to combine, collate and group these ways of being into 7-8 qualities of life:

  • we have a positive impact on social change
  • Our communication processes are…
  • We are financially profitable ( We practice and explore the 8 forms of capital and financial profitability)
  • Our management systems are…
  • We are collaborative
  • We value community
  • The support systems between members and the FMC are…
  • We value education and learning

While some of the quality of life statements aren’t finished, there is enough to more onto the Forms of products section of the HM process where we ask what do we need to do, or how do we need to behave to enact our QOL’s, to be true of the statement of purpose.

But already it is possible to test a decision though our unfinished context – should we share what we’ve done so far with the FMC community and beyond to get feedback and input? If we claim to be adaptive and innovative, with high value placed on communication, community and learning in a collaborative way, then yes.

To comment and add your thoughts on the FMC statement of purpose, please go here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gJna6GctIMHRgajzDTU-W6UJsmSzALGOqlOzXc7mq4M/edit?usp=sharing

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