The age old question that every voluntary group will ask itself as it develops is “What do we want to become?”
In our experience, there are many groups that spend a lot of energy early on developing into an official entity. They concentrate their efforts on tasks like defining who they are, setting up bank accounts and writing constitutions before they have actually done anything as a group. They then have a shiney new constitution but have forgotten why they all came together as a group in the place and many having lost the motivation to find out again.
We have always been conscious to build the formal side of Envirolution around a central fun and creative activity, our events. Then if the formal side becomes too involved and drains some of the energy from the group, another event will not be too far away to get everyone smiling again.
Although inevitably we to found ourselves having to decide – “What do we want to become?”
The possibilities seem to be endless; Charities, cooperatives, CIC, Limited Company to name a few. We were fairly certain we wanted to become an organisation that encouraged participation from individuals, other organisations and the community where we were active. Being in Manchester, or at least close to Rochdale, a cooperative seemed the obvious choice.
Becoming a cooperative
We were advised to apply to the Co-operative Enterprise Hub. This is funded by the Co-operative Group and supports businesses to do business the co-operative way.
After being accepted, six of us sat down with one of the Hub’s consultants, Jo, to discuss who we were, what we did, why we do it and where we wanted to go next. The exciting outcome was that we developed our own type of cooperative, a Society for the Benefit of the Community that operated like a workers cooperative. See Envirolution Network Limited – Rules.
As we understand it this means that we have the community element of having an asset lock to ensure all the assets stay within the community. However, the model works to allow funds generated to be used by the members that are active in developing projects and ideas for as long as they are still part of the cooperative.
The process of becoming a cooperative was not without its challenges. We lost some of our momentum in the process and a founding figure of the initial two years of Envirolution. Although, a year on and we have our best event to date under our belt, a growing membership list of 12 and more energy and momentum than ever before.
What does the next twelve months hold in store for Envirolution?
We have our next event coming up on 25th May, which is building up to be a spectacle greater than we have ever produced before. We are more prepared and funded (including a cheque from the Cooperative Community Fund) than any other year. We have more experience and numbers of people than at any time before. This is going to be a special year!