Coop Fortnight will take place from 22nd June – 5th July 2020. This is a two week opportunity to take stock of everything that Oxfordshire coops have been up to during the covid pandemic. Being part of a ‘community’ and taking ‘action’ have arguably become more meaningful than ever, whilst also inevitably coming to take on different meanings. As lockdown eases, it’s also a chance to celebrate and think of collective next steps for the solidarity initiatives like mutual aid groups which have emerged in response to community needs.
Community action didn’t by any means stop when lockdown began. It did however take on different forms. Community Action Groups (CAGs) tend to organise open events, out in nature or in public spaces, and with a vision for creating sustainable local plans or projects. During the months of ‘distancing’, there was a pause to get to grips with how to connect online. Then came reflection and slowing down as communities formed to appreciate bird song together, learn how to forage, to keep trees alive after many hot days, and to watch environmental films in parallel to talk about it after.
Community fridges filled an enlarging gap in emergency food provision that food banks left when they closed, as discussed in a previous blog. Solidarity with those forced into precarious situations due to reduced income, or needing to self-isolate, were met with a practical-focused community impetus in Oxfordshire aptly referred to as mutual aid. This grassroots response shows the power of community to care, provide for others and form new connections enabling us to collectively re-knit the fabric of our home and social lives. This kind of community has been cultivated by many volunteers in CAGs over the years.
Cooperatives in the CAG network predominantly rely on trade, which was disrupted by lockdown measures. Although it’s been a time of uncertainty, the values that are fundamental to cooperatives: self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, – with the addition of creative adaptability – have helped coops overcome these challenges. Broken Spoke Bike Co-op is now open for repairs and is supporting key workers to get to work by bike, Sandford Talking Shop has a Walking Shop delivering to those isolating at home. East Oxford Farmers Market and SESI have developed pre-ordering and safe queuing systems that run like clockwork, and still allow people to shop outdoors and see their neighbours.
We at CAG agree with Co-operatives UK when they say “we want to harness this new culture of co-operation and change in everyday behaviour to raise awareness of co‑ops and the values that run through our diverse sector. We want to change society for the better as we rebuild.” Oxford Mutual Aid are co-hosting an event with CAG Oxfordshire on 4th July to support other mutual aid groups in choosing the right legal structures to continue their solidarity work. CAG Oxfordshire will showcase several videos throughout the fortnight on how co-ops have fared during the pandemic. Beryl’s Nights for women and non-binary mechanics has been a huge online success during lockdown and there’s another one coming up on 2nd July.
For a look at what Broken Spoke as well as some of our other members have been up to check out these videos.
Please also send other examples of novel ways you’ve recently found to build cooperation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s #keepcooperating !