Co-operation was a great Victorian idea that describes very well the way we would like our group to work. According to Wikipedia a co-operative is defined as “An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise”. As far as I can see we intend to tick most of those boxes.
As we set out we feel there should be no captains or kings, everyone is responsible for their own conduct but we come together voluntarily in order to do something that we cannot achieve on our own.
We do not intend to hold assets other than our own so joint-ownership should not be an issue and once we have established ourselves we should be able to make decisions in a democratic manner.
Although I may have instigated the formation of this group and gently pushed it in what I felt was the right direction at the start, I feel it is important that no one person is in charge of the group. I have run groups before and been in many where one or just a few people hold all the power and I strongly feel that it is not best for the long term operation of a group such as ours. It’s also a huge burden on those that always end up doing the lions share of the work.
If a group like this is going to thrive then we need to share the load and work towards a common objective. We all need to work towards the same goals and do whatever we can to help achieve our combined aspirations.
I don’t mind being an inspiration but I don’t have the energy or resources to push this wagon all on my own. It needs to be a joint effort and that is exactly how it should be.
That doesn’t mean there will be no rules, few sections of society last long with ideas like that and where we are working with organisations or individuals who own the sites that we hope to camp on, then their rules must always take precedence. We also need to consider how our behaviour might affect the reputation of the group and it’s ability to book camping sites in the future. It is my hope that common sense and decency will be our guide on such matters. It should go without saying that ultimately we are all subject to the law of the land.
Until we think of a better way to run things, from a practical point of view, at any camp site it is useful to have a principle contact with the site operators and it would therefore be sensible if that person accepted the temporary role of group leadership for the duration of that event. That does not mean anyone is less responsible for their own conduct but it does mean there is a final arbiter in case of any dispute that needs resolution. Basically what they say goes until the event is over and that includes any rules that they feel are necessary for the smooth running of that event. I do not think that such a provision is unfair.
Of course, there is nothing to stop anyone organising an event in their own locality but if the name of the Steam Tent Co-operative is to be attached to it, then it should be open to all members of good standing who wish to attend without discrimination.
True Democracy is always going to be problematic in an organisation with a nebulous and shifting membership. If we try and base it upon the membership figures of the Facebook group it excludes those that are not on that group. It also includes people that may have joined the group but not been active. Trying to decide what forms a quorum under such conditions is therefore fraught with difficulties.
What I would propose is that until we find some better way of doing things we hold a simple meeting at significant national events of over thirty members for example, and decide amongst those present if any new rules or changes to existing rules need to be made. Such rules would then hold unless changed at a subsequent event. Hopefully this will keep formalities to a minimum and allow a common sense approach to most matters.
I have no doubt that I have failed to consider many issues that may arise in the future. It may well be that we need to formalise things more as we grow but I hope we can always agree to work together as if we were friends.
If all else fails remember the Steampunk Mantra:
“Be Splendid to Everyone”.