First five-year-plan (пятилетка)
We are celebrating a birthday
Five years ago on the last day of February in Zelena akcija offices we held the founding assembly of Slobodna domena. It was raining outside. None of us knew all present future members but each one of us knew at least somebody in the room. We have literally gathered from all around to start a cooperative. We did not know what kind of adventure we are entering but it turned out that we have done it with open hearts and minds. Optimism prevailed despite the rain.
People say that every startup counts on three F’s: “friends, family and fools”. We were smart enough not to mix personal relations with business. With a lot of effort we managed to separate private stuff from work, friendship from cooperativism. That is how we successfully eliminated two out of three F’s. That last F on the other hand has served us quite well as running fuel. The thing is that we added two chapters in our foundation document which by many place us in the F spectrum.
First one are values we gathered around: defence and expansion of the definition of common goods, just distribution of surplus value, promotion of equality, fight against discrimination and democratic decision-making.
Second one is the chapter in which we declare not to pay dividends to members. Often we’d joke around that this is also the best filter for new members.
Whoever is willing to work under such conditions must be strongly motivated. As a result, in five years we attracted only two new members. Although we were hoping to be more successful and that we will attract many new people and that never happened, this big F still makes us believe how that is just a matter of time when we will soon start growing faster.
Pretentious title “First five-year-plan” suggests that there was actually a long term plan. It is true that we haven’t headlessly jumped into the project. We planned to test our ideas and previous experiences in how to best organise a democratic workers’ collective. We assumed that there is a market for us and that we can create an environment where we can act. But still, we do not dare to say that we have followed a long term plan but rather our intuition and the moment. It’s fair to say that our planning never looked forward for more than one year. Our five-year-plan is realistically a sum of one-year-plans.
Looking back, a lot has happened in past five years.
We founded a stable organisation with clear goals, methods of work, capacity and accumulated knowledge. We have built good relations with partners and customers. Our business is sustainable. Everything we hoped for five years ago was in some way achieved. The only segment in which we still feel like we are drifting is systematic contribution to community. Our Solidarity fund is a tool made to help initiatives which align with our values but we feel that our Coop should and can give more in that sense.
Let’s see what the future brings …