The next day was the Conference – the second in a six part seminar series being co-produced by Helen Jarvis, Paul Chatterton and others over a year with 5 co-ordinators at different universities in England. Paul (Geography -Leeds University and co-founder of Lilac) pulled this event together starting with a tour of Lilac in the morning and meeting conference delegates. Then off to Leeds University where we did our bit. We were on first, which was perfect because then we could focus on the other presentations and respond to some of the questions and discussions and the enthusiasm to know more about how we did it in Aus.
We did the Keynote: “The experience of Murundaka Cohousing and the Sustainable Living Foundation: the Challenges of co-operativism, affordability and sustainability.” Then Paul told the Lilac story and explained the model. “Building a low impact, affordable, community cohousing revolution”. Joe Atkinson a member of Lilac, explained the financial complexities of “The Lilac Mutual Home Ownership Model”. Then there were some other great speakers showcasing different “Mutual housing Innovations”. Leeds Community Homes describing a model for city-based transformation; Radical Roots outlined the Co-operative cluster model and Students for Co-operation spoke on the potential for a student cooperative housing revolution. Finally the Rapporteur’s reflections. (Irena Bauman. Professor of Sustainable Urbanism, Sheffield School of Architecture. Director of Bauman Lyons Architects).
Back at Lilac that evening exhaustion didn’t stop us from enjoying vibrant discussion at the dinner table with Paul and Tash, Liz Lewis and Lidewij Tummers (visiting from the Netherlands).
The next morning we were visited by four young co-op activists including Cath Muller from Radical Routes and soon were engaged in deep discussion with very focussed questions about how the CERC program started and looking at how they could transfer some of that knowledge to the situation here in the UK. They are looking at bringing existing co-ops into an organisation to build the strength of the movement and help it grow. Many of their questions we could help them with. It felt great to be useful and so thoroughly drawn upon. They’re very keen to get hold of whatever we’ve got re training of members too. We showed them the CEH website especially the work of the Policy Advisory Committee and they were totally rapt to find such a treasure trove of docs pertinent to so many of their issues. I think we’re at the beginning of something and have a lot to give others as well as ourselves. The conversation here so far has been a lot about scaling up and also dealing with conflict, disappointment and participation. “If you want to swim in the ocean you have to learn to surf the waves.” It’s all very interesting. We have so much in common and yet are very different in other ways.