I was so excited. I had written an attentive open call email. It was the first time I had designed a poster. I even made an effort for the word cloud on the poster; although not as much for the choice of color. Luckily, my companion was always with me along the way, and she always put the finishing touches of every single task. After that, arranging the meeting location, the invitees… I knew everyone who was going to attend and I spoke to them about this at one point or another, but this time, everyone was going to speak at the same time. How many of them were going to attend, what was going to be discussed, was it going to be a positive/compatible atmosphere, and most importantly, were we going to carry on? With these questions occupying my mind, I went ahead and hung the posters early on, and started waiting. With each and every face that came through the door, I was relieved a bit more. When the meeting was over, I said “Alright. We are gonna make it, but it’ll take a lot of work”.
Today is the 2nd anniversary of that meeting. Alright, maybe it doesn’t take place on our calendars as a monument of universal celebration, but it holds a special place in mine. Our dreams were so big, it was almost like we were creating a roadmap for our own utopia. Our problems were in common, our needs were alike, and the images we would like to see in the future were completing each other like a puzzle. Nevertheless, we had differentiating concerns, because even the understanding of equality and justice could’ve been interpreted differently depending on conditions and priorities. Then came the hard part: in order to achieve the structure in their ideals together, what should this lovely community ought to do, and how and when? Coming together for the meetings (one can forget, but we used to “physically” meet up), building everything from the ground up… The name, the logo, our principles, the manifesto, meetings, rules…. We discussed each and every one of them. Sometimes our numbers went down to 3-4 people in the meetings, and sometimes our pacing slowed down so much, but someone always bore the burden, and we went on. We were pretty eager, but tired at the same time. The shifts, the pace of city life, stressful lives, responsibilities of other social initiatives… The people I called on first were mostly the ones who partook in various voluntary organizations. It was obvious that this kind of work required devotion, and it was more probable that people who were bearing responsibility in said practices were more likely to embark on and carry out the principles that would form the foundations of the structure we were trying to build. And that’s what happened as well, we quickly made way. Of course, not everyone who was there at the beginning carried on with us. The ones who could, carried on, and some of us said “goodbye for now”. I was feeling sad for each and every person who left, worrying if the endeavour would fade…
Sometimes we had challenging agendas that would divide us. Discussing stuff like decision making mechanisms, fair revenue sharing, individual and collective interests, sharing of responsibilities made us realize how serious everything was. When the case was worker cooperatives, you had to clarify so many terms and carry them into practice that it became essential to discuss every single detail thoroughly.
For example, saying that only the consensus would be applied for the said decision making mechanism would fall pretty short. Even the time that everyone had to spare for the cooperative was a matter of debate, yet it could be solved when we went from theory to practice. In the end, the case was not so different for us either, so we argued. Sometimes we held up in order to make acquaintances with cooperatives abroad as we had no examples to look up to here. We searched, talked, and aspired. Our motivation increased more and more.
We had major fallouts as well; learned when to go our different ways on our disagreements and discuss our opposing ideas. Our friends who joined later on always increased our eagerness. There were times I said “this isn’t working out” as well. Usually, this type of serious subject matters were structural. We decided to sit down and write a domestic by-law. We elaborately described our structure in accordance with our decisions. Having a transcript as reference to look back at made our work much easier.
Being a collective has so many beauties to it. During these 2 years, we got married, quit our jobs, had babies, loved, fell out, poured out our grievances, drank, laughed, lost our temper, argued, made money, became equals, partnered up, camped… Well, I was trying not to make it romantic, but I lost track of it again. Now, we are a collective / cooperative / partners / fellows which get everything done in a virtual environment. You know how we say “trust” on every subject? Trusting in the future, your colleague, your friend… We built that trust. Open and transparent communication is inevitable in collectives. This may sound a bit tough sometimes but it becomes a habit once you get it working. The fact that that’s how it works in Albatros was the essential building block of establishing that trust.
We still haven’t officially started the cooperative, which I used to think 2 years would be long for that. Now I view those procedures solely as bureaucratic business. Albatros Tech Cooperative Initiative managed to latch onto the tech industry of our country. It’s really encouraging to be a part of it. I may only be 1/10 of this structure, but we are that whole after all…
The One Who Threw the First Stone