Commiting to Encounter and Collaboration
Stéphanie Lucien-Brun, a volunteer at Lyon's Laucaux Motiv' community center, talks about the concept of "third places" and the importance and challenges of collective management.
Stéphanie Lucien-Brun works as a consultant on ICT's and social development. For the past 8 years she has been investing some of her free time into the development and collective management of a "third place" in Lyon, France, called Locaux Motiv'. We talked to Stephanie about the opportunities and limitations that Locaux Motiv' meets, as a collectively ran workplace and cooperations network. We met her during the Clubture forum where she participated on the panel Practices of socio-cultural cooperation and networking. As Locaux Motiv' has multiple voices, Stephanie is speaking of her own experience and vision of what she has lived, understood and learnt with Locaux Motiv'.
KP: Could you introduce us to Locaux Motiv?
At the beginning, in 2010, a bunch of local NGO-s in the neighborhood of La Guillotière wanted to support the creation of locally implemented social economy, solidarity and ecological projects (ESSE - Economie sociale, solidaire et écologique). ESSE now accounts for 10% of French economy, with NGO-s and cooperatives and so on. These are the organizations that are working not only on creation of economic, but put the emphasize on social value. The founding group initiated two projects: a local bar and restaurant Le Court-Circuit which still exists and is successful, and the following year they opened a "third place", Locaux Motiv'. NGO-s and others were doing a lot of work in this neighborhood, and they felt that they were, regarding their respective working conditions in various precarious situations. The young people had somehow precarious jobs, they had poor working conditions, they were spending a lot of energy to make projects together for lack of good logistics. They identified clearly that if they were mutualising and sharing working and operating facilities, that they could save a lot of time and energy and develop richer projects.
A "third place" is a concept coming from the US, a developing idea that in cities, or rural environment you have groups, collectives and individuals which share needs and interests and can find ways of sharing answers to these needs in some open places which are going to offer different functionalities. In France, what we call third places are fab-labs, co-working spaces, but it could also be a cultural center and any place that works on building of the community, with the multiplicity of functions, third places are often related to culture, social services, DIY, ecological transition and new ways of working. In France the question of third places has become very important in the last few years, there has been a national report, and now a policy on third places.
KP: How is LM, as a third place different form the "old" NGO-s or comunity centers?
In LM we have NGO-s, companies, self employees people, people doing remote jobs, we don't care if you are an NGO or you are self employees, for us it is important to create cooperation around social and environnemental issues. There are people and organizations working on digital transition, climate change, local and international solidarity, mobility, free software, culture (dance companies, symphonic orchestta, movies festival ..), independent media, social documentary production. The third place is managed on a volunteer basis by those who take part in the project. 600 sqm2, 46 resident organizations (individuals or collectives), 40 users organizations: 100 organizations engaged in some kind of cooperation! Everyday between 40 and 70 persons come to work, meet, gather on the premises.
KP: You stressed that came to Zagreb as a LM volunteer. How is LM run and governed?
Locaux Motiv' does not have full-time employees, only the support of Alice who works a full-time job on accounting and finance. The base of collective management implies that you are coming there to have access to the service, and that access is condition with your obligation, in one way or another, to contribute to the fact that the service can take place. In practice it means that if you come as flex office worker or fixed office worker it is compulsory for you to come to the general assembly, to welcome visitors as a volunteer, to join one of the responsibility group managing and running the project, or to perform some necessary tasks that ensure the good management of the project. You are invited to take part in community events and are explained very clearly that the place is self managed and you need to be ready to engage yourself in the management and running of the place for the place to work. We know people will commit themselves in different levels of intensity and interest, which is normal, but we work hard on avoiding free runners.
We have changed governance several times, to adapt to the reality of what we experience and make it as operational as possible. We started with traditional governance with a board and an executive board. After a few years we realized what matters the most is individual commitment of people, more than representation of organisations. Now, the general assembly two bodies elects two bodies twice per year, a strategic council and operational body.
The people in operational body are in charge of "responsibility groups" which assure that the tasks are being achieved. They are leading forces in managing the project. To make sure they are fast and efficient, operational board is monitoring these responsibility group. The idea is to have as much power distributed as possible - it is a matter of open governing.
We also have a strong focus on openness. If I am a member of the organization I have access to all the meeting, data and the figures. It is not always easy to make information available, understandable, visible, shareable and it takes a lot of energy, but it is a learning process on what collaborative practices have the strongest impact on cooperation itself. The reality we face is that some people come to work for an organization that has an office here, but they have not themselves, individually, chosen to come here, so it is important to allow people to have very different levels of commitment, different interests in engaging in sharing, cooperations, etc. So, it’s important to find ways to make it fun, enjoyable, a learning experience of the added value of cooperation, because people learn a lot form collaborating and it is not necessarily skills that we "start with" in our lives. It's even simplest things; making people aware that they have to take 10 minutes to water the plants and take dirty towels home and wash them, it is all a part of working together and it is not only important to be part of governing body, it is also important to keep the towels clean in order for the place to run smoothly.
For 3 years we had a salaried person, in charge of developing projects aiming at reinforcing relations with local networks, promoting ESSE and experiment new projects. With the end of financing found specifically for that projects we had to take the decision to lay off the person employed, who remains very close to the project.