An email by Darren to oseeurope google group
I've been reading the OSE-Europe list for a while now. Watching OSE for a few years.
I've lived in trucks and caravans for half of my adult life mainly living in the south east of England (UK). Ive got lots of experience with diesel engines and some with plant/machinery. I've always fixed my own equipment and vehicles. I've done lots of 12volt wiring. I spent ten years heavily researching the use of vegetable oils as fuel. I now know far too much about vegetable oil combustion and diesel fuel injection systems. I've learnt how to modify engine control units. I also can mig and arc weld, although having been with a girl for four years who is a blacksmith I am out of practice (I still get her to do my welding, shes very good at it - we have separated but are still very good friends).
I have been interested in Permaculture for years - I spent a summer on a Permaculture farm in the early 1990's and have always maintained an interest.
At times I have grown my own vegetables. I've worked for ten years as a gardener and tree surgeon.
I spend some of my time in Surrey at a plant nursery that is owned by a friend. There are lots of glass houses and poly tunnels. Some are not used. The owner is mad about fish.
I rent a barn on a farm near Brighton. My ex partner has all her metal fabrication equipment set up in the barn. There is more room available in the barn. There is 3 phase electricity in the barn.
Since the beginning of the credit crisis I have become increasingly interested in economics and democracy. (I studied business and finance at college) I am currently of the opinion that power inequalities and lack of transparency are the root of most of the problems our societies face (I am always open to new ideas and different viewpoints).
I'm currently working on the development of a community land trust and what is probably easiest described as a co-operative consortia of self-employed workers - both ways to rearrange my economy - (also in early stages of trying to develop/encourage new land owning mutuals) I feel that the systems our societies use for production and distribution of goods and services are seriously flawed, causing lots of problems.
I've been interested in co-operatives since the early 1990s. I tried to develop a housing co-op and a gardeners co-operative. Later I joined and became a director of an alternative energy co-operative. I'm an active member of the massive consumer co-operative The Co-operative Group through which I'm also a member of Co-ops UK.
In my time working in 'democratic' organisations and projects I've noticed a few things, possibly learnt a few lessons. The governance structure needs clearly defining early on (and in my opinion benefits from wide active participation in its creation and implementation) - ignoring this because there are lots of other interesting things happening creates a potential massive future headache.
When necessary I dont think there is a problem in allowing people to have authority to make decisions as long as their is transparency and ideally the authority can be withdrawn at any time. Having said this I think there is much to gain by encouraging as much participation as possible in decision making. Even if things take longer - I think more is gained. I've been very impressed by the effectiveness of the open governance structures used by the Spanish plaza/M15 movement (and now Occupy Wall Street)- they say 'we are going slow, because we are going far'
I wonder if an organisation can effectively organise using Bettermeans - Coalition of the Willing uses a number of work spaces (including Bettermeans) but has recently been lacking in active participation. As far as I could tell Bettermeans was never really used amazingly effectively - I couldn't get email notifications to work which in my opinion hampered effectiveness (just checked and I'm now able to set it up!!! Think it was a problem as I was logging in via Twitter). I think it offers a good framework but really requires efforts to focus work (and documentation of work) within its structure.
Generally I think encouraging and maintaining active participation is key. Creating a project with other motivated individuals makes it much easier to stay motivated.
I'm up for supporting OSE work. I do lots of things but have the luxury of being able to arrange my time as I please.