There is such a thing as loanstock. Many fully mutual housing co–ops raise part of their capital by offering out loanstock to investors, a low interest investment secured against the value of the house. It is a bricks and mortar very safe investment. Money borrowed from a bank as a mortgage costs in the region of 5%, higher than domestic mortgage, but as co-op we pay a commercial rate plus, we are customers of Triodos bank, an ethical bank with high standards but consequently not the very cheapest to borrow from. We have been offering 4% on loanstock, and indeed we have some we need to replace currently and with interest rates at historic lows its a sound bet.
I trained as a teacher, completing a PGCE in Economic and Business Studies, and later taught for 4 terms in Reading before I moved to Wales, so i kind of the subject in my blood stream. I really enjoy the Uneducated Economist on YouTube for his wry and insightful observations on economic themes. In this episode we speculates about the likelihood of negative interest rates. This chimed deeply with me, its some thing max Keiser talks about on is RT progam Keiser Report. Of course you have to get rid of cash to make negative interest rates happen effectively and it seems almost certain that we are goign to begin to experience that soon, especially as Uneducated Economist speculates when we move to UBI stimuli to try and restart the collapsing world economy.
Investing in social infrastructure such as affordable, ecologically responsible housing makes a a lot of sense. One Planet Development ideas here in Wales are also really opening up the possibility for whole new ways of living. More collaborative, with a localised lifestyple and much more closely connected to the land.
I might suggest that it is a time to think about investing in co-ops – those who have funds to invest, many don’t of course, but maybe they might have initiative and drive to offer instead. This kind of mutual could unlock and whole raft of possibilities.
In the early 90’s I was living in Zimbabwe along with my friend Sue, we were studying and working in permaculture and setting the course for a life we hoped to live. I had ran away from UK to Africa for adventure, to learn and to escape Thatcher’s Britain. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, just what I didn’t want to do, all of that changed in Zimbabwe. I learned that Africa was always in some way gong to be part of my life, it had changed me and my life purpose and direction was to embed myself in the world of alternatives to planetary destruction. Permaculture is a path of regeneration and healing, and I decided to dedicate my life to that, without having an idea where it would take me.
By 1995 I was living in the Welsh mountains within a wider community, one that was very much committed to finding alternatives and different kinds of lifestyles. I learned about housing co-operatives through Radical Routes, joined the Permaculture Association and started working at the Centre for Alternative Technology, total immersion. 25 years later I am living in a different part of Wales, still in a co-op and working full time in permaculture education with the S39 Academy of Permaculture.
It has been an incredible journey and during that time I have taught on 42 Permaculture Design course, and counting as well as reconnecting to Africa, this time to Uganda where we are developing a network of demonstration and training hubs in Uganda and in 2 neighbouring countries.
Sector39 are based in Wales and teach permaculture design and co-ordinate permaculture education. We are currently developing the S39 Permaculture Academy. It is our conviction that permaculture design is one of the most powerful tools available to address the ecological catastrophe that is happening around us.
Can we empower people to become active enough to be the solution and not the cause of the problem? We believe this to be possible and this gives us great hope and a positive and creative direction to move forward in.
The invitation letter is Above Sorry for so many words, I think there is much at stake and therefore we need to think this through in advance.
This is a time for big ambition and long term thinking as the global economy hits the re-set button; what good examples are there that we can learn from? Well here is a really good one, Mondragon. It is the biggest most successful co-operative in the World I believe and is in the Basque country in Spain. There are of a size that they have their own bank and university, outside of the capitalist for-profit system and have integrated together 100’s of business in every sector, retail, manufacturing, you name it.
It is regionally based, so it concentrates itself on meeting the needs of the Basque community drawing largely on the resources and skills of the region. There is no better explanation that I know this than the one presented by Prof Richard Wolf in the lecture below.
He sets out the economic ground rules gives an up to date overview of where socialism is now in the 21st century.
More background on co-operatives, this is time a meeting with Robert Owen, originator of the first ever mutual company and the 7 cor principles of co-operation, the bedrock which all co-ops around the world have in common.
Slideshow will download as a PDF and you may stream the audio track to go with it from below. – this is S39’s main public lecture on co-ops and serves a good introduction to the core principles and why.
Watch the videos, to understand the proposal you have to have the foundation stone concepts in place already, Prof Wolfe explains basic concepts of economic theory that underpin co-operatives better than i ever could. You may also see the S39 presentation co-op principles above, supplorted the above audio track
The second video puts the pandemic into an historical context, they have happened before and we can begin to see the patterns and what might come next.
The third video explores the nature of the kind of economic recovery we have to make. How can we make this is in line with our co-operative and permaculture principles and ethics? The proposal under development this week is outlining how we might successfully build on the work we have achieved together over the last 25 years to collaboratively create a future that works for all of us.
I added a slide show of Cultivate which Yossi and I went to visit recently and caught in all its spring glory. This is a 3 acre horticulture hub developed by Sector39 and Cwm Harry between 2010 and 2015. This project also is what planted the seeds that is now Cae Bodfach.
Thursday’s Zoom meeting will open to all who want to better understand this proposal. We will be inviting the Wales Co-op society and other members of our wider stakeholder group as well. The presentation will be recorded and re-posted here so that any one who missed it, or couldn’t figure out the technology can view again in their own time.
Key point at this stage we are developing the overall proposal and looking at the bigger picture, am deliberately trying to avoid becoming bogged down in details at this point, all that is to come. The proposal launched on 14th May is available below.
Four quarterly meetings for 2020 including the next AGM which will be the June meeting.
Co-op members will arrange interim meetings as required to develop the agenda items and proposals . It has been agreed that for better planning we will agree on meetings for the whole year in advance so we can all better plan and be able to attend.
Apologies It has been an intense period of change at Dragons in 2019, whilst at the same time the co-op is finding its feet, its stability and its purpose. During this period of change Dragons has been in breech of contract in that we have been late filing our accounts and also we were due to pay loanstock interest payments in August and we are only able to do that now. We apologize for these failings and are working to rectify these things currently.
Shop The Dragons gift shop has built up a fantastic volunteer team and is ticking along smoothly. Thanks to the hard work of Sue and Rosie a good solid pattern has evolved and this in turn has enabled others to join in and to develop a regular team and be open for regular hours.
The shop also extended its product range to include more Suma wholefood items, especially none perishable ones and our detergent refill service has proved popular as well
Departing Good bye to Claire Henderson-Davies who was with us for nearly a year and who has taken up a new position in Liverpool. Claire was especially appreciated for covering for our other two members when they were working in Africa last year.
Her support enabled other members to take on huge challenges teaching permaculture in the one of the biggest refugee settlements in the world
Also to Grace Maycock, who as a founding member, house painter and decorator, treasurer and allotment co-coordinator, will be sorely missed. Grace also studied permaculture and horticulture during her time here and was a massive support to both Dragons co-op and Sector39 in their project work. We wish her well on future projects where she is taking her permaculture and teaching skills abroad for new challenges
Arriving Firstly we welcome Yossi Burland from Manchester who arrived with Luna the dog and who replaced Claire at the co-op. Yossi has interests in natural health, gardening and is here to study permaculture, walk the Welsh hills and to embrace co-operative life
Also Welcome to Andrew McConnagh, who attended a permaculture course here a couple of years ago, he is an artist exploring how to incorporate nature and natural forms in his work and is a teaching support worker also.
The co-op is currently comprised of three human members, two cats and a dog, it is also home to two enterprises, Dragons Shop and Sector39 permaculture.
Accounts and trading Dragons has taken on a local accountancy firm to make sure we get back on top of our financial reporting and we also must thank Diana Allan who has been volunteering in the Sector39 office as a book keeper supporting both enterprises.
2018 was my personal busiest year ever, running a full EU funded education project here in UK. whilst also running a 7 month permaculture training proejct in Uganda as well a big PDC. This coupled with changes of membership and also the nature of EU funding has caused many stresses and strains on cash flow, staffing and also relegated the co-op to low down on the list of priorities. It has been recognised by the co-op as a whole that we need to do better and we will be focusing on this in 2020.
Nadolig Llawen Yes its that time again, with best wishes to all of our members, supporters, investors, friends and fellow co-operatives for the festive season and looking forward to a year of peace, prosperity and climate action.
Tackling the ecological crisis entails empowering and educating especially the younger generations to make meaningful responses. If we can only unleash the collective creativity of a great many people then the changes required can come quickly. This is the minimum required of us all.
This brilliant book is the product of three years work and draws on the last 10 years of experience developing grass roots permaculture projects, community gardens, housing co-operatives and much more.
It is available from Dragons co-op in Llanrhaeadr, we will post a copy to anywhere in the UK for £20 inclusive. @dragons_cymru or @misterjones2u
promised in last month’s Chronicle, we are now trialling the supply of
washing up and laundry liquids to customers who re-use their own
containers. Dragons is eager to promote the reduction of single use
plastic containers which is a world-wide crisis presently under scrutiny
in the media.
bring along old plastic bottles and we will fill them with Ecoleaf
products at an introductory offer price of £1.90 per litre for washing
up liquid and £2.80 p/l for laundry liquid.
are also happy to announce that we are now selling all of our Eco
Friendly, Organic and Fair Trade items at significantly less that than
their Recommended Retail Price (RRP) so you can buy your favourite
products easily and cheaply without having to trail all the way into
town….and that in turn will reduce pollution – so a win-win result all
aims to be guided by our customers so please tell us what eco-friendly,
organic or fair-trade items you would like to be able to buy locally
and, if there is sufficient interest, we will do our best to meet the
Dragons is a thriving yet small housing co-op, with three members, 2 cats and 2 enterprises under one roof. We are a home, a business and a hub for a march larger community. Situated in the Tanat and Cain valley area, a beautiful and vibrant albeit lesser known part of Wales.
Dragons is also part of a bigger family of co-ops: Permanent Housing Co-op also in Llanrhaeadr and Tan Y Fron which is in Meifod about 8 miles away. We share a common root in permaculture and co-operation and playing an active part in this wider community. We work together as best we can to support mutual ambitions, hosting visitors and volunteers, courses and events as well as own building work, paper work and hatching new projects.
Permaculture crew headed for Uganda 2018
As a group our common roots go back to Chickenshack housing co-operative near Tywyn in Gwynedd. This was the start of our permaculture journey in 1995 and the beginnings creating a permaculture community in Mid Wales, working together to create positive change as well as opportunities for ourselves and prospective members to pursue fulfilling careers.
Dragons and short tour of the village, led by our 2 cats!
Apples and vines in our tiny front garden
We are next to the corner shop
Shop and house
We are on the corner of waterfall road
The cats love to hang out on church road
They also love walks around the church yard
They have favourite grave stones!
CAt #1 left, cat #2 right
Sorry probably too many cat pictures
Cat #1 is really soft an friendly
Cat #2 is higly strung and flighty, heart breakingly sweet also
Out front of the shop, which is run by volunteers
One of the several wonderful makers who run the craft shop
Up to 30 different people have hand made stuff in the shop
The office above the shop
front room opens into the garden
Dragons was registered as a fully mutual housing co-op in May 2015 and we moved in formally on the 1st August 2015.. so we are still only in our 4th year but are slowly finding our feet as a community.
A fully mutual co-op means it is managed solely by the tenants that live there and pay rent and there are no outside controls other than meeting standard legal and financial responsibilities. Members set the rent and decide how to use any surpluses and plan for the longer term future of the co-op.
Dragons co-op is a limited company, which mean the member’s financial liability is restricted to the £1.00 non-returnable share they purchase on joining. This is important as it protects members from potential financial liability and ensures risk is contained by the company not of the tenants/ members.
Becoming a full member is a gradual process, with no hard deadlines. The outline is that new members a legally prospective members until they formally apply for full membership therefore becoming a director of the co-op.
A prospective member may apply for full membership at the earliest after 3 months of residence and the co-op will provide a clear answer within a maximum of 12 months.
The aim is to empower people to become full members in an appropriate time scale, without hard deadlines as experience tells us every instance is unique in its own way.
Creativity is important and we want to support people who want to find their own path to making a living especially those with a dedication to environment, permaculture, community and local economy. Dragons is more than a home, it is a catalyst for creativity, and community a chance to explore options, alternatives and to live in a mutually supportive caring environment.
Dragons is governed by Radical Routes model rules for a fully mutual co-op and our secondary rules are based in the ethics and principles of permaculture. We aim to support the development of other co-ops and to enable other interested parties to explore sustainable pathways, while our core aim of course it to provide affordable, environmentally responsible housing governed by a democratic social landlord.
There is an opening for 1 maybe 2 new members between now and September 1st and we are open to hearing from interested parties. There is no investment required, beyond your £1.00 share and of course rent +bills which is currently at £350 + £30 pcm.
In line with our ethics Dragons is powered 100% by renewable energy, a mix of green tariff electricity and locally sustainably sourced fuel logs. We joint buy wholefoods from Suma Co-operative and keep a stock of their products in the shop, there is an organic veg shop near by. We also have an allotment and a part of a local community orchard project.
Dragons is currently home to or involved with these and other enterprises and projects
Dragons Gifts and Craft shop
Sector39 permaculture tuition and project development
Extinction Rebellion, linked to our local group
BRACE, community response to climate emergency
Cae Bodfach community garden: Our community heritage orchard
Saving the planet is not a spectator sport – it requires us all to take part!
One School One Planet – Phase Two
The OSOP project is based in the Dragons co-operative office working to help prepare the community for the seismic changes that are coming our way. Breaking these down into themes of food, community, economics, transport and energy.. permaculture is the tool we have to build resilience and prepare for change.
Please come along to any of these free events to find out more.
The crisis deepens – US author JH Kunstler calls it ‘the long emergency’ for that is surely what it is. Climate change, accelerating resource depletion and mass species extinction underpin what we are experiencing as economic collapse; but really it is an ecological collapse.
Climate change brings droughts, unseasonal rain and extra ordinary destruction. Poor land management makes this problems worse, we must plan for change.
A certain kind of short-sightedness seems to have paralyzed humanity from grasping the obvious nettle, we need new economic paradigms that embrace the realities of planet and ecology and we need them fast!
As one of the Challenger astronauts put it so succinctly
“We need to realise we are a single species, sharing the same ecosystem and that we have a common destiny”
The One School One Planet project has been active since September 2016 and seeks to address these huge issues, over the last year and a half we have been working on the creation of a Permaculture program tailored for use in Secondary Schools.
Wales – Africa fundraiser in support of permaculture education. Sector39 work with Ugandan partners offering permaculture training and support.
As a design approach rooted in systems thinking, Permaculture naturally incorporates a broad range of perspectives and as such our program is cross-curricular, incorporating elements of ecology, biology, chemistry and physics, as well as sustainable development, alternative farming techniques and economics.
The process of writing the program is informed by our work with several different classes and subject areas at Llanfyllin High School, which further re-enforces the cross-curricular nature of what we are trying to achieve.
Orchard, willow coppice and much more is planned at Cae Bodfach
To date we have worked with GCSE photography students to create memes communicating our relationship to natural systems, with GCSE Land Based Studies students to design and plant tree guilds at the Cae Bodfach Community Orchard, and with a top-set Welsh Baccalaureate class to trial the first five classroom based units of our course. The outputs from our work with students at Llanfyllin High School have been incredible, and we look forward to continuing to work with the school as we move into our second year, and the second phase of our project.
As we move into Phase Two, we are planning a host of activities in Llanfyllin to encourage the local community to think differently about our roles and responsibilities as members of a global ecosystem. The first event will be a public Wassail on 21st January, down at the Cae Bodfach Orchard, to nurture a relationship between the community and the orchard.
We are also planning a number of public talks and film screenings around important issues such as transport, food security, local economies and crypto-currencies – all of which will be key concerns as we move towards a carbon negative future.