A desire materialized (the desire and its materialization)
In January 2012 we had a spontaneous idea about the creation of a space run by women, that would be open to people and groups who find it otherwise difficult to “belong” somewhere, and that would be also a fun hangout for us to meet. It was that concept that brought all of us together and finally came to fruition in September 2013.
Most of us, though not all, had met before: some of us were old friends, some of us knew each other from participating in the same feminist political movements and had met though these initiatives, and some of us played basketball together! Whether acquainted or not, we all shared a common point of view about the ways in which we (don’t) want to see labour, class and gender relations be formed and acted out. Our primary aim was to build a non-oppressive work and meeting environment, free from hierarchies, and with a clear focus on the quality of working time and social efficiency of our services. Particularly, a space designed for women, who in this time of economic crisis are becoming increasingly vulnerable to labour and other kinds of exploitation.
It was a long and difficult process. At first we established an assembly. Most of us knew how to do this, and the rest wanted to do it: we felt it was the right way to make the project work. We wanted equality in participation and decision making. We needed confidence in the operation of the group and a sense of security within it. These were the basics to get us started. Similar successful projects had already shown the way. We turned to their members for support and guidance, many of whom we had previously met in common political movements and we knew each other. Everyone offered us his or her help with joy and generosity. After all, creating and running such projects all around the world means advocating precisely this: the de-education from the capitalist mode of labour relations and the cultivation of solidarity, comradeship and mutual understanding, as opposed to individualism, the rationalism of achieving maximum individual benefit, and individual solutions. And finally, the need of creating horizontal networks of cooperation, of abolishing the misconceived notion of competitiveness, steering clear from the concept of masters/bosses and other similar calamities.
Our solidarity network has already expanded outside this project. It includes all these people who have given us support and helped us in any way: with material things, with advice, with psychological support, and with exercising patience when we were physically and psychologically exhausted. "Beaver" is not just the result of those of us who originally envisioned it and set it up: it includes all those who contributed towards its realization, one way or another. So, a big thank you to them is truly in order: nothing would have been the same without their contribution, in fact it would have been nearly impossible!
Some of our key features
In order to bring our vision to life we established a cooperative, specifically a Social Cooperative Enterprise (SCE). The Articles of Association, one of the typical requirements for an SCE, also reflect the ideological stance behind our project. Here are some examples of how we approach the way “beaver” is run:
- The daily operation of “beaver” will be in the framework of events and themes (artistic etc.), which will stem from initiatives and choices of members of the cooperative, from interacting with other groups (whether formal or informal), drawn to our activities.
- In the activities of the cooperative, priority will be given to promoting women's creativity (artistic, scientific or other) and to raising awareness on women's issues and issues regarding the construction of women’s Social Identity (cis gender, transgender, gender variant). The activities will also include the dissemination of the idea of collectivism, through information propagation and building networks with groups that operate on a similar basis.
- In regards to supplying beaver with the necessary products, our aim is to create a network of suppliers on the basis of product quality, an equitable and sustainable relation between quality and cost, and a cooperative model of economic exchange, which will enable the offer of products and services on the lowest possible price. Our basic principle is to treat the recipients of our services as collaborators in the production process and not just mere consumers/customers.
- Our cooperative’s, and especially beaver’s principle and priority is to ensure practical and essential access to all population groups regardless of their social or physical characteristics.
"Let the Beaver sing ... hrots-hkrots!!"