“My favorite workshop was the one promoting peer technical advisors sponsored by the US Federation of Worker Co-ops. [See DAWN] One co-worker of mine is actually going through the one-year training program right now, but I’ve informally (for Rainbow) been doing technical assistance for 15 years or so. The meat of the workshop involved small groups using the USFWC guidelines to decide how to proceed on requests for assistance sent to the Federation. These were real requests and – as they often come to me – were confused, hopeful, exciting, depressing, revealing, and baffling all at once. One envisions it being clear cut, “Hi, I represent 10 people trying to start a wood-working collective”, but oh, in real life it so isn’t.
I realized that my years of frustration with this was coming out during the workshop. I knew I needed to tone it down when I tried to get to the bottom of the role play by saying to our (role-playing too well a particularly confused) requestor, “What do you want from us?” The kinda-new-to-co-ops person next to me looked at me in horror and said the much nicer, “We really appreciate your enthusiasm but maybe you could narrow down your focus.” That really probably would be a better approach.”
Gordon blogs on cheese, co-ops, and the world at gordonzola.net.