Gagarin – Gólya. Exchange, Networking and Support for Collective Structures

Idea and Motivation
The project consisted in exchanging and creating a network between two collectively run cafe/bars, the Cafe Gagarin (Vienna) and the Gólya (Budapest).
Both cafe/bars are places offering a frame for collective organization. Space is offered as a platform: on the one side for culture and politics, on the other one as a meeting point and starting point for social change.
The groups are occupied with reducing hierarchies, the practical creation of solidar-economic approaches as the support of active people in their surroundings.

Aim of this exchange was to get to know the other structure and a mutual reflection, exchange and inspiration concering issues of our collective work settings, to sharpen and enlarge our approaches.
The second aim was the development of a common output as further projects, to involve more collective structures and to share with a broader circle as well. By sharing experiences and knowledge with interested people, the project also aims to support the creation of more collective businesses.

The project wanted to strengthen collective self-organiziation through mutual learning and motivation as to strengthen exchange for building up a large network of collective organizations.

The project
A group of three to seven people from each of the two collectives was participating in the project. We were accompanied by Gerda Kolb, a befriended trainer/moderator/coach, which supported us to submerge deeply into the topic and made us discover new ways of moderation and communication.
We planned to have three meetings within a year. The first two meetings were to be held in the cities the collectives are located, to get to know the other one. The third meeting was held in Nikitisch/Filež , which is also a place of collective organization: a collective living and farming project which hosts seminars in the Mittelburgenland.

1. Meeting (Gólya in Wien)
Date: 30.5. bis 01.06.2015
our Frame: Schenke (http://www.dieschenke.org/) and Das Bäckerei (http://dasbaeckerei.net/) – one person from the Gagarin collective was cooking for the participants. Gólya people were hosted in flats of the Gagarin people.
who was there: Gólya: 4 people; Gagarin: 5 people; Moderation: Gerda Kolb/TRAINEREI (http://trainerei.at/wp/)
Structure of the content
1st day: getting to know each other– agreement on the frame in terms of organization and content
2nd day: presentation of the organizational structure of the collectives, inputs, questions, discussion about our structural basis
3rd day: work on ideas for the transfer to the rest of our collectives, for the documentation, for the next meetings. Reflection on the first meeting and the input for our collective work settings.
Furthermore: visit of the Gagarin, presentation of the Schenke and Das Bäckerei

2. Meeting (Gagarin in Budapest)

Date: 27.6.-29.6.2015
our Frame: we worked, ate and celebrated in the Gólya. Gagarin people were hosted in flats of the Gólya people
who was there: 7 people from the Gagarin, 7 people from the Gólya (with fluctuations), Gerda
Structure of the content:
1st day: political-historical bike tour through the 8th district of Budapest
arriving and presentation of the Gólya
timetable and agreement for the topics
exchange on the structural changes sinc the last meeting
2nd day: presentation of the history of the collectives (timeline). Workshop on the question: what does it mean to us to have a collectively run business …on a personal level/ on a political level – how is this mirrored in our places.. Advantages and disadvantages..
3rd day: Conflicts, problems, challenges within our collectives- listing them and solution-focused discussion
collecting ideas for further common projects, preparation of the 3rd meeting

3. Meeting (Nikitsch/Filež)

Date: 05.12. – 07.12.2014
our Frame: Nikitsch/Filež, food and sleeping offered by the Nikitsch collective
who was there: 4-5 people of each collective, Gerda
Structure of the content:
1st day: agreement on timeline and topics
what has happened within our collectives since the last meeting
debate about our principles
problem-focused discussion: new/less people within the collective, „jumpers“
2nd day: development of concrete projects: people-exchange-programm,
discussion about our future network (who should be included), idea of a common homepage
Limoncello producation
3rd day: decisions about the documentation
reflections on the possibilites of a bigger meeting/enlargemend of the collective
discussion about a name for the network (without conclusion ;) )

Output/ furtherprojects

documentation/work on knowledge transfer
exchange programm between the Gagarin and Gólya
enlargement of the network in a week of exchange in Thessaloniki 2015 (with collectives from Bremen, Budapest, Vienna and Thessaloniki)

Some reflections after the first meeting

„I think a meeting like this is able to enforce our motivation and consciousness in what we are doing. By exchanging with other people working in similar conditions and for similar aims as with the people being part of our own collective we can change our perspective on everyday questions and tasks of our work. Somebody said something like: going on the metalevel, finally enables us to go deeper into the details. By „getting a mirror“ from another group in a similar setting we can see differences and similarities. These differentiations lead to a clearer perspective on the proper context.“

„On a still larger level than the metalevel concering „our“ structure I had the feeling that meeting another group working in a similar direction in a different city also raises the feeling that there are way more similar projects and groups and that what we are doing is part of a bigger tendency in the same direction.“

„The weekend completely overwrote all of my hopes and was a very complex and exhausting
time. (…) From the very first moment or hour it revealed, that we had so much things in common and so many things to
share, so all the time I felt supermotivated to ask, ask and ask. I felt that every minute, what we
spend together is a precious time, and is full with meaning and interest. (…) Besides I felt that we had very precious personal exchanges and discussions. I felt that I
refound my lost brothers and sisters, who do the same things what me, but still differently. The
common base was above question, and this created a very intense, love- and respectfull atmosphere.
It was supergreat and I got many energy from it.“

„For me it was quite interesting to see/visualize other people that have similar ideas and try to work
together in a way that empowers every single person to work in his_her own manner and pace.
Nevertheless not lacking responsibility for each other and being connected on a level of confidence
and as well fun. The exchange of knowledge and the mutual presentation of problems and solutions
is a central part of importance for me. (…) Examining more closely how certain difficulties
can be addressed and to see what possible solutions could be like.“

„Its good to meet other restaurants that work as a collective because that kind of
organisation is not very common and its good to have rolemodels. To see the work as a
political work as a laboratory for alternative ways of dealing with money, with hierachies,
with the organisations can be very exhausting sometimes. It is also a fight against
injustice and capitalistic logics. So its good to have other groups to work and fight
together. Meetings like this also give more selfconfidence and belief in the own project.“

„Our collective work settings, or we could also say self-organized work settings, are specific contexts, which don‘t build the majority in the society we live in. Developing ways to work on these specific contexts and to enforce them seems very important and innovative to me: I think especially in the context of self-organized groups which try to break with convential structures it is worth dedicating some time and effort to the questions of how to structure our groups and tasks, or also to the questions of how much structure we need, how much can we have, by still keeping our idea of self-organized, non-hierarchic, self-determined settings…“

„From the beginning on it became clear to me (and, i think, all of us)
that we somehow have similar situations and have to break our heads over the same basic problems
all collectives have to face:
problems and questions of how to organize, how to make decisions, how to share our work and
responsibilities and how to deal with each other in a good way. (…) We agreed on a term for that: somehow we „mirror“ each other. (…)
And it was interesting that we somehow reflected us in a way that showed possibilities in how to
work as a group – to see that how the others do it could also be our reality.
Gagarin and Golya somehow seemed like two versions of the same idea.
And while having discussions, explaining and listening during this first meeting, in me the
conviction grew that both collectives are driven by the same basic understanding of life and the
same ideals of how to work together and in a kind of conflicting relationship with capitalism. (…) Despite all odds of capitalist society we are able to build up a different infrastructure. It made me
happy to be reminded of the fact that its possible and worth it.“

„I realized that its always work to keep the balance between the dreams, motivations and
ideals and the capacities of the people. Very often people give all of their energy and
exploit themselfes because they want to make the best out of the project and they know
very well what they are working for. But then its dangerous that they come to their limits
and burn out in a way. So its very important to take care of each other, to always keep in
mind how the others are and if the maybe work to much and need a break.“

„The inspirations coming from our get-together might hopefully result in some written form of
“manifesto” – or whatever similar – form of some kind of presentationable mode for others (who
ever this might be can be part of discussion) in a broader context of knowledge transfer. Not so
much as a “how-to” – guideline-booklet but much more as a way of addressing similar problems and
discussing possible solutions together. And of course it should not only be about difficulties – the
least part should be about this actually – it should, in my mind, primarily focus on the “nice things”,
the great accomplishments we have made together and a way of sharing those with people that are
interessted.“