Annual Appraisal 2014/15 – Report – MF

Saturday 6th June 2015 – CCMJ Annual Appraisal held at St Andrews Church, Short St, Waterloo, London SE1 10am-4pm

Present: Peter Challen (chair), Desmond Cumberland, Ellena Rushbrook, George Steven, James D’Angelo, Janos Abel,  Kola Abiola, Reza Sobati, Peter Dominy, Simon Mouatt, Steve Lancashire, Mary Fee (notes) .  Apologies: Eirwen Harbottle, Martin Edward(s), Peter Selby, Malcolm Torry, Malcom Toft, Mark Porthouse, Richard Murphy, Anne Goss, Gian Andreone, Michael Northcott, Frances Hutchinson, James Robertson, Carol & Andy Kingston-Smith,  Christopher Savage, Diana & C Schumacher, Johanson-Berg, Bader, Dinwoodie, Cribb, Taylor, Truss, Whistler. Invites to Hull, Rhodes, Chandler, repeated 18-5-15  Boyle

We began with had a go-round, including people in this as they arrived, sharing experiences of the previous year, which gave attendees the opportunity to connect at a deep level (noted separately from this report).

Opening Discussion

Peter spoke about the importance of the work with CCMJ connecting up a widely diverse international network, e.g. Michael COMER in Canada – http://www.comer.org – who value enormously the fact that CCMJ exists, also Colln Whitmill, who writes a monthly column in the social democrats in New Zealand – http://www.democrats.org.nz – the networking is mutual supporting activity. Reza Sobati, had found us via the CCMJ website.

Mary raised the issue that these messages were not being shared with other members of the network.  Peter was managing to include references to much incoming information via his regular notice Matters in the Air postings, but agreed there was currently no easy way for him to share much of the huge volume of resources in his computer.  He stressed the importance of dialogue and the fact that collaboration has been a part of CCMJ’s development, most recently the 2015 Constitutionalists seems to be the beginning of a dialogue, so full of hope against all odds – http://www.2015constitutionalists.uk.

Simon identified as a key issue whether CCMJ is holding out for our interests in deciding it we want to work with people in order to bring about real change, or whether we should just ameliorate the effects of the current economic system. In the political field, we are wading through treacle trying to get anything done.  Recognising realpolitik, the fact is that a lobbying group for monetary reform might find 100 people sharing the exact agenda, on the other hand, what can be achieved via Keynesian economics is limited.

Peter Dominy said that he felt the contribution of CCMJ is to represent a Christian view, CCMJ is a body to support monetary reform groups in any way it can.

Peter Challen responded by talking about how Jesus might would have reacted – and offered a set of slides:  http://ccmj.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Jesus-on-PPE-of-T.pptx – PDF download:  Jesus-on-PPE-of-T. He felt that boundaries must always be permeable, and has been deeply inspired by slime mould video, as an offshoot of which a group of biologists is talking about natural inclusion – we need to work on inclusive humanity as part of nature itself, living by the natural laws.

On the issue of maintaining reference to Christianity, Peter Challen referred to Fred Harrison’s new book “As Evil Does” and his insistence that we have God in all our conversations, creating a “whole society” depends on understanding the concept of wholeness, and dedicated witness.  He felt we should be teaching that we should all be acting as a manifestation of God. Simon felt there was more of a consensus on talking about “inspiration”.

Mary expressed serious concern that during the past year CCMJ had strayed from its mission of supporting monetary reform, by becoming primarily involved in setting up, and asking its members to make financial contributions to a new political party, the 2015 Constitutionalists, which had much broader aims, and should be launched as a separate project.  Peter Dominy supported this view.

Janos felt we should maintain permeable boundaries between the two organisations, to which Mary responded that very clear boundaries needed to be set, for example having discussions about developing the 2015C project and fund-raising for it on its own website, rather than treating it as an extension of CCMJ.  Members of CCMJ had not been consulted on any decision about adopting this new project, in answer to which Peter explained that they were not members, they were associates.

Simon pointed out that capitalism is an entire system, so that challenging it would require major political change.   Peter Challen reminded us that CCMJ had made a significant contribution to the rebirth of the commons movement in the UK in 2013 by supporting the work of Anna Betz and George Por of the School of Commoning in hosting a presenter from the US.

In relation to the “associate mix”, Peter Challen pointed out that he makes reference to many different projects, albeit fewer in the past year than in previous years, due to the energy being put into the 2015C project and Mary underlined this by emphasising that the challenge for the Global Table outreach effort was how to make the range of connections more organised and visible and on the website, which was not something that she and Peter could achieve without collaboration of others.

Peter then gave a presentation on the 2015 Constitutionalists, after which there was further discussion. Peter Dominy raised the question of  managing 2015 Constitutionalists separately from CCMJ, the former was a political party, whilst the latter was a group of people involved in justice issues, who may or may not back the party.  Peter responded that hierarchies and the commodification of money were the root of the issue, and the fact that the whole of life has become commodified.

Reza agreed that our society has now developed to a point whereby unless you have a root and branch development of politics it cannot achieve its goals.  Peter Challen expanded on this by referring to the need for an image of wholeness, described in the 2015C Charter, and the need pragmatically, to “use the system, to change the system, to rebuild trust”, which is a a different model from the one adopted by most of the oppositional parties – most people in CCMJ would not want adversarial politics, they would want dialogue.

Simon agreed that humanity is a living organisation and that if decisions are being made in a different part of humanity we don’t have to distance ourselves from them.  Peter Challen pointed to the Quantum Theology chart, which shows how society evolves, and the Earth-Fire-etc chart which describes how we are moving into a mode of serving each other in the community, but that this would work only if people can understand the bottom line, which is that humans make the structures, then structures make the humans, and recommended that we study the Seven Pillars diagram – he felt that the USP of CCMJ is not being adversarial, but adopting systemic thinking, feeling the whole.

Reza’s view was that the formation of a party does require a move from the present system towards achieving anything substantial, but still it’s a “Both-And”, i.e. that groups which are working to change particular things in the present system should still be supported, whilst in the end the whole system has to change.

Countering this, Peter Challen said that palliatives are caring for something that’s dying, for example in CEJ – the Coalition for Economic Justice – http://www.c4ej.com – which focuses on the land issue, is exclusively geared into it, but the progress of this issue is bound to be defeated by the Scottish land owners.  He had found that they won’t discuss the idea of “principled pragmatism”, and cannot hold the issue of practical hope because it’s to do with global housekeeping.  Peter Dominy pointed out that Nicola Sturgeon is going to bring in a Land Bill, which represented some progress. Peter Challen felt that nothing would be achieved without a discussion of the key idea.  Steve said that Fred Harrison is talking to the Greeks, and is impressed that he has the resilience to keep at it.

Peter Challen then referred to what Richard Murphy has emphasised in the Tax Justice Network – http://www.taxjustice.net/about/who-we-are/ – the importance of being tentative rather than insisting that you are right.  Don’t  leave it open for discussion and dialogue, tentative conviction is a way of throwing out dialogue, little phrases, so that discussion has a purpose and a direction, and made reference to Fred Harrison’s forthcoming book, “As Evil Does”.

Reza asked about collaboration with existing political parties, Janos said the Green Party – https://www.greenparty.org.uk – has an excellent spokesman in the person of Molly Scott-Cato, and passed a resolution in 2014 supporting radical proposals, but did not include this in their manifesto for the recent election!  Peter Challen added that in our associations, these conversations are going on, and that David Boyle said after the election that he was stirred by what we are trying to do, and asked if the Lib-Dems could look at these ideas in a non-party way. In regard to the Labour Party – http://www.labour.org.uk – Ellena made reference to Abby Tomlinson’s “Milifandom” campaign in favour of Ed Miliband, “the best prime minister we never had”  – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/11/milifan-prime-minister-ed-miliband

Discussion on the Website

Peter asked members for their views about the website.  In the absence of any visual display, Mary tried to describe the different areas leading from  http://www.ccmj.org, i.e. the original brochure site set up in 2003 – http://www.ccmj.org/index-old.htm, the members area which allows direct contact between members, but not yet been put to use due to lack of data input – http://www.ccmj.org/members – and a wordpress area added more recently – http://www.ccmj.org/wp – which was in frequent use, with Matters in the Air and occasional papers being added by Peter as a weekly blog, the only other member with access being Janos. She also mentioned that she had set up a wordpress site for DemoCafe Camden, which was being used to gain experience, with all regular attendees, including Janos, having the ability to manage their own profiles and add posts – http://www.democafe.uk.

Reza responded that the most important thing is for members to have ease of use, and access to functionality. Peter Challen mentioned several people in his network, e.g. Richard Nelson who runs the Solar Roof project – http://www.solaroof.org – but the question was how to enable members of the network to communicate to them – almost every conversation has to be extended so that questions can be asked.

As an example of reaching into the secular world, Peter mentioned Anne Primavesi’s book about how we are being taken away from the earth, and that very little in the church gets near to such issues –  http://www.humansandnature.org/anne-primavesi-scholar-24.php – and Mary reiterated that the point under discussion was how knowledge of such work could be shared with the CCMJ network.

Kola pointed out the importance of publicising the work of CCMJ, e.g. having a mechanism by which members can relay information from the website directly on to their face-book contacts.  Mary felt that the basic information needs revising (work in progress) and would look into making updates made more readily available – meanwhile, see tri-fold leaflet: http://www.ccmj.org/papers/CCMJ-trifold.pdf

Janos said that a movement without an interactive website, is only half a movement, and explained that in the wordpress area of the CCMJ website he has been experimenting with adding comments to pages (a facility that may or may not be provided) –  Simon added that as long as comments on pages are allowed there needs to be someone monitoring the website to make sure it’s safe, and asked how can we safely move towards people being able to log on to the CCMJ website.

Mary explained that apart from responding directly to Peter Challen by phone or gmail, people can only interact with the website by means of the Contact Us form in the members area, which is not very visible, but could be made more so.  Messages from this currently go to Peter Challen, and useful input is not necessarily reflected in the content of the website, as it’s a manual process and depends how much time Peter has to deal with it – see http://ccmj.org/contact.php

Simon suggested that this responsibility for receiving these messages could be shared, and that he is prepared to take his share of this to make sure it’s serving the purposes we want.  He asked other members if there was a consensus on this, Ellena and Peter Dominy said positively “yes” and no-one disagreed.

Peter Challen responded that nobody is using the website and that he has asked people to do so for years, to which Mary countered that it has not been clear how they can engage, and that she had been unable to make any progress with Peter on developing it so that people could participate.  Peter Dominy added that modern websites work by enabling people to respond.

Reza sympathised with the problem from his experiencing in running websites for 150 Iranian Churches, who were equally conservative, but that he predicts that in future people will be able to vote on issues, so we should move forward on this. He currently hosts 2,000 websites, and suggested if you want to break through an impasse, you need to create a situation where people can “get on with it”, so what you need to do is to have limited access and see if this creates a response and see if this has an impact, and you can progress from there, so it’s an incremental process.

Peter Challen said that the way we are working as an association is through a chaplaincy model, to which Simon responded that we are asking for the opposite of a centralised association, enabling people to work in dialogue, we want an associate to be able to put an idea up so other people can view it, with outsiders also being able to comment, which is the opposite of centralised, it’s interactive. Kola agreed, and Simon says this could be a breakthrough moment, taking CCMJ into a different phase, which could be appreciated by all.

Peter Dominy, Reza, and Simon all said that they are willing to play their part in this.  Janos suggested we could also use tags (as we have been doing on the DemoCafe site, which has a tag cloud, and this is a way of linking to topics). Simon added that we can invite associates to have access to the site, in a spirit of inclusiveness, and mentioned a software called Soapbox, which allows comments on a page – Janos said he is already experimenting with a similar facility this in the wordpress area – see http://ccmj.org/wp/forthcoming-events – now being updated on: http://globaltable.org.uk/wp/forthcoming-events 

Mary pointed out that various purposes can be served by utilising the different areas of the website, and agreed to contribute an explanatory paragraph that Peter could include in a message to members.

Discussion on the Global Table

Mary suggested having the Global Table more organised, and Peter Dominy wondered whether “Matters in the Air” could mention a particular topic for discussion, and at the meeting, people focus on this.  Peter Challen explained that at present the Open Table is being sensitive to whoever comes, visitors may not be aware of the overall purpose, and come with their own agendas. Meanwhile a wide range of information is being made available including digests of books.

Janos had already suggested  that the Global Table could rotate between different projects being hosted, but it was clear that for this to happen, a whole new planning process would need to take place, and it was agreed that how this could be done would have to be taken up at a Wednesday meeting.

Forthcoming Events

Steve mentioned the St Johns Church, Waterloo Festival, with a theme about War, there were leaflets on the table.  Relating to constitutionalist matters, Peter Challen mentioned Ray Sheath’s LiberTeas event for families on Sunday 14th June, and also a major event for monetary justice on 11th July 1.30-4.30pm, a discussion about how we need action now, blended it with the launch of Fred Harrisons, Book “As Evil Does”, which is on the same day, 11th July of an all-day Commons Festival. For updates see:  http://globaltable.org.uk/wp/forthcoming-events

MF/mf