How to start a new local of the Media Co-op

Aug 5, 2010

How to start a new local of the Media Co-op

We've been getting some requests from people interested in starting new locals, and I've been writing some long emails on the subject. It is time to share these thoughts more broadly.

The basic answer I give people is a bit nuanced, so I'll break it down into three parts:

  1. Hurray! We love everyone who works on independent and cooperative media, and we want to help you do great work! However...
  2. The Media Co-op has sustained an extreme amount of growth in the last few years, and we're behind on policies and bases of unity for the existing co-op locals, and we need to sort out what our commitments are, exactly. So we can't start any new full-blown locals for the moment. But...
  3. We don't want to hold anyone back from getting involved and getting local activity off the ground, so we're encouraging people to take the first step to starting a local, which is to create a working group.

I'll try to pre-emptively answer some of the questions that will arise, in what follows. If you have questions, please ask them in the comments and I'll respond.

How do I start a working group?

Any Media Co-op member can start a working group at any time. No need to check with anyone. (That said, please only start a group if you're serious about, well, working. We don't want lots of empty, inactive groups.) It's easy: click here to start one (you must be logged in).

Once you have a group created, other Media Coop users can join it. Anyone who is a member of the group can post coverage, blog entries, photos and so on into the group.

To get a sense of what a community-based working group looks like, check out the London, ON working group that Toban started a few weeks ago.

What's the difference between a local and a working group?

Locals involve a relationship with the Media Co-op network and the Dominion, including regular contact with Media Co-op staff, a formal role in network-wide decisionmaking, and... money!

A few notes on money: Media Co-op locals get 50% of the revenue from any sustaining members inside their area of operations who sign up after the local is officially launched. Locals get to keep 100% of one-time donations. Working groups, on the other hand, have no rights or obligations with regard to finance, though in principle, the Media Co-op will support working groups by paying for stories originating within working groups (though in practice we may not have enough money).

Practically, becoming a local means that you have a substantial amount of coverage and activity, have a ongoing plan for outreach to groups and areas within your city or community, have a stable decisionmaking structure, share the common values and practices of the Media Co-op network, and have an ongoing relationship with people who are heavily involved in the network, probably involving a number of long conversations.

What are the limitations of a working group?

As a working group, we encourage you to use your space on the Media Co-op site to cover local events, promote your coverage, consult folks on what should be covered, and generally collaborate on news.

However, we do ask that you not do a few things:

  • Please do not receive money on behalf of the Media Co-op
  • Please do not use the name in the form of [Community] Media Co-op, as we'd like to reserve that for locals. You can use [Community] Working Group at the Media Co-op, or some other name that doesn't include Media Co-op. (Obviously we can't enforce this, but we're asking nicely.)

The way working groups are set up doesn't do something that I want. Can you change X?

Definitely. Our tech crew is all-volunteer, so we appreciate your patience, but we'll try to accomodate your needs as best we can. Get in touch using my contact form (you have to be logged in), or leave a comment below.

When will you start adding new locals again?

It is not possible to say, because that's a decision that has to be made by all of the locals and Media Co-op staff together.

What will the process for transitioning from a working group to a local look like?

That will also have to wait until we can make a decision collectively. It will likely have to do with the amount of activity at the local level, the quality of outreach done locally, the existence of a base of media co-op members in the area, and the stability of the local decisionmaking structure... and possibly some other criteria. Time will tell. If you're really keen to get started, feel free to get in touch with any questions.

I strenuously object to [something written above].

We're generally committed to consultation, collaboration and yes, cooperation. We'll do our best to address any concerns and we weclome constructive criticism. Please do let us know your thoughts, either through the contact form or by emailing info at mediacoop dot ca.