Built on the idea of rejecting the kind of fast-buck logic that caused the economic crash and replacing, the Dublin Pub Co-Op wants to redefine the ownership model of your local boozer .
So is this a well-intentioned but idealistic project or an inspiring example of the traditional co-operative movement? Sharon Love chats to some of the heads behind the project and finds out.
How would you describe the ethos behind the Dublin Co-op Project. What would you say the benefits of a more collaborative business model are?
Dave: For me the Pub Co-op idea is about re-imagining the idea of social space. Setting up a place based on the traditional pub or café model, but more open, participatory and social, with an actively DIY spirit that anyone can get involved in.
Gavin: It is quite hard to find spaces in Dublin in which people can congregate, engage in projects together and generally mill about. There are a few social centres, but they are relatively small and tend to cater to a limited audience. The main place for people to get together, meet friends and discuss issues in Dublin is definitely the pub. We want to create a collaborative and unrestricted place where the emphasis is on working and creating something together from the ground up.
Daniel: It will be a public space, and people, not corporations will be able to contribute to, influence and co-operatively engineer the nature of that space, as citizens and as members of a community. Why did you personally decide to get involved in this project?
Clarissa: I was incentivised by Dave, who came up with the idea first. He seemed very passionate about it. So I was inspired to learn more about the project. I have found it an excellent resource in meeting like-minded individuals. It definitely removes that element of alienation that is part of the course for many living away from friends and family. What are the challenges you’ve faced so far?
Gavin: One of the stumbling blocks we have in trying to organise is simply finding space to get together and communicate. Having venues for social space is critical. At the same time it’s also critical to be able to fund these sorts of projects. It’s all well and good to ask for innovative spaces, but when it comes to paying the lease, it gets a bit more difficult. Pubs get around this by selling alcohol. If these locations have a license to sell alcohol it really improves the chances of being viable as a community space in the long term. If this could help us subsidise a community space with locations for group meetings and club activities, it would be a big improvement.
One of the main criticisms ventures like this receive is a perceived impracticality and romance which some say has no place in business. Do you really think you can implement a workable alternative to commercial enterprise?
Conor: I’m a great believer in trying new things and a few people sharing an idea and testing it to see if it works is an exciting thing. We don’t need to be passive consumers of advertising. I honestly believe if we can make it work anyone can. We want this idea to spread and to motivate others to join us.
Dave: Across the world 100 million people work in cooperative enterprises, and other types of cooperatives – producer co-ops, consumer co-ops, credit unions etc have roughly a billion members worldwide. There is a line in the acclaimed book The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone, where the authors meet some workers in the UK whose businesses had been turned into co-operatives. When asked what difference the change had made one man says ‘the biggest difference is people look you in the eye now’. To get involved check out The Dublin Pub Co-op Group on facebook