Kanjini Co-Op ~ The Beginnings

In January 2006 a dear friend of ours, Mia, called a meeting of like-minded people with the intention to create a Cooperative to buy some land together.
There were several people at the meeting who were interested simply because they couldn't afford to buy their own house. Most of this group wanted individual ownership, so they could borrow money against their share of the land.
The rest of the people liked the idea of equal members owning a Cooperative which in turn owns the land and all major assets. The latter group continued to meet on a more or less regular basis.

Why We Chose a Cooperative not a Company

A company and many other legal entities give one vote for each dollar invested, while a Co-Op gives one vote to each member, no matter how many dollars that person has invested (Kanjini Co-Op does give other incentives to investors). A company can never get rid of a shareholder, no matter how obnoxious, while a Co-Op can expel members who do not abide by the rules.  A company cannot charge its shareholders (for example to cover operating costs), while a Co-Op can levy membership fees.

After considering these and other differences between a Company and  a Cooperative, it was agreed that one-vote-one-person is much better suited to a people-friendly organisation than one-vote-one-dollar. A cooperative was much more suited to our intent to pool our energies, be they financial or physical or creative, so we can live, work and celebrate together.
It was also decided very early that we did not want to allow a situation where the bank owns our land, so we restricted the capacity of the Co-Op to borrow money to less than 10% of its assets (unless its very existence would be threatened otherwise).

Soon the importance of sustainability came into the discussions.
We agreed that western society cannot keep living the way it currently does, without destroying the planet. We wanted to start living in a much more sustainable way.
We noticed that big business and the media have an interest in the fragmentation of society. If they can get everyone to live by themselves, by pushing individualism, they can sell their news and their products to more households.
We decided that we want to re-discover the joys and advantages of communal living, which is also less resource hungry and better for our environment.
Last not least it is more fun and less work for everyone if we live together and share.
We recognised the importance of creating our own food and electricity in order to not have to rely on an economic system that might collapse any time.
In meeting after meeting our vision emerged.

Once we knew what we wanted to do together, we looked at what we needed to do to create a Cooperative designed to make that vision come true.

Becoming a Cooperative

To register a Cooperative we needed many different documents, so we set about to create them all.
The Queensland government offers a set of model rules, which we worked our way through to change and adapt them so they would be better suited for our intentions. After many month of sometimes quite tedious meetings we came up with our Kanjini-rules.

We created a share structure that would allow anyone interested in our vision to become a member.
Our introductory shares will allow people to start as a member with as little as a $2000 deposit, providing they commit to paying the rest off or the Co-Op agrees to them working it off.
For people with lots of money who wish to invest more than the basic full share, we created investment shares.

Next we had to create the Disclosure Statement, which outlines very clearly what the primary and secondary activities of the Co-Op are and what members can expect to receive from the Co-Op as well as what the Co-Op expects from its members.
This document is a bit like a company prospectus.
The Disclosure Statement required us to also create several annexes to it and we added a few more:

Labour and Food Schedule

Maintenance Contribution Schedule

Rights and Liabilities

Property, Assets and Improvement Schedule

Business Plan

Conflict Resolution

Kanjini Vision

As you might be able to appreciate, to create and fine-tune all those documents in meetings with three to twelve people took quite a long time. In fact it took us three and a half years, a lot longer then we anticipated. Consequently we did not tell many people about our plans, since having even more people at the meetings would have slowed us down even further.

Throughout the whole process we strived for unanimous decisions and as far as I am aware we achieved this aim.
No decisions were made if there were less then than three people came to a meeting (which happened very rarely) and all documents and changes were emailed to all interested people before being fi finally adopted.
While the people coming to the meetings changed, everyone made some contributions to the final documents and we wish to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was involved in the birth of Kanjini Co-Op.
We also made sure that we had a good cross section of potential member (for example some people with lots and others with no money).
All of the above documents were discussed at least twice and all were adopted unanimously.

In early 2009, when most of the documents were nearly finished, we decided to set a date for our foundation meeting and we choose the 20.09.2009, just because it is a cool date and adds up to 22, a master number in numerology.

In about April, Shiralee started on our Kanjini.org website, which went live on the 29.06.2009.
We started spreading the word and were thrilled that we received over a dozen enquiries from potential members in the first month. We have put some small ads into different magazines and hope for more people to join us in this exciting venture!

We look forward to sharing the Kanjini Co-Op Vision with you.