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We're 7 today and we've got a story to share

written by ic founder Mark Hooper

Here we are again, and a whole year older. Today, St David's Day 2017, marks indycube's seventh anniversary, and it's worth taking two minutes to ask 'so what?' and 'what next?' Like any seven year old, we're growing and developing - our aims are becoming more ambitious and we're taking a little more time to reflect.

Firstly, 'so what?'

At the beginning of 2016, I wrote about a bunch of changes we were planning for the year ahead. As with lots of things, we tried our very best to get things done in the time planned, but struggled somewhat with our limited resource base & (far more blameworthy) my own general antagonism towards bureaucracy & bureaucrats, so things have taken that little bit longer.

It's worth a quick update on that blog, and on two points in particular. A bit like a clarifications & corrections column in a daily newspaper, but in our case not squirrelled away in the bottom corner of page 47.

  1. We've actually become a Community Benefit Society. We'd planned this for March 1st 2016, but didn't get it 'over the line' until six months later. On the 1st of September, indycube CIC transferred all its assets to indycube Ltd. That means we're now cooperatively owned, and anyone can own a share in indycube (from today). And true to cooperative principles, every member will have an equal vote & voice in the future of the Society. So apologies it's taken longer than planned, but better late than never, eh?
  2.  I talked about our focus on & in Wales a lot during that blog. That was appropriate this time last year, but over the course of the year, my mind, in particular, has been changed. When we started indycube, we rightly put our focus on 'changing the way Wales does business' - we wanted more people to realise that working alongside people you wouldn't ordinarily work next to is a good thing, plus we wanted to prove that it was possible to start & operate a social enterprise in Wales without the need to use scarce public funds. We think we've gone a long way to achieving those ambitions, so needed to take some time to review what indycube needed to achieve in the next seven years, rather than what it had done in the past. One challenge I was constantly met with from others close to indycube, regarded the Wales-only nature of the business. I'd been pretty determined to keep indycube focused on Wales, but got my arm gently twisted to open a space in Wakefield, West Yorkshire during the spring of 2016. It completely changed my view as to indycube's relevance to places outside Wales, but it also created opportunities. 

What next? So where will the future take indycube? Crucially, it'll be wherever the members decide (remember that one member, one vote mantra?) My suggestions form the second part of this post. 

But before I get into that, I feel I owe indycubers an apology. The past few months have seen me having to put a lot of effort into our developing relationship with Community Union - I'm hoping you'll agree it will have been worth it, but it has meant that I've not been as present in indycubes as I've previously been. I've missed being so involved, but fortunately Dai, Mike & Mari have held the fort valiantly, and I'm grateful to them for that.

For £1 a month, indycube is yours

Back to things - first bit of news to tell you is that our society membership is officially open. You don't have to be an indycube user to join, just someone who wants to see the Society succeed in its aims. We've set the membership rate at £1 per month, ensuring there's no financial bar to membership, and you can join today, here.

Membership gives you one vote on society business - you, along with anyone else who joins will be in charge. You'll have a vote to select our Board (or even stand for election for it, if you fancy), choose our CEO and decide on the key issues affecting the organisation. We'll be talking about our recent investment in a bit, but it's worth noting here that even large investors get the self same one vote, as you do, and as I do. Control has well and truly been ceded.

A £1 a month, and indycube is yours (and theirs, and his and hers etc).

The best £10 you'll ever spend

The second bit of news is quite exciting (we've trailed this quite extensively over the past couple of months, but now it's got real). In November, Mike Scott, David Hulston and I met with the senior team at Community Union (community-tu.org); they've been in the news recently as many of their members are steel workers. We've been in conversation with them for a while in relation to the increasing precariousness of self-employment and freelancing - the sort of people who use our spaces, and we'd developed a proposal to address many of the issues. Community liked our proposal. They liked it a lot.

To cut a likely very boring story short, we agreed a plan to expand the indycube network across the entirety of the U.K., utilising the learnings we've made with our experiences in Wales, with a support network of connectors keeping differing communities, um, connected. It's still far from rocket science, but it is a big leap in what we do - it's a tough ask. Essentially, within five years you will be able to walk into any decent sized town in the U.K. and ask (and expect a positive answer) "where's the indycube?"

Alongside this, we've co-created with Community a suite of benefits that will 'level the playing field' for any small business owner. No gimmicks, no PRollocks, just plain and simple things that will make working as a single person or small business, significantly less precarious. We'll be looking for beta-testers quite soon, with a full launch at the end of the summer. This union membership will cost just £10 per month, and will include the cost of normal indycube society membership. As with the Society membership it will be open to those within and outside our network. Safe to say, this is likely to be the best value £10 a freelancer, a homeworker, a gigger is ever likely to pay.

We're also going to be the organisation that fights for the rights of its members in influencing government policy. Using Community's existing networks, we'll be taking the issues that matter to the people who make the decisions. We're concerned about how precarious work is becoming, and we're not going to sit around and wait for it to get even worse.

There's no getting away from it, this plan is ambitious - we're determined to make a genuine and lasting difference. This is our 'change the world' opportunity, and we're going to take it. Community Union have backed us with investment over the next five years, and the first tranche of funding 'landed' yesterday. We'll be announcing other partners/investors over the coming year.

Unsurprisingly, we'll need more people. We've already begun recruiting for a number of the first positions we need filling. Please just keep yourself attuned to this blog/twitter/facebook as we set each job live, if you fancy joining our very unconventional journey. You can also subscribe to our newsletter for monthly updates.

We'll be putting on a few events over the coming weeks in Porthmadog, Cardiff, Swansea, Wakefield, Newport, Newtown & Pembroke Dock to give you an opportunity to find out more. We'll announce the dates a week today (8/3) via this blog - keep your eyes peeled as there will be beer & pizza).

Thanks for reading. Ymlaen! 

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