the good guide for creating a non cooperative; or, how to organise a collective that will last for more than 30 years

This manifesto, written by Lois, appeared in The Only Way Home is Through the Show: The Performance Work of Lois Weaver, edited by Jen Harvie.

(Note: This process began sometime in 1983 just after we started the WOW Café on East 11th Street, New York. A group of about 10-15 women ran it as a café, serving food and producing small events in the evenings. However, we quickly reached a crisis point because women who were waitressing during the day did not necessarily want to be volunteer waitresses at night. Could we continue? How? And mostly, was it worth it? We held a meeting and I remember saying that in order to survive we needed to stop thinking what we are sacrificing FOR the space and start articulating what we want FROM the space. That was a turning point. As we went around the circle, we began to see how we might be able to survive on the resources of our own desires. In that moment we established a unique structure that I like to call ‘a go around of desire’ that is still in operation at WOW more than 30 years later. Obviously, some things have been altered over the years but the framework is mostly the same and the discussions are most definitely the same, although some languages may have changed.)

Find a place to do something

Hold weekly meetings

Invite everyone to attend, even the green grocer

Give everyone a key

Do not elect a board, appoint a director or even hold an election

Do ask someone to facilitate meetings

Sit in a circle

Have the same discussions over and over. For example, ‘How do we feel about men in a women’s space? Try to grow with the growing vocabulary.

Try to reach a consensus

If you can’t come to a consensus, remember that the decision will probably rest with the person who is willing to do the work. Don’t forget, everyone has a key!

In other words, be prepared to accept that the colour of the ceiling might be dictated by the person willing to paint it.

Go away together once a year to programme a year’s activities

Do this by going around the circle and asking people to state what they want FROM the group not what they want FOR the group

Go around again and ask what they want to DO or MAKE

Try to fit as many of those things onto a year’s calendar as possible

Do try to help everyone understand that in order to take up space, you have to put in some time

Try to live with the chaos

Have parties regularly to raise the rent money or just to raise spirits, and give them funny or ironic titles such as Freudian Slip Party and XXX Rated Xmas.