After months of hard work and frustration, the cooperative Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona is finally fully operational!
We have actually been registered with the Registre General de Cooperatives de Catalunya since the beginning of March, but complications with our bank account meant that it (along with all our initial capital) had remained blocked – until last Wednesday, when a phone call from the bank delivered the good news we had been waiting for.
Getting this far has, to say the least, been a challenge. Anyone familiar with Spanish or Catalan bureaucracy – or the ignoble art of making the possible impossible, as someone once said – will know what we’re talking about. Part of our problem has been a lack of understanding of the type of coop we want to be and how we want to work. Because, as a “services” cooperative, we are adopting a model more often used in agricultural production!
Service cooperatives, according to Catalan cooperative law,
associate physical or juridical persons who are owners of farming or industrial operations, or services, and professionals or artists who carry out their activities on their own account. Service cooperatives have as their object the loan of supplies and services and the execution of operations whose goal is the economic and professional improvement of the professional activities or the industry of their associates.
In other words, a group of (say) farmers get together, lend machinery and equipment to each other, perhaps share accounting services between them, and market their produce collectively.
Interpreting this as broadly as possible, we made it the objective of our cooperative:
- to associate linguistic professionals such as language teachers, writers, translators, etc who carry out activities on their own account
- to share resources and services between those professionals in order to improve their work in technical/professional and economic terms
- to distribute and commercialise those services and the work of those professionals
That is to say, a group of language teachers and related professionals get together, lend and share materials, equipment and training in order to better themselves professionally and economically, and attempt to distribute and market their work collectively. We would only add that by “distribute” we don’t only mean “sell”, as we are also keen to make our services available to NGOs and similar groups on a solidarity basis.
We don’t think there is anyone else, in Spain at least, who has set up a language services coop along these lines (if there is, we would love to hear from you!) – and perhaps that is one reason why we have encountered difficulties along the way. And we are not so naïve as to suppose those difficulties are over! But we have taken a very important step forward and can now begin to put in place those plans and strategies we feel will help us realise our objectives.
In the next post, a summary of what SLB has already achieved while under constitution, and the next important tasks which face us.