Official Ragged SCIO Now Officially Closed; On with the real work
I am writing this article today to share with the community who have had some involvement with the Ragged University project the news that Ragged as a formal charity is now officially closed. This is part of the public documentation of the project as it has evolved and attempted to find the means in the world to resource open and free educational activities authored by the community.
Whilst Ragged SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation – SC048364) has closed it is in no way the end of the project. The key reason that the SCIO was closed was to maintain the integrity of the social practice and ensure that the aims which have sat at the heart of Ragged University from the beginning are not distorted for want of achieving them.
One of the key steps in closing a SCIO is that the trustees are in agreement with the closing. As a part of evidencing this I needed to share the motion to close the charity with the trustees in an email and for this email to be shared with OSCR, the Scottish Charity regulator once there is consensus. Another step was to pass on any assets or funds raised to an equivalent charity.
As no funds were raised, though funding was offered, from surveying a range of established charities, community organisations and the opinions of people who had worked in the third sector it became clear that as a legal and financial instrument it is likely to bring fragility and unintended consequences to the project. It is the first milestone to institutionalisation of social practice which has a homogenising effect. It also brings the social practice which is borne in the lives of individuals under governance, and this governance is laden with systems of bureaucracy which are inappropriate – forms of administration which have been inherited from entirely different and alien contexts.
After all the consulting which I did it was clear that what is needed to add value to the social and educational landscape are ways of organising which can exist beyond finance; means that have been discussed in the field of international development and which are not subject to the shifting sands of funder agendas, a professionalising industry of ‘quality assurance’, an expanding profit making industry of ‘raising money for good causes’ (chuggers etc), a specious understanding of polyvalent public value, endless wooing and negotiations with businesses who dangle the trim of their profits to come in under a tax band and perverse incentives to chase numbers and scale.
This is an extension of the fetishes of business school managerialism and the recasting of public services as ‘charity’ whilst metamorphosing into a ‘social enterprise’ (read profit making enterprise) wearing all the status branding which gets bunged your way. This disasterous epoch of how things are organised has wrecked havoc on community led work as this way of doing things has been introduced increasingly. It would be nice if the system as it stands worked, but I realise it is riddled with problems…It ain’t me, babe; No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe. It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe.
Anyway. Below is the official email which was sent and ratified followed by the official letter sent by OSCR confirming the closing of Ragged as a charity. Now is a return to the real work on the ground without getting drawn into the circus which is rather under-reported on. There is more stability and strength in social traditions and practical philosophies in this context than attempting to reforge something based on social interaction into convenient forms for measurement and monetisation.
Special thanks are extended to the former trustees – Joseph Cranwell, Susan Brown and George Fyvie – for doing what they do regardless; offering critical, practical and ethical insights
I hope you are all well under the circumstances. Im sorry to ask of your time but as a matter of law I am keen to close the book and put out the candle on the charitable status so that we can all move on without worry of legal duties not being attended to.
As you know, after looking at the realities of the third sector and how funding is allocated I could not see Ragged Uni as a project functioning in that context without being transformed into something it is not. The third sector as it stands is simply an extension of the economic system as we know it and is, in my opinion, very damaging to grassroots communities where it professionalises and colonizes civic activities by proxy. Seeking resources involves altering the behaviours in communities sufficiently that the outcome is irreconcilable to the values of human development which have driven Ragged University from its inception.
An unintended consequence of the way which the third sector is funded and resourced is to produce competitive behaviours where collegial ones are needed. It also involves the lives of communities becoming mediated through a hierarchy of gatekeepers which in turn repeats social harms. The work which has driven me to be involved in a social project which has been vital for my wellbeing, and I would argue others, is informed by the document ‘Education as Human Development’ (attached at the bottom of this email) which is being engaged with and critiqued by the academic community and members of the civil service to open up constructive dialogues.
As well as this I am using this unexpected and counterintuitive turn of events to drive forward a project which analyses and lays out the issues which are created by the administrative approaches which are imposed on the third and public sector. I have found that I am not alone in my feelings and experience of these problems finding a number of people prepared to share their experience so that something constructive can be taken from this whole encounter with bureaucracy and management. As a sample of this study you can listen to the interview I have done with Prof John Seddon, a well known and reputable occupational psychologist –
Despite the hard work, good will and realpolitik of George Fyvie in trying to establish Ragged as a charity, my feeling is that this course would not only alter the valuable nature of what is going on in the informal educational activity/communities come to be associated with the living practice of Ragged University, but it would defer the problems which go towards recreating poverty and exclusion in the UK in the times we live in. The world is sick with money and the things which people are compelled to do to get money so that they are not excluded.
What I see as having more value is the planning and building of means which can exist beyond the enclosures of finance independently of the whims of distant policy makers and resource gatekeepers and the ‘scientific management’ techniques which are generating systems problems beyond any individuals controls. If the means essential for human development are to be met for people most distant from finance, resources and recognition, they must be found existing in the landscapes and relationships in which individuals live and not in the coffers of the wealthy or at the top of hierarchies which no longer have living connections with their bases. In this way I have come to agree with the work of Prof Bob Holman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Holman_(academic)).
Ragged University has been drawn from social traditions free of these trappings and must remain so if it is to retain its authentic soul; as such it is a project which has to resist trademarking and wrapping in fantasies of intellectual property, it has to avoid the controlling nature of franchises and vertical hierarchies which colonise the indigenous locale, it must disavow itself of the pretenses of professionalisation that paternally raises its own image arbitrarily above others, and most of all it cannot become lost in the reification which money brings which ultimately separates the covenant formed in the friendliness of individuals from those individuals leaving everyone bereft of their inherent human capital.
As Budd Hall (co-chair of the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education and professor emeritus of community development in the School of Public Administration, University of Victoria) reinforced for me in conversation with him about the decision not to own infrastructure, he said that owning a building quickly becomes running a hotel; in reflection, a formal charitable status has the danger of effecting a type of ownership over things which are of a public commons and must remain so if they are to retain their undistorted qualities generating positive externalities.
To some this opposition to becoming absorbed by the charitable-industrial complex might have appeared as a neurotic reaction to the world as it is and whilst I have personal battles with managing in the modern world under my circumstances, I suggest that it is wrong to let that overshadow what I am saying in critique of the cultural scheme we are witnessing in the UK or let that persuade you that it is folly in relation to ensuring the future of Ragged University continuing in the traditions of free education. The kind of professionalised bureaucratisation and procurement processes governing charitable and cultural activity which we are seeing are extremely new in historical terms and they bring unseen/unacknowledged problems with them which will only increase in their scope.
I am grateful to all of you as individuals who were asked to be involved in Ragged as trustees. The values you hold and the critical perspectives you have given me have been invaluable, as have all the contributions of time and energy to ensuring so many community activities have been a reality. Going down this route has not been a waste of time but will be used as a part of the history of the project which voices a constructive dissent which I would argue is much needed in our world at the moment. Although I have heard your suggestions to try and make this route work, I must be honest or else suffer losing the sociological environment which I require as a human being to function in. This has not been a lightly taken decision which is why I have taken such time to lay out my thinking for you; I see it as my obligation to do so.
Due to coronavirus stopping everything this knocked everyone off course and I am only now getting around with attending to the closure. The procedure says that the resolution to close the charity needs to be re-affirmed and then the paperwork (attached) be sent into OSCR within 21 days of the resolution.
To restate the purpose of this email it is to pass a formal resolution to close Ragged as a charity. George kindly outlined the process to follow as:
1) sign and date all bits against your name.
2) get all trustees to sign each bit filled out that says trustees.
3) post or email (both preferred) a copy of the form to oscr.
Add a copy of the Constitution and a copy of the email where we dissolved ragged (this email).
Add a copy of the trustee register.
A letter of statement from the trustees saying we have no funds and have no debts and we are now dissolved. Signed and dated.
George has been managing the accounts and has closed the bank account some time back on the first pass of the dissolution. It is very simple in this respect as no funding or assets were got, so there are no outstanding balances or liabilities. After this is done I hope to continue moving forward with the Ragged University project as it started and in the spirit it was made in honoring the historical participants of the Ragged Schools but also social practices of free education found throughout the world and across time. Here is the attachment of the document ‘Education as Human Development‘ which offers a deep account of the perspectives at the heart of the project:
Thank you for your time on this. Once you have all agreed to pass this motion, downloaded and signed the OSCR document attached. Firstly if you would all reply to this email agreeing or disagreeing with the move to closure. Next, if you George could take the attached document and sign off on the sections relevant to you, then could you send that partially filled out document to Joe in a fresh email with the subject heading ‘Closing of Ragged SCIO ratification’. Once you have signed off all the sections relevant to you Joe, could you then send that on to Susan to do the same before sending the completed version to me.
Once I get that I will send off the paperwork to OSCR and everyone can rest easy that their official duties have been attended to and no more obligations need fulfilled. Once I get confirmation of receipt and a message acknowledging all duties have been fulfilled I shall share that with you all for peace of mind and information sharing.
For some endeavours, enterprises, communities, individuals and organisations formal charitable status and the whole way that the third sector is structured is a complete and unmitigated disaster and this story needs to be told. For those who continue to work in the public and third sector (ever more blurred), they need the publics support to have the work they have proven to produce public value over time to be underpinned without absurd shifting agendas.
Take time to listen to people working in the third sector in private spaces. Ask them if it is working for them. Ask them what administrative practices they think perform a vital role in the fulfilling of their aims and duties. Take time to actively listen to the points which never make their way out into a monotone press of single issue stories. Buy a plate of food for the frontline workers who have to square the circle, and to the communities and individuals who have to suffer the intrusion of having their lives administrated. I think that a vital corrective for our age of automation is to discover the realities from people who live them first hand.
This now leaves the way clear to get on with the real work of researching how individuals and communities can create educational processes within the means they have available to themselves. This is informed by the notion that those people practicing the ideas of Ragged University are exploring ways to embody all the things which a university does except in the context of their own lives and environments; part of this is creating a social document of the sociological and logistical barriers in our society.