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Annual update / General Assembly

2023 was the fifth year since the start of the Foundry. Renovations are close to finished, which frees up energy for producing food (and drink), organizing events and doing art. We started a fermentation station this summer, and developed a fully equipped metal workshop in the autumn. A self-organized school is operating in the finally finished theater space. An abandoned van stands on the hill overlooking the Foundry, waiting to be patched up and inhabited by someone who wants to develop the adjacent food forest. Over the years we have learned a few things about navigating the social space that is the Foundry, and the conflicts that happened in some of the first years would be dealt with differently now. Finally, since the last year or two the Foundry is financially sustainable (albeit precarious); we lose some money in winter, we gain some in summer, but all in all we get by. More information about the financial well-being of the association will be available at the general assembly.

At last year’s assembly, we made few decisions, but developed a decision-making process that would allow for a more horizontal approach throughout the year. I believe it is safe to say this did not work; the spring was characterized by a lot of tensions between residents and non-residing members (often quite beyond my understanding), and the working groups formed at the last GA were mostly disbanded after only a few months. I have already published a blog post detailing how I think about decision-making (the doer decides, so those who put in more time and energy have more power, while decisions that affect the space structurally need broader consensus). We can have another discussion about this, but I hope we can also take some real decisions at this year’s general assembly. Below there’s a few agenda points where I feel all members should be able to voice their opinion.

Thanks to an active community of members, residents and neighbors there have been events almost every month this year, from concerts to talks and workshops, from markets to craft days and from festivals to exhibitions. These events attract people to the project and breathe life into the space. But events also offer challenges – especially when money is involved. We have organized two events with grant money (Ecologic Queer Energy Harvesting and Antroido); both ended with a sense of unfairness (in one case a group paid themselves ten times as much for their performance as others without being transparent about it, in the other case only participants from outside the Foundry were paid for their work because the produced windmill would stay at the Foundry, but then it didn’t, and accounts are still not settled because of this). I don’t mind people using public funds to overpay themselves, especially since so much artistic work is unpaid. But not at the expense of other artists and projects that are just as precarious (and yes, the Foundry is precarious, even if I am not). At this year’s General Assembly I would like to suggest to only allow grant-funded events in the future when all participants are remunerated equitably and a financial report can be published on the Foundry blog post-event.

Several projects have grown out of the Foundry. The FreeingSpace map shows projects and areas outside the realm of state and capital, and it will soon be possible for users to update the map themselves. The Sindicato de la Tierra should exist as a legal entity early next year. It has taken a lot of work to make a bulletproof legal structure for taking real estate off the market, but we are almost there, and the first house should enter the Sindicato next year. The Obradoiro do Monte still functions as a local mutual aid group (though its consumer group remains undeveloped). And the Aldear network, of which the Foundry is a founding member, is organizing events all over rural Galicia. On a personal basis I am now also a founding member of the Commoning Space Network, and I would like to ask if the assembly agrees for the Foundry to join this association as a member too. I can explain this in more detail at the assembly.

In short, things are happening. But all of this takes time and energy; non-profit spaces like the Foundry are sustained by self-exploitation, and burn-out is a common result. According to our statutes, every four years a new board (president, treasurer and secretary) is to be elected. The association was set up in the summer of 2020, so theoretically a new board should take over in the summer of 2024 (though the current board can also be reelected). The roles of treasurer and secretary are ceremonial in nature; at the Foundry, the president carries most responsibility. If there is someone willing and able to take over this role, I would be happy to step back. I believe it would be healthy for the association if power circulates, and I am sure someone with a different skillset than mine could guide the Foundry into the next phase. I would like to keep organizing events and will be happy to help out when needed.

Due to the way the Foundry is organized, the presidency does not come with a lot of power; in the end, decisions are made by the people that use the space and invest their time in the project. But the president should guide things, make sure the place is financially sound, that everything works, that the house is comfortable and bills are paid, and provide some guidance to where energy is invested (the president is also the person people talk to when something goes wrong or when they don’t like each other). Ideally it’s someone with a knowledge of the space, and who speaks both English and Spanish. The task can also be shared by two people, possibly even me and someone else. Or if we find someone who wants to take on some tasks on a more long-term basis that would already be a great relief. The position is unpaid (but of course you can live in the house for free). In any case, I would like to slowly reduce my involvement in basic maintenance and the social work of organizing volunteers to have more time to focus on projects like the Sindicato.

Finally, I would like to propose to bring some invited guests to the Foundry this coming year around a thematic focus on nonhuman lifeforms. This could culminate in a more intense week in the summer, where we discuss some (philosophical or literary) texts about the animals we live with: ticks, wolves, squids, etc. But perhaps, in the months leading up to that, we could invite some artists, thinkers or creators interested in this topic for a somewhat more ‘curated’ residency (perhaps even with some EU funding for the participants).

The general assembly will take place on the 27th of January at 4pm. Online participation is possible; just get in touch if you want to join online and we’ll send you a link. The agenda of the meeting is still open; if you have something to add, please get in touch. A full agenda will be published in the weeks before the GA takes place. And please make sure you have paid your membership fees at most one year before the general assembly (you can ask if you are not sure). If you make a transfer to update your membership, please fill out the form again as well, it does not update automatically:

Provisional agenda:
-Review of the year and finances.
-Conditions for future organization of grant-supported events / projects?
-Can the Foundry join the Commoning Space Network?
-Does anyone want to become president or caretaker of the project?
-Curated program for spring and summer of 2024?
-Does anyone know anyone who wants to live in the van?
-How do we feel about the use of the theater for our school project?

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