THE PARROT IN THE SPRUCE FOREST
Not Quite – a chaotic organisation that is doing quite well.
Not Quite is a place and a network for professional practitioners in various art forms. We consist of about 70 members, of which roughly 40 live in or near Fengersfors. Our members use Not Quite in many different ways. Some of them utilise our network, others make use of the potential to exhibit, whilst many sell art or craft pieces in the Not Quite shop. Members also join to access our collective workshops, participate in courses, or to get help with accounting and applications.
When people in the surrounding area think of, or talk about us, it is primarily as “the visitors destination of Not Quite ”. And many of Not Quite’s members would agree that this is exactly what Not Quite is – the factory, the exhibitions, the café, the events, discussions about the lack of toilets, and question of ‘where should we really park?’. However, after recent interviews with the members of Not Quite, it appears that it is the community, and that we shape our organisation together, which is the overriding reason new members join and older members stay.
Together we build a collective place to be, work in, visit, and experience. Both for ourselves and for others. But we also build context and connections. When the visitors have gone home, the September sun goes down behind the chimney, and the woollen cardigan goes on again, it is perhaps the time that we are at our most exuberant. Ideas and collaborations are formed over coffee tables, in workshops and the office. Sometimes it becomes a project, sometimes someone’s daily bread for several years ahead.
An important aspect of Not Quite’s organisation is that our members control the direction of the business. Of course, we have both a team of managers and a board, but “Not Quite -The Experiment” is ultimately carried out by our members. The board of Not Quite decides on our budget, has overall responsibility for defining the businesses aims and objectives, and ensures that these are complied with. It is this board that also decides in which direction the management team should work. This team in turn consists of five smaller part-time positions that focus predominantly on exhibitions, projects, administration, marketing, the shop, membership and international relationships. A further small part time position exists for managing marketing, and a larger one for coordination of finance. Alongside this comes other non-permanent employments, project-based jobs, and various kinds of paid assignments.
Making decisions as a group instead of through one leader, means that the huge responsibility and daily running of Not Quite is shared through various areas of duty. And of course, we know that several heads are better than one.
A number of unpaid working groups with different areas of interests also exist. For example, ‘the shop group’, manage the design of the shop, ‘The outdoors group’ are responsible for the outside environment, various material-based workshop groups, and the party committee, to name a few. These various working groups each have their own budget, determined at the beginning of every financial year. It is estimated that 2000 unpaid working hours are carried out by Not Quite members annually, which is equivalent to roughly one extra full-time job.
Structurally, Not Quite consists of two associations. One is profit based, and this one is coowned by Not Quite’s 70 members. The other is a non-profit that also functions as an art association. The are several reasons as to why the business is divided like this. Namely, it means that we can apply for different projects and support depending on varying organizational requirements from funders.
Rejuvenation and renewal
Similarly, to many other factors of Not Quite, the fact that we are many and “scattered” can be a disadvantage, while probably also being one of our main strengths. For 20 years we have grown, and we continue to grow. Since the start, we have experienced a steady stream of new members entering the organisation, something that revitalizes us, and thereby prevents us from becoming stagnant. The dynamics between members and the organization are such that new members can have a great impact on the development of our business.
This can be seen as one of the merits of the do-ocracy. Not least of all, this is true when it comes to our own board. Experience has shown that new compositions of the Board mean that Not Quite’s focus changes and develops.
The dream of a business like Not Quite once arose in a group of graduate students at HDK at Steneby and this proximity to the school is something we still use to attract new members.
We have a special form of student membership where the student gets access to sell their products in our store, participate in workshops, use invoicing services and produce work in our workshops. During the academic year, we also arrange several events specifically with students in mind.
Another part of promoting rejuvenation and vitality in Not Quite, is that for the past three years we have offered student residences, where students in artistic educations can apply for a month’s free stay in our workshops and studios during the summer when Not Quite is in high season as a destination. To date, about 30 students from all over the Nordic region and Europe have participated in said residence. Because the
students are in the workshops during the summer, when many of our members work less, our space remains operational and the dynamics of the Not Quite experiment survives.
Not Quite as Do-ocracy
To us, do-ocracy means that the one who acts decides the execution. In practice, this sees the members control the direction of Not Quite’s, and results in an organisation that
changes in parallel with its members’ interests. If there is no concern from the members in a workshop or recurring event, then we won’t keep it. If no one wants to hold a specific event,
or work in one of the workshops, it disappears and creates space to form something new. Likewise, working groups arise and disappear, in different formations, depending on
enthusiasms and needs.
The do-ocracy is the same for all members, the one who makes it decides.
In do-ocracy acts the work of the management team is more about coordination than decision – if a member wants to, for example, produce a new festival, then they can use the management team as a sounding board – has another member planned something similar? Is there a preexisting working group in that area? The same process applies if a member wants to search for project funding through Not Quite or produce an exhibition. The management team’s role is to coordinate so that all active members have the same level of opportunity. Of course, in practice this is not always the case, but we constantly seek to evaluate and improve.
History (the short version) and other facts:
Not Quite was formed by a group of graduate students from HDK-Valand Steneby in 2001. Not Quite has been operating from Fengersfors’ former paper factory, since 2002, with the business opening to the public the following year.
Not Quite rents its premises but sees a future as co-owner of the former factory, a process that is currently underway.
Fengersfors ironworks was founded in the 1790s and was transformed in the 19th century into a paper mill, which closed down for good in 1979. When the factory was active and at its peak, about 300 people worked there.
Fengersfors is located in Åmåls municipality, in northern Dalsland. Today approximately 500 people live there, of which about 70 have moved in in the last 20 years.
Not Quite is now one of Dalslands largest tourist destinations with about 30,000 visitors per year. Every year we show over twenty exhibitions, covering an area of about 1,500 sqm, in
the various exhibition halls, outdoors, and in our gallery. Alongside these various exhibition spaces, Not Quite houses several collective workshops. Furthermore, we hold events such as concerts and performances, run a shop, and have a café.
Do-ocracy, a checklist:
- Take matters into your own hands and solve the problem.
- The person who is doing the work has the right to decide how it is executed.
- The interests of all members are equally valuable.
- If several members should question the work that one or several other members have done, it is discussed, and the person who has done it may do it again.
- Organise as little as possible and get as much done as possible by not limiting the members’ proposals through lengthy consensus.