COBAL: The Cooperative Cabal

Founding COBAL

At the Ctrl Shift conference in Wigan where participants aimed to shift power over our democracy, economy and environment, from Westminster and multinational corporations, to people and communities across Britain.

COBAL: our working group was born out of a call for action by Julian Thompson who observed that the great appetite by investors for long-term low-risk ethical investments is disconnected from the huge requirement for investment in social enterprise and infrastructure. So our founding purpose as a working group was “To access capital & business model (market) building to scale quickly. Build investment vehicles.”

COBAL is a playful hybrid of Cooperative (autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations) & Cabal (a group of people united in some design, often secretively).

Our Aim

COBAL members agreed to come together as an unincorporated association with a simple founding constitution:

The Aim of Cobal is sustainable finance for the Common Good

  1. Build business models and markets
  2. Access capital, engage with an organisation ready to invest in change
  3. Scale quickly – design a replicable model that could work across sectors.

Cobal shall achieve its aim by:

  1. identifying and convening all stakeholders and partners necessary to create a platform bringing together finance with the enterprise;
  2. identifying and designing scalable legal vehicles, institutions and optimal instruments for sustainable finance;
  3. creation and testing of vehicles and instruments through proof of concept investments and initiatives on the Cobal platform.

Our Strategy

Our strategy is firstly, at the micro level to create proofs of concept of investment models by sector (e.g. care homes, food/farming & hemp products). Secondly, on the principle that networking successful micro leads to successful macro, we aim to identify common principles, templates and instruments and simple, effective narratives promoting viral spread of successful proofs of concept

Current economic problems cannot be resolved within the transactional commoditised economic paradigm which created them and our focus is on legal designs and investment instruments which are complementary to conventional investment such as debt, equity and derivatives.

We observe how collective investment whether public (state) or private (corporations) has led to alienation and conflicts of interests and we aim to create new relationships bringing together investors with investments using new equitable ways of sharing risk, costs, and surplus.

We therefore propose a new Nondominium framework agreement whereby productive assets may be held in common owned by all and by none, and value may be created, shared and exchanged equitably with no stakeholder having power of dominant control over another.

Our Progress

While we all have other commitments we have established a committed core team who meet regularly on zoom, and this has already led to project meetings in respect of possible proofs of concept in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Dumfries.

COBAL has also submitted an initial application to Friends Provident for grant funding to create a simple generic financial technology platform and we await hearing whether we will progress to the next stage.

Meanwhile, Summer is finally here, and the Wheel of Life rolls on.