At Ponderosa, we work towards creating a space that is accessible and sustainable, and that is aware of its social and political context. As part of this work, we are in the process of introducing a voluntary direct solidarity contribution system.
From the beginning of 2018 on, when you sign up to participate in any workshop or other event at Ponderosa, you will be offered an extra step in the process of signing up — the voluntary direct solidarity contribution.
This step will offer you the possibility to contribute an extra amount, on top of the cost of the workshop. At the moment, this extra amount is set to be one of three different options: either 10% extra, or 100% extra, or any other amount of your choosing.
This step is entirely voluntary, and you are completely free to skip it, with no questions asked.
There are many different reasons for initiating a direct solidarity system as part of our regular sign-up process. Here are some of the main ones.
Creating support. A system of direct solidarity allows the possibility for individuals to choose to be directly supportive of the participation of others. Everyone who is fortunate enough to be able to contribute can also act, in a small way, to make a difference (not just as a facilitator of social access, but as a patron of the arts! That traditional role of millionaires!) given the predominance of neoliberal economics and austerity in the west at large, many opportunities for funding that might once have existed are being reduced or eliminated. Outside of the west, these opportunities largely never existed to begin with. Direct solidarity attempts, in a simple and practical way, to counteract these trends.
Acknowledging inequality. In an era of absurd income inequality, a direct solidarity system allows for money to be a slightly smaller problem, for a small amount of time, for a few people. This may not seem like much, but it can already be enough to be a transformative difference in particular cases. We cannot simply make everything free, much as we would like to. But if costs can be reduced in a practical way, it can make something possible that was previously impossible. The direct solidarity system is not solving all the world’s problems, but it is not ignoring them, either.
Allowing access. Where possible, direct solidarity contributions prioritise access outside of first-world and privileged communities. A place like Ponderosa is quite accessible if you are an EU or western citizen with a little bit of money and some time to spare. But if you are not, it can involve visa applications, interviews at consulates, long-distance travel, letters of support, guarantees, document translation, police checks, and a hundred other bureaucratic hoops to jump through. There is little that we can do about most of this, but we can try to make at least some part of it easier to deal with. We hope, in the long term, that it will be possible to create one-off and recurring bursaries as a result of contributions, to facilitate access.
There are just some of the many reasons for initiating a direct solidarity system as part of our regular sign-up process.
If you are in a position where you can afford to contribute, or if you are in the position where your participation is being supported by a funding body and your funding permits you to pay more than the base cost of the workshop, then you can directly help other participants, and contribute to the accessibility of Ponderosa as a social space. Your support is direct, and the benefit is immediate.
This is a program that is in the process of being introduced, and we do not yet have exact answers for every single eventuality about how it works and how it will work in the future. However, the basic principle is simple: all money raised goes directly towards ensuring access for other participants. Ponderosa administers the process, but does not take any of the money. If you are in a position where you can choose to give any direct solidarity contribution, this money will be used entirely, directly, and only to ensure that another attendee can participate at a reduced cost.
In the abstract, our aim is that for every 10% given in direct solidarity, another attendee could receive 10% off the cost of participating, and that for every 100% given (that is, when an attendee pays twice as much), then another attendee can participate for free. We keep this as our rule-of-thumb principle for organising the system. However, in practical terms, it is not possible to have a ‘perfect balance’ of individualised 10% and 100% support contributions resulting in identical reductions for others. Life is messy. We outline the practical implications of this below.
Direct solidarity support
What about the other side? How do I get support? How do I become a beneficiary of the voluntary direct solidarity contribution?
At present, in the process of signing up to any event or workshop at Ponderosa, there is a question that asks whether or not participants would like to request direct solidarity support, followed by a question asking what level of support would be required to assist participation. This is to give us some idea of the level of need.
If you would like to become a beneficiary of the voluntary direct solidarity contribution, we ask that you check back to this page for available direct solidarity bursaries, which will be published below. We will also be publicising the available bursaries on our newsletter, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
These bursaries will only become available once there are enough contributions to propose a meaningful offer — we will not be simply offering occasional 10% reductions. The available support will obviously depend on the level of contributions that are given, so at the moment we cannot give any sort of overview of upcoming bursaries. This may change in future.
A system such as this requires trust and faith in the goodwill of the framers. It also requires visibility as to its effects. In order to engender this trust and ensure this visibility, we will be publishing an anonymised general account of the voluntary direct solidarity contribution system at the end of 2018. It will contain no personal information, but it will specify the amount of money contributed throughout the year, and the ways in which these contributions were disbursed. In this way, we hope to offer some practical indication of what has been achieved and how we can plan to improve the system in future.