Mag-ház (Seed House) in the town of Komárom

The Mag-ház (Seed House), created in the town of Komárom, is a community space operating on the basis of the model of “the desired system of community education”. It is run by the organisation that is the owner of the building (Élettér Egyesület, Living Space Association) and a consortium of another five organisations, based on the principle of civil self-governance and control. Pál Beke and a workshop comprising community education professionals and community developers working under his leadership, put together a policy entitled “the desired system of community education”.

Mag-ház was opened in 2007, as a result of a year and a half of intensive cooperation, volunteer work and massive financial sponsorship (private individuals belonging to the association). The owner organisation laid emphasis on sustainability from as early as the physical construction of the building, methodically searching for options that would enable operation and maintenance in the long run. Mag-ház was based on an adaptation of the French MJC (Maisons des Jeunes et de la Culture – youth and community house) whose key pillar is community (organisational) cooperation and collaboration.

Mag-ház relies on a variety of associations and foundations that operate it in cooperation based on a joint determination, driven by community and economic considerations.

They are interested in jointly maintaining a professional management team, a secretariat and an accounting unit, so that they can more fully utilise their premises together. Mag-ház is better at representing the wide variety of what residents are interested in and what their interests are; the funds landing in the ‘shared’ budget enable more varied and complex activities than they could when they are fragmented and dispersed among the various organisational levels. In exercise of the freedom of association of course any organisation has the right to quit the consortium at any time to continue its activities separately.

In addition to the consortium there are some other – cooperating and associated – ‘members’ working with Mag-ház. Some of the associated members are legal entities, others are professionals elected on account of their expertise and knowledge. All of the cooperating members are legal entities; they are associated with various members of the consortium under agreements concluded for the accomplishment of specific goals in the context of projects, programmes or developments.

The consortium holds one general meeting each year, where each organisation has one vote. The general meetings are convened in writing by the professional leader of the organisation. Operating in a similar way to the association’s general meeting the consortium discusses and accepts the substantive and financial report of the consortium (Mag-ház) and its member organisations (associations), it determines the next year’s budget and technical/professional orientations, the member organisations’ own autonomous endeavours and their linkages with the consortium. The decisions are made by absolute majority of votes. Natural person and legal entity members alike have one vote each. The membership of the consortium is made up of the representatives of the organisations forming it. The implementation of their resolutions is managed by the professional management team commissioned by the consortium, relying on the consortium’s resources.

Similarly to associations, the consortium is represented by the commissioned professional management team; they order the payment of expenditures, approve revenues and communicate to the consortium and its member organisations the directions of actions, supervising their execution. The consortium is operating not on the basis of social equality but social justice, meaning that its members join it with the potentials of their own human and financial resources. In this way the member organisations make their contributions to the implementation of the common objectives not by equal amounts but as enabled by their resources. The community space that has been functioning smoothly for nine years now fulfils its function by providing a rich living space for local communities thanks to the autonomous objectives and purposes of the organisations operating in it.

Mag-ház is such a workshop of democracy outside of which one can go about their business only in all kinds of hierarchies, with subordinates and subordinated to others, under a variety of regulations. There is hardly any place outside the Mag-ház where one can master the practices of cooperating with others as equals, in solidarity. Cooperation cannot, of course, be encouraged with no rhyme or reason. It takes a jointly embraced goal and functions on the basis of which both the actual tasks to be undertaken and the hitherto unknown leading figures and those playing various roles can be identified.

Developing a civil structure is both a means and an objective towards more consciously experiencing civic life and at the same time it is a venue for practising the operation of community democracy. Those cooperating in it offer the possibility of active participation in social life for those willing to take it and thus they also provide the latter with a space and field for action. And this is none other than the very basis of civic societies: volunteering, self-activity, self-governance and self-administration. Its purpose is to contribute to the development of friendly, honest and solidarity-based conditions in the local society. The organisations operating in it carry out their activities in a uniform and coordinated way, unaffected by political orientations, even though their members may, as private individuals, hold a wide variety of ideological, religious, etc. views or be affiliated with all kinds of organisations.

This article based on the following document:

Socialized Operation of Cultural Institutions : A methodological guide to community-based operation