Otherwise Living is a unique organisation. We are dedicated to working to our policies. They encapsulate the essence of our culture and inform our daily business as a commercial alternative living option. They also provide a platform by which our tenant community stands by.

Our policies are at the core of our company.

Policy making that's open to change

Otherwise Living aims to be proactive and aware of what is happening in our local environment. We are committed to doing both, in order to engage with issues which we believe will advance and strengthen our core principles. We use our time, space and resources creatively towards this goal. This means being flexible and transparent in the ways that we support people.

Relationships at the core

Our organisation is working to build a different way of living. As such, our emphasis will always be on building good working relationships. We want to foster an environment which is respectful, and allows everyone space to flourish and learn. This means that members, and all those involved, will commit to taking responsibility for themselves, communicating as clearly and openly as possible with each other. By maintaining this focus, we hope to build a culture which encourages productivity and learning. We do this by committing to transparency, flexibility and change. In order to achieve this, it is both necessary and desirable to be open to conflict and its resolution.

Community and society

Otherwise Living recognises that we all live in an unjust society, where social class and other power relations have a real impact on people’s lives. We put this at the centre of our work. That there is no single group experience, but that racism, sexism, ableism and homophobia are realities. In order to change these, we will be continually learning from our experiences and our differences, striving for genuine commonality from which to build strong relationships.

Our policies

As required by law

Equal Opportunities Policy
Otherwise Living is an equal opportunities organisation. This means that:

1. In all its activities, the co-operative will seek to ensure equality of opportunity and treatment for all persons.

2. No person or group of persons engaging with the co-operative in any way will be treated less favourably than any other person or group of persons because of their race, colour, ethnic or national origin, or because of their religion or belief, pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment, sex and sexual orientation, disability, appearance, or marital status. We will also include people who are socially excluded, living in poverty or other structural disadvantage. In this document we refer to people in these categories in the rest of this document as ‘disadvantaged’.

3. We will positively act against oppressive structures. This may include a wide range of activities, for example, providing space for disadvantaged groups.

4. As an employer the co-operative will actively seek to employ staff from disadvantaged groups. Where necessary it will provide them with special training facilities to enable them to compete or qualify for positions in the co-operative.

5. To help fulfil its commitment to equal opportunities, the co-operative will undertake an annual social audit which will include data about the various equality strands and how well Otherwise Living is able to act against discrimination.

6. We will not work with anyone who, to the best of our knowledge, discriminates against the groups named in point 2.

7. In hiring contractors and other agencies to work for it, the co-operative will be mindful of its commitment to equality of opportunity. A copy of this statement will go to everyone who works with us and will be made publicly available.
Health and Safety
Otherwise Living is a collaborative project with emphasis on helping each other/looking out for each other. If any individual notices something which may pose a health and safety risk to another, they will take responsibility for drawing it to their attention.

We expect everyone to:
• Take care in whatever you do.
• Think about your safety and the safety of others around you. If there is a risk, think about what you can do to reduce it.
• Involve other people. Before you do something, think about who else it might involve or who might be affected. By talking about it with others, you’re more likely to identify potential problems and to be able to solve them.
• Ask for help and information.
Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults Policy
Otherwise Living actively strives to ensure that our work and the places in which we carry out our work are safe for everyone, regardless of whether they are legally classified as ‘vulnerable’. Otherwise Living does not tolerate any kind of bullying or harassment, and will try to ensure that it is as safe as possible for this behaviour to be reported and acted upon. However, this policy specifically covers children and vulnerable adults, regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality or religion, and it is the duty of everybody who works with Otherwise Living to follow this.

What is abuse?
The term ‘abuse’ covers physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, or financial abuse.
Abuse constitutes any situation in which power is exerted over someone resulting in a violation of physical integrity and/or a cause of emotional distress.
Abuse is a violation of an individual's human and civil rights. It may consist of a single act or repeated acts. It can be physical, verbal or psychological, it may be an act or omission to act, or it may occur when a vulnerable person is persuaded to enter into a financial or sexual transaction to which he or she has not consented, or cannot consent. Abuse can occur in any relationship (definition from http://www.frimleypark.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/safeguarding)

A vulnerable adult is someone aged 18 or over:

Who is, or may be, in need of community services due to age, illness or a mental or physical disability
Who is, or may be, unable to take care of himself/herself, or unable to protect himself/herself against significant harm or exploitation

(Definition from the Department of Health 2002)

Abuse can affect any vulnerable adult, but particularly someone who is, or may be, unable to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation, for example:

Older people
People with mental health problems
Disabled people
People with learning difficulties
People with acquired brain damage
People who misuse substances
Anyone who is currently experiencing, or has experienced abuse

Otherwise Living is committed to working with all sections of community, and this includes children and vulnerable adults. This is why all people who work with Otherwise Living commit to creating a safe and inclusive environment. Otherwise Living does not provide specific services to vulnerable adults, or children, but commits to ensuring that any projects working under the umbrella of Otherwise Living, which may be undertaking such work, have specific safeguarding procedures which strengthen this policy and identify how abuse might take place, which specify how they are to fulfil their commitment to safeguarding within their specific contexts.

If a child, young person, or vulnerable adult tells you that they are being abused, listen to them, do not disbelieve or dismiss what they are saying, and allow them to speak freely and without interruption. Ask questions for clarification only. Be clear with the child or adult that you cannot keep any allegation of abuse secret, but also be clear that their information will not be shared with anyone who is not directly involved, or does not need to know, in order to help stop the abuse from taking place. The person should be given some information about what is likely to happen next - depending on age and circumstances they should also be advised that they have every right to speak directly and independently to police. If you have concerns about the way a child or vulnerable person is being treated, you must talk to the person concerned, and any ‘appropriate’ adult before enacting safeguarding procedures, unless the person is in immediate danger, in which case the police should be called. An accurate and clear written record of what was disclosed and any questions asked must be made as soon as possible following the disclosure. The written account should be dated and timed.

Report any allegation or suspicion of abuse to a member of the LCNC Management Team. If you suspect that a member of the Management Team is perpetrating abuse, talk to another member, and ensure that appropriate measures are taken.
Data Protection Policy
If you hold and process information about your clients, employees or suppliers, you are legally obliged to protect that information. Under the Data Protection Act, you must:

• collect only information that you need for a specific purpose;
• keep it secure;
• ensure it is relevant and up to date;
• hold only as much as you need, and only for as long as you need it; and
• allow the subject of the information to see it on request.

It is important to Otherwise Living that we invest, borrow and partner with other organisations also promoting principles compatible with co-operative and democratic values as well as with social, environmental and financial sustainability.
Ethical Investment Policy
Otherwise Living’s Ethical Investment Policy governs all Otherwise Living’s work and interactions with third parties (donors, investors, partners, banks etc.)

Otherwise Living is dedicated to tackling not just the symptoms but the roots of unsustainable practices, by maximising benefits to people and communities, while minimising the impact on the environment.

Otherwise Living aims to ensure that its earned income, investment support and partnerships are compatible with co-operative and democratic values as well as with social, environmental and financial sustainability. The policy recognises that Otherwise Living’s fundraising and investment decisions will have an impact on the world around us and that we can use investment to effect social and economic change.

Otherwise Living's work with investors and donors is built upon three pillars of sustainability:

Social sustainability – is based upon collective inter-dependence, self-determination, co-operative and democratic values and human and workers’ rights through developing community led initiatives for urban living. This includes a commitment to helping others and living as a part of a whole as an individual.

Environmental sustainability - is about minimising the environmental impact of all organisational and business operations. It goes beyond doing no harm, taking an approach that strives to model urban best practices for low impact living. This includes less consumption and waste.

Economic sustainability - is about creating alternative economic relationships and structures for emphasising co-operation over competition. Benefit to the community is the measurement of success rather than profit and growth for individual gain. This includes less consumerism, a social business model where surplus is returned to the members, and fair rents are based on incomes rather than open market rents.

In all our involvements/interactions with external institutions, companies, banks etc., including investments, trading, financial activities, acceptance of loans, grants and donations, employing contractors and hiring services:

We will endeavour to work with companies and trading partners whose principles are compatible with co-operative and democratic values as well as with social, environmental and financial sustainability.

We will not support, actively promote, practise or benefit from:
• involvement in the nuclear power industry
• the manufacture or use of GMOs in the food chain
• the manufacture or trade of military equipment.

We will try to avoid and minimise our trading with companies that benefit from:
• the extraction and production of fossil fuels
• the manufacture of polluting chemicals
• involvement in unsustainable forestry, timber trade and agriculture
• the manufacture of tobacco products
• involvement in animal testing for cosmetic or medical purposes
• involvement in exploitative and oppressive sexual representations of men, women, children, and animals
• involvement in any form of environmental degradation
• exploitative working conditions.

In assessing our business activities we will uphold the human rights of all. We will work and trade with organisations and individuals who respect all, regardless of religion and beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic heritage, abilities, immigration status, class and age.

We support and encourage organisations that work with formal organisations of labour within the work place, including those seeking better pay and conditions and who proactively challenge all forms of discrimination.

Otherwise Living's values and approaches are outlined in our ethical investment policy. An analysis of opportunities and risks is required prior to any third party engagement where possible including potential individual supporters, or organisations, private companies, donors and consideration given to Otherwise Living ethical standards. The ethical criteria set out in these guidelines cover gifts of products, payments for advertising and revenue from mutual partnership schemes, as well as loans and straightforward gifts of money. We recognise that not everything claiming to be 'green' is environmentally or ethically sound, and that not all companies, businesses, philanthropists falling into these broad criteria will be acceptable to Otherwise Living.

Company donations - Otherwise Living’s approach to business is primarily concerned with encouraging local economies, sustainability and a high regard for workers' rights and conditions. We will also seek donations from businesses with ethical ownership structures, such as workers' co-ops. Companies must, if wholly owned subsidiaries, consider the activities of parent companies. Companies that do not recognise trade unions or collective agreements are precluded from donating to Otherwise Living.

Anonymous Donations: Otherwise Living receives funds anonymously, but only from individuals, not companies or corporations. Reasonable steps need to be taken to ensure that all individual donors agree with Otherwise Living's mission statement and values.

Patrons promote and support the work and values of Otherwise Living. They are credited on our website and in our Annual Report; they champion Otherwise Living and co-operative values. They play a pivotal role in securing the continued growing impact of Otherwise Living. They will be vetted according to Otherwise Living's ethical policy framework clarifying their commitment in Otherwise Living’s key ethical priorities areas (see above).

Receiving commission payments from businesses through ‘partnership agreements'. Any such arrangements must be relevant and sensitive, and must not imply that LCNC is a mere vehicle for the company involved.

Donations will be refused if acceptance would result in damage to the reputation and a net loss to Otherwise Living i.e. if the donor’s work or activities contravene the priority criteria or if other supporters or potential supporters are likely to withdraw their support from Otherwise Living if the donation is accepted. Otherwise Living does not accept donations from supporters who wish to dictate working practices that are inconsistent with our values and policies.

Public Association: Where supporters seek a public association with Otherwise Living to enhance their own reputation, Otherwise Living will enter into a partnership if its value brings significant net gain to achieving our mission.

•Otherwise Living works with other organisations to influence policy and practice in relation to our mission.

Otherwise Living may determine that it is appropriate to work with organisations or individuals that do not comply with our ethical standards because we wish to influence them to change their practice. In such circumstances, a risk assessment would be carried out.

These ethical standards apply to investment of Otherwise Living's money and to procurement of goods and services for its work.

Otherwise Living seeks to find a lender (mortgage provider) with green and ethical credentials. The key areas considered are responsibility toward customers, financial exclusion, equal opportunities, environment and also whether they have an ethical lending policy or guidelines in place.

Responsible lending:
Otherwise Living will look for lending companies with responsible lending policies. LCNC is looking for a lender that seeks to redress financial exclusion.

Otherwise Living Screening:
Otherwise Living Management Team is responsible for setting and reviewing the criteria to establish an approved list of companies for possible investments.