|This month we've been blessed with lots of time learning and working with fellow travellers - such as the Dulwich Centre, the Auckland Workers Educational Association, the Kotare Trust, the Disability Advocacy Rights Unit and at the Facilitating Social Change conference.|
We trialled a two-day format for our new Mobilising for Change (MfC) workshop in Auckland. Participants included climate change activists involved in the Save Happy Valley campaign and Pakeha and Maori organisers working for treaty justice. In coming months, we're planning 2-3 day MfC workshops in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. Let us know if you're interested in participating in or hosting this workshop.
During April, we had 14,652 visitors to our website - a new record. More than 8,000 people downloaded resources. We're always looking for new content, so let us know if you've developed resources that you'd like to share with other community organisers.
If you have difficulty viewing this enews in your email program, be sure to click on the 'printable version' link. Access tCA's website by clicking on the banner. Enjoy!
|postcard from Yogyakarta, Indonesia|
|sam's been in Indonesia, where there's been a little bit of street action, alive with coloured banners, flags, megaphones, and some well-branded spectacle! Check out some photos (right) from Earth Day, an alternative transport rally, and Workers Day (May day, Labour day) - imagine music and be inspired by the colour!|
|The first Australian Camp for Climate Action is inspired by previous convergences held in the UK in 2006/2007 and coincides with climate camps in Europe, North America, and Australia. It will be a participatory and sustainable space, where people are invited to share, learn and take action.|
The Change Agency and other activist educators are creating a 'hothouse' at the camp where facilitators and workshop leaders can prepare, brainstorm, share resources and ideas, and debrief. We'll also be offering workshops in facilitation and workshop design.
Find out more about the camp through the website. If you want to connect with the hothouse before we all get there, contact Anthony or James.
|RAPID successful communication online - A great collection of tools for planning (stakeholder, problem tree analysis, forcefield analysis, etc), packaging (visioning, persuasion), targeting (lobbying, blogging, etc) and monitoring.|
|NGO-in-a-box - a series of toolkits designed to meet the specialised technology needs of non-profits. Each toolkit contains a selection of Free and Open Source Software and associated guides and tutorials.|
|upcoming learning opportunities|
|Our online calendar has details of workshops, conferences and other learning opportunities between now and the end of the year. Let us know about events coming up in your neck of the woods.|
|the Change Agency in Aotearoa |
|discussion starter: anti-oppression work|
|new tactics on-line dialogue|
|narrative ways of working with groups and communities|
the Change Agency in Aotearoa
|Kia Ora Tatou |
(Hello people in Te Reo Maori)
The Change Agency has an ongoing and growing relationship with people engaged in social change work and educators in Aotearoa. We greatly value our connection with the Kotare Trust, Auckland Workers Education Association and the Treaty Resource Centre (He Puna Matauranga o Te Tiriti).
In mid April two of the tCA crew, James and Pru, spent a week in Aotearoa and once again our time there was really rich. This time we headed over to Auckland to facilitate a two day Mobilising for Change workshop and elements of the Treaty Educators community of practice conference. We were rapt to meet and talk with people engaged in social change work throughout Aotearoa. People we worked alongside are engaged in campaigns and education focused on Treaty and decolonisation work, climate justice, anti-mining and family violence prevention.
Treaty Educators conference on Whai Ora Marae, Auckland
tCA were invited to facilitate two streams throughout the conference: the Treaty educators developing their purpose statement and Open Space Technology. The conference was held on a Marae which is the central meeting place for the Maori communities.
While we were there we really appreciated being able to learn more about Treaty education in Aotearoa such as when and how it began, the different forms it takes and lessons Treaty educators have learnt over time. It was very rich to hear stories about Treaty and decolonisation work from people who have been focused on this work for many years, some for over three decades. It really meant a lot to us to be able to work and learn with people who aim to work respectfully alongside and with Tangata Phenua people (Maori people) so we could try to ensure our facilitation was as respectful as possible. We are looking forward to further sharing, discussing and jointly developing our protocols for working with Indigenous peoples.
Mobilising for Change Auckland workshop
On April 15 and 16 James and Pru facilitated a two-day Mobilising for Change workshop in Auckland. We really appreciate the immense support of Christine Herzog, from AWEA, to make the workshop happen.
The workshop provided participants with a number of opportunities to reflect upon how their social change work is travelling and exercises to grow an understanding of alliance building and what community organising looks like. The group generated a great list of barriers to mobilising members of the community to be involved and ways to overcome them.
|During their April visit to Aotearoa, Pru and James participated in an interesting spontaneous workshop with Tim and Catherine from the Kotare Trust, tCA's sister organisation across the ditch. We shared experiences of learning through social action, then discussed the relationship/s between activism and education (or learning). We observed that:|
|activism informs education|
activism subverts education|
activism encompasses education|
activism accelerates education|
activism challenges education|
activism is reinforced by education|
activism out-works education|
activism underpins education|
activism makes real education|
activism makes credible and authentic education|
activism motivates education|
activism deconstructs ‘education’|
discussion starter: anti-oppression work
|What do you think? We'd love to hear your thoughts, and to continue this discussion in future editions of our enews. Email>|
|I’m passionate about changing the world – the kind of big change which involves ending division between people. I want us to move past ludicrous notions like it being okay for some people to have way more resources than others, and a greater say about how the world operates. I want us to act with real agency and to have full access to our minds, without the fog of confusing and hurtful messages about ourselves and each other.|
I think this work starts right now. What would it take to have activist groups and social change organisations which genuinely reflect the diversity in the broader community? To be actively inclusive of difference?
I love activists, and I love how hard we try. But I do notice that we frequently create cultures which are exclusive and alienating. We’re not always very welcoming. Our cultures can be self-perpetuating – for example, if we start out as a few white middle class university aged people, that’s who we tend to retain as we grow. It can take challenging work to shift this.
I’m excited to see people out there making a commitment to anti-oppression practices. This takes courage and results in much learning. More of it, I say! One of the great ways we learn is through trying bold things, making (big, small, hurtful, embarrassing, silly, damaging) mistakes and reflecting on them. I’d like to make some space for discussion and reflection on our ideas and our mistakes.
A risk I see is that practices aimed at challenging oppression can actually be part of perpetuating an exclusive activist culture. Doesn’t seem right, does it? But if involvement in a group requires adhering to a set of norms, this privileges those in the group who share those norms, or can do a better job of faking it. I’ve noticed that a high consciousness of oppression in a group can look like a lot of very careful people policing each other, without creating an environment that is necessarily more attractive or inclusive for those who are outside the group’s majority demographic.
A no-shame, no-blame approach helps here – recognising that all people have been impacted by racism, classism, sexism, gender oppression, homophobia, ageism, ableism (etc), and that it would be a miracle if we didn’t take on any of this conditioning. It doesn’t help us to clean it up by pretending we don’t have issues – although, of course we still need to be mindful of not hurting others.
Another useful perspective is ‘mainstream and margin’ (thanks Training for Change). Every group has a mainstream and margin, and it often shifts depending on what’s going on. The margin is not always how we would think of marginality or oppression in a systemic way. For example in many of the groups the Change Agency facilitates women are in the majority, and men are a margin in the group. The mainstream sets the norms for the group.
I’d love to start discussion around this juicy topic with those of you who are struggling to address this in your work in activist groups. My plan is to include an anti-oppression article or resource, which I’ve personally found illuminating, in each edition of the tCA enews over following months. Please let me know if you’d like to join me in a small discussion group, to meet each month either face-to-face, over the phone, or on-line. If you’ve got resources you’d like to add to the mix, the more the merrier.
In the meantime, here are some questions to reflect on. If you’d like to email me your feedback, that would be wonderful. Of course, it's important to recognise that many of us can simultaneously fit into both of the two categories below - just to make things even more interesting!
If you are a member of a ‘minority’ or oppressed constituency…
How do you find it in activist groups? What gets hard? Have you ever stopped or avoided involvement in a group due to cluelessness about diversity/oppression? What makes someone a good ally? If you’ve felt central, engaged and respected in a group what has made this possible? If this hasn’t happened – what do you think it would look like?
If you carry a lot of privilege…
How do you find it in activist groups? What gets hard? When have you been pleased with yourself as an ally to others? What have been your biggest mistakes? Have you ever been ‘called out’ for being oppressive? What was that like? What have you found helpful?
To participate in the anti-oppression discussion group, or as I prefer to call it, the Liberation Book Club, get in touch with me on 0421 508 446 or via email.
new tactics on-line dialogue
|As a geographically dispersed team, the Change Agency has ample opportunity to trial different teleconference options for our meetings. It hasn't always gone smoothly! We thought we'd share some of what we have figured out...|
Pros: Free! The chat function is great, and there's also scope for file sharing (although this is slower than email). With webcams you can make your ph call a videoconference. There's also a cute avatar creating program.
Cons: Your Skype call is only as reliable as your internet connection. You need a stable broadband connection. Sometimes call quality leaves a bit to be desired. The call can drop out for no reason - usually at a crucial point in the meeting.
Verdict: Skype is great for one-to-one calls, and on-line chat - especially if you have a reliable computer and broadband connection (ie aren't travelling or broke). The more callers you add, the less reliable it seems to be. It helps if all callers are familiar with how Skype works before starting the call, to avoid delays.
Pros: The conference itself is free. You can schedule calls online, or make 'reservationless' calls with an access code whenever you want. Easy and flexible.
Cons: You need to call the US to connect to the call. With an international calling card this is very cheap - but that takes some organisation in the lead up. The process of calling the number on the calling card, entering that access code, then calling the Free Conference number and entering that access code, leaves room for confusion and error, which can cause delays with everyone joining the call. Because of the long distance call aspect sometimes there are echoes or delays on the line.
Verdict: If your crew don't have access to broadband, this is a nifty alternative to Skype. Unfortunately you may get the added bonus of listening to your colleagues under-water, or inexplicably hearing a loud American woman giving you unwanted instructions.
Pros: An Australian based company which provides cheaper and friendlier phone conferences than Telstra. When you set up an account you are given an access code and you can use it whenever you want. Participants make a local call to link in. It's easy and fairly cheap to record your conversation. At the end of the call you get sent a weblink and you can download an mp3. Handy for interviewing people or if there's an important discussion you want others to hear. Excellent call quality. Not-for-profit organisations get charged less.
Cons: It costs money.
Verdict: If you've got the cash, go for it, it will save you much drama.
... but as a cash-strapped operation, the Change Agency has yet to find the ideal option for our teleconferences. Let us know if you have any suggestions...
|Later this month there will be a very exciting New Tactics On-line Dialogue featuring "Training for Nonviolent Action".|
The dates it will be 'live' are May 28 to June 3, 2008. People participate by logging in to the new tactics website site or via email.
The Change Agency team (6 of us from Australia: James Whelan, Holly Hammond, Pru Gell, Jason McLeod, Sam La Rocca and Anth Kelly) are taking part in this dialogue as well as PATRIR (Romania), Hardy Merriman, independent trainer/consultant, author of numerous materials on the subject (International Center on Nonviolent Action advisor and co-author of great new manual with CANVAS in Serbia), Linda Sartor, Nonviolent Peaceforce trainer and Training for Change (USA /Canada/International) [TFC is identifying people in their network interested to be featured resource people].
If you are interested in participating go to New Tactics and sign up as a 'member of the community and await an email promoting the featured dialogue event. It is like a online discussion with dozens participating around the worlf talking about nonviolence training.
It's a great and very rare chance to share your experiences, learn together, and also re-enforce and deepen your engagement with the global network of nonviolence trainers - all without any carbon expenditure! Great stuff!!
narrative ways of working with groups and communities
|reflections on dulwich centre training, April 2008|
|From April 21st – 25th tCA’s Jason MacLeod headed south from Brisbane to Adelaide to participate in a 5 day workshop, Towards Collective and Community Practices: Narrative Ways of Working with Groups and Communities, organized and facilitated by members of the Dulwich Centre Institute for Community Practice.|
As a popular educator it is always a pleasure to participate in, as opposed to facilitating training. There is something I find relaxing about being in an educational space without having primary responsibility for pedagogy or holding the space. But most of all it is a privilege to learn from ones peers. When it involves experiencing and learning about a new method, facilitated brilliantly by experienced and gifted trainers, then it is a real treat indeed. Certainly this was my experience attending a workshop on narrative ways of working with groups and communities, facilitated by David Denbrough, Cheryl White and Barbara Wingard from the Dulwich Centre Institute for Community Practice. For five days we listened to inspiring stories from Aboriginal Australia, Rwanda, Palestine and each other. And in doing so we immersed ourselves in several narrative practices, and learnt how these tools may be applied in our own settings. The process itself is a captivating mixture of solid theoretical grounding, technique, and creativity; simple, respectful and subtly powerful.
Informed by a rich synthesis of narrative therapy and popular education, narrative ways of working with groups and communities is essentially about creating space to enable people to tell their stories in ways that make them stronger. In doing so the process can help build community and support social change. At its heart this involves what one of the founders of narrative therapy (and the Dulwich Centre), the late Michael White, calls “double storied testimony”. It is a process of understanding the nature of the problem – its history, strategy and tactics – in ways that separate the problem from the person. Narrative practitioners are fond of saying: “the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem”. At the same time “double storied testimony” involves listening for and noticing alternative story-lines and the special skills and knowledges (even if the people themselves haven’t recognized them) that have enabled these alternative story lines to emerge.
Yet narrative work in collective settings is about doing community work, not about therapy. In consultation and partnership with community members, the narrative practitioner sits alongside people to richly or thickly describe their stories. Skills and knowledges are elicited, values and beliefs excavated, the histories of these practices uncovered, and the contours linking them to other people and places are mapped. Once thick story descriptions have been generated, these are reflected back to the listener/s in order to ensure they have been faithfully recorded. Stories can then be creatively documented, in text, song, film and other mediums.
The next step of the process involves amplifying the story, finding an audience to share these documents with. Ideally this is an audience who is struggling with similar issues. In this way the story tellers are enabled to make a contribution to the lives of others. This step is critical in order to reinforce the practices that support these alternative story lines that are already embedded in community settings. In addition by keeping the process other-focused, the risk of re-traumatizing people who have talked about going through hard times, is minimised. In the case of the Dulwich Centre Institute for Community Practice’s work in Port Augusta and Yirkala in Arnhem Land around strengthening local resilience around the work of suicide prevention and healing, making a contribution involved linking the two communities as part of a rich and ongoing process of feedback (see Linking Stories and Initiative). Finding an audience can also support the process of reaching out to allies and through stories strengthening the bonds of solidarity. This processes of two-way feedback can be ongoing. In the case of exchanges between Port Augusta and Arnhem Land, story telling back and forth continued over several months and several visits. The process helped forge significant relationships and strengthened local and particular practices of resilience and healing developed by the two communities. The final stage of the process involves finding appropriate ways to celebrate the contributions people have made.
The above process is merely one of several narrative techniques. There are others that can be used for shorter projects, or even opening exercises. A particular favourite that both the Dulwich Centre and tCA use is “Seeds of Fire”, a tool that comes from the well known Highlander Centre in the Appalachian Mountains, the “Graceland” of Popular Education in the U.S.
Immediately after leaving the workshop I had an opportunity to apply some of these techniques and the thinking behind them, to a workshop with a group of Aboriginal women. By incorporating narrative techniques into the workshop design I found I was working in a completely different way from how I normally facilitate. It was a gentler, richer process as we explored the objectives of the workshop through a rich process of telling and reflecting on stories. In doing so, space was created that affirmed and integrated peoples own traditional and contemporary knowledge and experience into what was this group’s task of creating a new organisation. I certainly look forward to using these processes again, and think the potential to richly story strategy and tactics for activist groups could be very rewarding.
If you are intrigued by the ways stories can build community and support social change, and if you find yourself with the opportunity to attend a similar workshop at the Dulwich Centre, I strongly recommend you do so.