The aim of these sections are to reflect upon my key learnings in the biggest undercurrent of my life - community organising, which for me is how I work with my peers to achieve social justice and ecological restoration. The poltical section explores my areas of inquiry and analysis and the peer section explores my skill flexes and politics in practice.
Poltical: Embracing radical inquiry
One of the main attractions to Gaia University was the opportunity to invest mental & reflective energy into social movement strategy. This has meant both 'closing the gap' of my own action learning cycle by creating the space to reflect on my past decade as an organiser, as well as creating the space to read new material, analyse movement efforts and collaborate with others to re-design where needed.
What areas have I explored?
- Food sovereignty & food autonomy
- Peasant social movements
- Transition movements
- Criticisms of Permaculture & liberation permaculture
- Radical & social ecology
- Re-wilding & repeasantisation
- International land struggles
- The political context of being a grower
- Self-care in a social movement context & how to sustain resistance work
- Social justice organising for nonhumans & animal liberation
- Radical community organising
- Popular education
- The not for profit industrial complex
- Systems thinking
What have been my key learnings?
- Understanding the need for work around 'projects for existence' e.g. that struggle needs to start where we are e.g. food, medicine, care, housing & build self-reliance into our communities.
- Using the above to place permaculture in a wider context of needed radical social change.
- Understanding the leverage of food and land in wider necessary social change.
- Understanding the uniqueness of the movement for animal liberation and the integrative links between land & food and our social relation to animals.
Peer: Community Organising for Social Change
As illustrated in my project portfolio and life & career review, my community organising work has always been prominent in my life. As explored in Output 5, I have rejected the word 'activist' as I honour the every day role of resistance and dislike the specialism of social change.
There are clearly a number of potential options for a 'peer' section from Action Learning Guilds to developing relationships however I have used this section to explore my immunity organising work, which for me relates strongest to how I work with others as you cannot organise alone!
What skillflexes have I developed this year?
Community organising does require skills and the constant honesty of reflection and improvement of practice.
The table below identifies the skill flexes I'd associated with community organising. You can also my full skill flex attainment table here that explores some of the below in more detail.
- Communication - I improved my skills in facilitation, conflict resolution and emotional literacy on the Sustaining Resistance course. My project work with Somerset Community Food has also increased my ability to talk to more and more groups of people such as local councillors, farmers & landowners. My consultancy work has improved my listening abilities & freelance writing stretched my written communication skills.
- Project & Event Management - I have organised numerous large events & increasingly more simultaneous events at different scales, for example national Reclaim the Fields Gatherings as well as a district by district access to land roadshow which involved needing local knowledge & strategic publicity work to reach local people, often without access to computers or the internet. My biggest learning has been in managing multiple projects with skill for example balancing my paid work with grassroots organising and land management.
- Research - My radical enquiry skills have been stretched as I read more increasingly academic literature around social movement strategy in combination with evaluating numerous sources of articles and process real life experience, for example my liberation permaculture output involved a broad literature review as well as the processing of personal & collective observations of the permaculture and anarchist movements.
- Multimedia fluency - I have learnt to use new platforms such as Mahara and over the path of the year improved my website design and management skills massively. I have built sites including my Wild Heart Permaculture one, as well as Transition Glastonbury, Reclaim the Fields, The Vegan Organic Network, Brook End and more. Each has tested me in new ways, increasing my agility with html and understanding of the leverage of the world wide web.
- Strategy analysis & planning - As explored in the political section and applied in all areas of my life, from evaluating my work so I am more effective personally as an organiser (addressing patterns of burnout and so forth). I have also applied design to every step of my Somerset Community Food work as well as stretching my strategic edges in relation to my campaign design against fracking in Somerset.
What have I learnt most?
- The importance of the design cycle - valuing time to really reflect on my work & always allowing space for observation before 'diving in'.
- The need for self-care to stay strategic and nourished as a human being.