Sunday, 18 November 2007

different kinds of facilitation?

I've just facilitated a four-way (Washington, London, Berlin, Melbourne) PBI conference call by telephone, using concensus. It was pretty productive, we were all calm despite the fact that three of us disagreed pretty strongly with the fourth. We didn't come to a final position (we weren't meant to; awaiting more information tomorrow) but have another call scheduled for Wednesday. Yes, consensus can be time-heavy. And expensive!

But it did strike me that maybe one of things we didn't address yesterday (perhaps because we are going to do it next month?!) is that between us we were trying to practice (and be practiced on by) two different kinds of facilitation.

One is that of (training) exercises, where for the most part we are directive in the structure of the exercise, but neutral on the content - that what people say doesn't really matter to the facilitator, it's just their job to facilitate the space to enable people to say it. This kind of facilitation has its own guidelines.

The second is that of facilitating a concensus meeting, in which often (always in my experience but I recognise a 'neutral' facilitor could be drafted in) the facilitator has an opinion on the issue under consideration. This is good, fine, and in the cases the group often choses the facilitator to a greater extent than they do in exercise-facilitation (again, in my experience). And while there are rules of this kind of facilitation, as well as guidelines, techniques, etc, and the process is structured, the outcome is not. The facilitator does not know (and must not know) where s/he is taking the group - because it is not the facilitator taking the group anyway. It is the group going somewhere, and the facilitator is just one member of that group, albeit at this point in time having an additional role.

Does that distinction resonate with anyone?

And if so, which kind is TTT focussed on? My suspicion would be that as RPs we are primarily supposed to be able to do the first (exercise-facilitation) very well, and that if we can do the second (meeting-facilitation) that's an added bonus. Clearly there is a skill-overlap, but...

.. and even in writing that, I'm not sure I have got it right. Is there a better way of defining our field?

Friday, 16 November 2007

Maybe ....





Maybe. When Rachel suggested using the leaves at AWE to write out 'Maybe' as our act of protest/expression of hope/creative query, I could understand her thinking (I think).



And for me, the word was good enough, though it didn't particularly resonate with me, I had no nagging doubt or debate. But over the week I've thought a lot more about 'maybe' and bells are beginning to chime.




'Maybe' is not 'no' or 'yes' it's maybe ... when nothing is certain, everything is possible. It's the thrill of discovery, the satisfaction of knowing you were right, and the opportunity to sit back, undo your assumptions, look and learn. What a rich word.


And what a rich and inspiring RP gathering at Douai Abbey. Report to follow soon along with more fotos.

Circles of Empowerment

Sorry that my first posting here is a bit of a whopper - I did it a little while ago, but it seems relevant to conversations we've been having lately.....


Circles of Empowerment

Power matters. Power is what drives social change, good and bad. More subtly, though, empowerment in itself leads directly to personal and community well-being. The sense of being in control of our lives, in a healthy relationship with our community, able to direct the energy which flows through us to achievable goals, is one of the main thing that enables us to be happy.


Where this is flowing well, it can lead to a virtuous circle, as suggested in the picture, where personal and community empowerment drives positive social change, and this positive change itself enables more empowerment. Unfortunately, in many ways, most of us feel profoundly dis-empowered, and many factors in our society combine to keep us that way. However, there are plenty of good models of empowerment and plenty of government rhetoric about personal and community empowerment - opportunities to be seized at least.







In this discussion, I want to ask the question:
How can we cultivate a situation where personal, community and global levels of empowerment reinforce each other, following a positive model of power - cooperative and compassionate, rather than oppressive?
I don’t have the answer, but I’ll point out a few positive models, which have the potential to fit together, and I hope this will stimulate thought.


1. Personal empowerment: our psychological conditioning
Most of us, having “un-learned” power to varying degrees in our childhood, need to learn to develop our power. We need to develop the tools and techniques of exercising power in a positive way, but also the belief, and experience, that our actions can have an effect on society around us.

Paulo Freire - who regards empowerment as being necessary for successful learning - talks about 3 levels of consciousness [i]. As described by Heaney [ii], these are :
- Semi-intransitive consciousness is the state of those whose sphere of perception is limited, to the demands of day-to-day life, and who are impermeable to challenges situated outside these demands. (It seems to me that most of the population are like this, most of the time, in our current society.)
- "naive transitivity." Freire characterizes this stage of consciousness by an over-simplification of problems, nostalgia for the past, an underestimation of ordinary people, a strong tendency to gregariousness, a disinterest in investigation, a fascination with fanciful explanations of reality, and by the practice of polemics rather than dialogue. (Sounds like Freire was familiar with party political meetings!)
- "Critical transitivity." This stage is characterized by depth in the interpretation of problems, by testing one's own findings and openness to revision and reconstruction, by the attempt to avoid distortion when perceiving problems and to avoid preconceived notions when analyzing them, by rejecting passivity, by the practice of dialogue rather than polemics, by receptivity to the new without rejecting the old, and by permeable, interrogative, restless, and dialogical forms of life.

The concept of “dialogue” is important to Freire: a multi-faceted dialogue, where we have the skills to engage with many others: on “our side” and “the opposition”: listening and intervening effectively. This is relevant to the idea of webs of power, which we will come on to.

There are techniques to support “dialogue” and empowerment. One example is “deep democracy” To quote Wilson [iii]:
“Imagine how the following three habits, if embedded in the culture, could build the basis for deep democracy:
- the habit of listening to understand the “other” before advocating a position
- the habit of reflecting on, and revealing, one’s own assumptions and values
- the habit of sensing together the emergent future of the whole organism or field.”


2. Community Development
Individual empowerment is intimately linked with empowerment of one’s community or social group. Illich [iv] (amongst others) has criticised the way that social initiatives which purport to help communities can end up becoming - at least partially - “part of the problem”. They often come to serve the needs of the professionals and the power-holders, and (perhaps unconsciously) act to “keep people in their place”.

The approach known (rather inelegantly) as asset-based community development (ABCD) [v] has developed an alternative methodology, and a detailed set of tools for an empowering approach.

Many community development initiatives start by identifying a set of problems or deficits in a community, which need to be “put right” through interventions from outside. (x% illiteracy, y% teenage pregnancies, z% drug use, etc..) This starting point can be profoundly disempowering. In contrast, ABCD starts with the assets within a community It is based on:
- Appreciating and mobilising individual and community talents, skills and assets (rather than focusing on problems and needs) The greatest assets are the qualities and skills of community members.
- Community-driven development rather than development driven by external agencies
It uses participatory approaches to development, which are based on principles of empowerment and ownership of the development process. The ABCD toolkit includes developing a community vision (including a picture of how it will look when the vision is realised), asset mapping, analyzing community data, selecting priority issues, establishing targeted outcomes, and developing detailed plans - leading to action.

ABCD is by no means unique: to name just one other approach: “appreciative inquiry” [vi] also takes community strengths and skills as a starting point, [employing a cycle of:
- collaboratively “discovering” the strengths and high points of the community,
- developing a vision for a better future, perhaps challenging the status quo, but grounded in the community’s strengths,
- designing a strategy to realise the vision,
- sustaining the progress by nurturing a collective sense of destiny. ]


3. Dealing with global issues and their overwhelming nature: “power with”, and webs of power
The sorts of empowerment described above engenders what Joanna Macy [vii] calls “power with”: power operating through sustainable networks of connections with other people. Macy contrasts “power with” with the common conception of power: “power over” - the power to prevail over another. [As she points out, this originates in the “traditional western” world-view, “which sees reality as composed of discrete and separate entities, be they rocks, atoms, people, ...” This is the underlying view when we talk of people “possessing power”, “building up power”, “wielding their power”. This kind of power tends to be associated with armour and rigidity, and with defending ourselves from “the other”. It sees power as a zero-sum game: “if you win, I lose”. ]

“Power with”, on the other hand, comes from being part of a living network. It is a process: something that happens through us when we engage in interactions that produce value. Power is exercised by influencing others. This influence is rarely on just one other: it propagates through a web of connections, flowing together with the power of others to produce results. Fluidity and flexibility are strengths.

This view of power has a number of consequences, which relate to the preceding parts of this article.
- We needn’t be so discouraged by the enormity of the task facing us, and the globalised networks which we need to influence. We are unlikely to be able to say “this demonstration which I went on stopped the war with Iraq”, or “this action has brought the cancellation of third world debt 1% nearer”. However, to expect this is to mis-understand the nature of our power. In reality, our power flows into and reinforces the power of others, and works through an incalculable web of influences. This produces a virtuous circle where our own empowerment and the empowerment of others go along with influence in our chosen issue, and knock-on effects on the web of issues relating to it.

- Process and product, our own empowerment and the results we are striving for, are inextricably entwined. Empowerment of individuals around local developments in their own immediate community will enhance those people’s learning (as Freire suggests) as well as leading to better outcomes in the community development. It will also improve the climate for global peace and justice. Reciprocally, engagement of people in positive peace and justice actions will also help with personal empowerment, which will enhance the ability to influence local developments.

- “Webs of power” - Starhawk [viii] amongst others, has used this image, and it has great resonance. Both our model of a peaceful, just society, and our organising principles for achieving this, have the characteristics of a web.

- The place of spirituality. A spiritual perspective very much chimes with the notion of “power with”, and personal empowerment being inextricable with the achievement of political goals.


Bringing it all together

I like the metaphor of “scaffolding”, where the various aspects of empowerment are built up gradually, but lastingly, in a mutually reinforcing way - as suggested in figure 1. For example, tools for empowering people and communities - like deep democracy, ABCD, and appreciative inquiry - could support Freire’s notions of individual empowerment and learning. The practice of “power with” could naturally flow from the use of these tools, and perhaps be explicitly drawn out, to help people feel empowered around global issues.

It is easy to say this, but making the links is unlikely to happen automatically. It would be really interesting to explore ways of making the links in practice, weaving strong, resilient webs of power.




Notes:
[i] Paulo Freire “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” Continuum Publishing, 1970.
[ii] Tom Heaney “Issues in Freirian Pedagogy” - http://www.writing.com/main/redirect.php?redirect_url=http://nlu.nl.edu/lace/Resources/Documents/FreireIssues.html%3e.
[iii] www.shambhalainstitute.org/ Fieldnotes/Issue3/Deep_Democracy.pdf,
http://www.co-intelligence.org/
[iv] Ivan Illich: “Deschooling Society” Harper & Row, 1971 - see also http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html
[v] See - for example “Agents rather than patients” - available from the Building and Social Housing Foundation - http://www.bshf.org/en/to.php/publications/info.php?id=00001
See also the Asset Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University - www.northwestern.edu/ipr/abcd.html
[vi] See - e.g. - www.iisd.org/ai/default.htm
[vii] Joanna Macy, “Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age”, New Society Publishers, 1983.
[viii] StarHawk “Webs of Power”, New Society Publishers, 2002. See also http://www.starhawk.org/





















Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Buy nothing day



Coming up soon. Space Hijackers will be doing it, Slackers might be doing it, and many others are. See the Buy Nothing Day website.

Monday, 12 November 2007

MONDAY NOV 12: BLOCKADE AT BURGHFIELD

From Helen Dymond

It is now 7pm, six hours since I got home from the Action this morning and I want to get my thoughts down on paper while its still in my short-term memory, so this is a personal story and not necessarily factually correct in every detail. Especially as I got home feeling extremely cold and tired, I immediately crashed out and am still fuzzy-headed. I just hope the wonderfully brave, inspiring people who formed the blockade and were arrested, have all got home, had hot drinks and food, and maybe caught up on some sleep too.

I guess it started on Sunday when we waved the other RP’s off at Thatcham station after a brilliant weekend together that was both understanding how we work as a group, , and preparing us for NVA whether today’s or in the future. After a short rest, four of us, Chris, Alison. Denise and myself met in the now very peaceful sitting room, and after some silent worship, Chris took us through some questions we needed to think about: what kind/size of group did we want to participate in? What were our goals and objectives within that group? What kinds of action did we feel able/unable to do? Which AWE site did we want to protest at, Aldermaston or Burghfield? The outcome was that we decided we wanted to stay together as a TTT Affinity group but in a direct supporting role to the Muriel Lesters (sic?) Chris’s own Affinity group, some of whom would be likely to be forming the Blockade at Burghfield, whereas we for various reasons did not want to risk arrest on this occasion. We brainstormed some kinds of support we could offer, including doing mad dancing and creating an artefact, but we decided to offer singing as our form of encouragement, and in addition I wanted to offer readings on the Testimony to Peace from ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’. After tea we went to the Quaker Meeting House at Newbury where 40-50 people gathered from Block the Builders and many other groups. We looked in their library for protest songs and as we didn’t find anything exactly suitable for the occasion, started to re-write some well known tunes with our own Protest words; we wrote out several copies and practiced them with some of the Muriel Lester’s group. The organizers of the Action told us about what the Government was doing at the two sites, the symbolic and to some degree strategic purposes of the Blockade, and the risks/conditions for arrest, the procedures/phone numbers if arrested. After supper there was a great deal of self-organizing of people into groups and vehicles, and a great perusal of maps looking at the best spots for blockading and routes for getting there. Chris had by now agreed to be part of the blockade with three of the Muriel Lester’s group, and after discussion the best spot was agreed; we also agreed to get there by 7 a.m. to prevent workers from getting onto the AWE site., which meant getting up at 5.a.m and meeting the M.L. Minibus down in Woolhampton village en route to Burghfield

In fact I woke up at 4 .m. and spent some time choosing texts from QFP chapter 4 on the Peace Testimony to read out to encourage the Blockaders and hopefully reach out to the hearts of the Police with the truth of the testimonies. It was weird, indeed, that the police had followed the Minibus from Newbury, they must have an informer or some way of knowing which vehicles to follow – anyway, this police van proceeded to follow our convoy of three vehicles for about half an hour round and round the country lanes, and even though we stopped at Aldermaston to let some people off there, the police van continued to follow our group to Burghfield where, we understood, the Trident warheads are being made, and we wondered if a convoy was going to arrive there today. When the Minibus got to the lane that had been chosen, it was totally BRILLIANT the way the four (you could call them elderly, if they weren’t so youthful in spirit) blockaders LEAPT down from the van and laid themselves across the road locking on, it all seemed to happen in about three seconds and took the police completely by surprise. They managed to pull at Chris’s arm, I think, as he was last out of the van, to try and stop him locking on but he fooled them by lying down on the grass verge with his hand invisible in the sleeve of another blockader, so it looked as though he was locked on even though he was in fact holding on. It was a bright and beautiful morning but extremely cold – it must have been the coldest day of the year so far- and the four of them lay on the freezing ground for two hours as the unlocking team dealt with the three blockades at Aldermaston first and did not reach Burghfield till 9.a.m. All those gathered in support supplied them with as much warmth as we could, sleeping bags to cover their legs, biscuits etc. and though we could all have done with hot drinks, they did not want to drink as they could not go to the loo. Dan was the legal observer and many photographs were taken of all of us both by supporters and the police. I heard someone say that Radio Berkshire had sent reporters to the Aldermaston blockade.

Strategically it was a great success, the police blocked off the lane and there was a long queue of traffic on the perimeter road so that workers were delayed in getting to work in the site. Meanwhile we sang our protest songs, another guy called Chris played the violin which was great, and I read out excerpts from the Quaker Peace Testimonies and the police had no choice but to hear them and some of them appeared to be thinking about them. We engaged the police, who were friendly and good-humoured, in discussions about the purpose of the Blockade; a fairly senior officer I was talking to said he had assumed it was a political protest and I emphasised the spiritual and moral purpose of the Action ,which I saw as not affiliated to a political party but to an ideology of the spirit and a way of seeing the world. I heard one elderly gentleman Blockader called Ray explaining calmly and with great authority to the policeman who had come to cut him free, that he felt he had to do this action for the sake of his children and grandchildren. The four were then arrested and taken to a police van, we believed they were going to Newbury police station, and the supporters dispersed and went to a transport café for greatly needed hot drinks and food.

It truly was inspiring to witness this courage and commitment, the macro- and micro-teamwork that went on, and the opportunities it offered for constructive engagement with representatives of the law. I feel that I have learned some valuable lessons from my first experience at an NVA Blockade. On another occasion I would still want to sing and would prepare a lot more songs in advance and I might also play my recorder. I hope that on a future occasion I would feel able to get arrested but could see that we were all playing our parts interdependently and drawing strength from each other.

Helen Dymond

Monday, 5 November 2007

Making Eurostar Cycle-friendly

Eurostar services will start running from St Pancras International on
14th November 2007. But, in spite of all the publicity about the brand
new station, which is indeed impressive, provision for cyclists is
abysmal.

Cyclists deserve better cycle carriage, cycle parking and cycle access:

* It is awkward to take a bike on Eurostar (it has to be bagged) or
you can pay £40 return to send it a day ahead.
* Cycle parking consists of a pathetic 30 wheel-bending loops.
* Access is hindered by the new gyratory round the station and lack of
signage.

CAMDEN AND CITY CYCLISTS ARE ORGANISING A DEMO AT ST PANCRAS
INTERNATIONAL ON 14TH NOVEMBER. THEY MEET OUTSIDE THE GERMAN GYM,
PANCRAS ROAD (OUTSIDE THE STATION) AT 8 FOR AN 8.30 START ON RIDING
ROUND, INSPECTING PARKING AND GREETING PASSENGERS COMING FOR THE FIRST
TRAINS AT 10 AM.

Please publicise this demo and do your best to join in. Even if you
can come only for a short while on the way to work, it will be worth
it.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Reverse Trick or Treating

I was surprised on Tuesday night to see so many witches ghouls and goblins about as I rode home from Friends House to Hackney. Follow up conversations with a random sample of 5 locals revealed that trick or treating is a long established English tradition. Huh. I didn't know. Reverse trick or treating was also news to me, and a good campaigning idea.

Happy Samhain!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

events

This week - buskers including 'The Ballad of Accounting' into their sets across the commuter zone - catch them at places various. Join in if you want to.

Sunday 14th October - afternoon SOMA workshop (see previous posts) at the Toilet Gallery. Very close to Richmond station. Part of a series looking at activism...films, performance, workshops. See Guerilla Zoo website.

Monday 15th October - action day against Royal Bank of Scotland - the oil bank. See Rising Tide website.

Friday 19th October to Sunday 21st October - Bloomsbury Festival. Events, talks and shows around Bloomsbury. See the Bloomsbury Festival website.

Friday 26th October - last Friday of the month means its time to cycle round central London with the Critical Massers. Meet 6.30pm at national film theatre under Waterloo Bridge.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007



It just made me smile.

Happy international day of nonviolence. I hope you are having an a good actively nonviolent day (or nonviolently active day?).

Sunday, 23 September 2007

two wheel fun


Dates for cyclists -

Critical Mass - last Friday of each month. Outside National Film Theatre at 6.30pm. Cycle round London with loads of other cyclists, and a Police escort to keep you free from the maddening motorists. Slogan - we're not blocking the traffic, we are the traffic.

And for the cineastes - see http://www.bicyclefilmfestival.com/ It runs from 17-21 October at Rich Mix cinema on Bethnal Green Rd (L'pool St Stn end).

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Brecht takes on Lennon

In the interests of finding an alternative lyrics we can bash drums to... I found this at the end of an Indian human rights organisation's report on state violence in Chattisgarh.

1
From the People proceeds the power of the State.
–But where does it proceed to?
Yes, where is it proceeding to?
There’s some place it’s proceeding to.
The policeman proceeds through the station gate.
–But where does he proceed to?
etc.

2
Look, there’s the whole lot on the march.
–But where are they marching to?
Yes, where are they marching to?
There’s some place they are marching to.
They wheel through the gate and under the arch.
–But where are they heeling to?
etc.

3
The power of the State turns right about.
Something is in the air.
–What can be in the air?
There’s something in the air.
The power of the state gives a piercing shout
And yells: Get moving there!
–But moving why and where?
It yells: Get moving there!

4
There’s something standing in a crowd
Something which queries that.
Why should it query that?
What cheek to query that!
The State just shoots-for that’s allowed-
And something falls down flat.
What was it fell down flat?
What made it fall like that?

5
The power of the State sees something spill.
Something lies in the shit.
What’s lying in the shit?
Something’s lying in the shit.
There’s something lying deadly still
–The People, why, that’s it!
Can that really be it?
Yes, that is really it.

-Bertolt Brecht

Friday, 14 September 2007

Letter to Met

Here's the text of my mail to Acting Superintendent Colin Morgan -

Dear Colin

You issued a s12 Public Order Act 1986 notice on the critical mass protestors last night at about 7.45pm at the junction of Upper Grosvenor St and Park Lane. I asked you for your reasoning that the protest might result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or to the serious disruption to the life of the community. You told me that you did not have to tell me this.

This morning I've spent some time trying to understand what these terms mean, but without much luck. So I'm asking you as a public servant to let me know what definition of these terms you use to characterise them before you decide to issue a notice. This will enable me and other protestors to understand how we might avoid a similar situation; because as non-violent protestors we do not believe that violence to people or property is useful in the advancement of our right to protest.

And I would also appreciate if you could let me know what led you to conclude that you 'reasonably believed' that we might create the situations generalised in the notice. And whether I have any rights under the Freedom of Information Act to find this out anyway.

Thanks in advance.

Carl Reynolds

Right to protest penned in


I cycled on the small Critical Mass ride to the Dorchester Hotel last night to protest outside whilst the arms dealers were tucking into a five star dinner inside. After cycling merrily along for half an hour or so, the Police blocked us in at the end of Upper Grosvenor St and told us they were holding us under s12 of the Public Disorder Act 1986. This means that the senior officer believes that our 'procession' was likely to result in 'serious public disorder' or 'serious damage to property' or to the 'serious disruption to the life of the community'.



The last point has some merit, in that we wanted to disrupt the diners feasting on the profits of their deadly dealings, but to say they were the community or that 20 odd cyclists could seriously disrupt them, was pushing the point.

The senior officer who announced the s12 notice told me, on questioning, that he wasn't required to give me his reasoning for believing that there would be serious public disorder etc. I asked him how I might find out his reasoning, and was told I'd have to take a judical review. These are not cheap and are hard to come by at 8 o'clock on a Thursday night in the middle of the street.

So this morning I've done a big search of various acts and can't find a definition of what 'serious public disorder' etc means. Anyone help out?

What strikes me is that the state can define where a protest can be held (s14 of same act); which is a weird irony given that protests are often against the state. The other ironies are slapping such a notice on a non-violent protest. But more than anything, the Act (and various others that I discovered) allow the Police to impose virtually any condition they like, without having to explain their reasoning; safe in the knowledge that the citizen does not have practical recourse to challenge this. For example, even if I could afford to mount a judical review, I can only do this subsequently and it would take several months. And even when I find out the officer's rationale and/or the judge tells them they were mistaken; it'll only apply to the situation I was in, the Police will only get a slapped wrist and meantime will be using whatever Act they choose to use (anti-harassment, SOCA, public order acts) to prevent peaceful protest.

Something is out of control. In the meantime, I've emailed the senior officer to ask if he can help me find a definition of a serious public disorder and/or give me an account of his 'reasonable belief' that we were about to do serious disorder or serious damage or serious disruption.

Watch this space.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Skills Share -- Street Acts


Seeds for Change and TTT will hold a day-long workshop Tuesday, 30 October for the TTT community. A trainer has been invited from Street Acts who will lead participants in exploring what we can learn from drama techniques to enliven role-plays and other activities in NV workshops, as well apply the techniques in the street.

The training will take place at Friends Meeting House 30 Oct from 10 to 5pm, please mark your calendar and let 'Sophie R' know if you plan on coming.

Monday, 10 September 2007

letter to Helen

Helen, your news hit us like a thunderbolt on Saturday morning.

You remained with us, in our thoughts and your presence and your devastating circumstances lending an atmosphere - for me - of intensity, of the reality of life, as we discussed empowerment with ourselves and with the people on the streets around Euston.

Grief is such a personal thing, our own and how others around us respond to it. But it is, or should be, a time when the community around us comes together. You have been such a giving, member of our Turning the Tide community: contributing, constructively challenging others but most of all challenging yourself over the past year. You have been a pleasure to work with.



We tried, I think, to hold you with us on Saturday, making no claim to understand how you must feel, but to keep you present in our thoughts and our struggles with all that is sore in the world.

If there is anything we can do to support you, provide a source for strength, let us know. I am aware of the danger of speaking for others, but for myself at least, I will keep holding you in my thoughts. Take good care of you, and I hope others are taking good care of you too.

SOMA - more training opps for activists

‘SOMA – an anarchist experiment’ group. It will run for 12 weeks every Monday evening, from 24th September to 10th December. The two introductory workshops are open for people interested to know more about SOMA, and also they will be a first ‘get together’ for participants of the group.


Introductory Workshops
Wednesday 12th September – 7 to 10 pm
Monday 17th September - 7 to 10 pm
(Suggested donation £10 full /£7 concession)

12 week group on Mondays, 7 to 10pm
From 24 September to 10 December
£120 / £80 Please contact us to indicate interest

The Boxing Club
Limehouse Town Hall
646 Commercial Road
LONDON
E14 7HA

SOMA is a series of sessions/experiences using body games to create a group dynamic, inspired by principles of self-organisation and solidarity. When Roberto Freire created ‘SOMA – an anarchist therapy’ in Brazil, more than thirty years ago, he was looking for therapeutic methodologies that could help people emotionally who were fighting against the military dictatorship. Changing therapy into experiment, we have turned the SOMA (which means ‘totality of being’ in Greek) approach away from an emphasis on neurosis (we have something wrong) towards the gaining of skills (we can learn something new).
This approach breaks the traditional rational way to develop skills, where the mind is split from the body, the individual removed from its surroundings. SOMA games are proposals to play in a group - sharing experiences of collaboration, trust and responsibility. It’s this group dynamic created by SOMA games that stimulate the whole being to engage with the world. After the games, the participants will feedback, talking about their perceptions and behaviour playing together.
The body is the material to work with: movement, perception and contact with each other to dare to be creative in everyday life. Play is a way to rediscover the body, just as collaboration helps to rediscover relationships.

FACILITATOR:
Jorge Goia has been a Soma practitioner since completing his training in 1993 with Roberto Freire, the Brazilian psychologist who created ‘Soma – an anarchist therapy’ in 1970s. He has coordinated Soma groups in many cities in Brazil during more than 10 years. Since March 2004, he’s been doing Soma in Europe (England, Scotland, Germany and Spain). Goia has a PhD in Social Psychology and he researched the changes that Soma and Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art used in some Soma exercises) can make to individuals and groups. With Capoeira, he has been working with special schools and young people with behavioural issues. He is also a Research Associate in the Brazilian and Portuguese Studies department at King’s College, University of London.

Info: 07758224334 (Goia) jorge.goia at bol.com.br
and 07947596589 (Arthur) arthur.swindells at gmail.com


For directions see http://twenteenthcentury.com/lth/#directions

map: http://www.streetmap.co.uk/newmap.srf?x=536720&y=181065&z=1&sv=536750,181250&st=4&ar=Y&mapp=newmap.srf&searchp=newsearch.srf

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Working on it ourselves (Oct & Dec TTT sessions)

Working on it ourselves (Oct & Dec TTT sessions)
Eleanor Roosevelt said 'It's not enough to want peace. You have to believe it in. And it's not enough to believe in peace. You have to work for it.'

Well the time has come for us Turning-the-Tiders to start doing our little bit of work IN THE WORKSHOPS for peace, (active) nonviolence, NVDA, campaigning, empowerment, the constructing the alternative, facilitation, and group-process.

As you know, the first part of the course has focused on content, and now we're switching gears and going to start working on the how to help other groups work on these topics: the facilitation and group-working skills bit of conducting trainings.

In August a group of us met to talk about any suggestions or recommendations we might have for how to organise these remaining sessions. The notes from this meeting have been circulated via email, and today I'm posting them here with the idea that the blog might provide a quicker and more easily accessible forum for us to discuss these ideas.

At the end of the Empowerment workshop 8 September, time has been made for us as a group to talk about how we'd like to collectively organise and facilitate the Oct (group-process) and Dec (facilitation and basic group skills) sessions. Since not everyone was able to come in August, this conversation will hopefully be more inclusive and an action-planning time.

This week Carl and I are going to work on a framework to suggest to the group about how we might facilitate Oct & Dec. We'll post these ideas ideas, and look forward to your comments and ideas, as well as your offers for more active involvement when we discuss this next Saturday. And so, welcome to September and see you next week. Notes are posted below.

Notes from 4 August

August small TTT group (AsTTTG) meeting

Who was there?

Carl, Denise, Kathryn (host, thank you), Luke and Zaria

What did we do?

It was decided to modify the proposed agenda and focus mostly on our learning, the design and delivery of the course to date. NOTE: this discarded agenda can be viewed in an earlier blog posting, scroll down to the end of July/beginning of August.

There were two 'sessions' (conversations really). Carl facilitated the first on evaluating the course so far – what have we learned about facilitation, NV practice and theory. Then we had a lovely lunch with very (!) fresh vegs and fruits in Kathryn's allotment across the street. In the afternoon session we discussed what we have liked or what has worked well over the past seven sessions.

The following are paraphrased chunks of comments recorded from participants from these conversations.

Conversation 1: Evaluation of the course thus far

Comment 1-1

I've learned a lot about NV, but I've been missing a lot of information about facilitation, or I've misunderstood what I'm suppose to be 'picking up' about facilitation just by watching. I don't feel at all ready to design or plan a workshop, let alone facilitate one.

Comment 1-2

I guess for me I went in curious, thinking I didn't know all that much about the subject matter (NV), but I've been surprised to learn that I know much more than I expected. What has been missing for me is well-modelled facilitation and discussion about facilitation choices – why did we did it that way? Or what else could we have done? I would say that I've been received training in the topic NV but not facilitation.

Comment 1-3

I don't feel that the facilitation has been that inspiring and that the facilitators have been constrained by their agendas. I think an agenda works best when you use it as a proposed route or a general plan minus the details, and you allow yourself to play with the group's outcomes and follow the way the group wants to go. Use the group to develop the agenda. We're a very interesting group with a wide range of experiences and skills, and that hasn't been tapped.

Looking over the facilitators' shoulders I've seen the agendas and they are planned down to the minute. And I don't know what that means. Does that level of planning come from a culture that says it's necessary, or is it uncertainty on the facilitators' part? What I would like are facilitators that respond to us – Fair enough, you say you want to do this, we can, but it means we won't do that. Is that what you want?

And I recognise there are conceptual differences. For me, feeding back on the homework is not facilitation, but I've talked to TTT about that, and in their way of thinking it is.

And one last thing, circumstances have been extraordinary, yes, but the course has suffered greatly because of the lack of continuity in facilitators. Continuity is important in a developmental course.

Comment 1-4

One thing I thought about the course was that I would be learning about different ways to protest, how to deal with the cops, relevant legal issues, that stuff.

Comment 1-5

I expected or hoped to find a community of like-minded people, and that has been fulfilled. The training for trainers aspect not so much. I expected engaging, inspiring, fresh, old material about NV and safe spaces to try out new ways of working with that material. The space has been safe (for me), yes, but overall I would say I've felt about 40% engaged with the material, I get more (grow) from other things I do (I think, maybe it's all just too close right now to tell), then from the Saturday trainings. Although watching the group has been very interesting and full of lessons, so I've no regrets. One thing that I also wondered about before the course was whether we would be applying what we were learning to organise an action or event or whatever the group came up with. No, we haven't, which seems like a sorely missed learning opportunity. We still of course can, but it might be an element to consider for future year-long courses.

Summary comments 1 (1-5)

I think what we're saying is that there is not great clarity about the programme on the part of the participants. We all have different expectations. One thing is – why is that? how come we are all found different messages about what the course would be?

Another thing is – what do we do about it? Or what could have been done from the beginning?

We could have talked about, what are your expectations? What are TTT's? Let's map them. Where do we overlap, where are the gaps, can we fill them, or what should be done?

Comment 1-6

The homework has been another greatly under-utilised resource of the course. Some of the readings have been interesting, one or two have grabbed me, but overall, not really. And I know there is good, inspiring stuff out there about NV, I read it. So the content is one thing, and then the attention or the way the homework has been treated as an after thought or a side dish seems unfair – here, do this reading to give context to the workshop, 5 minutes here, 5 there and let's move on to the agenda.

It elevates the agenda above the homework, where it all could be integrated, all of our contributions valued. It is especially a pity that the homework has not been used as a training tool to give people a chance to facilitate mini-exercises using the homework as a springboard. I agree with the previous comment that reflecting on homework is not facilitation, it's presentation.

Comment 1-7

Part of the discomfort that occurs is because the facilitators resist working with the conflict or the discomfort that arises. What can be done is to say – OK, what's going on right now is interesting, but I'm feeling uncertain about what to do. But what I think I'm hearing is ... So what do you want to do about it? ..... .... .... .... Done. OK, now, how do we all feel? Let's reflect on what we just did. What happened there?

The way conflict and discomfort has been generally dealt with is like going to do an action and when you get there, the police are already there, and you say to them 'Go away, you're not suppose to be here yet'.

Comment 1-8

In general I feel there is a hierarchy between the facilitators and us. And should it be that way if it's a training for trainers?

Comment 1-9

Facilitation is a bit like improvised music. You can only improvise if you know your scales. Facilitation requires adaptation and response to the environment. The facilitator is only there because the group has gathered and wants to accomplish something. The facilitator may have his/her own plan, but if that's not what the group wants to do, then the facilitator needs to adapt to the group.

The way it's been working is interesting – inside that room, we are a mini-representation of the outside world. The group is an issue and the facilitators have been playing the part of 'the system' (wanting to lead) and the group is saying, we don't want to be lead, let's work together.

Summary comments 1 (6-9)

So far what have we been saying? We've been talking about the art of facilitation and the theories and concepts behind NV. And what we're missing is

-- theory and concepts behind facilitation

-- opportunities to practice facilitation in small groups

-- reflection on the process of facilitation (which activities were chosen and why, how they went, what could have been done differently)

-- design, how to design workshops

-- common understanding of what training for trainers is

And then the group dynamics are interesting. People sometimes feel agitated and uncomfortable and there is a push-pull – I want to talk about this, and you don't.

And this system we're in. We're the core of a year-long group that gets together each month. We've changed, the system is changing, but perhaps more slowly, and certainly not willing or with ease.

And the language and the words we use to work through these issues. How do you do that so people don't feel alientated?

Comment 1-10

There needs to be a good deal of thought put into the next course, how it might be re-designed or completely re-done. Everyone's feedback should be included about the design and delivery of the course. How do I feel, you feel, TTT? What will service the needs of the organisation while still meeting the needs/expectations of participants, and how to maintain check-ins on that on-going process.

Comment 1-11

Yes, it seems like constant evaluation of a new (and if possible this one too) course like this should have been integrated into the design. Pen and paper evaluations at the end of each session, and time made for participants to fill them out. Or some kind of evaluation that is more thorough than just smiles and frowns. What we tend to do (not always, but generally) for evaluation is really more of a closing tool than a real evaluation tool.

Summary comments 1 (10-11)

One of the expectations of today was that we'd talk about how we'd like to facilitate the remaining sessions. But we have some gaps or doubts:

Is it realistic to think we have time to get it together to run September?

We need more information about the expected outputs of the remaining sessions.

Carl is not particularly interested in doing much facilitation as it's what he does professionally, and believes the practice opportunity could be better utilised by someone else. He's happy to playing a supporting role and be involved, but does not want to be a main facilitator.

Others present (with the exception of Luke) were indifferent in their responses – could do, but don't have to

Luke would be happy to try things out but would want support


Conversation 2: What we have liked, or what has worked well in the last 7 sessions

Comment 2-1

The films have been good, you have a fuzzy idea about history and events (like Leach was 'the man') but you're not really clear about how it all worked. And discussing the films is good because other people notice or know things that I don't.

Comment 2-2

I appreciate a lot of the sessions, but I want more on how to do NVDA and less on the context. That's just passive reception; I can find that out on my own. I want more on how, and less about why. More workshops like Matt and Alison's.

Comment 2-3

One of the points that interested me the most was when we talked about the wider ways social change happens – not just through NVDA – but how it all comes together and what sort of action is appropriate when. And why certain actions just will fail because the conditions are not yet ripe. That was very enlightening.


Comment 2-4

New words. I've learned words, like affinity group, non-cooperation, gathering 'I'd like to invite you to ..’

Comment 2-5

I've mostly valued the people. I missed one month and even though the next topic was not for me, I was very happy to go just to see people. And what is also interesting is hearing what other people say, I realise that I can take community for granted as I've got lots of little communities here and there.

Comment 2-6

Reflecting on the past conversation we just had and thinking about the bits and pieces that have been interesting, we've learned a bit about history of NV, power structures, campaign planning and all very good, fair enough, but I'm still unclear about what the outcomes of the programme will be. What will I be able to do once it's done?

Comment 2-7

I was the G8 in Scotland and I watched the protests, the police and I was bemused, annoyed, scared, energised. It was all very dramatic, but I didn't understand it. So in joining the course I thought I might better be able to and sometimes I think 'yes! I do' and then I think 'hold on, no I don't' ... 'or do I?' So working through all that has been interesting.

Comment 2-8

I've had this interest in NV for a while, but I've felt very alone with it. I've found the community and culture we're creating in the course very comforting. And have only felt that two times before, both in rather unique environments, one a monastery and the other in Israel.

I also have liked the videos; the videos have helped me to see the many varied creative ways of NV. NV is a very broad topic and the specific cases have helped me to know better that I need to focus myself. The images or stories told in the videos are so rare, people just don't know about that. They are very good; they take an abstract concept like NV and make it very real.

I can see now that I need to link NV to something that I already care about. I guess I need to volunteer or find opportunities to see or do myself the application of these tools.

Comment 2-9

We've had good lunches and proven chaos theory correct – even without a plan, not everyone will bring hummus!

Comment 2-10

The blog has been good thing, but it's been kept alive by a core group of us. We should think about ways to broaden the circle of users in the future.

Comment 2-11

I like the group represents such a diverse range of interests but we're all connected by valuing NV.

Comment 2-12

I like the re-confirmation that I've got about the notion of everything you do accumulates towards the ends. You may not see the immediate outcome of X action, but it does all build up and contribute towards something larger.

Action suggstion from a follow-up email, Carl suggests this:

Denise

Thanks for the notes. I've read them and thought it might be good to agree a summary.

My understanding is that we have appreciated the range of topics, butbelieve that the programme should more explicitly cover the 'how to' of facilitation, using the various perspectives we came up with.
As to actions - I'm happy to provide support to whoever delivers the programme later in the year, but if no one is willing than I'm also happy to deliver the group process and facilitation sessions (Oct and Dec), as long as I understand what Steve and Mathew will cover in Nov.

Carl
Question from DD:

How does the wider group – all of you, not just the handful of us who were there, feel about Carl’s suggested summary and action points?

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Chalk 4 Peace


Hey hey hey hey,
Chalk chalk chalk chalk
4
peace peace peace peace
Are we going to let August go by without a post? Chalk 4 Peace is something that has caught my eye. What do you think?

Monday, 30 July 2007

updated plan for 4 Aug

As there will be 6 of us, possibly 8, and many of us live in south London, I suggest we meet on 4 August in my house in Walworth, near Elephant and Castle, and use Burgess Park if it stops $£$£^% raining. I'll send directions to those of you I know are coming.

If you are coming, please post in a comment below what food you will bring, so we can coordinate and not bring too much rice/couscous/humus ;)

I have suggested facilitators (in brackets) for each item - please feedback if you want to do this, or something else?

see some of you on Saturday,
xKathryn

Using our skills and experience: building good workshops
aim to explore and develop our skills as facilitators of active non-violence workshops through peer teaching (sharing, mentoring and being mentored).
agenda
- gathering (any)
- homework groups/discussion (any)
- our facilitation styles (indiv, in pairs) (De)
- facilitation tools - go rounds, small groups, jig saw, puzzles, different coloured thinking hats, world cafe etc (sharing/discussion) (De)
- crumple buttons (what to do when things go wrong) (H)
- building good workshops, including what makes a good agenda? (building a model from group brainstorm) (K)
- reviewing the TTT course to date including feedback from TTT mid term evaluation (C)
- how will we facilitate later sessions? (C)
- evaluation (any)
- closing (any)

Attending: Carl, Zaria, Denise, Diana, Kathryn, Rachel
Maybe: Helen G, Frances
Not attending: Mary Lou, Helen D, Hannah, Jenny

Thursday, 26 July 2007

C olombian Peace Community leader murdered - please act

On 13 July, Dairo Torres, a leader of the San José de Apartadó Peace Community in Colombia was taken from a bus by two armed members of an army-backed paramilitary group. The next bus along that rounte discoved his body by the road; he had been shot.

Dario Torres's murder is but the most recent of 160 murders of members of this Peace Community since its establishment ten years ago: people who have chosen not to align with any army actors in Colombia's messy wars. You may remember the film about this community, Until the Last Stone, that showed the fear and the basic poverty in which these people live. Agreeing to be a leader looks like a suicide bid.

The San José de Apartadó Peace Community is accompanied by PBI in Colombia. As a result of this murder PBI has issued an urgent activation of its support network; a step PBI only takes when things are really serious.

More information about Dario Torres, his community and the background to this case can be found on Amnesty's website.

Please write to your MP and request that the British Government asks the Colombian Government to
- give guarantees that these acts of persecution against the Peace Community will cease
- quickly investigate the facts of this case, including the role of the police in the assassination of Dairo Torres
- take immediate measures to ensure and effectively stop impunity for the crimes committed against the Peace Community, impunity that opens the way for repetition of such crimes.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Sat 4 August - the group's workshop

Since we do not have a workshop scheduled for Sat 4 August, at the July session we agreed that the year group could use this as an opportunity to reflect on the series so far, our own skills and experience as facilitators, and the input we might like to have in future sessions. Kathryn, Carl and Rachel offered to coordinate the workshop, so here is a tentative plan.

aim:
to explore and develop our skills as facilitators of active non-violence workshops through peer teaching (sharing, mentoring and being mentored).

tentative agenda

gathering

homework groups/discussion

our facilitation styles (indiv, in pairs)

facilitation tools - go rounds, small groups, jig saw, puzzles, different coloured thinking hats, world cafe etc (sharing/discussion)

crumple buttons (what to do when things go wrong)

building good workshops, including what makes a good agenda? (building a model from group brainstorm)

reviewing the TTT course to date including feedback from TTT mid term evaluation

what to do in the future with TTT?

evaluation

closing

Attending: Carl, Zaria, Denise (?), Helen G, Kathryn, Rachel
Not attending: Mary Lou, Helen D
Venue: still to be decided (depends in part on numbers)

We really need feedback, particularly on whether you can a) attend b) facilitate any of it and c) what you would bring for lunch (so we don't have lots of pots of humous). If you are member of the TTT year group, could you comment on this post, or email Kathryn, with your responses to a) (even if you are not coming), b) and c), as well as any other comments have. Thanks!

Friday, 20 July 2007

crime pays.. does violence?

There was an article in last Sunday's Observer about a painting forger who had spent 4 months in prison, and now continues to forge paintings but is quite open about it. He gets up to £75,000 for his fakes and has had an order from the leader of the jury that sent it down. Clearly he is doing very well out of the publicityof his trial. (Notably his accomplice still denies involvement and is still in prison 6 years on).

It reminded me of the debate about violence, and whether it is needed as the last resort. Would South Africa have escaped apartheid if it had been an entirely non-violent campaign?

Clearly it's simplistic to say 'crime pays'; I guess usually it doesn't (though this kind of crime, which is not hurting anyone physically, and is stealing property rights but not property itself, raises interesting questions). And the same with violence. But the nagging question remains - can we change everything with non-violence?

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Reflection for activists

A reflective practice, offered to the group as homework during the July session, is based on the Examen or Examination of Consciousness. It is a technique that encourages us to reflect on where we find energy for what we do as well as where the challenges come from...to step back and observe these in a non-judgemental way....to sit with our experience and see what emerges. It is not about thinking through or analysing our experience but about feeling and letting that experience speak to us.

Often people use it in the evening to reflect back over the day. I suggest we use it to reflect back over our time as activists, focusing on these 2 questions:

1. What has been energising and given you life during your activism?
2. What has been draining and taken life away during your activism?

I encourage you to try it out at least once. It is a practice and I've found that I get more from it the more regularly I do it so you may want to give it a few goes!

How to do it (a suggestion!)
Set 10 - 15 minutes aside for this....
Find a relaxing space and get comfortable.
Close your eyes or find something to focus on.
Be still. Become aware of your breathing.
Cast your mind back over your time as an activist.

And, when you're ready, bring the first question to mind, spend some time with it....
....and then move on to the 2nd question.

You may want to mark the end of the reflection in some way...reading or saying an inspiring quotation, with a prayer, a number of deep breaths....

Spend 5 minutes (of the 10-15 minutes) writing down anything that came to you.

Support
If anyone has any questions about this, is finding it difficult or that it doesn't work for them I'm happy to answer questions or offer other suggestions.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Chocolala -- new fair trade (and Quaker) chocolate


When Helen did her presentation on fair trade it reminded me of some chocolates I had at a meeting a couple of weeks ago. Chocolala is a new fair trade chocolate company. They are a bit pricey, but they are good. A nifty present for someone special (... or yourself :-)

Sunday, 8 July 2007

spirituality and our activism

I was talking to friends last night (over a damn fine veggie lasagne in Kennington's The Dog House; recommended) about our workshop, and the things we could have covered. That then occupied me in insonmnia at 3am. So I'll share them.

My friends agreed that it would be fascinating to think about why we do what we do - at the very least, why do we give up one Saturday a month to attend these workshops? Why do we want to bring about change (without being paid for it)? So many people don't; why do we?

Related, but maybe not the same - what are our values? Can we map or somehow visualise them? Do we do this ourselves? (I know I don't) Why/why not? Does that matter? (Then, and for me only then, we could look at what supports us in living out those values).

Grasp the scary language: what does spirituality mean to us - both in terms of a definition of the language, and how do we relate to it? Why are some of us turned off by the language, and why or how does it support others? How can we communicate better using or not using that language?

Do we each believe there is something bigger than us? (How) does that affect our activism? Does that affect who we are activ(ist) with?

What do you think?

Friday, 6 July 2007

is your mobile fuelling war in the Congo?

My colleague Jonathan recently surprised me by explaining that he doesn't have a mobile phone as a matter of principle, because the trade in coltan - an essential mineral for manufacturing mobile phones - is propping up the rebels in the DRC.



While most of the world's coltan comes from legitimate mining in Australia, Brazil and Canada, a worrying amount passes through warring hands,and there is little way of knowing which is which. This report from 2001 explains how money and wars are made through our calls:

Given the substantial increase in the price of coltan between late 1999 and late 2000, a period during which the world supply was decreasing while the demand was increasing, a kilo of coltan of average grade was estimated at $200. According to the estimates of professionals, the Rwandan army through Rwanda Metals was exporting at least 100 tons per month. The Panel estimates that the Rwandan army could have made $20 million per month, simply by selling the coltan that, on average, intermediaries buy from the small dealers at about $10 per kg. According to experts and dealers, at the highest estimates of all related costs (purchase and transport of the minerals), RPA must have made at least $250 million over a period of 18 months. This is substantial enough to finance the war. Here lies the vicious circle of the war. Coltan has permitted the Rwandan army to sustain its presence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The army has provided protection and security to the individuals and companies extracting the mineral. These have made money which is shared with the army, which in turn continues to provide the enabling environment to continue the exploitation.

And more information on guns, money and cells phones is avaliable if this has got you worried.

Friday, 22 June 2007

guerrilla lighting

I came across this today, a bit bizarre but made me think of us nonetheless! Did anyone see it?

Guerrilla Lighting Comes to London
Demonstrating the power of good lighting



One dictionary definition of guerrilla is an unofficial independent army of partisan soldiers, and, following the success of Guerrilla Lighting Manchester it will be a 100+ strong army that descend on London on the 15th February. The concept of Guerrilla Lighting was created by Martin Lupton, director of BDP Lighting, for the purpose of raising awareness of the power of lighting. Under the guidance of a team leader, each member will take part in creating transient lighting designs by using high powered torches, battery powered LED projectors, luminous dot lights and an array of gels and filters. Instructed to be in a specific position and at a given distance from their target, the teams will simultaneously light up various aspects of the Pool of London's architecture on cue at the sound of an air horn, creating a dramatic spectacle. The installation will be photographed, the lighting turned off and then the team move on to the next site. The teams will be made up of local lighting designers, architects, interior designers and manufacturers, all of whom are keen to draw attention to the possibilities, and importance of, lighting in the urban environment. The event will take place as part of 'Switched ON London', London's first festival of light. www.guerrillalighting.net

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Inspiring Book

Something that inspired me this month, and an action I have taken which I hope will inspire others.
*Having offered to prepare something for the July session, I have decided to play my Joker on this item. Since this piece is too long to be read in the session, I'd like if I may to publish the whole text here, as a context for a short and hopefully useful activity in the session.

Helen Dymond

There was a book in the good old 1960's or was it the 70's, a hip guide to American students swanning around in their gap year, called 'Europe on Five Dollars a Day'. Five dollars a day? WOW! How could such thrift be attained? It was clever, inflation-busting, quaintly alternative. A new book, '50 Reasons to Buy Fair Trade' by Miles Litvinoff and John Madeley (Pluto Press, www.plutobooks.com) tells me that half a century later in 2007, "throughout the developing world people are working in poor countries for less than a dollar a day to make goods such as clothes and toys for the Western world."

They are forced into it by the rock bottom prices agreed by the world agriculture markets for the kind of crops their climates and soils will allow them to grow. With the international coffee agreement's collapse in 1989, for many farmers prices fellow below the cost of production. The impact on societies has been and continues to be disastrous: "social unrest, robberies, suicides, debt, children withdrawn from school by their parents; in Colombia and Haiti growers turning in desperation to illegal drugs cultivation. In Nicaragua, thousands of coffee workers held a 'March of the Hungry' to the capital in mid-2003, during which fourteen of the marchers are said to have died, during the march, of starvation. " Equally devestating in its effects, the world banana market worth £5 billion is dominated by a cartel consisting of a mere five companies.

But '50 Reasons' does't set out to scold; it invites us to celebrate the burgeoning of the Fair Trade movement, to join a damn good party that is going on and is here to stay It's this positive energy that makes the book inspiring; and incidentally it cleared up my puzzlement as to why I had not enjoyed Starhawk's 'Webs of Power' as much I had expected to: Starhawk seemed so much preoccupied with Our Action, Our Vision, Our struggle - whereas this book is all about Them. It is meticulously researched and packed full of useful information about what Fair Trade is, how it helps producers to a fair and stable income, where to find FT products; but perhaps its greatest achievement is that it gives a small cast of farmers a published voice, lets them speak for themselves.

It provides just the global context we need to make sense of what is happening in our own locality, and has prompted me to conduct a small, totally unscientific survey of my two local superstores; Sainsbury's at Ladbroke Grove and at Willesden, to explore Sainbsury's claim that it supports Fair Trade. I also wanted to answer some more uncomfortable questions closer to home: why don't I, the barely-reconstructed housewife, buy more than a few FT products? Is it because of my ignorance of the range on offer? A suspicion that they will be more expensive than non-FT? Or it is due to lack of visibility, a failed opportunity to highlight the products like the sweets which are always in your face at the checkout counter? (I am told Sainsbury's recently had a 'Fair Trade Fortnight' , but none of my neighbours seem to have noticed it).

Not that I am advocating supermarket shopping, given the environmental impact of import air-miles, excess packaging and general swamping of small producers. But the plain fact is that the vast majority of shoppers patronise supermarkets, so there should be some attempt to understand what is going on there. Paradoxically a much wider range of FT can be found there than in the average small retailer, and those who already patronise FT- specialist shops/farmers'markets need no conversion. Having obtained printouts of what FT goods are offered in these two stores, I made some comparisons between them, checked prices against the Online Shopping list and came up with some suirprising findings, of which I give just a sample here.

'50 Reasons' tells me that there are now over 2,000 FT certified products on the market, but Sainsbury's Online Shopping lists only 68 - so the first question is, why so few? And apart from cleaning cloths at Willesden, none of the non-food items are listed. There seems no consistent Buying policy either: Willesden carries only 27 items, of which 13 are not listed at Ladbroke Grove, while Ladborke Grove carries 30, of which 18 are not available at Willesden. This seems fairly chaotic, but the most glaring omission is that, having been assured by the Customer Care Service that "all Sainsbury's bananas are Fair Trade", FT bananas are not listed at all at Ladbroke Grove! I have informed Head Office of this fact and the person I spoke to sounded genuinely shocked.

The majority of products are beverages, coffees, teas and wines. At Ladbroke Grove fresh fruit FT products are grapes, pineapples and mangoes, whereas Willesden, a store with a significantly smaller clientele, manages to sell all those plus oranges and bananas. Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury's, a significant shopping mecca in this part of London boasting a bus terminus, and the Congestion Charge Extension Zone was shifted, after huge local protests, a few metres south of the Harrow Road so as to exclude the store, has a Coffee Shop which sells FT chocolate muffins and chocolate brownies - so why aren't these available on the shelves?

Thebiggest surprise are the prices. There is a perception that FT goods are likely to be more expensive, as organic products are, although the big stores can afford to and sometimes do subsidise them. Many FT items turn out to be the same, or cheaper than, non-FT. Fairtrade Teabags 250g cost £1.19, whereas Sainbsury's Green Blend Teabags 250g cost £1.95; Billington's Golden Granulated Sugar 500g sell for 89p, Tate & Lyle Granulated for a whopping £3.85; a pack of 5 Sainbsury's FT oranges are £1.59, while a pack of 5 non-FT oranges are £1.75.

What to do with these admittedly random statistics? I plan to send a report to Sainsbury's outlining my findings and suggesting that the Buying Policy is reviewed and hopefully improved. The range of goods offered could be greatly extended, and promoted as not only socially responsible but better value. And I have a plan to do a small promotion of my own: namely, I am thinking of a pre-Christmas social gathering of our Neighbourhood Watch Group to which everyone will be invited to bring only FT consumables - a sort of Pudding Party with bevvies, chocolate mousse and exotic fruit salad, nuts for those that can eat them, freshly baked biscuits etc. and some small inexpensive Ft gifts for Santa's Sack and prizes for games. It's a small step, as social movements go, but a first, I am resonably sure, in this neck of the woods.

Monday, 18 June 2007

tan... slowly

In the Guardian on Saturday 9 June there was a centre spread that listed 'eight years and 32 actions to save the planet'; things that need doing at international, national, local and individual levels. It looked impressive, optimistic. The last point was

2015 Downshifting and having a slow pace of life now the major aspiration for many peole. Youngsters travel abroad by ship and train, savouring the experience. Low-cost flights have reduced by 80%

Then, over the page, is a nearly full-page advert: United we TAN. 5* Marrakech 5 nts from £279. Get your 5 breaks a year. lastminute.com.

If newspapers like the Guardian don't walk the talk, and change how they accept advertising, how are young people or anyone else going to buy into 'having a slow pace of life'?

Friday, 15 June 2007

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Euston Tea Party

The sarf Londoners will recognise this as London Bridge, but hey, it's a mainline station.

We've talked about doing an action as a group. One idea that combines our love of food and our concern for the planet and people is to raise awareness of food and health.

So...the Euston Tea Party. An extravaganza of cakes, coffee and teas; combined with conversations about fair trade, organics, food miles, body and mental health. In front of their antithesis of Krispy Kreme, Starbucks, Cornish Pasty et al.

I suggest we occupy a couple of tables in the public space outside the station and in front of said outlets and give away cakes and teas to passers by and engage them in dialogues about food and things. We accompany this with flyers; and seeing as we have the skills, a couple of songs too.

What do you think? Ideas in the comments section. Plan at July get together.

If you want to practice, there's a Bellenden Bunfight this Saturday 16th June at the Review Bookshop on Bellenden Rd. Entry is £1 - bring a cake to be eaten and judged.

More info at http://landcrofthouse.blogspot.com/2007/05/bellenden-bun-fight.html

building the local alternative


Last weekend we looked at building the alternative; based on the notion that the way in which we are active should also form the way we want our civil society to be.

I facilitated an exercise on looking at this from the localised perspectives of - home, friends and neighbours.

These themes and ideas emerged. What do you want to add, be clear about or comment on?

Friends
Learning from them
Be the friend you'd like to have
Care-frontation not confrontation in challenging views you don't agree with
Put energy into reconnecting with old friends
Express your gratitude for support
Stop 'taking the piss' and encourage instead

Home
Reduce, re-use, recycle - eg books, washing machines, cars, computers
Share resources
Produce as much food on site as possible
Use organic and biodynamic stuff/food
Fair trade, eco-products
Turn off stand-by items
Think through ethical consumption
Commit to good communcation with those you live with
Offer hospitality
Cook together and not too much

Neighbours
Solidarity actions eg campaigns to save adventure playgrounds, the Maudsley
Community gardens in the space between flats - herbs, flowers, veg and compost
Smiling, walking, conversing with neighbours
Use local shops, not chains or supermarkets
Have dialogues about choices in shops and markets
Campaign for post offices and local services
Join a local group eg a choir or bell ringers
Go to local events like school fairs, jumble sales and festivals

Friday, 18 May 2007

Peace Tax continued again

Helen's letter:
This message was also sent to: Claude Moraes MEP, Gerard Batten MEP, Robert Evans MEP, Mary Honeyball MEP, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, John Bowis OBE MEP, Syed Kamall MEP

Thursday 10 May 2007

Dear John Bowis OBE, Gerard Batten, Claude Moraes, Jean Lambert, Syed Kamall, Robert Evans, Charles Tannock, Mary Honeyball and Baroness Sarah Ludford,

I am one of your constituents, living in north-west London, and you are my representatives at the European Parliament. Apart from Jean Lambert, whom I have heard speak and who is well known for her green credentials, forgive me that I do not know what campaigns and causes
the rest of you are involved in, but I am hoping that the issue I raise here will strike a chord with at least one of you and that I shall have at least one reply.

I am a retired teacher and college lecturer, and so my income tax is deducted at source via PAYE. I am one of the millions of people who have demonstrated consistently against war, and are horrified that our hard-earned money is being creamed off at source to pay for military
weapons,the illegal invasion of Iraq and the deaths of innocent civilians. I no longer feel able to accept this system without challenging it. I have joined the campaign group 'Conscience' which is
advocating the right of European citizens to have that part of one's taxes currently devoted to killing, to be ring-fenced for a 'Peace Tax' devoted to positive mediation to prevent war, and compensation for victims of war. Some members of 'Conscience' have already taken this
matter in the European Court of Human Rights on the basis of Article 9 of the European Convention which protects 'our right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and to manifest that religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.' I need to hear
from you, please,whether or not you are in support of this movement.

I shall be writing also to my British MP, but unfortunately she has voted consistently against investigating the Iraq War, so she is unlikely to ally herself to this critical cause.I do hope that MEPs are more enlightened.

Yours sincerely,
(Mrs.) Helen Dymond

A response from Charles Tannock

Dear Ms Dymond

I do not support this "Conscience" movement or its fiscal philosophy nor does the UK Conservative Party to my knowledge in the UK House of Commons, which would anyway be in charge of direct UK taxation not the European Parliament of which I am a member. I do not believe in ring fencing direct taxes according to one's personal beliefs no matter how strongly or sincerely held (eg animal rights activists opposed to intensive farming, antinuclear protesteres opposed to nuclear power etc) as this would create an impossible precedent in which people would opt out of all sorts of things they did not like and demand their taxes back making government budgeting impossible! To my knowledge no country in the world upholds such an approach as you suggest. In a democrcay you vote for a party and only if it has majority control can it decide to change spending patterns, although I accept we politicians within reason
must be as sensitive to differing views as possible, but this would not in my view mean reducing funding of the armed forces which defend the security of the whole country. I regret I cannot be more helpful but doubt any responsible mainstream party could support such a policy.

Dr. Charles Tannock MEP

London Region
Deputy Coordinator Foreign Affairs Committee for EPP-ED Group
UK Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman

Office of Dr. Charles Tannock MEP
Conservative/London Region

European Parliament
ASP 14 E 101
Rue Wiertz
B-1047 Brussels
Belgium
Tel: +32 2 28 45870 Fax: +32 2 28 49870 www.charlestannock.com

and another one from Peter Hulme

Dear Ms Dymond,

Thank you for your email.

My position on the British involvement in Iraq is as follows, copied from a posting on the internet in November 2004..

"I would have supported an allied invasion of Iraq, including the deployment of British Armed Forces, if this had been sanctioned by a United Nations Resolution. I am not a lawyer, but I do not believe there was a UN Resolution to this effect. I do not therefore support the Government's justification for sending our troops to Iraq.

My support for such a UN Resolution would be conditional upon the invasion being in the UK national interest, and a clear and unambiguous statement of the aims of an invasion from the outset.

I would consider UK national interest to include security of our borders; safety of British subjects overseas; protection of British economic interests including free and fair international trade; and the upholding of international law to promote peace and stability. I would
not be in favour of interference in the internal affairs of another sovereign state unless these principles are at stake."

There have always been people who oppose war and refuse to fight in one for various reasons. In WWII such persons often became medical personnel, stretcher bearers, etc. In more modern times, the proposal has been to withhold a proportion of one's taxes. I think this will be
difficult when one's taxes are taken under the PAYE system, but I can only applaud you for trying.

Best Regards,

Peter Hulme Cross
One London Group
London Assembly

Tel:- 020 7983 4919
www.onelondon.org.uk
and one just in from the Lib Dems

16th May 2007

Dear Ms Dymond,

Thank you for your email dated 10th May 2007 regarding taxes. I am replying on behalf of my colleagues at the London Assembly, Sally Hamwee, Dee Doocey, Graham Tope and Mike Tuffrey.

Thank you for your interesting thoughts on taxes but unfortunately taxation is a matter for Westminster not the London Assembly, so we have no powers over this subject.

We do however sympathise with your concerns. We can confirm that the Liberal Democrats in parliament voted against the horrific Iraq war, and that Ming Campbell has in the past called for early withdrawal of UK troops backed up by re-energised talks and negotiations with Middle Eastern powers.

Thank you for writing to us.

Yours sincerely,
Geoff Pope AM
Liberal Democrat Assembly Member

Peace Direct job

Peace Direct are currently advertising for the position of Project Manager
on the Truce 2012 project.

Salary £25,000 plus 6% pension contribution, 25 days holiday. More information about the position can be found here.

Truce 2012 is a project to develop leadership and conflict resolution skills
in young people in East London in the run up to the Olympics.

Peace Tax, continued

A big Thank you to Zaria, Carl and Kathryn for acknowledging my efforts and between them all, making my Blog happen!
Now I don't know how to attach files to this Blog. I would like to post up two responses I have received very recently from our elected representatives on the subject of Peace Tax. I wrote to all MEP's and London Assembly Members outlining the Peace Tax Campaign position and requesting that each of them state their position. The Tory MEP Charles Tannock is by definition a joke anyway, but they do point up for me, again, the problem of INERTIA/NOT MY PROBLEM as the most insidious form of opposition to change. However the issue has been raised, it has been in their face for a few minutes and this is just a beginning.

AS I dont know how to attach a file to this and it may not be possible anyway, I will if I may send them to Kathryn and see if she can (if time and inclination) do anything with them.

Thanks, for support 'n all

Helen D.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

building the alternative homework

For the next workshop (9 June) we have been given links to examples of building the alternative through direct action:

- achievements of landless peasants in Brazil

- the story of a squatters estate agency, 1970s London

- article in Peace News about the Diggers, and their relevance for contemporary activists

- Starhawk’s journals about the G8 protests at Gleneagles in 2005, particularly the Ecovillage at Stirling, and the Cre8 building of a community garden.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

NVDA TOT in Glasgow, and London?

Fabulous! Kathryn just wrote to encourage people to continue discussions sparked by last Saturday's training on the blog. I'm anxious to hear about the content, the vibe and thoughts, experiences, about Saturday's TTT training.

About two weeks ago, I went to Glasgow for a training of trainers NVDA workshop. I went because I knew I had to miss Saturday's workshop, and because I'd never been to Glasgow so my partner and I made a long weekend of it.

The workshop was .... good. The trainers were completely competent and knowledgeable about training people for doing actions. The participants ranged from 'grassroots weapons inspectors' (full-time Faslane activits) to students with little NVDA experience, but keen to learn more, to ... a couple of, well one other come to think of it, person like me -- had done loads of NVDA years ago, but wasn't too sure about the climate and police response these days. We were seeking a 're-fresher' course if you like.

What was disappointing to me was the lack of community building exercises, I spent from Friday night to Sunday afternoon with 13 other activists, and the atmosphere was friendly but there was never that 'click' for us a whole group, you know? I clicked with individuals, but there was nothing particularly pulling us together as a group.

And then, another short-coming for me was this notion that we all held the same assumptions about the role and importance of NVDA. OK, it was a TOT on how to get groups ready in 90 minutes (or if you're lucky one day) for an action, but I would have liked some discussion on the effectiveness and timeliness and a vast array of other things about NVDA.

How was the London training? What were the main issues?