58 minutes | Mar 11, 2022
Becoming ungovernable (Aviah from Hackney Copwatch)
Season 2 episode 15 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we interview Aviah. A sneaky extra episode after the season closer! It took us a while to get back together. Aviah is a lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London, and is a community organiser the rest of the time. She is involved in the East End branch of Sisters Uncut, a national direct-action collective fighting cuts to domestic violence services as well as state violence. She is also involved in Hackney Copwatch, London Renters Union and the Kill the Bill Coalition, a national movement resisting the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill. “Effectively, if you can organise enough people to [know their rights and intervene] in a coordinated way, then you can actually withdraw consent from policing altogether” - Aviah Show notes, links Netpol: the network for police monitoring Newham Monitoring Project, which shut down in 2016 after running for 36 years United Families and Friends Campaign, a coalition of people affected by deaths in state custody. There are Copwatch groups in Hackney, Bristol, Manchester, Lambeth, Liverpool, Southwark, Haringey, and Cardiff. the Anti-Raids Network, community resistance to immigration raids To find out about Copwatch, if you're considering getting involved: either DM an existing group (accounts listed above) or email firstname.lastname@example.org! We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there's always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript SAMI: Hello everybody and welcome to this sneaky extra episode of The Resist and Renew Podcast, where we are interviewing Aviah. Do you want to say hi? AVIAH: Hi. SAMI: Seamless. So Aviah is a lecturer, at Birkbeck, which is part of the University of London, and also does a lot of community organizing, and she's involved in the East End branch of Sisters Uncut, which is one branch of a national organization that's like a direct action collective fighting cuts to domestic violence services, and other forms of state violence, and Aviah is also involved in local branches of CopWatch so Hackney CopWatch and London Renters Union, and is also involved Kill the Bill coalition - a national movement resisting the Policing Crime and Sentencing Bill that is currently going through the parliamentary organs, as we record this in early March, 2022. SAMI: So first things first.. Aviah what can you say about the political context that you are organizing in? AVIAH: The current political context is probably the most intense political context I’ve ever organized in. It's been a very intense year. And, yeah, there's, there's a sort of ongoing political crisis, particularly for the Metropolitan Police, that we, you know, at Sisters Uncut and also the Kill the Bill coalition and cop watch groups have been organizing to exploit. If that doesn't sound too Machiavellian, maybe I don't mind if it sounds too Machiavellian, I do want to destroy the cops, that's fine. AVIAH: But yeah, I guess that kind of that emerged out of, you know, I mean Sisters Uncut have been organizing around policing and the impact of policing, particularly around gendered violence, for like a number of years. And, you know, there's the occupation of Holloway prison, organizing around the death of Sarah Read a few years ago in Holloway prison. And, and, yeah, highlighting the, you know, spending years organizing highlighting the dangers of what we call, like many sort of black feminists call carceral feminism and the kind of feminism that invest in the police and prisons, as a sort of remedy for gendered violence and that actually you know we've been organizing around that for years to kind of highlight how dangerous and how effectively, it ends up punishing the survivors it claims to be supporting. AVIAH: And it was in that context of years of sort of organizing around that that situation emerged around the disappearance...
5 minutes | Feb 26, 2022
Season 2: that’s a wrap!
Season 2 episode 14 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where... we wrap up for season 2! Show notes, links Sign up to our newsletter to hear about our future conflict courses! And finally, some perennial resources: our sister facilitation collective Navigate have a conflict facilitation booklet (from back when they were called Seeds For Change Oxford). See our "What is facilitation?" podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there's always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript SAMI: Ok so that’s it - we’re done with Season 2 of the podcast! Wooo. SAMI: That’s the end! We’re done with season 2 of the podcast! Woo ALI: Woop woop. Yep although we may have a cheeky bonus interview, we haven’t yet confirmed it, so watch this space just in case. Katherine? KATHERINE: I was wondering if we wanted to share some overall top takeaways from this season? SAMI: For me, in terms of top takeaways, I think probably a thing, maybe because it was the most recent thing we talked about in the toolbox, a thing that really stands out for me is that all the interventions that we suggest around responding to conflict happening in your group is a variant of: note that there is conflict happening, and try and create space to process and deal with it as a group. And everything else is just like detail, it’s format, it’s nuance. But the “note it and deal with it as a group” is the stand-out top takeaway for me. KATHERINE: I’ve loved speaking to all the groups, it’s been lovely to hear from so many people. And I think that I really found the toolbox to be incredible this year, for myself and for my own learning and to be able to have chats with both of you about what conflict is, and how we understand it or don’t understand it, and what to do about it. And just feeling really excited to learn more, and carry on from all of that work we’re going to be carrying on over the coming year. Spoilers! ALI: Yeah so, for me this has just been a really big project, we started talking about this in what June? July? And it’s now February, the end of February? That’s quite a long time to be working on something! So that’s been exciting. I agree with what you both said, and something new, for me I think it was really helpful to go into the frames of conflict. Specifically when Sami led that Toolbox about punitive, restorative and transformative justice – I found that really helpful. I really enjoyed those conversations right at the beginning. They feel like ages ago, so it’s good to reflect on those. SAMI: and it goes without saying - thanks to everybody that we interviewed, the groups and the people from those groups who gave up time to talk to us, we really appreciate it. They’ve been gems. And as always, thanks to Klaus and Kareem for your beautiful music ALI: to Rowan for the transcription this season - and a belated thank you to Katherine for last season, it’s quite a gruelling task, so thanks to both of you. KATHERINE: And we also want to say a massive thank you to Sami ALI: For getting all the podcast stuff ready and putting it on our website ready to go! KATHERINE: And this whole podcast wouldn’t be possible without you Ali doing all the editing work behind the scenes, so a huge thanks to you ALI: aw shucks SAMI: and thank you crucially to our two patrons - big up to them - we said we’d give you literally nothing for your money and you came through anyways, we really appreciate it, genuinely. ALI: Yeah thanks. And one final thing we wanted to mention was that, partly as a result of doing this podcast, we’ve decided that we want to do some research and development for new workshop content around conflict, anti-oppression and transformative justice - trying to see if there are any gaps in the usual conflict tools about anti-oppression and transf...
22 minutes | Feb 19, 2022
Toolbox: You’ve named it, now what?
Season 2 episode 13 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we talk about a few tools to respond when conflict is happening in a meeting. ‘The sad update that we have is, at least to our knowledge, there is no fancy Magic Bullet intervention.’ Show notes, links An outline of the VERA model: Validate “I understand why it seems that way…” “Yes, I can see why you think that…” “Yeah, I’ve definitely heard that it’s a struggle to get council housing, given the long waiting lists…” Explain “I like to think of it more like…” “If we look at [this fact], then…” “…but I don’t think that’s because of ‘too many migrants’ taking houses – especially as so many migrants are barred from social housing lists…” Reframe “So if we look at it from that angle…” “Which means I think…” “…I think the the real problem is decades of underfunding of social housing, meaning that there aren’t enough houses for the people who need them, and the ones that are there are often shit quality…” Ask “What do you make of that?” “…does that make sense?” Some of the other tools we mentioned: Name, frame, pause. Pro = don’t need a solution to respond with this, or even know what’s going on. Example phrase = “It feels like there’s some disagreement and heat here that’s not really being acknowledged. Is there something I’m missing here? Do you two maybe have different priorities when it comes to this topic?” Request a group pause. Pro = can use the break to reduce the heat and switch tracks to approach the conflict from a different direction Example phrase = “I think things are getting tense here, and I don’t think I can continue to focus, could we maybe take a few mins break and come back?” Enhanced name, frame, pause — where you talk to someone else to explore a challenge and why your group isn’t already dealing with the problem. Pro = dealing with thornier problems is easier with support. Some resources: Seeds for Change’s guides on giving and receiving feedback and active listening A handout from Boston University about using “I statements” And finally, some perennial resources: our sister facilitation collective Navigate have a conflict facilitation booklet (from back when they were called Seeds For Change Oxford). See our “What is facilitation?” podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there’s always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript ALI This is Resist Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I’m recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it’s a podcast! ALI Okay, welcome back to the toolbox. In this episode, we are going to look at tools and tips for handling conflict in the moment. In all the other episodes, we’ve given a lot of content around frames and ideas about conflict, and some tools for preventing it or handling it outside of the moment. And now we are going to get dive right into what to do if conflict is happening right now. SAMI Great, and I guess one, one thing that will probably soon become obvious is for various scheduling readings, various scheduling reasons, Katherine is not here for this recording. So you’ll just have to make do with me and Ali. I hope that’s fine. And so we’re gonna, we’re going to put forward a few like, very high level scenarios, and then we’re going to talk through so like: Okay, so in this situation, what could you do about it? So one scenario could be the classic one, which is that there is some form of like active beef in a meeting. We’ve made the distinction before about like when there’s forms of conflict that lie under the surface and forms of conflicts that like spiking up in a meeting. This is the spiking up in the meeting one. And to make this all purpose, you don’t have to imagine that you’re the facilitator of this meeting, you’re just the person who’s in this meeting, and is witnessing the beef playing out. So. What are some interventions that we could do in this scenario. ALI The first intervention we want to bring is called Name, Frame and Pause. And what we mean by this is just kind of pointing to the fact that you think there’s conflict going on, trying to give some kind of explanation about what you think is happening, and then asking others if you think that’s true, making space to talk about it. It’s the minimal intervention in some ways, like, basically, drawing to the attention of the group that something is happening, and not letting it slide past. So, as an example intervention, in this case, you might just say something like, ‘It feels like there’s some kind of disagreement and heat here that’s not really being acknowledged. Is there something I’m missing here? Do you two, who seems to be raising your voices have different priorities about what is being discussed in this topic?’ And then people may respond in different ways. But you’ve named it and you’ve given an explanation. And then everyone else can chime in with agreement or disagreement. Whatever. SAMI Yeah. And I think one thing that’s, that’s good about this one is, I guess it doesn’t matter if your framing of the situation is right, necessarily, as long as you put it forward tentatively, then having a guess that gives people have the opportunity to be able to like, correct you and be like, ‘Oh, no, that’s not what’s happening.’ Or like, ‘Oh, no, like, it may seem like we’re really annoyed at each other, but actually, this is like how we talk all the time.’ And it’s totally fine. Well, maybe it’s not totally fine that this is how we talk all the time, who knows. And also, the reason that I really like this as a way, I guess it’s the minimal intervention is like, you don’t have to have any idea what could be done to resolve this as a situation, you just have to propose an idea for what you think is going on, and then be like, ‘Let’s talk about it.’ And then there’s a chance that especially if you’re in a group of people, of like, maybe five, six, or more then like, there’s a decent chance that somebody in the room will have an idea of something that could be done about it. So you’re like, making sure that the group takes responsibility for this thing, which is happening in the group, which is nice. ALI Amazing. And so often, these moments just slide by and people be like, Oh, I wish it did something. And I’m really simple thing is to just be like, ‘Aah, it feels like something’s happening. I don’t know what to do.’ SAMI Yeah, it’s the it’s the record scratch intervention. Okay, should we give another option? We’re doing a bit of a quick fire what this episode, people! Another potential option is: take a small pause. If it seems like the beef is kicking off. So maybe take like a five or 10 minute break. So, what we mean by that is if things start to get heated in meeting, then it can be helpful to give people space to just like have a slight cooling off before maybe trying to address what’s happening. So rather than the previous one, which is: go straight in with, like, there’s beef happening, let’s know it this is a: maybe let’s take a slight pause before we, before we do something. So an example intervention could be something like, ‘It feels like things are really starting to like, get a bit tense in this meeting. And it’s it’s impacting my ability to focus on what’s happening, because I’m starting to feel a bit tense as well. And maybe it would be good if we all take a maybe 10 minute break, go outside, have a little walk around, and then come back in 10 minutes, and then we can like, get back on talking about this as a thing.’ ALI Sweet. Yeah. And some considerations to take in to consideration..? [both laugh] Yep, good, good, good. What you might want to think about is, in the break, people might want to use that break to talk to people, particularly if like, some individuals are getting a bit heated, maybe you want to take take some of those people aside and just like, see how they’re doing or whatever. It’s an opportunity to use, use that time. Maybe they just want to breathe, or you just want to breathe, and that’s fine. But if you don’t do that, maybe you might end up come back- coming back into exactly the same situation. Which could be fine. Or it could be easier if you’d done something differently. And when you come back, maybe you want to try if you are the facilitator, or maybe you want to chat to the facilitator, you could ask people to talk to each other in pairs, just be like, ‘Maybe take five minutes to talk to your neighbour and be like, how are you feeling? What do you think’s going on in this meeting, that’s not really vibing for you at that moment?’ Because that, again, brings all the other brains and feelings in the room to like, assess what’s going on. It doesn’t put it on you to like solve the conflict: everybody’s going to have a view of what’s happening. And that’s really, that’s more information than helpful. SAMI And I think I guess like that’s a common theme. And what we’re saying now is like, if it feels like there is like an individual disagreement that’s happening in the space, then what are ways that you can try and collectivise it and make sure that the group can try and hold it as a conflict. And one thing that I think is nice about that, about this as an intervention is like if if there is like a conflict happening, and then you go straight in with like, ‘I think maybe we should all like, just take like all chat to the person next to us about what we think is going on in this conflict,’ it can feel like a really jarring intervention. And people will be like, ‘No, I’m in the middle of making this point that I’m really passionate about,’ or whatever. And it can feel quite hard to do. Whereas if you just take an even a small break, it can be easier to transition back into a slightly different activity that’s not like, ‘Okay, let’s let’s reconvene the argument that we were having 10 minutes ago: Go!’ And so I think that’s a slight- you don’t even need that big a pause to be able to like, flick back into that as I think I think. ALI Yeah, another thing I like about it is like, breaks are tools. Like, people don’t generally think about that. They think about snazzy stuff that has got cool names and stuff, but just like have a break, it changes things. And people don’t need to be in intense conversations all the time. It’s good. SAMI It’s not all weird fishbowls, people, it’s almost all not weird fisbowls, in fact. So, another potential intervention in this situation, but maybe a bit more relevant for if someone said something that you that you disagree with in a meeting, which could just be like a one off thing, like or it also could be in the in the midst of conflict is that there’s a there’s a tool called VERA. V-E-R-A. So that’s a tool which is for responding to things which people have said that you don’t agree with. And VERA is an acronym. It stands for, Validate, Explain, Reframe, and Ask. So it’s a way of responding to something that someone’s saying without falling into the trap of reinforcing the thing which you don’t agree with. So if someone says something that maybe you deem, like, playing into societal bigotries, or something in a meeting, like, it’s a way that you can respond to what they’re saying, and like, acknowledge what they’re saying, but without being like, ‘Yeah, I also agree that it is the fault of the migrants that people don’t have council housing,’ or whatever it is. Ali, do you want to give an example intervention in the kind of VERA structure. ALI Yeah. So, this is an example of where there might be a disagreement about planning a demo. So one might want to like, have people to talk to the police to manage the crowd or whatever. And you might respond by something like, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s really common that people think it’s good idea to have good relations with the police at demos and maybe talk to the Police Liaison Officers. Is that what they’re called? SAMI Yep. ALI The people in the police with the like light blue bibs who look really friendly. And then you’d be like, ‘Unfortunately, they’re just a soft form of surveillance. And whilst they’re trying to be your friend, actually what they want to do is find out information about us. So if any of us get arrested, they can prosecute us. So for that reason, we don’t welcome police at our protests or talk to them at all. And then, you know, does that make sense with you? Like, am I, am I being clear here, and just ending with that ask part allows them to, like, ask more questions, or to say, like, ‘Actually, I disagree,’ or, like, challenge you a bit. And it can be, it can be a bit of a dialogue, it’s not like, ‘You’re wrong, we do it this way,’ kind of thing. Maybe a consideration on this one is like, tools like this, especially with acronyms or like things with a few steps can sound kind of robotic and can feel like you’re being talked to through a tool. So it can be helpful to like, personalise it and just use it as a skeleton, but like, add your own personal touches to it. SAMI I don’t know about you, but I, as I was saying to Ali earlier, always forget what VERA stands for every single time I mentioned it as a tool. And the word that I always remember is just the word reframe, because I feel like I do the other bits naturally. But it’s the reframing that I think is always the key bit of like those interventions for me of like, I like, ‘Yes, you’ve raised this point. And I want to acknowledge that this is what you’re saying. And I think that actually, that means that we can talk about this other thing that I think is maybe a more materially useful intervention into this problem that you see in the world,’ or whatever it is. This is a thing that we do a lot on anti raids stalls, this form of response comes up a lot for the weird-ass stuff that people sometimes say to you, when you’re standing on the street for two hours. ALI And sometimes, and just sometimes people can be quite concerned about the Validate point, especially I think Sami, elaborate said earlier that like, you don’t want to be propping up a belief or a view that you don’t really support. And the Validate point can be really like, sometimes Kelsey says this in workshops, it’s like, ‘Yes, some people do think that’ and then move on. It’s not being like, ‘Oh, yeah, I really understand where you’re coming from.’ It’s just like, ‘Yeah, that’s your viewpoint.’ And move, move on to the next bit. SAMI Yeah, you’re like, you, it’s making sure like, Acknowledging is another way, that sometimes people frame it, it’s like making sure that you are responding to the thing, which they’re saying, because sometimes it is like, when you do that validation or acknowledgement step, it actually can be become apparent that you didn’t actually hear them correctly. And what you’re responding to is not what they said. And that’s why it’s important. Also, like Ali said, end with a question. Go on Ali, it looks like you’re gonna say something. ALI I was just gonna say, Do you want to move us on to the slightly different scenario that we’ve got? Which is… SAMI Yeah, so yeah, so there was another thing that we were thinking of, because we were thinking that a lot of those situations are quite, like, individual conflicts of like, maybe two people are disagreeing or you’re disagreeing with someone else, or whatever it is. But as we’ve talked about, in other episodes, like that’s not the structure of all conflict, sometimes a conflict can be more something that’s bubbling under the surface or a conflict can be more something to do with like, a clash between different values playing out in how people are operating within the group, rather than like, a pitched a pitched argument in a meeting. So, imagine a scenario where you’re in a meeting and like, the vibe of the meeting is just a bit off. It’s a bit weird, like you feel a little bit uncomfortable in space, but there’s no like, there’s no argument that’s happening. And this isn’t the first time the vibe has been off. The last meeting, the vibe was also a little bit off. And like, there’s just some there’s something going on, that feels like there could be some kind of like, an unsaid conflict happening under the surface. And so what we suggested, what we suggest could be a good intervention in this scenario, is something going back to that ‘name, frame, pause’ idea that maybe a slightly enhanced version of like named frame pause. Which we’ve written in our notes as, ‘enhanced name-frame-pause’, so please, if you do have a, if there’s a name for this, please let us know because this is a terrible name. So that could be because often the, the challenge with the name-frame-pause, like we said before, is the bringing, bringing a framing can be quite difficult when there is a problem where it’s a little bit vague or what’s going on. And it’s a little bit harder to grasp, like what are the dynamics that are at play here? And so what we’re suggesting that you could enhance in a situation like this is find a way of enhancing that naming and framing by potentially talking to somebody else and trying to talk through and work through this problem. Because it could be for example, there’s – when there’s less individualised problems, like for example, there’s a disagreement around what how the group allocates resources to certain things, like it’s come up in a meeting where people haven’t really addressed it or whatever. Like, that’s a lot harder to conceptualise what’s happening than like, these two people are arguing because like this person wants the flyer to be red and the other doesn’t want the flyer to be red or whatever, which is a lot more simple. So what’s what could what could what could an intervention be of this form? Ali? ALI Yeah. So we were thinking that an example of this conflict might be where you think that our, your group doesn’t spend enough time and resources on like care for one on each to care for each other, and the group. So an intervention might be, as Sami said: find someone else who you think might be sympathetic and share your feelings to explain why it keeps happening. Maybe you want to reflect on a question like, why is our group not are already dealing with this issue. And some examples might be not enough time, not enough people, different priorities to this particular thing. And then together, you could think of a way to bring it up in another meeting, in a meeting, using that chat to help frame it, because it’s hard to, as Sami was just saying. And bring up some potential potential causes of, of what is happening. So be like, oh, yeah, I feel like the vibes were a bit weird in the last meeting, when we postponed the chat about care once again. It feels like we’re worried about how much capacity we have to do this. And I think we should have an explicit chat about this. What do you think? And then have that as like a, you know, big point on the agenda or even a meeting on its own for that kind of that topic. Yeah. SAMI Yeah. So I think, and maybe this is move- moving on to the kind of like, conclusions-y bit. Because I think this point is relevant what we just said, but also relevant to the other things as well, which is: a lot of the interventions that we’re talking about, work more, work more broadly than just the scenarios that we’ve given. So, for example, we talked in the last episode around that question of: when do you intervene? Do you intervene in the moment? Do you intervene with a conversation with the person afterwards? Like, do you decide not to intervene, because you think it’s not worthwhile etc. And a lot of these interventions like name, frame and pause, or like using VERA in a discussion would also work and like talking to somebody one on one after the meeting, that’s not the scenarios we gave. And similarly, this like, kind of enhanced name, frame and pause could work in other scenarios where like, maybe you took somebody in the break of a meeting and like, use them to like help flesh out what is like a name and frame that you could bring as an intervention, when you come back from the break, or whatever it is. They’re all relatively multipurpose. ALI Totally. And we didn’t want to bring too many tools into this episode, like we brought four maybe already. But just to say that there’s like maybe some other things that we’ve been using in, within these tools. So like, a lot of the example sentences we’ve used have been been like, ‘I feel like this is happening,’ or ‘I’m experiencing this,’ like, kind of, like, people call them ‘I statements.’ So like owning your perspective and not framing as like, ‘This is definitely what’s happening and you’re definitely wrong.’ Like, yeah, trying to like own your perspective, trying to like, make space to hear other people’s perspectives. And yeah, using active listening, that kind of stuff, are all kind of weaved through these different examples, and will definitely give links to lots and lots of tools in our show notes. SAMI Yes, we will. And I think we kind of touched on this before, but like, often people, when it comes to there being situations of like conflict, whether like, active or under the surface in groups, what people really, from our experience, seem to want is like, what is the magic bullet intervention? What is the one thing that you can do, which means that everything’s magically fine and not difficult to deal with. And the sad update that we have is, at least to our knowledge, there is no fancy Magic Bullet intervention. And all of these things are basically just different forms of: ‘note that the conflict is happening, and create space to try and process it and deal with it as a group.’ They’re all just different variants of that as a as an approach. And so there’s probably loads of other ways that you maybe naturally through your lived experiences of like having disagreements with people or like managing conflict in like family dinners, or whatever it is. Maybe you’ll have lots of other ways that you can also like approach these kind of situations. This is not to say that these are the only limited ones. But everything, probably when it comes to conflict in groups, the TL;DR is like, try and, try and hold whatever conflict it is as a group rather than individually. And maybe that doesn’t mean everyone’s spending all time on it all the time. Like, it doesn’t necessarily mean having a whole group meeting, and everyone talking about it for every scenario, but it shouldn’t be individuals where possible, if like, unless that is part of a pre agreed group process. If that makes sense. ALI Yeah, totally. And I guess, oh, as with lots of tools, they can seem hard and difficult and strange if you haven’t used them. And conflict can seem hard and difficult and strange. And the only way to really get better is to practice. So practice. And I don’t know about everyone else, but where if I need to find some conflict, all I have to do is look a little bit around my life and there’s usually something going on, I can spend a bit of time working on. SAMI There’s a there’s a podcast that I listened to called The Allusionist, where they do a word of the day at the end. And the call is always “try to use this word in an email today.” So what we will say to you is try and use these interventions in a conversation or meeting that you have today. Because you’d be hard pressed to go that long without noticing some kind of disagreement or potential proto-conflict or something going on. So go wild, let us know how it goes. And read the show notes because there’ll be more links in there. Okay. ALI Okay. SAMI Toolbox out! Bye! ALI Thanks again for listening to this episode of the Resist+Renew podcast. Thanks as ever to Klaus for letting us use this backing track and to Rowan for doing all the transcription on this season. If you want to find out more about Resist+Renew as a training and facilitation collective, check out our website, resistrenew.com or on all the socials. And if you want to support the production of this podcast, you can do so at patreon.com/resistrenew. That’s it for this week. Thanks for listening and catch you next time. Bye bye!
21 minutes | Feb 12, 2022
Toolbox: Conflict in the moment
Season 2 episode 12 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we talk about how to deal with conflict in the moment where it spikes up, using a frame called an “OODA loop”. ‘Conflict doesn’t have to be fighting or loud. It can be a stickiness, or a tenseness that our body is picking up on.’ Show notes, links Why this is a useful frame: intervening in conflict situations can feel difficult; it is easier when you do these steps first!. In the “Observe” step, a few things to look for: volume changes an issue “cycling” back again and again issues being raised but not addressed participation changes (did some people leave the space and not come back) feeling tense in your body In the “Orient” step, a few questions to reflect on: Who is involved, and who isn’t? Who is visibly involved, who could be not visibly involved? What roles are people taking (formal and informal)? Why do you think it’s happening now? (e.g. specific timings What’s your position in this? How could this pan out? Do you think it will escalate, or fizzle out? In the “Decide” step, a few areas to consider: WHEN to intervene: never; later but not now; now; a mix WHO should intervene: you? You + someone else? Other people, not you? WHAT you could do: have a side chat with people you think are “in conflict”; checking in on what a person who has been harmed wants; activating a pre-existing conflict process; name that conflict is happening, and explicitly park it til later; take a pause, to make a plan; name + ask people what’s happening; find out what (some / all) people need; name and frame. In the “Act” step… good luck! More on potential interventions next week… Other resources on OODA loops as a model: A podcast that talks about OODA loops in more depth than we do… …or a blog post breaking down the OODA loop steps, if you prefer written things. And finally, some perennial resources: our sister facilitation collective Navigate have a conflict facilitation booklet (from back when they were called Seeds For Change Oxford). See our “What is facilitation?” podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there’s always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript ALI This is Resist Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I’m recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it’s a podcast! KATHERINE Welcome to this episode of the toolbox. Today we’re going to be exploring what to do in the moment when conflict sparks. And we’re going to explore this using a thing called an OODA. Loop. And the OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. Over to you, Sami, to tell us what this is. SAMI Yes, I will try. [Luahgs] So: full disclosure, this is an idea that comes from like military with like a military background. So I’m not going to pretend I’ve ever like been trained at this at military school or whatever. But yeah, so the this like this OODA Loop, like to imagine it, as like a circle with Observe, Orient Describe Act as like a set of steps that you’ll go through when deciding to do something in some kind of like conflictual situation or other type of situation. And so and I think just breaking out those distinct steps is probably quite helpful. Like, often when there is a conflict, you will have a step of, like, trying to work out what’s going on, which is like maybe an observation step; which maybe has a question around it, like how do you know that there is a conflict happening? Like, what is the signal that tells you that? There’s something about orienting, which is like, kind of digesting what you’re observing. And like, thinking about how to structure that information. So having a bit of think about like, what is the information that you want to try and, like, pay attention to and like, all those kinds of questions. So: Decide is the next one which is… So like, this one’s probably the one the least relevant to this, because deciding and acting probably for this kind of equivalent. And then so like, then the question is like, so what, How are you going to act? Now? How exactly is that going to take shape? So like, when are you going to act? How are you going to act? What you’re going to say? And questions like that. So what we’re going to do in this episode is probably less, because this is more of like, this is a frame like a way of thinking we’re not suggesting you should use this as a tool in your group. But it’s more: this is a useful frame, maybe, to help think of what some questions, what some areas that will generate some questions around are some things that you can reflect on, when there is a conflict happening, that you’re participating in, witnessing, etc. So, first question is maybe is so like, how would you know that there is a conflict happening? Who wants to take that one? ALI So, I guess there’s a few different signals that might tell us that there’s conflict happening. One that might be quite obvious, even though this isn’t just what conflict is, is like, people might get loud and start shouting a each other, or there might be some kind of physical signals of people making angry faces, sad faces. So that might be one thing. But it could be also completely the opposite. And people go really silent, go quiet, might leave, might never come back to your group or meeting. So yeah: both ends of the spectrum there could be a signal. KATHERINE I think there’s also something around a signal to pay attention to if the same concern keeps arising again, and again, like a phrase for this is ‘cycling’, like when something is cycling back around, is a sense that maybe there’s an issue that’s not been dealt with yet, because it keeps returning to your group. And therefore, maybe a decision needs to be made about what’s gonna happen with that issue that keeps returning. ALI And that, is that one where it might be on the level of like values that haven’t been like, fully talked through, potentially, like the same issue keeps coming up and getting stuck and not being able to, like move past it? It might be… It’s not that we can’t decide what’s the best action. It’s like, do we think this is in line with our values? Are there like fundamentally like diverging paths there? Yeah, absolutely. And I guess another one related to that is like, people name that they’re not happy about something, but then nothing happens as a result of that. Which is a common one, especially in groups where there’s not very much time to process things if there’s a long action list. ALI And I guess another signal could be more of like a – internal sense. It could be your own emotions, it could be the way your body feels, if you just suddenly feel tense. That also is a signal and it’s worth paying attention to that as well. Even if, you know, like mainstream thinking around like, intuition and bodies is like not – it tells you to devalue that. But it is like a it is a signal as well. So those are a few different signals that there might be conflict going on. Does someone want to tell us about what would come next after that, in this OODA Loop? SAMI I can give it a go. Because it’s, because, so, that’s maybe some things that you’re like…. Those are some ways that you’ll notice that conflict is happening, and maybe you’ll be so like, it’s always good to then be like observing the group and just like trying to absorb what’s going on, and maybe some questions that will help you like kind of, I guess, structure that information, which is what the Orient is in the OODA. Which I think is the hardest one to remember what it means is like, how do you structure the information? So there are some a few questions that you could think of around some like I guess frames or lenses you could use to analyse what’s happening. So for example, like who is involved in this, like spark, and who isn’t? And thinking about what it means to be involved. Like, who’s visibly involved? Does it seem like there are people that are like not visibly involved in that they’re maybe not in this spark that’s happening, but maybe you think they’re, they have some kind of involvement, maybe outside of this discussion, space, whatever. Thinking about, like, what the different kind of like roles people occupying are, maybe in like a formal sense in a group. You know, like, if they’re the treasurer, and it’s an argument about money or whatever, like, maybe the roles will be relevant. And but also, like, in a more general sense, like, what kind of like positions they’re taking, like rank and power and questions like that in the space. And there’s maybe some, like more meta, there’s sort of like quite practical ones, of like, things you may be noticing, but there’s probably also some, like meta conversations around that, which is around like, like, having a think about like, Why do you think this information’s coming out now? Like, is, do you have a space to process conflict? And that didn’t go to that one? In which case why? Or do you feel like this is erupting now, because people don’t have another place to mention it? Things like that. So there are some thoughts. Any other ones that are relevant under that? ALI You might want to think about you as a person in this like, dynamic as well. Like, what’s your particular role and, and rank in relation to the other people involved? And maybe your relationships with the other people? And you might want to think about, like, what might what’s like potential things might happen in this situation? Like, is it something where the conflict could escalate? Or is it kind of just like, a low level thing? That’s kind of gonna rise and fall, yeah, naturally? So: that is a few different questions around orienting and organising the information, and then thinking about what you need to know, to decide what to do. So I guess next comes like, how are you going to decide? KATHERINE So I think there’s sort of first question like in the how you’re going to decide around timing, and thinking about when are you going to deal with this issue that’s emerging. And there are a few different options with relation to this. And I think it’s important that we just kind of name those options, and not just assume like that one of them is always the best one. So, one option is never: you’re never going to address it. And thinking about like, what’s good or bad about engaging or not engaging, and that sometimes it can be good to not engage. So although you might automatically feel like well, never addressing a conflict is awful. Sometimes, actually, it’s a good idea not to, and there can be some reasons for that. So one might be because you’d mess up an existing process, like if there’s already an ongoing conflict process, intervening in that moment, could disrupt that other process that’s being held separately. Potentially because it’s very low consequence. And if we dealt with every, every spark that emerged, potentially, in some groups, we would never do anything else. And then I guess there were some less good, but maybe understandable reasons why you might not address it at all, potentially, because you’re scared in that situation. You might be fearful for yourself or for others in the group. And potentially, because you hope that someone else who knows the people involved better would deal with it. So it’s almost a sense of like, ‘Am I the best person?’ and wanting to pass it on. So there are other options in terms of when you might want to deal with it. I’m just wondering if someone else wants to speak to, to those? ALI Another option after never might be: Later, but not now. So for instance, talking to people about the situation outside of the situation, so if it was a meeting going and having a separate conversation outside of that space. So there can be good and bad reasons for choosing to do that as well. It might be a good idea to do that if dealing with it in the moment might actually cause more escalation and you want you don’t want to encourage that. Might also be less shaming. I guess it’s like, using the frame of using the term like ‘calling out,’ like calling someone out and saying like, ‘That wasn’t a good thing you just did’ in front of everyone can be quite embarrassing for people and cause people to get defensive or even double down and say ‘No, actually, what I’m doing is fine.’ And you might have a more dialogue, if you do it outside the space. It might also be good if like, there might be consequences to not addressing it, but it’s not super urgent and doesn’t feel like the consequences are, need, it just doesn’t feel like it like needs addressing right now. And it can still be dealt with later. And then another one might be just related to the shaming one. Like if someone is new to the group, it can be, it can be really like alienating to be ‘told off’ in your first or few first few interactions with a group. So like, having a more gentle conversation with someone outside of that space could be much more welcoming and make people feel like they can can get involved, can make mistakes, but still stick around. What about some less good ideas about doing it later? Anyone got something the want to bring in there? SAMI I think just another one on what you were just saying, Ali, is I think like there’s also what I’ve definitely seen as a dynamic in spaces is somebody saying something people wanting to not directly challenge them because they’re new to the space, but that you can see that the person has noticed that people have reacted kind of weirdly. So like, it can be quite a good like chatting to the person late it can be like it, you may think that people kind of went weird when you said this, and that’s because like, this is the thing that we’ve discussed before, and like it caused these kind of problems and like blah, blah, blah, like you so you can give them that context. So like to acknowledge that, like, they may have noticed the vibe change talking about the signals but not understood. And you can give them a bit of that reassurance. And yeah, so some reasons why it could be less of a good idea to address stuff later and separately, could be when you think it would be useful to it’ll be more useful to not do that, i.e., for example, to discuss stuff all as a group together rather than like later in, in separate conversations. So, kind of links that question of like, does it feel like this is like kind of a separate not core to the group type thing when based on your observations? Or does this feel like kind of a fundamental one that actually needs to be like a discussion with everybody? Could be, for example, if you think it is really like relevant to the chat at hand. So it’s not something that’s like, oh, we can postpone this conversation to later because it does feel like for example, a fundamental values challenge that would block us from being able to make the decision that we’re trying to make, and that’s where the conflict is happening. So like, we kind of need to address address it now to be able to do the things we want to do. Or maybe another one is that it could be if it’s something where like, it could derail the meeting, if you don’t address it, because the problem could keep coming up. Maybe an example being like, people getting people’s pronouns wrong in a meeting. Yeah, maybe it would be preferable for the person who’s used someone’s pronouns incorrectly in a meeting. But if your meeting’s two hours long, and they’re gonna keep doing it, it’s probably less embarrassing to mention it to them now, even if it is in front of everyone, rather than be like, You made this mistake seven times in the last two hours at the end of the meeting, which could kind of feel worse. And so, so, so how, how could you – So I guess we’re talking within the context of like, maybe having separate chats with people later. So if we do if you do decide it is more of a good idea than not a good idea, how could you do that? What could you do to take that forward? KATHERINE So I guess a couple of things that I’ve kind of seen done, are to go and check in with people that you noticed having that conversation or that conflict kind of immediately or soon after the meeting, and going and having those conversations kind of to the side or outside of the meeting. And potentially just seeing how they are, seeing if they need anything, seeing what what might be a next step. One question that I’ve heard asked to someone who’s maybe being harmed in the space is like, ‘What does justice look like for you next?’ and then seeing what arises from for that person. And if a process does exist for the group around conflict more generally, that might be a moment to be able to point people towards a pre existing process. So those are some of the things that you could do if you’re wanting to address a conflict after after it’s happened. Yeah, so I think then, we’re sort of sort of starting to point towards, what what would you do in in the moment, as it were, if you wanted to address it there and then I’m just wondering if people have thoughts on, on what you would do if you didn’t do it later or never: you do it now. SAMI Just, just before we do that, maybe it’s worth just highlighting: so like obviously those were kind of those are two examples of when you can bring stuff up. ‘Never’ being I guess a, I guess a version of a time? ‘Never’ as a time, or like, entirely later there’s obviously like there’s there’s other options those aren’t the only two like maybe you’ll say a little bit now and like you can flag that there is something but explain that you’ll talk to somebody later; or like there’s a few different like maybe hybrid options. Those aren’t, we’re not claiming those are the only two potential times to to do stuff. KATHERINE And yeah, so I think just riffing off what you were saying, Sami, around the ‘something now mostly later’, one of the one of the things you can do in the ‘something now’ is name that conflict is happening. And that you won’t be dealing with it in this space, potentially, because you already have a full agenda potentially, because it’s not appropriate to deal with it now, for whatever reason, you’re deciding not to deal with it in that space. But the something now can be naming it. And it feels really important to, to sort of show naming it as an as an offering, as an option. It’s not, it’s not nothing. It’s not never, but it’s not dealing with it there and then in the space. So then we move on to the: What do you say or do if you want to go beyond naming it? And it feels like this is, there are a few options here that we could kind of share. One would be taking a pause, figuring out how you want to move forward, potentially, based on if there was a group agreement, if there is a conflict process that exists, whatever that might be. It could be checking in with the group about what’s going on for people and kind of asking some questions and eliciting feedback from the group around what’s happening and maybe what people need. And then I think there’s also something around hearing what people need and then trying to respond to that in the moment. So an example from a session that I was in a few years ago was that the group wanted an accountability process in the space there and then to react to the harm that had happened in that space. We didn’t have a pre existing accountability process. So it was working with the group, live, to try and work out: well, what does accountability mean in this space? It means hearing from everybody. It means acknowledgement of harm. It means apologising. It means sharing: ‘what next?’ and what, what kind of consequences might need to be taken, which we kind of riffed on the spot. But it was a response to what was emerging in the group. So these are just some of the options of things that you could do in the moment, if you’re wanting to try and deal with conflict now. But all of these things feel like quite a lot bigger chat, than we have time for. So we decided that we’re gonna add an additional episode, where we’ll go into these what you do in the moment in a lot more depth. ALI As well as what you just said there: I think naming it, I think you said this, and then it could be more explicit, like naming it as part of it. And also, I have a phrase like ‘name and frame’, there’s like I naming it as like, ‘I think something’s happening here.’ And then framing is like, ‘I think what is going on here is maybe this? is that what’s going on?’ And then that’s like, offering a bit of a reflection back to people. And then they can confirm or challenge what your interpretation is. So that’s like an opportunity to let the whole group or let other people like, come in and give perspectives on it. But yeah, more of that in the next episode! But shall we, shall we have some top takeaways on our loops of OODA? SAMI [laughs] Yes. I think for me, the thing which I take away is like I think, I think I see people a lot more talking about how to respond to stuff and not as often reflecting on the question of when to respond to stuff. And I think that question of like thinking about when to respond in quite like a strategic way, is a really important thing to do. And when, like, conflict sparks in a space in a group. That’s my one. KATHERINE I think for me, it’s something you shared Ali around like the body, giving signals and like the affirmation of body knowledge, that it doesn’t have to be fighting or loud. It can be a like stickiness, or a tenseness that our body is picking up on. And that being a signal that is like valid information, that there’s something up in the space, and we need to be attending to it in some way. ALI Great. And for me, I think it’s about laying out all the different options. So it’s it’s, yeah, saying, once you’ve noticed conflict, there’s a whole range of things you can do. And it’s not just an either/or do something or do nothing. There’s like a whole spectrum in there. And this tool helps you filter through with pros and cons as to how to decide between all those different options. SAMI Nice. ALI All-righty! We’re done! SAMI Probably good to split this one into two episodes. [laughs] Big chats, big chats. ALI Thanks again for listening to this episode of the Resist+Renew podcast. Thanks as ever to Klaus for letting us use this backing track and to Rowan for doing all the transcription on this season. If you want to find out more about Resist+Renew as a training and facilitation collective, check out our website, resistrenew.com or on all the socials. And if you want to support the production of this podcast, you can do so at patreon.com/resistrenew. That’s it for this week. Thanks for listening and catch you next time. Bye bye!
20 minutes | Feb 4, 2022
Toolbox: Positions in conflict
Season 2 episode 11 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we talk about a model to understand some different positions that exist in conflicts. ‘This tool forces you to think about what it would be like for you to be in any of these different roles: having caused harm, having been harmed and having witnessed harm. We often don’t want to think about the possibility of ever causing harm.’ Show notes, links Why this is a useful frame: these different positions have different needs; all of us could occupy any of these positions at any one time. Some links to things mentioned in the episode: The Karpman drama triangle The first Exploring Collective Liberation course And finally, some perennial resources: our sister facilitation collective Navigate have a conflict facilitation booklet (from back when they were called Seeds For Change Oxford). See our “What is facilitation?” podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there’s always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript ALI This is Resist + Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I’m recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it’s a podcast! SAMI Okay, so welcome back everybody to the toolbox. So, in this episode, we are going to talk about the different roles that people can play in conflict situation in quite an idealised way. So a person who’s harmed, a person who’s done some harm, or then a person who’s witnessed it. And this is a way of like thinking about conflict in general, but also like a tool that you can use. So, like always, we’re going to think about some pros and cons and like, do a little summary at the end. So, Katherine, what are we talking about? KATHERINE So thanks Sami. As you said, it’s a sort of triangle of: a person who has done harm, a person who has been harmed, and a bystander. And this is both a frame, so like a way of thinking about conflict in terms of who’s playing these different roles, and also a tool to reflect on conflict, either individually or in a group: about what might happen if you are in any of those roles. So the purpose of the tool is to highlight that there are a range of needs, they’re not all going to be the same whatever role you’re in. So for example, if you are the person who has witnessed harm, you might need to have someone check in with you. Or you might need to have some time to process what you’ve seen, or you might need something else. And then it also highlights the specific needs specific people might have in a group. So if conflict does emerge, you have a bit of a sense as a facilitator, what people in your group might need. Also just want to name that this idea of a triangle in conflict is often used in other scenarios. So the idea of a ‘Drama Triangle’ in maybe more specifically abusive settings, where you have the perpetrator, the rescuer, and the victim roles, is something that this this kind of model is drawing on. So I think, at this point, it’d be really helpful to maybe ground this in an example. So Ali, do you want to talk to us about a time when you’ve used this tool? ALI Sure. So in 2018, R+R ran a course for a weekend. And as it happens, both Katherine and Sami, were participants there. So that’s cool. So the course was called Exploring Collective Liberation. It was kind of all weekend exploring ideas around anti oppression, and specifically around anti racism. And at the beginning of the weekend, we did that whole thing of like saying, kind of, the intention for the space, kind of went into some variation of like, group agreements. And we also wanted to talk about how we would, what we would want if conflict did emerge in the space. And I don’t think it did, but it was a space for thinking about what we’d want. So basically, at the beginning of the other weekend, we just got people in groups, and each group had a piece of paper. And it said, What would you need if you were dot, dot, dot, and that dot, dot dot might be followed by ‘someone who caused harm,’ ‘someone who witnessed harm,’ or ‘someone who was harmed.’ And then we just rotated those bits of paper around. And it was just a good way to Yeah, as, as we’ve said already about this, this tool is just about thinking, like, what needs are there, everybody in these positions will have needs. And it’s helpful to like, surface them from the beginning and think, what might what might we want to do about conflicts if it were to happen. So that’s what we did. SAMI Can I maybe add a add a thing on there? I, [laughs] I can’t remember if this is something that we did it at that weekend. And but I’ve also, I definitely remember having experienced a variant of it, where there’s two kind of questions. So there’s one which is like: ‘What would you need as a person inhabiting this role?’ And then like a follow up question, which is like, ‘What would you need from this role as somebody else?’ Whether it was one of the other two roles potentially. So like, kind of making sure you explicitly think both as the person in this role and around the person with this role: what are the needs. And it’s sometimes I guess, covered, depending on what you say, just by the first one, but maybe that’s another way of thinking about it. ALI Cool. So that’s a bit of a explanation, an example of this tool frame, to someone want to give us some strengths that they think this this has? KATHERINE Yeah, I can start. I think, for me, one of the strengths of this role is thinking about conflict and the roles in conflict and what we need, from a place where you might be in a bit more of a settled emotional state. So rather than trying to work out what you need in the heat of a conflict, giving the group some time to reflect, can just give a little bit of space to needs rather than, rather than not giving any space because you’re right in the moment of it. ALI Nice. I think the strength of this tool is that it kind of forces you to think about what, what it would be like for you to be in any of these different roles, and all of us tend – are likely to have been in any of these roles at different times. But we often don’t want to think about what like the possibility of ever causing harm and asking yourself to think about that and asking yourself, like, what would you need in that time. I think it’s a useful exercise, especially for that part. But I think all of it is useful to like, recognise that the that you can occupy any of these, these positions. SAMI Yeah, I think it’s like a very, it’s a, it’s got like an inherently humanising frame right. Like it, it links back to the conversations that we had a number of episodes ago, around, like transformative justice, punishment. And like, I think one thing that comes up a lot, when you talk to, like, transformative justice practitioners, like go to a workshop, things like that, like one of the most common ideas is like anybody is a person that is capable of doing harm. And like, that’s a really important tenet, to like, get in your head. And so like, and this is quite a gentle way of bringing that to people, rather than just like, grabbing a mic and running up to them and be like, What would you do when you harm people? Where do you get to harm people tell me about harming people. Like it’s a quite a nice way into it. KATHERINE And I guess, like one other strength is that this tool can kind of help you explore that you might be in more than one of these roles at different times. So it’s also that possibility of moving between roles, and that that can happen even within the same conflict, right. So you might have done something that was harmful to someone else, whilst at the same time also feeling harmed, and helping you hold the complexity of those roles and the different needs that you might have, depending on what’s going on in the moment. ALI Yeah, that is a weakness, that it doesn’t do that. So I think it could be as a strength and a weakness. KATHERINE Maybe it’s both? Eliciting the point that you can have things happen more than one at a time. SAMI Complexity! Do we, do we think it’s true that because it says this tool can help you explore that you could be more in more than one of those roles at different times. So I guess, I mean, I guess it depends on how you interpret it, right? Like, it is, I’d say, as a frame, it inherently positions, those roles as not overlapping. And obviously, you can use the opportunity to highlight like, with any frame, you can use the opportunity to highlight, ‘Obviously, this is a reductive summary of the world. And things don’t happen like this normally: it’s not true that there’s necessarily like all of these three roles.’ For example, maybe there’s two of you in a room, whoever, like there’s not three of you. Or, like, maybe there are these overlapping roles, whatever. But I’d say I’m not sure I’d say that it is a it is a strength of the tool that it does that because the tool doesn’t do that it’s a thing that you could do in spite of the tool, I’d say, rather than built into it when using that frame as a tool. Do people agree? ALI I think, I think the difference is is one tool helps you think you I as an individual could occupy any of those three roles at different times. And then the tool, like, segments them. And a weakness of it is that what Katherine said is like, actually, I could be in many, all three of those roles at the same time. And that and that’s a tool plus is to go beyond. SAMI Yeah. Nice. It’s like intra versus inter that that distinction, right, like whether it’s within the conflicts or across conflict. I only know the difference between those things because they talk about it as a joke in the in the film Never Been Kissed with Drew Barrymore I think, classic film. ALI You are definitely putting yourself in a particular generation there. SAMI [Laughs] I don’t know what you mean. That’s a very popular film that people still remember today. ALI Shall we go on to some weaknesses, I feel like we go into the blur between them now. Some weaknesses. KATHERINE Yeah, I guess one for me is around like this tool, I think invites a level of vulnerability within the group and it invites the group to go to a depth of reflection around harm, that can give the sense that the the space is is going to be held for that depth. And I think then there needs to be some reflection across a facilitation team about whether you can hold the group at that depth. And so if you’re opening space for people to really think that harm will be handled well in the space, what other tools do you need to be able to work through conflict and harm as it arises? Do you want to be inviting that depth basically, because this tool will take the group there? SAMI Nice. Oh, Ali. ALI I was just gonna say a another weakness is potentially, that there is like a baseline assumption within this tool that people don’t want to cause harm, and that they want to be reflective, reflective when they do. And that’s not – I think that’s generally true. I think most people do want that. And also, sometimes people, when you ask them to think about what they need, when they’ve caused harm, they might just say some less than pleasant things. And then you have to think about what you’re gonna do about that. And that, yeah, it’s complicated, especially when it’s like, in an organisation where there, there are hierarchical positions, if someone in a hierarchical position of power, says that they don’t really mind if they cause harm, then that’s quite a strong thing to say. And then there’s, yeah, how do you, how do you manage that within that hierarchy where there is power? That’s tricky. That’s very tricky. SAMI Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think there’s, we’ve already talked about a little bit about how like with all kind of frames, it’s a little bit reductive in terms of the thing around – doesn’t help you explore being two roles at the same time. And I think maybe one of the other things that it misses out on is that it kind of implies, like, a real separation of the roles that may not necessarily be relevant, like so for example. It implies that like being a bystander is a distinct role, in general from being a person who like, does the harm or is harmed, whereas often that role of bystander is a lot more complicated than that. In that so like, for example, like if you’re a bystander to like long running harassment, are you really a bystander at that point? Or like, are you complicit with the thing that’s happening? And so like, it doesn’t necessarily speak well to some of those like nuances of like, potentially complicity around the bystander role or things like that. I was just gonna keep listing other things. But I’ll stop talking now. ALI I guess another weakness is thinking about how you want to frame it. So it’s not a weakness, but more of a consideration, again. Of like, where you use this tool will affect how you want to use it, and how you want to frame the definition of harm. For instance, like, the example we gave at the beginning is like a course of mostly strangers or loosely connected people. So we use quite a broad frame there. But when we say harm, like, everybody is going to be imagining different scenarios in their head and have different experiences they’re bringing with them. And that can be challenging, because we’re talking about very different experiences. And what you need in like, more extreme versions of harm are going to be less for, going to be different to, you know, more microaggression-y, like passing comment kinds of harm, like the needs are going to be quite starkly different. So it might be worth thinking about how you frame that. And, yeah, related to like that depth of where you want to go, like Katherine share- shared at the beginning, a little minute ago. Maybe if you’re in a longer standing group, maybe you want to be more specific and talk about particular kinds of harm. And that could be more helpful. SAMI It links back to that point we made, I think, in episode one around like the importance of clarity of language. When we, when we talk about a lot of this stuff, harm can be a box that you can put a lot of different meanings into. KATHERINE I guess. Yeah. But this speaks to another weakness for me around like clarifying needs, which this tool does do quite well in terms of saying the range of needs: that’s explicitly what it’s asking for. But what it doesn’t do is in the moment, tell the facilitator or whoever’s holding the space, what need to prioritise because it’s likely you’re going to have conflicting needs. So it could be that when harm happens, some people really need there to be a pause, and for there to be a break and a breather, whereas other people really need it to be dealt with and named and framed in the moment. And for there not to be a pause. And there has to then be a choice point. So I think this tool to deal with that challenge needs maybe a bit of an additional stage around a decision or an agreement among the group around if harm of some kind maybe specifically named levels of harm are happening in the group. ‘This is the path that we’re going to follow and why.’ Otherwise, you’re kind of in the moment as a facilitator having to make a snap judgement across however large the group is number of needs, which can be very challenging if they are divergent from each other. SAMI Yeah, I think like, it’s, there are like opening up tools and closing down tools, right. And this is very much an opening up tool like this opens and unpacks a lot of information that then you’ll probably need to do something with. [Laughs] I guess, whilst also acknowledging the point that we’ve made before, around how like, which I think we talked about the safest places policies, things (there’ so many links between the episodes this season!) and around the difficulty for making like, rules that are totally ungrounded from specificities and context, and how that can be a challenge. And how often stuff does need to be a little bit reactive. KATHERINE I think, though, that this may be back to a strength, but there is a sense of at least then there are reference points. So when you’re in the moment of a conflict, you can reflect back at the group: ‘Okay, these are some of the things that we heard from you, or what’s needed with thinking to go down this path now, because of what we’re hearing from the group’ and check out or at least have some sense of accountability back to what the group has, has shared previously and doing this exercise. SAMI Nice. Can we think of any more strengths, weaknesses or considerations? Or should we should we wrap up and move on to top takeaways? KATHERINE Top takeaways, I think. SAMI Great. I’ll start. So, we’re all just looking at each other… So I think for me, the top takeaway is that like, I think especially when you’re talking about like quite general, like notions of harm, I think it can be a bit limiting. And that can be like a challenge. So I think for example, it’s if you’re planning an event, then talk about like, what if people like, say shitty things like harass each other at the event. If you’re talking like if you work in something like domestic violence, then like being really specifically talking about like, interpersonal abuse, things like that. So like, make sure that it’s matches the context that you’re working in, and isn’t too general. ALI My top takeaway would be that it helps recognise that anyone can be in any of these three positions, especially thinking that any of us can, and probably will be in a harming role at different times. And we don’t tend not to want to think about that. And it’s also about recognising that you are still human in those, in that harm position, and you’re still going to have needs, and that’s okay. And it’s worth thinking about what those needs might be. KATHERINE I guess, for me, I think this is a tool that can really deepen the vulnerability of a group and our understanding of each other. And also it can make the space feel safer than it is. And so as a facilitator, really thinking, Are you up for and able to hold that level of depth, vulnerability and space for considering harm in this way? SAMI Nice. Can I under random note that kind of undermines their lovely top takeaways, because it’s not a top takeaway, but it is just a it’s a small thought that maybe we should have mentioned before. Is like, there is often like an intent and intention behind the use of the terms like ‘person who has done harm’ or person who has that ‘person who has been harmed,’ and things like that, like often you’re trying to describe, like roles that people can play in a way that tries quite intentionally to set them up as like not essentialist categories. So you’re not like ‘The Harmer’ as like because that kind of maybe can be read as like a thing that you always do. I think this inherent to you and things like that, rather than like talking about the behaviours that you’ve done. So like the wording often like person who has done harm can like be quite a mouth like a mouthful, but it’s often intentionally chosen is probably a good thing to note. Seamless KATHERINE Great. That was good, that was good! ALI Thanks again for listening to this episode of the Resist+Renew podcast. Thanks as ever to Klaus for letting us use this backing track and to Rowan for doing all the transcription on this season. If you want to find out more about Resist+Renew as a training and facilitation and collective check out our website, resistrenew.com, or on all the socials. And if you want to support the production of this podcast, you can do so at patreon.com/resistrenew. That’s it for this week. Thanks for listening and catch you next time. Bye bye.
64 minutes | Jan 29, 2022
Sex worker solidarity in practice (Elio from SWARM)
Season 2 episode 10 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we interview Elio. They organise with SWARM (a UK-based collective founded and led by sex workers who believe in self-determination, solidarity and co-operation) and are a branch organiser for United Voices of the World (UVW, a grassroots trade union of low paid, migrant & precarious workers and we fight the bosses for dignity and respect through direct action on the streets and through the courts!). “Our focus is less on convincing the outside world that sex workers deserve dignity, and [more on] providing dignity to sex workers” “Urgency will never end…but what might end is your capacity to be able to respond” – Elio Show notes, links SWARM: community building, community resourcing Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Swedish Model (aka The Nordic Model) New Resource: ‘How We Ran A Mutual Aid Fund’ UVW sex worker organising: helping to organise sex workers as workers The United Sex Workers branch of UVW Strippers union United Voices of the World (UVW) wins landmark legal victory proving strippers are ‘workers’, not independent contractors Decriminalised Futures: popular education, arts Their Lady of the Night School The Decrim Futures archive includes both recording from their 2019 conference, and also videos from the “We can build a different world” event The Decriminalised Futures exhibition at the ICA in London, running from 15 Feb to 22 May 2022 Some other projects: Decrim Now, a campaign group pushing for the full decriminalisation of sex work The Dialtone Project, giving old phones you don’t need to the sex workers who do Volunteering with the English Collective of Prostitutes You can buy a copy of the acclaimed Revolting Prostitutes book And finally, the most succint “political outlooks on sex work” meme out there: We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there’s always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript ALI This is Resist Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I’m recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it’s a podcast! SAMI So, welcome everybody to the resist renew podcast, where we are joined here today by Elio. Do you want to say a little hello before I introduce you, Elio? ELIO a little Hello. Hello. Sorry, that was really… Hello! That’s a big hello. Oh, it’s multiple hellos of different sizes, shapes and sizes. SAMI Lots of variety: people can pick their favourite. Elio is a person who organises with SWARM, which is a UK based collective founded by sex workers who believe in self determination, solidarity and cooperation, and is also branch organiser with United Voices of the World, which is a grassroots trade union of low paid migrant and precarious workers that fight the bosses for dignity and respect, through direct action, on the streets and through the courts, which is a sentence from the website that I just really wanted to read out; and is also involved in other groups and things! And was also giving us some very helpful advice for our muscles and physical bodies before we started the recording. So thank you for that. So, let’s get into the let’s get into the chat. Elio, what is that political contexts that like sex workers, and the groups that you’re linked in with are organising within like in the UK today? ELIO So I think the main context that’s the most important to think about in terms of the impact it has on sex workers is the legal context. So currently, in the UK, specifically, I’m speaking about England and Wales really is, sex work is not is partially criminalised. So selling the act of selling sex and buying sex, for the most part is you’re allowed to do it, it’s legal, it’s fine. No one’s gonna stop you from doing it. But a lot of the, I guess, the infrastructure around those things is criminalised. So, brothel keeping, which can you know, range from someone who owns a building and they have lots of people that work there and you don’t have to give them a percentage to work there or could be just two workers working together for safety in the most part, you know, so you’re not working alone, that counts as ‘brothel keeping’ and it’s criminalised. There’s laws around ‘control for gain’ which are criminalised, which is you know, meant to stop like, what is kind of understood as the ‘evil pimp’, with the workers that they’re exploiting, and they’re ‘controlling them for gain’; but often ends up affecting people like if a sex worker has a flat and they have a cleaner, or if they have a security guard or if they have a driver. Or if they have a partner whose rent they’re paying. All of these things kind of are criminalised under the laws affecting sex workers in the UK. So I think for most sex worker organisations and groups, the things that they’re really concerned with on there kind of the, in terms of an organising or political activity is around those laws and how they affect affect sex workers in a day to day way. And so that’s why the kind of key movement for sex workers is the movement for full decriminalisation: the removal of any criminal laws relating to the sex industry or to sex workers. Which just you know, give the addendum isn’t mean that like, exploitation is suddenly like, ‘Let’s go!’ Or like that rape is suddenly like, you know, legal; or like that violence towards sex workers is fine. It just says that for most sex workers, their day to day lives at work are going to be better if you remove the laws that criminalise their labour, and their work practices. So yeah, I don’t know, I think for me, that’s the main political context and sort of the broader, the broader scheme of things. And then I think in like a kind of more like, talking about the left or something-level, it’s, the political context is trying to like, over the last, I don’t know, few years? SWARM have, like, SWARM who are group I’m involved in, I think we said that the beginning, you know, have been around for over 10 years now. And over that time, you’ve seen a shift in like, I wasn’t involved 10 years ago, but you’ve seen a shift in how people think about and talk about sex work and sex workers on the left, and there used to be an increased level of hostility. And now you’re seeing that sex workers are welcomed into more political groups, understood as being part of movements, often understood as being like at the sharp end of like, a lot of criminalization and a lot of laws and the ways in which sex workers are impacted is, you know, a bit of a ‘canary in the coal mine’ as people like to say, of how other groups and other networks and other people are going to be affected. And so there’s a I think, a lot stronger connection to sex work and to sex workers, as being movements to like, organise around. So I think in terms of the political context that sex workers are organising in, that’s really key: this like shifting attitude towards recognising sex workers as comrades rather than as like, ‘victims out in the cold who kind of we try and ignore because it’s a complicated issue.’ Yeah, and that’s my answer. SAMI That’s a solid answer. I like it. And so it sounds, so I think, what’s what’s coming across to me in that is that, like, sex work is like the like the sex worker struggle, I guess, for want of a better way of phrasing it, is like really embedded, and like linked to a lot of the other struggles that like the left is more recognised as organising within. And, and so like, I think part of the reason (this is my take, and maybe not necessarily that useful) but like, part of the reason that I think there has been a lot of like a larger increase in sex worker solidarity on like ‘the left’, I think it’s partly to do with the work that like SWARM and its previous instantiation, or whatever of like, Sex Workers Open University did in terms of like, doing a lot of like, link building with a lot of other groups. But I think is also because people are like seeing sex work as like, in a really practical sense, just linked in with other struggles, like I do a lot of stuff around like immigration raids, and it’s hard to talk about immigration rates without like thinking about like, like high profile immigration raids on brothels, because like, it’s just so often one of the most visible aspects of like, immigration enforcement. And I think that’s true of loads of stuff. Like if you work on homelessness, if you’re work on drug use, if you work on migration, if you work on whatever. Like, there’s just such clear links with, like, the struggles that like sex workers are living within, and so much of that is linked to criminalisation. ELIO Yeah, definitely. I mean, that’s partly why I’m, like sex work organising, or politics of solidarity with sex workers is, you know, really the, the frame through which I operate a lot. Because if you look at that, you see how it connects to all of the things; and like, I’m not saying that, you know, organising around housing rights doesn’t mean you like, they have to think about migration, or you have to think about gender, you have to think about work and stuff, like, you know. I think any issue of this kind can lead you to see all those connections between different things. But for me, sex work, sex worker organising is such a, as a central site for the ways in which so much of that stuff all connects up. And it’s why it’s so important to organise on those issues, or to centre sex workers of, you know, various different experiences in the kind of organising or politics that you do. Because if you establish better conditions for sex workers in the world, then that will like, you know, that’s going to establish better conditions for a lot of people. There was something else you said as well, that made me think of something, but I just don’t remember what it was. SAMI I’m not gonna lie. I don’t remember what it is either. I say things, and they’re just immediately gone. ELIO It’ll, come back to me. Oh, yeah, this is, this is what it is. So I also run this project called Decriminalised Futures, which is kind of more of like an art and popular education project. And it is focused on like experiences and lives and perspectives of sex workers, but very specifically in connection with other like, you know, struggles for racial and economic justice, trans liberation, queer liberation struggles, and we’re constantly framing it in the connection to that, to build those connections. And something that we’re doing at the moment, we’re recording in October. So we’ve been doing this series called Lady of the Night School as part of Decriminalised Futures, which is like an education course. And you can sign up and there’s lectures and seminars and readings. And it’s a way of kind of trying to focus in on issues that are related to sex worker struggles, and sex worker organising. But other things that maybe we don’t always get to go as deep into, because I think a lot of sex worker, public facing political work has to be very introductory, has to be trying to convince people like ‘this is why you should be interested in this. This is, here’s some basic arguments, here’s the legal models internationally. And this is why you should think about it,’ and Decriminalised Futures are kind of try to take the opportunity to be like, let’s really get into some specific stuff. But the first session is talking about a history of criminalization in the UK in terms of in relation to sex work. And it was a lecture that we had a lecture that was done by this woman called Dr. Julia Laite, who’s really amazing. She’s at Birkbeck, and she talked about some of the history of how sex work was criminalised. And she has quotes from 1922. So like 100 years ago, talking about the conditions that sex workers were facing, and also the political struggles that surrounded it. And what you see at the time is loads of like suffragettes loads of like early feminist organisers, were like, you know, you need to decriminalise sex work, because even though we’re like morally against it, that’s what’s gonna make the conditions for these people better and this is what should happen. And so the people that were the feminists who were the ‘saviours’ who were there, like well offs, not always, but sometimes, like wealthy women like this is their cause that they’re taking up. They’re on the side of decriminalisation and they’re in that fight. Whereas nowadays, what you see is those people who tend to fit into that category are the ones who are arguing in favour of the Nordic model, which is, you know, a legal model that sex workers argue is very harmful to their working conditions. And who, are tend to be kind of in the opposition, opposition opposition, but they kind of present that oppositional position as being like their ‘natural position’ like, “Oh, we’ve always been against this. And like, you know, being in favour of sex worker rights is like the brand new thing,” but actually supporting decriminalisation and supporting sex workers is the position that has has been the longer term one. It’s the one that like people have, like, you know, changed from because of, you know, changing understandings of what it means to be a feminist. Anyway, I’m kind of going off on one, but just what I mean is that like this connection, and like, this understanding of criminalization is something that people who are engaged in political movements have had for a long time; and then it kind of dips and wanes, how people know and understand it. And in the UK, particularly over the last 10, 20, 30 years, it’s groups like the English Collective of Prostitutes, who have done amazing political campaigning work to really fight for the rights of sex workers and to really push like that being important and central and maintaining that as being a like an integral part of like leftist organising. SAMI No, thanks. That was really useful. And I guess one thing in case like, me and Ali had a chat about this before we started this interview about like, how we want to frame things. And generally this is like, this is a series that we interview, like organisers to talk about the work they’re doing within, like, the groups that they’re a part of. And so we’re quite intentionally not asking you kind of like ‘Sex Work 101’ questions, but what we will do if you are listening to this, and you’re like, I have no idea what’s being talked about, we will put some links in the show notes for some like other videos, and because a lot of resources out there that are doing that kind of like 101 explanation. So if that is you, check out the blog post that comes to this episode, and you’ll probably find some help. ELIO I will also add that Decriminalised Futures, you know, worked with SWARM a couple years ago to run a conference that talked about a lot of issues that face sex workers talking about migrant sex workers, talking about the Nordic model, talking about sex workers of different experiences, talking about access, like disability, talking about race. And if you go to the Decriminalised Futures website, which is decriminalisedfutures.org, and you go to the archive, there’s all these recordings with like disicu- panel discussions and transcripts about really specific issues that affect sex workers. So. ALI Amazing it’s another another resource. Yeah, I can see Sami, like scurrying away now looking at that, so that will make it through to the show notes. I feel like like, my, I feel like sex worker struggles has become like, yeah, as you said, like, more prominent, more recently, and like through that dipping and waning process, like it feels, yeah, like it’s, it’s on on the up, again, at terms of like understanding and integration with the left. And also what you’re saying about like, I feel like loads of groups. And you said, like, lots of, if you look really closely at any struggle, they are all really, really interconnected. But I feel like the way that sex worker interconnection is presented and like, it feels really tangible in ways that other group other things like environmental things, even though you can do it, and it is super tangible, and it is super connected, it feels much clearer. And maybe that’s a communication thing that is going on, because it, maybe because it comes down to like individual lives, a lot of the time of like, sex workers are also migrants who are also in shitty rental situations or whatever, you know, like, because it comes down to a person, it feels like it comes across way more tangibly, to me at least I don’t know. ELIO I think it’s also like, you know, as, as we experience climate change, and as particular, you know, yeah, as we experience climate change, and as you see, like in the Global South, more places become uninhabitable, or like less easy to survive in in terms of like economic stability, you see more people migrating. And you see the ways in which border controls that are supposedly like to ‘protect against trafficking’, or to make sure that, you know, sex working women aren’t exploited in certain ways are actually used against migrants who are facing the brunt the brunt of climate change. Or who do make it into the UK despite these like horrific border regimes, and then are in a position of like precarious, like, status, and then maybe are relying on sex work as a way to earn an income. Like, I think it’s just every issue that you can think of, you can see how that connects help with like sex worker politics and organising, even if it’s maybe not like ‘environmentalism and sex workers’, like what’s the link and then it’s like, oh wait, because the reason these are connected is because of like borders and because of work and because of austerity and things like that. Yeah. And yeah, just you know, what real expectation is, which, yeah. ALI Yeah, all the structural stuff. Come comes. It’s all there and it all comes together in people’s lives. Funnily enough. (Laughs) You mentioned stuff around how SWARM and other sex worker organisations are fighting for, like better, better conditions. Do you want to elaborate a bit more on like, what are these organisations about what you’re trying to achieve? And how are you going about it? ELIO So I think different organisations operate in different ways. So SWARM are very much have done a lot of work over the years, advocating for decriminalisation and doing a lot of work around that. And over the last few years, we’ve seen the group Decrim Now kind of come into being, which is a coalition of lots of different people and organisations fighting for decriminalisation in the UK decriminalisation of sex work. And so SWARM have kind of had a little bit more space to be like, we’re not having to constantly just do policy work and fight to be like, get basic, like legal dignity, we’re able to turn a little bit more to focus purely on community and building up our community and doing services and resources for that are, you know, for the community who are, who are connected to SWARM and most impacted. And, you know, doing that in a way that is focused on mutual aid. So it’s not like, oh, like, it’s a just a bunch of, you know, SWARM is very much a mixture of people who are sex workers and non sex and allies, non sex working allies who are kind of supporting that work to happen. And creating, not kind of imagining the sex worker as this abstract person who no one’s ever really met, but you know they’re really victimised and they just need support and resources. And these people have decided what they’re going to be, and they’re going to provide them. But it’s very much led by sex workers knowing what they want, saying what they want, and putting that stuff in place, in a very much the context of mutual aid, where it’s not just, Oh this organisation gives you things, and now you have done but it recognises that as being part of a wider sex working community, or supporting sex workers. That it’s an exchange of like, this is a community that supports itself and supports each other. I’m not sure if I’ve said that very well. But hopefully, like, you kind of get the idea of what I’m trying to say of like this, this SWARM is kind of focused on building community and supporting sex workers of all different kinds across the UK in lots of different ways. And I’m gonna just talk a little bit about maybe just about, I guess, how we imagine doing that, I guess, or what the organisation is about is that it’s kind of the right moment to do that? ALI Yeah, yeah, great. ELIO So SWARM. Last year, no, 21, what year is it? So in 2020, SWARM ran this mutual aid fund, a hardship fund, because the pandemic, you know, put sex workers in this position where, for many the industry just disappeared overnight, and people didn’t have any work, and kind of no way to survive. And you saw a lot of people who, you know, like, oh, it was like, Oh, go on Universal Credit. But a lot of sex workers, you know, were already on Universal Credit. And that wasn’t sufficient for like their living needs. And so doing sex work was a way to like top up, and suddenly, they kind of lost that top up. And were having to survive on an amount of money that was insufficient, or, like, just didn’t have their lives or their whatever, together enough to be able to deal with Universal Credit and deal with those kind of like logistical practicalities, or people who have no recourse to public funds, for whatever reason. And so sex work was how they survived. And now suddenly, that was gone, and they had no other way to have any money. So there were a lot of ways in which people were affected, particularly like sex workers were affected by the pandemic. And so SWARM set up a mutual hardship fund, which basically fundraise money and gave it away to individual sex workers. So that they had like a little bit of a cushion to be able to get through a lot of the time that was like, going towards just putting like gas on the metre, so you can get through the rest of the month, or like just quite, you know, simple things that were just all that people needed just to get through that month, where they kind of dealt with the sudden change to their circumstances, either because they ran out of the tiny bit of savings they had or they were like, Okay, I’ve got no money now, and I need to do this. So we raised and gave away like, I’m gonna say it wrong, because I looked at them in a while, about like, a quarter of a million pounds to like sex workers across the UK. And it was like, over 1000 sex workers, like got a payment. And all of that money was raised through private donations. So just people being like, Yeah, this is important to do, I’m going to give money towards it. And that was like a really amazing thing to do. It was quite a lot of work for everybody who was involved in it, but it was, you know, really, really important because I think it sustained so many people. Like, it was a lifesaver for people just to get that little bit of money right when they needed it. And you also had like talking on the phone to sex workers across the UK who would, you know, be a bit suspicious like: ‘Why are you giving me this money?’ Because sex workers are not used to someone helping them out just because they’re a sex worker. They’re used to people being like, a lot more negative because they’re a sex worker. And so being like, ‘Oh, you’re like, one of me, and you’ve arranged this stuff, and you’re giving me money so that I can get by?’ Like, you know, it was just kind of an interesting, like, community building exercise of like really connecting with people who had never really spoken to other sex workers that much, or had only spoken to people about being a sex worker in the context of getting a service from people who were like, that’s their paid job. So actually speaking to people who are in community with them, who have been like, ‘No, we want to make sure you’re okay,’ was like quite a powerful thing. And it made us think a lot about like, how do we keep building these strong community networks? So that when things happen, that people feel connected up in these ways? And how do we keep creating spaces where sex workers can meet with other sex workers and feel connected? And how do we do that in a way that’s like, where our work is voluntary, it’s reciprocal, you know, it prioritises exchanges of support and resources, while understanding that support and resources looks different depending on who the person giving or taking or, you know, receiving, maybe it’s a nice way to say that. You know, we’re really against the idea of one way giving, but also not like you have to jump through these hoops in order to get something from us. It’s about: by being a member of this community you are giving. And just like really focusing on, like, kind of building some of those connections, building solidarity, so supporting each other in the work that we do. And doing that, because we support the movement for our collective liberation, and that we’re dedicated to creating a better world for sex workers, and thinking still about public messaging and education. But our focus is less on convincing the outside world that sex workers deserve dignity, and providing dignity to sex workers who are connected to swarm and wider sex worker communities. And using some of the funding that we’ve gotten through donations, and the ongoing funding that we get from people to do that work, because now there’s less need for the hardship fund, you know, people aren’t, there aren’t as many people in that kind of immediate crisis, which is good, which is what we want! We don’t want people to be in crisis. But then how do we build towards being able to respond to when there’s another crisis? Because there’s always another crisis. And so thinking about building up like, grants to using that money and giving it to sex workers, not just because, oh, you’re in a crisis, and so you’re having a difficult moment, but being like, ‘Oh, you have a creative project that you want to do, or you have a zine that you want to make, or you have a thing to do, that’s going to like connect up the community. And that’s going to talk about your experiences of sex work in the UK and connect with other sex workers’ and kind of putting some of the funds towards stuff that builds community, doesn’t just like rescue community. And doing it in ways that are based around like, shared geographic locations, shared identities, shared experience, and just really thinking about how we can think about the different types of sex workers that are in the UK and how we can support them doing like… is this, kind of, am I meant to kind of talk a bit about some of the stuff we do? Am I going into too much detail? I love a bit of detail. So if I’m like, going to into the nitty gritties – ALI This is like how the stuff happens, this is what we want to hear. ELIO And doing stuff like this advice and support thing that we’ve been running, you know, for a year now, which is like a monthly drop in where sex workers can come and talk to other people about like issues they have applying for Universal Credit, issues they have doing tax stuff. You know, things that often come up for sex workers that have very unique needs around it. That they can speak to other people who are like trained up in like how to how to deal with that stuff. So it’s sort of like a Citizen’s Advice Bureau, but for sex workers specifically. And just doing the stuff to be like, what knowledge do we have in this wider community? What knowledge do we have in people who are like supportive of the community and want to share it in ways that are like really respectful and supportive rather than like condescending? And how can we build up this up? We’ve had to connect a project, the Dial Tone project, which is like phones, for sex workers, you need them, you know, sex workers often need a second phone so that their clients don’t have their private or personal number. Particularly, you know, sex workers might only want to, might only end up doing sex work for a year. And they don’t want in two years, some guy to be calling them because he still has that private number. You know, it’s just like, it’s both like a short term thing of like, oh, that helps to work and also like a long term thing of like thinking about how you get to navigate through the world. And so kind of providing these resources that are direct to the work. And we’ve done you know, this healthcare project, with doing vaccines for sex workers through the pandemic, where sex workers, you know, kind of need a priority vaccine because they have that direct contact with people more often. But can’t necessarily go on to the government website and be like, there’s no category that says, ‘Oh, are you a prostitute? Thus you get to like book your vaccine earlier.’ So being like, oh, we’ll create these networks where that there are confidential, that places that people can go and get access to these things that they need, without having to necessarily have it written on their NHS record like something that they maybe don’t want people to know. Or they don’t want their GP, like in five years or 10 years to be able to see because that’s not what they do. And because they like it, you know, like maybe you can think of all the reasons why people who are like in certain positions might need access to a vaccine programme that’s aimed specifically at them. Anyway, we do lots of other stuff like in terms of SWARM, like research papers, and like continuing the hardship fund, trying to create these projects, and I guess, like, what was the original question? What was your organisation about like SWARM as an organisation is very much about that community support community building, community resourcing kind of not in contrast. But like slightly different to that is: so I’m a branch organiser for the United Sex Workers branch in UVW. And I just support the members of that branch to organise around issues that affect them. And that’s slightly different to SWARM because SWARM is very much about that community connection. Whereas UVW and USW is about workers rights. And so what issues people are facing at work, whether it be the strip club they work in, or potentially brothel they work in or as a full service, sex worker who works independently or privately, or maybe someone who works online, you know, there’s all these kind of different sectors of sex work and different workplace issues that can come up. And it can be like a very unique thing, because some of those issues are ones that are really hard to navigate. Because if you have an issue with your boss at your brothel, there’s no like that, that’s a criminal workplace. So you can’t go to tribunal and be like, my boss did this. But you also probably like can’t go to the police because the police would come – in like an ideal world – the police would be like, “Oh, I’ve never I never knew there was a brothel here, can you believe it? Who would have who would have thunk that this like workplace existed, we better go and like rescue those poor women!” and then they would shut it down. And so your issue with your boss then becomes a closure of your workplace and then no way to earn income. So like, how do you kind of support sex workers in those situations with those workplace issues within the context of what is criminal and what their legal rights are? And in strip clubs, you know, the UVW won a case to say that strippers dancers in strip clubs are workers. You know, it was recognised that that is that person that is a category of worker and that, just because, you know, people have these stigmatised attitudes, it doesn’t mean that that person isn’t a worker in a workplace with who deserves workers rights. And so often it’s responding to issues around that. So I think that’s kind of different because it’s very much like people will join UVW or USW because they’re, they understand themselves as a worker who maybe has workers issues or who wants to be in solidarity with other workers in a really specific way. And a lot of our cases are around unfair dismissal or people needing to be able to claim sick pay or holiday pay. Sometimes people get fired because of like union organising because, like, even more than other industries, sometimes bosses who employ sex workers or strippers or dancers or other types of sex workers are like kind of outraged that they would dare unionise because they see them as like a group that can be taken advantage of because of the like social attitudes towards sex workers. So there’s all these different ways that sex workers are impacted at work, and UVW does organising around that. And also there’s a lot of organising around licencing for sexual entertainment venues in the UK. Over the last like three to four years, we’ve seen this big uptickin so called feminist campaigners trying to get sexual entertainment venues so strip clubs around the UK closed down because they say it’s like causes violence, and it’s exploitation and it’s bad for women. And you see all these people who work in strip clubs being like, why are you trying to close my workplace, I mean, make it so that I can’t earn any money? Like, what they want is for those vendors to be able to stay open, but for the workers rights that they have, and for the the conditions in those workplaces to be improved. And it’s hard to fight your boss to have the conditions in your workplace improved when you’re having to fight with your boss to keep your workplace open. And then to even feel like all like you’re kind of grateful to your boss that they’ve kept employing you rather than like actually you’re a worker who’s able to advocate for your rights. So UVW kind of has a slightly different angle in terms of like, how it’s supporting and connecting with like sex worker rights movements in the UK, and I think those are very complementary because it creates space for each other. The more organisations you have advocating around sex workers’ rights and more space that you have for those organisations to focus on what feels really important to them. Yeah, that’s fine as an answer. ALI That’s more than fine! That is extremely comprehensive and like very helpful to go get those two different angles and also yeah, the hardship fund is an amazing, amazing achievement, to have raised that much money and to have all these different projects and forms of community support going on is just like incredible. And like very, I feel like mutual aid is something that we’ve probably all heard about through the pandemic. But this is like a very concrete and specific version of it, but probably has been going on in like sex worker communities for longer than the pandemic and got like deeper roots and stuff. ELIO I think just the only thing I’d add to that is that I think that’s like that kind of mutual aid and support has been happening: like all SWARM did was formalise it slightly, and that only was formalised in order to access the resources of the wider world. You know, that’s, those practices of support and like sharing of money and resources are things that happen with between sex workers, you know, all the time. ALI Yeah, it’s just like a thing people do to look after each other. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. You’ve used the word like organising a few times and I’m wondering if like is there a specific way that you mean that in those different contexts? Like, for SWARM is organising is building the community organising in itself, and that’s where it goes and in UVW is organising a different thing? Like, I feel like it’s a word that people throw around in groups and can mean quite specific things and I think you’re pointing to different aspects of it. ELIO Yeah, I’m in my position at the moment which I may change is that organising is bad and the whole concept like should be abolished. You know abolish panels abolish organising abolish all this like stuff. I think in SWARM organising looks really different, because it’s not trying to get people organised to do a thing. And it’s not like a top down model. You know, I think a lot of organising and certainly organising and other organisations, I’m a part of is about: someone comes who knows things and gathers people who care about a thing to get them to achieve something in relation to that, whether it’s like around housing, or their workplace or their whatever. But SWARM is not that kind of top down. You know, there isn’t someone who’s the organiser, who knows there’s people who are like, being led by the community saying things that they want and need. And people are being organised to be able to spend time together to build community. You know, sex work for a lot of sex workers is a very isolating industry, people feel very alone. The political context means people feel very alone. And it’s really powerful for people to be able to spend time together and to share information, share resources, and just share a sense of like, ‘Oh, I understand what your experiences is like.’ And that can often look very different to what is publicly facing, you know, what people have to say in public is different from what they’re able to say in private to each other, particularly in a political context where like, there’s this very anti-sex worker sentiment. What I would call anti sex worker sentiment. If a sex worker expresses publicly like that they’ve experienced violence at work, they don’t know if that’s just going to be used by someone to say, “well see, that’s why the industry should be abolished.” So this is real kind of policing, on what people are able to say publicly about their conditions and their experiences. And so creating those private spaces where people can, can share about what those experiences are, and how they feel about them, and what they think should be done about them is, is really important. But it’s not organising people to be like, ‘okay, you’ve, you’ve thought of this, and now you have to go and do this.’ And, you know, me, Elio, or something, as the organiser is gonna come and help you do that. It’s literally just kind of like being responsive to what people say, and trying to create things that are sex worker led and sex worker supportive. In UVW, it’s very different because my job is, you know, to organise this branch and to be like, Okay, there’s these workplace issues that come up, and I’m gonna, you know, turn to other people who are within the union who have knowledge about workplace issues. And I’m going to turn to members who have knowledge about sex worker issues, and sex worker workplace issues, you know, they are the experts in what a sex worker workplace looks like. Even though there’s amazing people and UVW who have incredible knowledge of the law of how unions work of what workers rights are, they don’t always know how that applies in a sex worker workplace, or to sex work issues. So often my job is kind of being the hinge between those two pieces of knowledge and bringing them together in order to be able to like fight cases. And we also have the benefit of caseworkers within UVW who can like kind of take on specific cases. And then maybe we can turn them into disputes and turn them bigger. But that’s definitely a situation in which I, my perspective on organising is that I try not to go into the branch and be like, ‘Okay, this is what’s going on, and this is what everybody needs to do.’ But to be like, ‘Okay, this seems like the things that you want to achieve. Here’s some ways that maybe we could achieve that. How does that sound? Okay, I’m going to get on with making sure and supporting those things to happen and connecting us up and with these different like resources and knowledge.’ So I think those are two very like different models. And then you kind of have, I’ll just like kind of refer to it. But Decriminalised Futures, which is another project I run, which isn’t to me organising it’s a project. It’s an art project. It’s a political education project. But part of that political education is to make resources and knowledge and information available both to sex workers and non sex workers, so that they understand the political conditions of sex workers, but also in which sex work is happening. So that they are informed and knowledgeable and confident in being able to to do that work in the wider world. So it’s kind of like that’s not really organising people to like, do something with the political education they get, but it’s providing it to be available, which I think is again, a different, a different angle on how what organising might look like? Yeah. SAMI Yeah, no, I think that’s really helpful. And I think it really, it’s the similarities of that the distinctions you’re making around like the organising that happens within SWARM and the organism that happens within UVW/the organisation, the type of organising that you are explicitly trying to not do within the context of UVW, seems quite similar to the distinction that we’ll often make as facilitators and the differences between like talking about like facilitation stuff and training. Like around like, where is the focus around, like trying to support a group, and to achieve whatever it is the group’s objective is type thing, versus how much it is like being the person that has the knowledge that comes in to deliver some knowledge type thing. And like how, like the different tensions and like the pros and cons of those different approaches. Like I think it’s always a live chat, right? There’s definitely, it’s definitely the feel like organising chat is in the zeitgeist you’d like? Oh, Jane McAlevey. That kind of stuff. I feel like it’s definitely a it’s a series of chats. Right? ELIO Yeah. And also, like, I think it I think it comes back to like, a conversation that’s been had for a long time about like the ‘nonprofit industrial complex’, which is like, people who work in that are meant to be like, you know, they’re organising around like, inadequate water supply in some mountain region. But once there’s adequate water supply, that person doesn’t have a job. And so you’re putting people in positions of like, that it kind of go against their own personal interest in order to like, reach a political goal. And that political goal might be actually really abstracted from what they, you know, they might believe in it like, yeah, we want people to have water. But it’s not, if it’s not their community or not their location, or they’re not going to drink that water, then it can kind of be at a distance. Which has nothing to say about that specific person, like, I’m sure they’re doing well. But we put people in these positions that are conflicted. And I think it’s the same with like unions, in some ways, like a union organiser is that like, if, if workers aren’t being exploited, then what’s the point in, in having a union organiser? I still think it’s a point in having a union and having people connected, but having these professional organisers who go and like help the ‘damaged’ workers, like, take a stand and stuff like that, like, it’s kind of a weird thing, right? Maybe this is like quite a bad analysis of how unions work or something. And like, obviously, I’m a union, like, you know, I’m talking about experience I have, and I’m not definitely not being like, ‘I’m gonna make sure this dispute goes badly so that workers stay exploited so I keep having a job!’ But like, it is like a kind of weird thing that this this structure of the organiser, where we see it repeated in these different places is kind of like that sort of doesn’t make sense. SAMI Yeah, I think it’s what it’s what the economists call a perverse incentive, right? Like, I’m not sure, I don’t think you’re making the case that you’re like an accelerationist saying ‘Let’s make people’s lives worse and worse until, until the revolution!’ But I think like, there’s a reason that it’s a common chat around, like unions specifically, right, this idea of like professional organisers, and it’s me, oh, sorry. ELIO Oh, just also the, I think it was on about this just before the call, but that being able to differentiate between like identities and structural positions, and how sometimes a paid union organiser who isn’t connected to a specific community or issue, but is just brought in because they have expertise on ‘how to organise’ even if they have no understanding of the context that people are in, ;ike, it’s like, is your identity an organiser? Or is your structural position a worker who’s trying to support other workers or other whoever or this or that and the other. And if you bring in someone, they might be like the best union organiser in the world. But if you put them in a situation with sex workers, where they don’t understand the context of criminalisation for sex workers in the UK, then what they do might not be as effective because they don’t have that knowledge. And they can build that knowledge over time, but it’s because they’re being led by the people rather than they’re leading those people. SAMI Yeah, no, I think that’s really good point. And you’ve got so much and stuff around like the ‘nonprofit industrial complex’, but I’m not gonna talk about that now. But this is also a thing that we this is also thing that we talked to Ru about (if people remember season one), so like maybe there needs to be a nonprofit industrial complex, focused conversation in future, but I think that let’s leave that aside for now. ELIO I was gonna – can I say something about – SAMI No, you, okay you can say one thing and then we’re moving on. ELIO I think that would be really interesting, particularly in the context of the UK. When I first moved back to London like five or six years ago, whenever it was really popular to be like ‘pay artists, what they’re owed,’ like, ‘pay people for their labour and pay money.’ And it was very much this anyone, anytime anyone does something you need to give them money for it, and this kind of attitude of like, you shouldn’t be doing anything for anyone unless you’re getting like, compensated for it. Like, regardless of what one thinks about it, and like my position has definitely changed over the years, like, I something I said a few years ago, I wouldn’t say any more. But like I think this attitude towards compensation being essential in order to do things and and how that shapes how we think about organising is, you know, good conversation. SAMI A good conversation for another day. [All laugh] And I think there was just one practical thing I was gonna say, for the people who maybe got a little bit lost in the acronyms before you mentioned USW, Elio, which is the United Sex Workers. Which is a branch of UVW the UNited Voices of the World. Is that correct? ELIO Yes. SAMI Perfect. ELIO Just No, I think that’s good to say. SAMI And so a bit of a pivot now. Thought it’d be good to, to spend some time thinking about like, how do you like live the values of your organisation in terms of how you do stuff? You’ve talked a lot about, like the aims and how you meet those aims, but maybe thinking a little bit more about like, what the things underlying those aims are? How do you do them? In practice. You’ve brought a lot of practical stuff into the other bits. So what are some practical things? ELIO I really want to joke and be like: “No, I told you, I’m paid as a union organiser, I don’t share any of these values!. I’m just here for the paycheque!” No. So, um, I think. So for SWARM, we kind of had this list of things that we want, which is, I’m going to just like, say a couple of them, which is: sex workers to feel connected to a national and international community of other workers; sex workers to be able to access spaces of support, action, exchange and learning; to feel supported by accessible resources and services that are relevant and reflective of their needs and lives; the sex worker movement to be one that is closely connected to other movements. So I think those are sort of like, they’re not quite values, because they’re kind of more like goals, but they reflect the organisation’s values. And I think, like, in thinking about, like, how do you live the values of your outward facing work in your organisation? It’s like, well, we we try and embed this stuff into it. Like, are you kind of talking about me personally? Or you’re talking about the organisa- like, how did the organisation of the values? Or like, how do we within the organisation as the way we interact with each other? How do we live those values? SAMI Let’s go with the latter last as an option, but if you go off track, all of the other ones also Sound great. ELIO Okay, I’m glad that I’m being given permission to go off track. I mean, I think it’s in terms of like, okay, so let’s take ‘sex workers to feel supported by accessible resources and services that are reflective and relevant and reflective of their, their needs and lives’. You know, that is reflected in the Organising of the people who are very involved in SWARM of being like, we try and do it in an accessible way. Like, we try and book spaces, or we have our office in spaces, or we use venues that are accessible to people, and think about that in different ways. We, you know, if people are like, Oh, I feel fucked this week, and I can’t do this thing. It’s like, oh, that’s fine. Let’s reschedule you know, and it’s not trying to be like, “No, but the funding that we got from whatever organisation says that this has to be done by March 2023. And, you know, you agreed to this.” Like, we’re not trying to be each other’s like, bosses or managers. Sometimes we’ll be like, “dude, like you said, you’d do this,” but like, in a kind of mutual aid, like we’re trying to cooperate and get stuff done and support each other way. But if people have stuff that means things take longer or stuff needs time, or it takes longer to do, like, we’re all humans, animals, it’ll be annoying, but like, it’s about supporting ourselves as to organise in ways that are accessible. And to be like, actually, if we want this to be an organisation that is sex worker centred, sex workers often have quite chaotic lives, they might need to take a booking without very much notice. Or they might have had a really difficult booking and need to take a week off from having like responsibility, or a cost has come up. And so this week, they need to work flat out as much as they can, and trying to pick up bookings in order to like fund their lives. And so if you think those are the people that are at the centre of the organisation, the organisation has to reflect those needs, by changing its working and organising practices to take that kind of stuff into consideration. And if the point of the organisation is to build a community of people who are sex workers, and people who are close to or love or care about or are invested in sex worker lives, then our aim isn’t to like get through the task list. Our aim isn’t to make sure that emails are responded to (although, I mean, it’s great when the emails are responded to), but like our aim isn’t to like, get work done. Our aim is to create space for people to feel in community with each other. And if people feel like, constantly like aggro with each other, then that’s not going to do that. And what’s things that create like that aggro feeling? Stress. And what creates stress? Like, too much work and too much expectation and too much pressure. So I think in terms of SWARM, like, some of the ways in which working together we try and reflect those values is to kind of remember what it is that we’re prioritising in terms of having this organisation and thinking about that, in terms of the work that we do. I think in UVW, it’s, I mean, it’s not like different, it’s just there’s maybe different priorities. And I think it’s different in the United Sex Workers than it is in the wider union, you know, because the branch is very specific. And people have really specific relationships to each other, and connections with each other and a different basis for connections to each other. Whereas the wider union, you know, there’s different branches, there’s different relationships, there’s different structures, and there’s different stuff going on. So I feel like I can’t really speak to UVW, and how UVW lives those values. But I think very much it’s that like, sex work is work, work is bad. Like, the reason we go to work and we’re workers is because, you know, capital wants to exploit our labour in order to create capital. I’m probably saying it wrong, some Marxists are gonna listen to this and be like, “No, no, no, that’s not how it goes.” But you know, like, basically, workers are exploited in order for, and like, we’re kept in a state of exploitation, we have to keep working, so that other people can make money from us. And so when we’re organising together, when I’m organising with people from the branch, we’re not trying to exploit each other in that way. Like, I’m arriving as a person who’s paid to be in that space, the members of the branch are not paid to be there, they’re paying money. So I’m being respectful of the fact that I kind of work for them and take leadership and guidance from them. But at the same time, they’re respectful of the fact that like, I’m there as a worker, and if I’m like, I can only do this for four hours today. They’re like, okay, like, they’re not going to be like, wait, no, but we need you to do 70 things. Because we, like, you know, there’s that kind of mutual respect and an understanding, you know, an understanding that sex work is work, work is work, work is bad. But, you know, how do we get along? I mean, I think that’s kind of how there’s how the values fit in within the organisations. In terms of how we related to each other, at least. SAMI Yeah, thanks. No, I think that’s really good. And if you if you are a Marxist that has a problem with value form, please write in! [All laugh] I think I just wanted to make a comment. That’s like, I think that a lot of the things that you were naming in terms of like, I think what you you refer to it as, like, how you organise like accessibly within SWARM, in terms of like, is like, ways that you react to like, the fact that people within SWARM are like precarious workers and like, live precarious lives. And like, and I think that is, like, maybe people that are listening to this, maybe you’re not like, you’re not a sex worker, you’re not like necessarily organising with sex workers, or I guess the classic caveat with people that you know are sex workers. But I think like that, that that way of organising within people’s precarious lives and acknowledging each other like as, as people with like bodies and needs, and all this kind of stuff, is a really crucial and generalizable thing as as well as the like prioritisation of like, mutual aid and care and all that sort of things. Like, I think it’s a lot of the stuff that you’re saying really applies to a lot of other a lot of other contexts. ELIO But I think there’s also the thing of like, not taking the piss, right? So like, my, like, if my job is funded through through member dues, that’s, that’s how my position is funded, then I have a responsibility to the members to be doing the thing that they’re asking me to do. Because the whole reason I’m there is because they want to get together. And they’ve asked me to, like, apply my time or expertise or knowledge or help in order to do that. And there’s like, oh, yeah, we respect that you could only work four hours or we respect that you have accessibility stuff, and you you can’t work today, or you’ve been sick or this stuff. But if you just never come to work, then like, that’s not me being like, “Yeah, I’m gonna fight the power by like, never working!” That’s me taking the piss out of people who are trying to organise around, like, quite important issues to them. And so I think there’s also a responsibility that comes with being like, “I’m not a member. So I don’t just get to decide about how much I give, I’m paid. This is my job, and my job is being paid by these people going to work.” And so if sex workers are going to work to earn money to give me to help them get organised, then I have to respect that they’re workers as well. But their work is like how I survive and so I need to, you know? I’m kind of, I just said the same thing three times in a circle, but like, it just feels kind of important, right? Like if you’re in that position of being paid to organise people that you have to be respectful to them and be led by them, including in thinking about what it is that your job is. ALI No, totally. But I agree 100%. And to go back to the SWARM piece, where it’s like a more of a mutual aid, everyone’s in the organisation in different positions but working together in that collaborative way. I feel like the way that you framed that was like, I feel like lots of groups talk about like burnout, and talk about overwork and talk about basically the things you say, around like, you know, take care and don’t, don’t, don’t see each other as means to ends and all that kind of stuff. But on more like abstract campaigns, it’s easy to fall into that task-based thing of like, we have to plan the action, do the meeting, do the event, blah, blah, blah. But the way that you were framing that in the community, in the way of like a community of people coming together around the issue of sex work, to take care of each other, to support each other within that. It felt like the way that you were framing it, that it would be harder to do that, it probably still happens, because we all like focus on getting stuff done. And like, have lots of projects and like, want to make sure the stuff happens. But the way that you’re framing it felt like that might be harder. I don’t know if that resonates as well. ELIO Like harder to avoid burnout? ALI No, like, harder. Like the way that you are prioritising it meant that, like care and understanding for each other was more embedded. ELIO Yeah. ALI And therefore. Yeah, there’s more understanding for each other and less, like, “why didn’t you send that email? Blah blah blah.” ELIO I mean, I still will be like – ALI Less policing. ELIO Why has she not sent the fucking email? You know, like, you’ll still have the moments: not like everybody’s like a saint, but it’s just like, you’ll be like, Well, yeah, maybe she didn’t send, like you just get over it in a different way. Or you understand it, but I think it’s, yeah, I think it’s definitely more embedded. And so it’s easier to do. And it’s harder to like, kind of slip in to the more like, this task-based like dadadadada, like we’re an office and we’ve got to get stuff done. I think it, it can be harder to do that. But I think also part of the reason that care is important is like we’re doing the hardship fund, like, you know, there were sex workers who had also faced loads of hardship as a result of COVID, making phone calls to other sex workers who have faced hardship because of COVID. And are hearing, really, you know, like, really difficult stories of people’s, like desperation and destitution and really difficult things. And it started to you know, you’d get to a point and be like, “Okay, shall we… You’ve been, you’ve been reading the emails every day for six months, do you want somebody else to take the emails over?” And people were like, “No, I’m gonna read the emails, no, I’m gonna make 60 calls today.” And you’d be like, “Oh, like you can…” Sometimes caring for each other was being like, at least for me, sometimes caring for other people in the collective was being like, “You need to stop doing the thing that you’re doing. Because you feel like you have to do it.” Because of this, you have secondhand trauma. And you need to take a break and be able to feel like a different relationship to this urgency, because every single case is urgent, every single situation is urgent, that urgency will never end. But what might end is your capacity to be able to respond. And so we need to preserve that and preserve you. Even if it feels like I’m being horrible to you by saying maybe you shouldn’t do so many phone calls or something. And so I think it’s also important to think about care as being not just like, “Oh, we’re nice to each other, it’s fine if things don’t take time,” but we’re encouraging each other to do a little bit less, while recognising the context that we’re in, you know, like, I’m in the London Renters Union and sometimes you can’t do less because loads of people are getting evicted, and then needs to be responded to and dealt with and stuff like that. But you also need to be able to preserve people to be able to keep responding to those evictions by not being like massively burnt out and traumatised, and just in deep distress constantly, because all they can think about is how many people are being made homeless all the time. You know. ALI Care isn’t always the nicey nicey. Sometimes it’s a bit firm, like, “Stop working a bit.” ELIO Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s an issue that I have sometimes with the way people talk about like care and organising and it’s like, “Oh, well, we’re just being nice to each other. And we all just get together.” It’s like no, sometimes I like go into a meeting with people that I don’t vote like very much, and I disagree with them about things. And we feel like kind of annoyed at each other. But we think that we do that in order to figure out how to do the thing that matters to us. And like it isn’t always pleasant or nice. You know, I’m an abolitionist. I organise around prison abolition and these issues like the people that we organise with or spend time with might not always be people that we think are like, everything they’ve done in their lives is great, but we find ways to work together and support each other to achieve the things that really matter. To us, which is like freedom and liberation for all. SAMI And like avoiding that conflation of like care and ‘niceness’. ELIO Yeah. SAMI And being mates. ELIO Yeah SAMI Into all like one kind of mess of how you interact with other people and making sure those things can be like, separate and differentiated. And I guess that’s why like group culture is really important, right? Like it’s group culture is in part a norm that people will try
20 minutes | Jan 22, 2022
Toolbox: Safer spaces policies
Season 2 episode 9 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we talk about safer spaces policies, as a tool that groups use for a variety of reasons. ‘Safer spaces policies can create a void that people will then fill with punitive approaches to difficulty, difference and conflict’ Show notes, links After a callout for safer spaces agreements, a few groups kindly offered to have their agreements shared, to give you some examples: AFem2014 policy + explainer + glossary (though the event wasn’t without issues: see this write-up and another write-up) SWARM conference in 2019 Sisters Uncut Young FOE Scotland has a longer safer spaces agreement, a more concise policy, and they will also sometimes make group agreements or smaller policies built on these too for specific events Iconiq Academy’s braver spaces agreement A few other resources that we mentioned in the episode: Mainstreams and margins The distinction between calling in and calling out Perennial resources: our sister facilitation collective Navigate have a conflict facilitation booklet (from back when they were called Seeds For Change Oxford). See our “What is facilitation?” podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there’s always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript ALI This is Resist Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I’m recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it’s a podcast! KATHERINE Welcome to today’s episode of the toolbox, we’re going to be looking at the safer spaces policies today. This is a tool that groups can create: we’re going to be finding out what they are, talking about the pros and cons of using a safer spaces policy and sharing our top take-aways. Sami, do you want to tell us a little bit about what safer spaces policies are? SAMI I would love to Katherine! So I think safer spaces policies are often some kind of like written document or some kind of agreement. Often around the topic of like resisting societal oppressions, and they will name like, often the beliefs of like a group or a space and some intentions to resist these societal impressions. And sometimes mentioning what they think those versions of societal oppression are, for clarity, that aren’t going to be like, welcome in the space in whatever way they mean. And sometimes they will include some bit about what they’ll do to like, actually resist the societal oppressions. Not always. And I guess maybe there’s a distinction to make here between like something that is like more of a policy, which is like, ‘this is what we think and blah, blah, blah,’ and maybe more something that’s like a process, which is like, ‘we’ll actually do this or handle these situations in this way.’ So that’s like one distinction to draw out now. Ali, do you wanna nuance that up? ALI Oh, God, pressure. So safer spaces. It’s a bit of a weird term if you haven’t been around it much. So a bit of background as to why it’s called that. Previously, people used to talk about creating “safe spaces,” as in places that people will feel comfortable to share things and they won’t get a deal with oppression and stuff. But because that’s not possible, because we live in the real world, we try and mitigate against oppressions, rather than making them completely safe. So safer. There are variations: some people have come up with the term braver spaces, which is, again, about showing up and dealing with things as they arise rather than creating safety. So a bit about why we are talking about safer spaces, safer spaces policy in a season about conflict. That’s because often conflicts within groups relate to both societal oppressions and how they are replicated in our spaces. And/or conflict can stem from the uses of policies and bureaucracy. E.g. people will say, “you did this thing, and that’s against the rule, therefore, we’re going to punish for you, or make you do this thing because of that.” And so policies might end up replicating punitive justice. But, Sami, do you want to tell us an example of a safer spaces policy that you’ve been around? SAMI Yeah, sure. So I was involved in a crew of people that was organising an anarchist feminist conference in London in 2014. And I was part of the crew that was trying to work out like how we wanted to handle this topic of like, safer spaces within this one day event, basically. And so what we thought that it would be useful to do is so – people, people started that process of like writing what is maybe what you could think of like a ‘standard’ safer spaces policy, where it’s like, ‘here are some versions of societal oppression, we think these are bad, and we don’t think people should replicate those in our space.’ And then we were like, ‘I don’t actually think this is very useful for people. Like, I don’t think this is actually going to help anyone do anything. And I don’t think this is really going to provide much to actually resist the sight of societal oppression.’ So what we tried to do was shift it a little bit into more of like a process, we were like, what did we think people would actually need to be able to resist those oppressions and so and then use that to identify what some interventions could be. So we were like, maybe if you don’t want to raise something in a group don’t in a in a in a in a workshop directly, but you want it to be raised, maybe that’s one you can tell and they can raise stuff for you. Or like maybe we should have specific spaces to support people to be able to raise stuff at different points throughout the day. And so, like, added these different things in so that people could actually try and solve stuff. And we did that because we thought that maybe just having a safer space is for policy on its own, which is kind of a quite a common thing, felt quite limited. And, and I guess that’s gonna lead into when we think about strengths and weaknesses, and things like that. Because I think probably, TL;DR these are the kind of things which when done well are good. And when done not well probably aren’t good, probably like all things. So who, who wants to start with some strengths? KATHERINE I can, I think one, one of the strengths of a safer spaces policy is that it can name the values of a group or space. And if you’re a new person who maybe has never been to that group before, seeing these stated somewhere, clearly, for example, on the group’s website, can really help you judge maybe whether or not you want to go along, whether you want to work with that group, join that group, for example; and can give a good indicator of the group’s awareness of what kind of oppression exists in the world and what they are trying to work against in their space or work to resist, as Sami framed it. What are other strengths of this tool? ALI Yeah, and I think another strength: I guess, at its best, what safer spaces policies can do is provide structure to address replications of societal oppressions in your space. So there is a bit of a holding for that, that, you know, you can turn to and as Katherine said, this, like, named that this is the values and intentions of the space. And we’re going to do something about it. SAMI Yeah, and I think we talked, we talked quite a lot, I think in episode one, if I remember correctly, around, like the importance of like, clarity of language, when we talk about things like this, and sometimes what people will use as, like these kinds of documents, like safer spaces, policies for is to like outline: ‘When we say, racism, we mean, these types of things. And we don’t mean, some things that may get called racism in society, like anyone referring to race. That’s not what we count as racism,’ whatever. And or, for example, what we what counts as, when we talk about we want to do stuff to like, repair harms, what do we mean by harm, so they can provide a space that really have clarity of terms, which can smooth future conversations about stuff. ALI So those are some of the strengths. What do people think about some weaknesses of safer spaces policies? SAMI I can start with my main one, it was, you alluded to it at the start Ali, which is around like, how safe spaces policies can link in with like punitive approaches within groups. I think, a thing that I often see as a limitation of having these like safer spaces policies, when they are more of a policy, and they don’t really, aren’t really backed up by any form of process, is what can happen is people have flagged to them, ‘You should do something, if you see there is like something that you would deem like, like realising operate like a, an operation, in service of racism in the space’ or whatever, like, ‘You should do something about that.’ But if you don’t give them guidance for what to do, then they will fall back on what the norms are for how things should be dealt with, and how you should deal with difficult situations, which often a lot of the things that people are drawing from is punitive frameworks, because that’s what we use in school. That’s what we use in, in people’s work and all this kind of stuff. And so you can create a void that people will then fill with punitive approaches to difficulty, difference and conflict. And so I think that can create difficulties. And those can be amended by making sure that you don’t provide that vacuum by trying to be clear about like, what are the ways that you will actually deal with stuff? And how, what kind of outcomes do you want, if you don’t want punishment to be the default response. What are the responses that you want? What are the kind of values you want to embed it into space, and things like that. And then I guess that suggests that maybe it’s not all about policies: it’s also about processes, it’s also about group culture and things like that. So not to say they’re not a good tactic, but that can be a real limitation of them when done unideally. ALI One weakness that it makes me think of is that for me, when I see a safer spaces policy, and it says like, ‘We are an anti racist, non hierarchical, feminist, perfect collective.’ For me, it kind of sets the bar quite high as to like what expectations I’m going to have about this group. And in general, most groups fail to live up to them because we’re not there yet. And it’s a process and we’re working on it. And if implying that a group is has all these values and implying that there might be something done about things when harms happen, and then they don’t, it can feel like a real letdown and can feel like: yeah, it was like an expectation gap of they said they had these values. I was hoping when something I was hoping nothing would happen bad. Something bad did happen. And then if there wasn’t the backup of the policy process to deal with it, or hold it. Or if even worse, like, punishment is the way you deal with it, then that can feel, like, extra harmful or extra like hurtful in comparison to like going to a space where you’re like, these people could be alright, but they haven’t said that they’re ‘Ultra-radical’ people. And, yeah, it just sets set things up for a bit of a failure sometimes. KATHERINE I think a weakness for me, which I’m going to have a go at trying to explain, but if I get stuck, I might ask for some help. Which is around questioning a little bit like who is creating the safer spaces policies within a group. And often it is the people who are confident, the people who want to, who feel like maybe they’re more in the mainstream of that group, and have a sense of like, what the ‘right way’ to do things are. And that isn’t necessarily like the ‘right way’ for everybody. And what can happen is the mainstream writes this policy of what they feel is what ‘safer space’ feels like. And then use that to police those on the margins who might disagree with that mainstream view by using these punitive rule-breaking kind of things that Sami was just talking about. And I feel like that’s not always the case, but I’ve definitely seen in groups use the safer spaces policy to centre the comfort of the mainstream. And by saying, ‘we’re having a safer space here,’ not allowing conflict, disagreement into that space, because it’s not making it ‘safe.’ But actually, what that usually means is not making it feel comfortable to the people who are in the mainstream. And that mix, mixing and matching of those terms can get quite tricky and sticky, quite quick, and lead to quite oppressive dynamics in this mainstream/margin dynamic. SAMI Can I I’d like to throw like a quick example of what came to mind when you’re saying that Katherine is like, there’s a distinction that people will sometimes make between like ‘calling in’ and ‘calling out’. Again, like safer spaces, it’s a very jargony thing. (Feel free to Google, maybe we’ll put some resources in the show notes.) But I think what I’ve seen happen in in kind of that dynamic is I’ve seen people say when they’re trying to like set a safer spaces policy, like ‘Oh, we have a we want, we have a kind of space where we want to like call people in not call people out’ or whatever. And often what people mean by that is like, ‘I don’t want someone to be angry at me when I’m insensitive to other people around me.’ And like, or what people can mean by that is like, oh, like, ‘what I think is really important is that we really, like, we really value the humanity of all of the people that are here. And like we try and make sure we listen to people and blah, blah, blah.’ And like you can, you can say things which sound acceptable within like certain communities and certain mainstreams of different groups that actually maybe aren’t things you want to operationalize as being fined by writing them into a policy, but because they’re within the mainstream, they don’t get questioned. KATHERINE Yeah, and I think like to kind of extend on from that. It can also be, if it’s vague about what the ‘safety’ means it can also be weaponized. The vagueness can be weaponized. For example, someone could say, well, I’m allowed to say something racist, because your policy around inclusiveness would make that a safe space for me to say whatever I want to say, I should be free to say what I want to say. Because then I’m safe to say that, even though it’s very, very harmful, and it gets murky around like, what is okay to say, what is not okay to say, what is being policed? What is not being policed? What is considered harmful? What is not considered harmful? And I guess, like, what I want to say is that these things are often complex, they’re often interpersonal, they’re often relational, they’re often relating to the values and politics of the group. And that can change over time. And the way we want to deal with that probably isn’t going to be in a rigid, static policy document. It will be in an iterative conversation about what is okay and not okay, in that space. And usually, that will always include saying, ‘We don’t think it’s okay to be racist’. And what that looks like in terms of how a group deals with that will be different context-to-context based on: Is that a full group accountability process? Is that pulling someone aside and having that chat outside the room? Is it sending someone on a training process, like whatever it might be? It’s context specific And a rigid document doesn’t always get into the nuances of, of all of this complexity. ALI Nice. I just wanted to circle back. There’s been a few terms thrown around, and one that Katherine mentioned earlier was mainstreams and margins, which is like a tool that comes from Training for Change, which is a training collective in the States, which is all about group culture and how there can be certain behaviours, cultures, identities that are considered ‘acceptable’ and ‘normal’ and those which are not as welcome. We will drop a link to that in the show notes. So you can read more about that if you want to. SAMI Great. Do you feel like I think there’s maybe one, there’s one just small note to add, like maybe just like an idea to bring in that could be helpful. Which I think you were talking about the other day Ali, which is just like the idea of ‘negative peace’. It’s like a thing and like kind of Martin Luther King in the type of stuff thinking about, like, how there can be like ‘positive peace’, which is like the presence of justice versus ‘negative peace’, which is just the absence of violence. And like, often, I think, going into those ideas of safety, sometimes what is motivating these kinds of policies is the, is a explicit drive to create ‘negative peace’, ie remove conflict from space. And that is probably not a thing that is a good idea to do in a lot of spaces. So really think about what the purpose is. ALI Nice. And I guess one, like consideration for safer spaces policies is like, what is this safer spaces policy for? Is it for your group, which regularly meets all the time? And that, therefore, like a policy might not be as, like, organic as talking about things and iterating things and developing things relationally over time? Or is it like the example Sami gave earlier where it’s like a one day event? So like, Yeah, might be useful to like, have some posters around being like, these are some values in our space. And these are ways you can interact with the space and let us know if things aren’t going how you want them to go. Like different spaces, they might be more or less appropriate in different spaces. So: how about some top takeaways from safer spaces? SAMI And so I think for me, it’s that idea about how like, policies, like all aspects of like structures within a group can either like, help or hinder different things that you want to happen. And I think policies really have the ability to help enable harms in a group, for example, a punitive response to problems when they happen. So if you want to use a safer spaces policy in your group, then it’s really important to do stuff to explicitly plan like against that, for example, think about what are actually relevant consequences to specific versions of harm that can happen in a space. Like because there’s a consequence for someone saying something which they like used a term that they don’t realise has a racist origin, may be quite a different thing to somebody like yelling at somebody, repeatedly every single time you have a meeting, but they’re always yelling at the same person. And all this kind of stuff: like, the different actions will have different consequences. Who else? ALI I guess one takeaway for me is that it can be a really useful, written statement of intention statement of values, statement of what a group believes. And if we can be clear about what that intention is, it can be helpful, it can be a welcoming signal of like, what kind of group this might be, if it’s backed up by practice. KATHERINE And I think for me, the context matters. So thinking about whether you need to have a statement of intent for a day workshop, for example, isn’t going to easily transfer to that group that will meet on a regular basis and thinking about: what is the purpose? what is the context? what is the regularity? who and what are the relationships in this space? will really help you when you’re thinking about when and how and if to use a safer spaces tool. SAMI Nice. ALI Safe. Safer. SAMI So: summary. As like all things, sometimes good sometimes bad question mark. ALI Figure it out. Great! KATHERINE The end. SAMI Nice. ALI Thanks again for listening to this episode of the Resist+Renew podcast. Thanks as ever to Klaus for letting us use this backing track and to Rowan for doing all the transcription on this season. If you want to find out more about Resist+Renew as a training and facilitation and collective check out our website, resistrenew.com, or on all the socials. And if you want to support the production of this podcast, you can do so at patreon.com/resistrenew. That’s it for this week. Thanks for listening and catch you next time. Bye bye.
53 minutes | Jan 15, 2022
Youth-led climate organising (with Youth 4 Climate Leeds)
Season 2 episode 8 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we interview Nell, Martha and Naomi from Youth 4 Climate Leeds. We talk about shifting tactics from just strikes, working in solidarity with other groups, “de-diversification”, and navigating being a group during a pandemic! “Both the cause and the effects of climate change is interlinked with racial justice” – Nell “There is sometimes an ethic within activist circles like, ‘I can change the world by myself.’ And then you end up just taking on so much work and it just becomes ridiculous. Like, I remember like, it must have been early 2020 and I was going to three meetings a week all in different places” – Martha Show notes, links Youth 4 Climate Leeds Twitter (@yleedsuk), Instagram (@youth4climate_leeds) and Facebook. You can find links to school strike groups across the country on the UK Student Climate Network website. We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there’s always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript ALI This is Resist Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I’m recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it’s a podcast! SAMI Welcome, everybody to the Resist + Renew podcast. We are here today with a number of people from Youth 4 Climate Leeds. Youth 4 Climate Leeds was a group that was founded in early 2019 as part of the Global Youth Strike for Climate, and Fridays For the Future movement, and is run by young people. And why don’t you introduce yourselves? Martha, do you want to go first? MARTHA Hi, I’m Martha. I’m part of Youth 4 Climate Leeds. I’ve been part of this group since 2019. And obviously, we’re all incredibly passionate about climate justice and social justice as part of the group. SAMI Great: Naomi? NAOMI Yeah, so. Hi, I’m Naomi. I’m part of Youth 4 Climate Leeds as well. So I’ve been kind of involved with the climate movement more formally with like different organisations and companies for a while. And then in like, early March 2021, I’ve become more involved with like the organising. So ever since then, I’ve been organising weekly. SAMI Amazing, good stuff. And Nell. NELL Yeah, I’m Nell. I’ve been involved in Youth 4 Climate Leeds since March 2019. So early days, and and it’s been a big part of my life ever since. SAMI Great! Okay, so starting us off. What is the political context that you’re organising in? Could you tell us a little bit about that? MARTHA So Youth 4 Climate Leeds is basically part of this global reaction to governments’ lack of lack of policymaking towards this incredible crisis that we face at the moment. And specifically, the strikes are obviously, they’re inspired by the wider Fridays For Future movement that began with Greta Thunberg. So it’s all inspirational from that. And we, we strike about every few months, and we tried to put pressure on the government to make policy that deals with climate change, and to empower young people within Leeds within that context as well. SAMI Great, thank you. And so could you maybe say a little bit about – You said, I can’t remember exactly the wording but something around like resistance to like government inaction, or whatever. Could you say a little bit about, like, that, and how you understand that? Like, what, what do you think, what do you think’s going on? Like, why do you feel like this, the kind of stuff you’re doing is a good, a good tactic? MARTHA So our kind of ways that we organise are through civil disobedience. And we encourage young people to strike from education in a kind of disturbance, but a self inflicted disturbance. So a lot of the criticisms that can come to nonviolent, like nonviolent direct action is that you’re inflicting it on other people. But this is a self sacrificing move, because we are so frustrated with the government and how climate change just doesn’t seem to be at the top of their priority, no matter how much talking they do. I mean, if you look at the facts in terms of climate change, and where we are now, I mean, we are currently in the sixth mass extinction, a third of coral reefs have have died out already. It’s an incredibly important issue. And our lives depend on it. So we’ll strike and we’ll carry on striking until the government decide to really take it seriously. And that’s in the context also of COP26 happening later this year. And with wanting to really get something material out of that, because the agreements made so far like the Paris 2015 Accord, they didn’t go far enough. So we’ll keep on pushing until we get what we want. ALI Absolutely. Yeah. You mentioned, like, some of the scale of the crisis around climate, the sixth mass extinction that’s happening that’s obviously, with the latest IPCC reports, it’s becoming more and more clear that we’re heading in a really bad direction. And anyone feel free to come in on this one, like, what do you see as the cause of the crisis? Like, is it just like you said that governments aren’t doing anything? Or what, what else is like, underlying the climate crisis for for you all in your group? NELL Firstly, I think it’s like this idea of like the selfishness and greed that’s been perpetuated. Like, the wealth, I don’t know the wealth, like greedy. And everyone’s, I think there’s a lot of selfishness going on, like even people in like, first world in inverted commas or like Western countries talk about the climate crisis, and then still expect so much like material goods and digital goods. Without realising that, like, if we, if we, like, in this ideal world that we’re fighting for, we wouldn’t have all this stuff, we wouldn’t have, like, I don’t think we’d have a laptop each, we wouldn’t have all this equipment that we’re doing this podcast with, I wouldn’t be in this, like, nice University room with all these nice amenities. But, you know, in the, in an ideal world, we would, we’d still be happy and healthy and have the things that we need, we just have less of these luxuries that we have today because they should be given to people who don’t have anything to sort of, like, even at the playing field. And the other thing I think is – I can’t remember what the question was. I was gonna go on about the media, though. Like how, like a cause of the climate crisis, I think, is that people are being kind of, I don’t know, people don’t believe it. Because, like, I don’t know, like tabloid media, controlled by I dunno Rupert Murdoch and stuff like that, and also Facebook. Have part, they’ve invested like billions in sort of, like, sort of, you know, creating questions and quite, you know, creating phrasing and wording that makes people question the climate crisis. And so they could, you know, they, I think they came up with the term ‘global warming’, because warming’s like a nice word has nice connotations, they put a lot of money into sort of psychological stuff. And using wording that makes people question its legitimacy as a scientific fact. So even today, people think, you know, they think there’s a scientific debate. I’ve thought that people who think, Oh, well, it’s not proven, you know, scientists or, you know, they don’t they don’t agree on it. And it’s like, no, they do, like 99% of them agree. So those are the two things, I think: the media, and then just like this sort of selfish attitude that we have. MARTHA Yeah, I would just adding on to the next point, that the reason a lot of the reason we’re here, because we’re all of the country’s economies, well, the vast majority of them are based on neoliberalism, which has just this constant desire for growth, and to be, to build more and to make more money. And it prioritises, as Boris Johnson said the other day, wage growth over life expectancy, and and cancer and cancer recovery rates. It’s it’s this whole system, which is completely rigged to keep on making tonnes of money and, and ruin the environment. Because the environment: you cannot put a price on it. But that is the that’s the exact issue, that you can’t put a price on cutting down the tree, but you can make a profit from it. So when you’re when you’re in this economy that rewards irresponsible behaviour, you’re going to end up in a climate crisis and here, and here we are. And we’ve been, and then they talk about how they can balance solving the climate crisis with, with neoliberalism, as if we haven’t been trying to do that for the last 30 years and completely failed. We’ve com-, we’ve completely failed, our emissions are set to rise by 12% in the next 10 years. So this, this, you cannot have solving the climate crisis and, and capitalism, unfortunately. Because if it has a constant desire for growth on a lim- on a planet with limited resources, then you can’t balance the two. So it’s, the issue is based around around an economic system that just does not coincide with ecological justice, unfortunately. SAMI Yeah, I think that’s, I think those are all some really good points. I think the thing that economists talk about is perverse incentives, right? Like living in a structure which basically encourages behaviour, which is ecocidal, and doesn’t encourage the kind of behaviours and ways of relating to each other, which would lead to a life, which is like still good and happy, but maybe with less stuff, like you were saying before. Or at least for some of us, probably we don’t need as much stuff as we have. Amazing, thank you. ALI Yeah, great. Thank you for that background. You’ve already mentioned a bit about like, what, what Youth 4 Climate group does in Leeds, but Naomi do you want to expand on that and tell us like, yeah, what, what it is to be in this group and what kind of things you’re working on, and how how you do it. NAOMI And yeah, so obviously, Martha mentioned briefly a bit about it. So like, we’ve kind of formed from the Youth Strike for Climate movement which is kind of inspired by Greta Thunberg, as Martha said, which is kind of like, obviously grown to this massive global movement called Fridays for Future. But like the Leeds Youth Strike 4 Climate has kind of changed over the past years with lockdowns and COVID and everything. So it’s changed from, like, less of a ‘youth strike’ movement to like this Youth 4 Climate movement, which, you know, gives people the option of striking if they want to, and being involved in civil disobedience, but also putting like at the heart of our work, like improving education, climate, education, racial justice, education and things like that. We do have, like, key, like, principles. So obviously, we believe in youth voices, and that they’re vital for young people. And then, like, we want to use our experience in climate activism, and youth empowerment, just to just move that on to not only just like climate change, but kind of this whole climate justice movement, and racial justice, which I think is definitely more clear in some of our more recent actions as we’ve come out of lockdowns. I mean, on the 24th of September, we had a strike, which was co-hosted by Black Lives Matter Leeds. So you can definitely see in our work like a change in focus from this kind of like, climate change, we want to strike, but also like this empowerment of young people, and making sure that everything’s accessible and safe for people to share their youth voices and things like that. Yeah, that’s all, ALI Amazing. So I was involved in like, a lot of climate stuff a few years ago, through like, anti aviation struggles around the expansion of Heathrow and Plane Stupid and like, as a person of colour in the climate movement, it feels super white. And it feels like a lot of like, the things that you’re talking about around climate justice, and the links between climate and racial justice haven’t been there. So that’s really encouraging for me to hear that. Can you talk about about, like, how those links have come about? And like, why, why you think those links are important? Because that, I totally agree. And I’d just, like really like to hear how that came about? Yeah. NAOMI Well, I mean, for me, obviously, I’m quite like I’m a newer member of Youth Strike 4 Climate. But like, I’ve done a lot of work with different organisations. And you know, when you when you join the cause, we can just see, like, the type of demographic, it’s very, kind of, kind of, despite white space. So I think a lot of its come from Youth 4 Climate kind of observing spaces, kind of looking at Leeds, and, like the varying cultures around Leeds, and just making sure that we celebrate everyone, and make sure that all our work, you know, puts the heart of the people rather than, you know, the specific typical, kind of, like white percentage who are represented enough as it is, and making sure that we have an accessible and open space for people to come in and participate wherever they can. And whenever they want. ALI Amazing. Yeah, Nell, you want to add something? NELL Yeah, in terms of climate change, and racism as well. I was on a really interesting call, I think it’s a while ago now, but it’s sort of, on the sort of, um, yeah, on the cau- on, like, the cause of those issues are very, very, like interlinked more than you think. And it’s this yeah, like Martha’s on about neoliberalism, which reach from colonialism and capitalism. And this idea of like, exploiting both people on the land, was all what colonialism was about. And that’s sort of like, where racism and sort of a lot of my mental issues are really sort of, like stemmed from. Or the ones, you know, there’s issues that we see today, and those of them stem from colonialism. And then the other huge link between racial injustice and climate injustice is like, what, who climate change will affect. So you’ve seen with COVID, that big issues like this, but you know, COVID has impacted the most vulnerable people already. But if you’ve looked at how COVID affected, say, India, compared to the UK, and it’s always the poorest people who are hit the hardest. And it’s often the poorest people all the most, like, disadvantaged that they’ve not caused any of this, like it’s not my fault at all. So climate change is going to displace people from the coasts, you know, it’s gonna affect people who don’t have access to health care, and stuff like that. So yeah, it’s like the causes the cau-both the cause and the effects, basically, of climate change is interlinked with racial justice is what I’m trying to get at. ALI Yeah, absolutely, and those links are, like, clear and important, but they’re also muddied by like some of the things that you were talking about before about the media they and like, the narratives around climate change. It’s, like very, push it onto like the very scientific thing of like carbon and parts per million and and all that like very dry things. But what you were saying before colonialism and capitalism and the people who are going to be affected by things, a lot of that is about, like, who counts as people who ‘people’, which people do revalue. And like, if we valued all people the same, we wouldn’t be able to like, exploit them, when we valued nature as much as we valued ourselves, then we wouldn’t be able to exploit nature either. And like, I feel like those those things are really, really interlinked. So yeah, thanks for for sharing that. Sami, do you want to come in with the next one? SAMI Yeah, sure. Thank you. So it’ll be really great if you could talk a little bit more about like, what kind of things you’re focusing on in your work. And like, why you want, why you’re focusing on those things. You mentioned already a little bit of a shift, maybe away from striking as much being the core focus, because of COVID. But if you could just talk a little bit more about like, what kind of things you’re, you’re like you’re focusing on as a group? And I guess maybe, if possible, like a little bit about how your group is structured? I think you mentioned like, you have like regular meetings. And like, if you could talk a little bit about that, that would be great. NELL Yeah, so structurally, we’re sort of very chaotic, because they’re in a bunch of teenagers, we try to be kind of non hierarchical, and like, alternate roles a little bit, because in any, for example, like the note taker of a meeting will have that, you know, that, you know, they’re the ones taking the notes, they can like, emphasise the parts they want to, even though they try not to, there’s going to be some bit of bias so we try and rotate roles. But we don’t do a great to do a great job of that, because we do kind of fall into place. But I guess that helps efficiency because you sort of get better at a certain role. And yeah, structurally, we’re also trying to sort of improve ourselves about safeguarding stuff because we were all under 18. But obviously, now that we’ve got people ranging, I’m 19. And my friend who still in, sort of will be continuing you for climate for longer than me, which will be like 20. But we’ll be working with 15 year olds. So we kind of got to start looking into safeguarding and things like that. And also start looking into some protective measures in place as well to make sure that people who come into the space, yeah, have a bit of a protection and someone to go to if something goes wrong. If someone says something racist to them, someone says something sexist, or ableist this, we have, like some structural, something structural in place, so there’ll be repercussions. But at the moment, it’s, we’re a little bit chaotic, you know, like everyone is these days. Yeah, in terms of our focus, we’re kind of focusing on improving accessibility at the moment, which is why we teamed up with BLM for our last strike. And we really tried to sort of like, sort of talk about each other’s messages and try and like combine the two because we were saying that they’re such like interlinked causes, we kind of want to spread the idea. And other things we do to increase accessibility: we have this idea that if you’re just striking then you’re just gonna get the same people striking because if somebody can’t strike for whatever reason, they won’t be able to come, they won’t be able to get involved. So we’re trying to do like, slightly more of a range of actions. So we did like guerilla gardening, which is where you sort of spread greenery into concrete places, like with plant pots and stuff. And it was really cute it’s a really fun day. And like craftivism as well: banner making, arty stuff. We did like an online letter writing workshop for the Kill the Bill campaign. We tried to support that by yeah, doing like a letter writing, like an MP letter writing workshop, and did a little bit of research into: how you can, you know, how to best, like, persuade an MP, how to do it politely. Did a bit of research into their campaign. And so hopefully that means that, like, more people can join in, because they have something that suits them, if that makes sense. So yeah, that’s, that’s our focus at the moment. MARTHA And also, pre COVID, we was just before, I think it was in February 2020. So right before COVID started, we also put on a it was like a, it was like a fundraiser slash kind of gig at this amazing local venue called Wharf Chambers, who put on great stuff all the time, and particularly around social justice issues, and we got local bands and performative arts to come. And that was also in reaction to kind of our frustration with the lack of youth oriented places for people to go. And how, for example, say with austerity measures, the amount of youth centres have really, really closed and for youth to be able to do things nowadays they have to pay a huge amount of money and that really impacts people so negatively. SAMI Amazing. Thank you, Martha. And yeah, I think that like the need for like just spaces for young people to exist when so many youth centres have been shut, it’s just like such a crucial thing. It’s really interesting that you’ve built that into your plans. Nell, did you want to jump in? NELL Yeah, I was just gonna chip in that I think the teenager demographic in particular is one that’s been hit hardest because you still get like play areas and stuff with children under 12. And this, you know, sort of like school clubs and stuff like that. But once you get to the age of, like, sort of 13, 13 to 18, there’s really not a lot. I dunno like, what do kids that age do? Like, they sort of just hang about, there’s nothing for us to do. It’s, it’s a shame, it really is a shame. SAMI Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. A thought came to my mind, when you were all talking around, how you discussed like, the, like that cut that kind of linking up that you did with BLM Leeds. I think that’s a really interesting one. Because I think there’s, there’s often broadly like kind of two approaches that groups will take when they, if they’re like, if they notice that they tend to have like, drawn from a certain community. And so for example, like they’re quite a white group in a place that is not necessarily like a super white area, or things like that. And, and one of them, which it sounds like, isn’t the one that you’ve taken, is people will talk about, like diversifying the group and like trying to bring more people in that like, don’t match the demographics of the people in the group. And then there’s like another broad approach, which is around kind of like partnering and working with and in solidarity with other groups that you feel like represent the kind of like, where you feel like maybe some of the areas you’re not as strong on in your group are. And it sounds like you leaned more to like the second one of those two things in terms of like teaming up with BLM Leeds. Like is that, that this is maybe an assumption of mine so please do tell me if I’m off, if, if that’s off base. But I think that’s, I think it’s a really interesting one? And like, I’d be really interested to know, like, what, what was the thought process that like, led to that action? Like, how did that, how did that come about? How did you decide that that was the thing you were gonna do and like work with BLM Leeds? Is that a thing that anybody would be happy to speak to? NELL Yeah, I mean, we already had links with BLM Leeds from Marvina Newton, she sort of attended some of our meetings, and we’ve been working with us since sort of day dot really. And she’s one of the cofounders of BLM Leeds. So that really, that was kind of one of the main reasons. But also just the fact that we kind of as a group, or have this idea that the team issues are very interlinked. So we kind of, yeah, we wanted to team up. And yeah, it’s fair to say that we kind of went down that pathway of sort of working in solidarity, rather than trying to draw people in, because, you know, it just I don’t know, like, like, would would you feel comfortable getting into space where everyone’s different to you? Probably not. And like, we don’t want our space to be all white. But like, I didn’t want to, sort of I dunno, we didn’t want to, like, draw people in like that, like they’re assets, do you know what I mean? It just feels a little bit mean. But at the same time, it will be great to have a more diverse group, because then you have such, you’d have a much broader range of perspectives, ideas, and sort of thoughts and connections going on. But yeah, so what we’re going to try and do is sort of think about our group structurally to try and make it a safer place for different people to join. And so people, you know, from, like, black, if they’re black or brown can come in and know that they’ll be protected structurally in some sort of way. And hopefully that will help in the long run, sort of diversify our group a bit. I think we used to be more diverse. And then, I guess, I dunno, I think there must be like a process, like de-diversification going on. I think I think if we went in early days, I don’t think we were aware about racial justice and stuff. This was like pre BLM; well, it wasn’t pre-BLM but it was pre the resurgence of BLM, pre George Floyd. And it totally wasn’t in my mind. So like, I don’t know, if I was the person who talked over, like brown members of our group, I hope I didn’t know you don’t know, do. And so yeah, it’s kind of yeah I don’t know if I can swear, but it’s a bit shit really. But I hope we can sort of, yeah, make it make our group, better allies and sort of improve, improve the way we work a little bit more. SAMI Thanks. I really, I really appreciate that answer. And I think, like, I think I mean, I don’t I don’t know, I don’t know your group in detail, right? Like, I’m not, I don’t live in Leeds, I’m not part of your crew. But like, I think that it sounds like, from at least my perspective, that’s kind of broadly maybe like, the ideas are on the right track in the sense of like, often when the- when there are these questions, right? Often there’s both, like, what can we do on the individual level? And then what can we do on like, the kind of structural level of the group, and like, it sounds like you’re kind of doing things on both of those levels. You’re doing stuff in terms of like, as individuals, you’re like, thinking of like, who you can collaborate with and like how you can like, strengthen and like work in solidarity with other groups that you feel aligned with. And you’re thinking about, like, what are the structures of your group? Because it seems like there has been some process of like, de-diversification (which I’m not sure I’ve encountered as a word before, but it’s a really useful one and I will use in the future). Like in terms of like that, how that looks and how there were people in your group before. It’s not that they didn’t turn up, but it’s that they’ve gone. Why did they go, and that kind of stuff. So like, I mean, it sounds like it sounds like there are some good questions that you’re wrestling with. I guess it’s an observation I’d make as an outsider. So that’s always good to know. And Ali? Over to you. ALI I feel like we’re already getting into this kind of like, group dynamics-y questions and values. But it’d be great to hear a bit more about like, how you hold some values as a group? How do they play out internally? So like, you know, we’ve had interviews around prison abolition, for example. And a thing that they would talk about is like transformative justice instead of punitive justice. So like, how do we treat each other with care internally, as well as like, not wanting to punish each other externally and rely on, like, policing? So like, yeah, is there any values in Youth 4 Climate Strike – I’m forgetting your name – Youth 4 Climate Leeds that externally are really important, that you also try and practice internally. MARTHA And so we’re definitely one of our obviously key values is social justice. And this kind of manifests itself in various ways. So for example, with our recent strike in collaboration with BLM Leeds, in solidarity with BLM Leeds, we chose not to notify the police to align with their belief, and whether the police actually really protect us. And that was just a demonstration, I don’t know, of the I don’t really know what I’m trying to say! But we’ve also worked with like various other groups, for example, like we did a feast in the street in the summer, where we worked with other climate groups, such as GALBA, which is against the Leeds Bradford airport expansion, and Care for Calais, which deal with migrants from, that have come over to the UK from Calais and housed in Leeds and the COP26 coalition. So I think we just strive towards a kind of coalition of groups within Leeds. ALI Amazing. I think we might talk a bit more about, yeah, that coalition building later. Does anyone else want to speak a bit more about the broader picture of like, the, how you embed values internally, that are important externally? I feel like you’ve all mentioned like accessibility and like empowering youth as important things for your group. And I feel like, it sounds like you’re putting effort into like, practical ways of making that possible. So it’d be great to hear a bit more detail around how those practicalities work out. Yeah, well, funnily enough, we had like, you know, once we were going up to COVID, there was this huge stupid ongoing debate of whether we should go back in person or not, because we have a few autistic people in our group, who would prefer it online but then everyone else prefers it in person. So it is a very, like, in terms of accessibility, that conversation went on for way too long, and in the end we’ve we’ve sort of got a bit of a balance going on at the moment where we do online meetings for three weeks and then on the fourth week, we’ll have an in person meeting which is like, the first one of the month in itself is quite exciting. And so yeah, that’s, that’s one way that we’re sort of internalising our outward values. Let me thing, what else? I suppose like internal communications: like, we’ve been a little bit rubbish at those but we tried more recently to sort of make sure that every single person who might be attending meeting knows when the meeting is, which sounds like a very low bar but we often, because of COVID and stuff and everything’s all up in the air, rather than having like a regular meetup we basically we used to have like a regular time that we’d meet but now it’s a little chaotic. So, yeah, we usually try and make sure that everyone knows when the meeting is. Maybe, I dunno, it’s a pretty low bar for accessibility you can cut that out if you want to but if it if it if the conversation flows on from it then keep it in! [laughs] ALI Thanks yeah, I mean, I think it’s it’s a bar that not everyone always meets. So I think like keeping keeping that end is fine! [Music break by Kareem Samara] Yeah, Sami, do you want to move us onto the next piece here? SAMI And yeah, I just, um, I guess I wanted to reflect like, on the way that you framed that, like, it had a lot of internal discussions around, like whether to do stuff like online or offline. And I think that’s not, I think for those things it can, it can often feel like, like a decision that should be simple, right? So it feels like something but it shouldn’t take lots of time to chat about, but I feel like in practice, it is a thing that does speak to like, some quite fundamental values around like accessibility and around like, safety and different people’s like, vulnerabilities to COVID and all this kind of stuff. So I think like, it sounds like that, like the plan that you’ve come up with, which is like, you’re gonna have, like, you’re still gonna keep a lot of your meetings online, but you are going to have some meetings offline too, to try and like make sure that everybody’s getting some of the needs they want. That feels like a pretty, like sophisticated compromise, I guess. And like, I think those kind of things are things are having to happen a lot more in groups nowadays, when people are trying to like, especially given the lack of like, there’s not much structural, formal, high up guidance on like how to do things safely or well. Government guidance is basically like, “Everyone should just all die.” Or, “Everyone should go back to work,” generally. And the nuance just gets totally disappeared. So I think it’s, it’s all groups end up having to struggle with those questions themselves. And so like, just to reflect on like, it is, it doesn’t always feel like a values-y thing. But I think it’s important that you listed it in that question, because I do think it is a values-y thing. And, and I did actually have a follow up question on that on the on the chat earlier if that’s okay, Ali before we move on to on to the final question? Which is around: you mentioned, that you do a lot of work with like, like the COP26 coalition, and like BLM Leeds and Care for Calais and groups like that. And you said a little bit about like, trying to work in like a broad, maybe like informal coalition of like groups across Leeds and stuff. And I’m one I’m wondering why that is like, why do you feel like that is the thing that is useful for you to do? Why do you think that it’s good to work in like a coalition of lots of different local groups? What’s that? What’s the idea behind that? MARTHA And well, a lot of it’s kind of just been, I don’t really know, it’s just kind of happened think there’s just… At the end of the day, it’s better to just work together. It’s it’s, it’s far more effective to achieve everyone’s goals of, of this kind of social justice and climate justice. The-for everyone just to come together with that. I mean, for example, like me and Naomi recently, where it was a kind of cross of the GALBA movement within Leeds, which is against the the Leeds-Bradford airport expansion and Youth 4 Climate where there were a few a few of us were representatives and went down to London as on behalf of Youth 4 Climate with GALBA to deliver this petition against the expansion of Leeds-Bradford airport and to call Robert Jenrick, into the calling an inquiry. So that was just like a, just they thought it’d be more effective for youth representatives to go down and deliver it. So it’s, it’s all about how we best think that these goals can be achieved and utilising each of the strengths to do that. NAOMI Yeah, so kind of just to follow on from what Martha said. I think also, obviously, due to the nature of us being, like, busy students, a lot of us are like college or university level age now. I think just kind of like logistically and kind of, I don’t want to say resources, but basically resources wise, you know, we do often need like the support the guidance that you get from these other organisations, just to them being, having more like years behind them experience-wise and having the different networks. It means that you know, when groups do visible actions, or put on workshops or something like that, it means you can come together and have this kind of like, bigger, bigger group. A kind of a wider focus, but also like different groups like BLM Leeds, GALBA or some like XR Families. It means when they come together, they can kind of, you know, celebrate as a larger group, but kind of help each other out on a particular aim, which I think especially in Leeds is such a nice atmosphere. Like I’m not sure about other cities, but kind of the activism networking needs is quite strong at the moment, you know, communicating with each other. And I don’t know if XR Families put on a picnic or something, it’s always nice to go and kind of see the other groups participate and help out. SAMI Amazing, thank you. No, I think that’s really it’s really it’s really good to know like how those things are working and other places, it’s like, yeah, I’m not I’m not based in Leeds so, that’s really helpful to share. Thank you. And so yeah, if we can now move on to the question of like, what can people do, if they’re inspired by what they’ve heard you talking about.? NAOMI So I think kind of a big part of the climate and climate movement in the UK is the kind of youth strike climate, obviously, we’re Youth 4 Climate now. But if you look at I don’t know, Oxford, or London or Manchester, there’s so many groups similar to ours, having like similar aims and similar approaches that you can kind of so easily join, whether you’re a young person or kind of an older adult, like recently, we did a recent kind of event not, we didn’t necessarily call it a strike. We had the support of people of varying ages. So whether kind of you’re a young person, kind of teenagers, who wants to come weekly to meetings, and help organise you know, there’s plenty of kind of opportunities to do that globally, nationally, in kind of regional groups. But also, if you’re an adult, and you want to come like first aid or steward on events, I think, you know, getting in contact with your local group is such an, like, simple way to do that. And it doesn’t necessarily take up much of your time, either. And then also, I think, if you’re inspired by what you’ve heard, it kind of, not necessarily to take direct action, which, of course, we would love you to do. But also in like, your everyday lives, you know, these choices that you make daily, you know, just kind of check yourself, check your privilege when you you know, in varying spaces. Or from a, like climate change and environmental perspective, you know, how is your impact influencing our environment, our own surroundings, obviously, but acknowledging the fact that, you know, you’re not, you’re not to blame for this climate change issue. Yeah. But also, whilst we want government and corporational change, it’s also just making sure it’s individuals and you kind of reflect your beliefs and kind of portray what you want in the for the future. NELL Yeah, just following in, from what Naomi said, about doing what you can, on an individual level, but realising a lot of blame. And I just totally want a second that like, if you want to, you know, if you want to make real change, obviously, like, make change in your personal life, go vegan, buy less new things, always buy secondhand. But like, if you really, if you really, really want to make change, it’s like, you need to join a group. You know, like we were talking before about groups themselves joining together into larger groups like coalitions and stuff. It’s the same on an individual level, like if you join with other human beings, you have such a bigger impact. Like, it’s all about networks, isn’t it? Like, the more the more people join up, and like, work on something together, the bigger and better it will be. So. And yeah, if you want to change and team up with someone else! SAMI That seems like a good, a good sentiment to close it out on. So thank you. And there are some there’s some other questions that have like come to my mind in the course of the thing, but has not really been a great a great point to ask them. So would you mind if, if they were asked now? Who knows, maybe we’ll edit them back into the main body of the stuff. One is like a thing, which I’m always intrigued by. And that we, me and Ali and others in our group will often like discuss with groups is like, basically: Why do you do the things that you do? Like why do you choose the tactics that you choose in like, whatever struggle you’re a part of? And obviously, like, the, the history of your group is very, like strikes-based. And so the question that I wonder is like, what do you see as the value of like, strikes as a tactic? Because you’ve said, even though you’ve said that, like, you’re doing less of them now maybe because COVID and things like that, then you were previously like, it does sound like you are still, like, doing strikes and strike-like events and things like that. So like, was it, what is it that you see is the benefit of, like, strikes versus something else that you could be doing some of those other things you might also be getting? But like, why strikes? NELL Yeah, I just, I just think it’s kind of like spread the word a little bit more. Like, if you’re not at school, and you have to tell your teachers, you have to tell your friends why you’re not at school. And then, I don’t know, it gets the message out. Like, if you just went to a protest at the weekend, no one would know about it so much. Whereas if that’s like another form of getting people to know about the event, know about the protests that sort of spreads it a bit it. And also I think it’s quite exciting to sort of, to strike I think that’s one of the allures of it really, is that you’re sort of skipping school, but in a good way. And it’s still kind of education as well, because there’s a lot of learning and sort of political engagement, you do a strike, so that’s quite cool. And I think I think it feels a little bit rebellious, doesn’t it? That’s why kids like it. You get to sort of go against the head teacher and stuff. Get into trouble. And that’s also one of the criticisms because like, if you’re a kid that gets into trouble a lot, which often is disproportionately, like black and brown people because of like, and structural racism and all that. That means that the strikes are inaccessible to a lot of people. So it’s a very it’s a very strong tactic, I think strikes, it’s got a lot of very good pros, very good things about it, and a lot of very bad things about it as well. So yeah, a bit of a tricky one. MARTHA Yeah, we’ve we’ve been kind of, there’s been discussions recently about, like strikes and stuff. So we felt for our most recent one that we would do it later in the day. So previously, this, so this was like our first proper strike, post COVID. And pre COVID, they used to start about 11? 10 or 11, mainly 11. And then we set we decided to do it from three till six this time, so three in the afternoon, and that was to reflect the kind of loss of education through COVID lockdowns. So we’ve been, we tried to do them later to make them more accessible and feel like more people can attend them. So we do think they’re effective. But that doesn’t mean that they they can’t be modified. And it’s part of this whole wider movement of the Fridays for Future thing, which is where this all stemmed from. SAMI Yeah, I think. And I think that’s really good, right? Like I said, it’s important to both like, it’s important sometimes to have like consistency, so people can like practice things and get better at them. And it’s important to like, innovate and change stuff up and things like that when it feels necessary to. And I think I guess it goes back to the chat that you were saying before, around, like, how each, like every tactic’s got a downside, right? And that’s why it’s important to do a lot of different types of tactics, because then like the people that find one less accessible can maybe get more involved in another one and things like that. Great, thank you. And I could just keep chatting indefinitely. At some point we’re probably gonna Well, yeah, I guess I had one more question. Which was, you mentioned, you used the term, which I wouldn’t have expected you to use it, which is why I want to ask about it, like you talked about, like a need to do like, think more about, like, safeguarding and stuff. And I think of I work in a charity. And I think of, like, people talking about safeguarding: it’s quite like, quite like a formal term. And, and I think it’s really interesting, because you’re talking a little bit it sounded like there’s, you’re concerned about, like the power dynamics that could come into play in your group, when you’ve got like, maybe like 20 year olds working with 15 year olds, and like, the kind of like issues that can bring up and the kind of like risks that can come with that kind of work. And I’m just wondering if you could just speak a little bit more about like, what your what’s your kind of thinking in terms of like, how you’re going to negotiate those like potential power imbalances, which are like one of I imagine a form of a lot of different power imbalances that could exist in your group. Like, what are you thinking about them in terms of how to safeguard or whatever? NAOMI And yeah, so basically, I don’t know. Nell or Math might kind of see a different perspective from this. But on an individual level, I have come from, like, kind of what started my action in like the climate movement was from like, courses or like funded programmes, which are more formal. And I have I’ll say a mentor, a lady that I work with, she’s from the National Youth Agency, and she runs one of the kind of projects that I’ve participated in. So these have been like, I’ve been doing this alongside Youth for Climate Leeds. So what I saw was like a visible difference in kind of the media consent forms, the parental consent forms, like the safeguarding documents I’ve received for this other project compared to like Youth for Climate Leeds. And I think, you know, I watched – not like a lecture or a panel discussion earlier this year about kind of Extinction Rebellion’s activism, its kind of interaction with youth, especially going from kind of more educational contexts where you have to fill out a form, you know, to walk across the road. Whereas to climate movements, we’ve got 13 year olds, like doing road blocks: I think it’s kind of a shocking thing. And you have to kind of, from my perspective, it was definitely something new that I saw and kind of like this big difference, even though the actions that were going on, all had the same motivation. So for me, I kind of raised this point earlier this year, kind of like mid year. And I think what can, so we’ve kind of what we’ve changed and like working towards is a power dynamic thing is, so we’re creating like safeguarding documents. Which there’s, there’s so many resources online and courses about safeguarding. So those outline, like, the interaction between groups. So we’re going to create like a guideline document, which means: let’s say if we work with a group in Leeds, we’ll send these across as kind of a formal perspective and for something to read through. So maybe it’s going to outline that you need to be mindful of the nature of us being teenagers, and you have to be mindful of the fact you know, we’re a lot of us are in full time education. So what our time dedication may be less than yours, but you need to be mindful of that we are still contributing as much as we can. Resource wise, stuff like that. And then kind of like an internal comms kind of like safeguarding is just having an kind of just having a set structure of kind of consent forms for media. So outward communications, and then consent forms, which will be kind of age dependent (none of its decided) but also like our dues for contact details, and having the space for like any members to pass on their concerns to a formal body, because obviously, there will be a safeguarding board and lead. So we’re creating documents kind of that outline this, emphasise this, so if any severe incidents occur, we do have the capacity to pass them on, and it is a safe space for young people. And I think this also kind of really reinforces the idea that we want young people there. Just because a lot of us are, like, later teens now. So it kind of shows that we’re encouraging younger children and like early teens to get involved in a safe and kind of like, the more focus on welfare. NELL Yeah, so, Naomi was saying about them talking with other groups just kind of reminded me an interesting point about how much adults expect of you as a kid in activism. Like, when I got involved. I was, I think it just turned 17 but I felt a lot younger than I do now. Like, people expect a lot of you it’s really weird, like, um, like, groups have worked with like GALBA, they’re great, but they kind of have a lot of activists are either retired or kind of quite young, I think? And the retired people forget that you are just children, and you get a lot of requests from loads of different groups to attend to like attend all their calls and sort of add perspectives and join their group and do do stuff with them. And it’s just like, yeah, we’ve only just started thinking like, wait, maybe we should have some boundaries because like, we can’t do all this! It’s been a problem that we’ve had for like two years that we just keep taking on everything requests of us. And we don’t we’re literally kids that go to high school and stuff. Like I remember and in college I got so like it was it was ridiculous, really like, school was second my activism was first thing. I would flunk off to do these things that people were expecting of me. So yeah, it’s it’s quite an interesting power dynamic, really. And, yeah. I just wanted to add that in: the world of activism is a, it’s an odd place. SAMI Yeah, and I think it’s, I think there is a tension right, because I think there are really bad unhealthy norms that exist in a lot of like, activist-y spaces around like, really weird ideas of like work ethic and stuff like that. Where people think that it’s good and valuable to basically focus 100% of your time on organising stuff and not like have a life outside of that, not really see other friends, like, not have other hobbies and things like that. And then just people get so drained and burnt out that then they have to give up and not do anything anymore, because it’s just so tiring. And I think it’s, it’s really telling of like, an approach that people have where like, the second that there’s like a group of young people, people are like, “Ah, you should also do things like we do and take on a million requests and like, be really busy all the time and that kind of thing.” I’m not sure that’s one of the things that should be passed on and continued. I think that work ethic, I think it’s terrible! And Martha looks like you got a thing to say and then maybe we can probably wrap up because we’ve we’ve taken a lot of your time, as and don’t want to take the piss given that we’re talking about how much time things can take up! [laughs] MARTHA Yeah, I definitely think there is sometimes such, like, an ethic within activist circles of that you’ll, like there’s like you kind of take on this approach like, ‘I can change the world by myself.’ And then you end up just taking on so much work and it just becomes ridiculous. Like, I remember like, it must have been early 2020 and I was going to, like, three meetings a week all in different places and I was in year 11! Like I don’t know what on earth I was thinking but think it’s kind of thank God for that first lockdown because it just halted it. And you just had to, you have to stop because I think that was just I don’t know why it just became this really sudden toxic work ethic of trying to take on everything and trying to change the world on an individual basis. Being like, I can do this, I can do that. But you really can’t. And I think I think Youth 4 Climate has become a lot healthier within like the last year following the COVID lock downs of dispersing and not increasing responsibility in any one person. I think it’s become a lot better. I think, obviously, there’s still places, like, way to go. But I think that it’s kind of died down quite a lot. ALI That sounds good. But yeah, yeah. A shame that you, even as young people have to go through the same kind of activist ethic of overwork and burning out or, like, going to all the meetings in all the different places. But yeah, it feels healthy to have like, had that reflection. And I feel like what you’re saying there around, like, trying to change everything as an individual really isn’t healthy. And I think what was said before around, like, the way to change things is to come together as a group. And I think that absolutely makes sense. It’s like: yeah, being in a group, thinking about how you can do things together in a healthy way, is just, feels so much more sustainable, and so much more like healthy as the way to go. Yeah, just want to say thank you for speaking to us today. It’s been a real pleasure. And one of the things I’ll be taking from it is that if you want to change anything, go join a group, that could definitely be our tagline for our organisation. So definitely, definitely supporting that. But yeah, appreciating the time you’ve taken speak to us. And yeah, it’s been a real real pleasure. Thanks. Thanks very much. MARTHA Thanks. Bye. NELL Thanks, like to say, it’s been great talking to you. ALI Big thanks to Naomi, Nell and Martha from Leeds Youth 4 Climate for joining us today. You can follow them on Facebook, they are Leeds Youth 4 Climate and on Twitter: they’re Youth 4 Climate Leeds, or @YLeedsUK. As always, Big thanks to Klaus and Kareem Samara for letting us use their music as backing tracks and interludes. And if you want to find out more about Resist Renew, we are at Resistrenew.com. You can find transcripts for all our episodes there. We’re also on all the socials and we’ve got a Patreon so if you want to support the production of this podcast, you can do so there. Thanks for listening and catch you next time!
26 minutes | Jan 8, 2022
Toolbox: Maintenance meetings
Season 2 episode 7 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we talk about maintenance meetings: a meeting you hold for the overall health of your group. ‘It’s a space to focus on the maintenance of your group, rather than waiting until the car breaks down. It’s like a regular MOT’ Show notes, links Some example elements of a maintenance meeting: Doing a capacity check, to see how much time people have to put into the group over the next chunk of time Invite difficulties – “one thing you want to raise with the collective / a person”. To give it some structure, you could ask for difficulties across a few different areas e.g. with power in the group (is it serving us? is it comfortable?) the purpose of the group (more regular than ‘at the annual strategy day’) the practice of the group (how do we make what we do better?) the people in the group (do we connect enough? are there tensions to bring out?) Do some spectrum lines to map how people are feeling e.g. on enjoyment, fulfilment, connection If you would find it helpful, you can also use a version of a maintenance meeting agenda and slide template that we’ve used within R+R. Perennial resources: our sister facilitation collective Navigate have a conflict facilitation booklet (from back when they were called Seeds For Change Oxford). See our “What is facilitation?” podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there’s always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript ALI This is Resist + Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I’m recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it’s a podcast! Hello, welcome back to another episode of the toolbox, which is an element of the Resist+Renew podcast. For the past three episodes, we’ve been talking about conflict in a more general sense: about frames and understandings. Now, from here on, we’re going into tools, baby. And the first tool we’re starting with is a maintenance meeting, which is a tool that can be put in place within groups. We’ll explain what it is, its pros and cons and do our top takeaways. Sami, what is a maintenance meeting? SAMI So I don’t have a concise definition. But I do have lots of aspects of what makes something a maintenance meeting. So, obviously, the clue’s in the name: it’s it’s a form of meeting. And so how we use the term is: a maintenance meeting is a space that you create to air things that can be difficult to raise. And specifically, it’s generally a space that is used, in terms of the purpose, to discuss stuff, but before it snowballs in size. So to discuss smaller problems before they become larger problems. And that’s kind of why it’s called a ‘maintenance meeting’ is it’s a space to like keep up the maintenance on the group as a thing, rather than waiting until the car breaks down. It’s like the regular MOT type thing. Does the M stands for maintenance and MOT? Should I have checked that before now? ALI No SAMI Goddamnit. Okay, well, pretend it stands for maintenance; don’t look it up, don’t Google it people! And so some criteria of a maintenance meeting would be that it is something that is: regular. So maybe that would be every three months within your group, or whatever. And it would be, I guess another thing about it is it’s it’s something that’s automatically in the diary, so that you don’t have to actively go out of your way to call it because you’ve got a problem. It’s all a space that’s always there where you have the opportunity to discuss problems. And it doesn’t necessarily have to just be for to discuss problems. It can also be like a space to build in, like, the opportunity for connection within your group to do, like, appreciations and gratitudes to reflect on how you’re going. Or the kinds of things that you intend to do in other meetings, but they’re the kind of things that get bumped from the agenda sometimes because you’ve got other more urgent stuff to talk about. And we’re talking mainly today in the context of you doing a maintenance meeting within a group as a whole. But obviously, this works at lots of different levels of group, like, this could be a thing you’re do in a whole group; this could be a thing you do within like a, like an establish working group within a whole group; it could be a thing that you do within like you and you and another person who like regularly work together as a pair; it could be like a reflection space you just built yourself or whatever. And just one more note, in terms of purposes, it’s basically what it’s trying to do is it’s trying to create like a feedback loop, like a mechanism by which you and your group can know and you can like monitor, when there could be things that that could cause your group problem,s before the point where they have caused your group problems. So, like, thinking of it as that kind of like it’s a feedback loop, it’s a way of your group monitoring your group so that your group can do something about your group. Said the word group too many times, maybe let’s flesh it out with an example. [Laughs] Katherine, take it away. KATHERINE Sure thing. So,I think I first heard about maintenance meetings from friends in Wretched of the Earth. And we sort of took that idea, shared that idea and decided to adapt it a little bit for Resist + Renew. So I’m going to talk about the way we use it in Resist + Renew, but just to name that, like other groups around are using maintenance meetings, and maybe in their own ways. So this is just a way of doing it rather than the way. But just to share a little bit about sort of the way we would hold a maintenance meeting in Resist+Renew. As Sami was saying, we build it into our regular meeting cycles, so we know when it’s going to be happening. And then have a list of kind of options or modules, if you like, or like ways of holding the space in the maintenance meeting. So some things that we have done in the past are: having a capacity check in a maintenance meeting. So just asking everyone in the group where they’re at with capacity in terms of their commitments, both within R+R within Resist+Renew, but also perhaps in other workload, other areas of their life. Just so we have a sense of, like, where people are at more generally with capacity. We’ve also done specific invitation around difficulties. So asking the group: what’s one thing that’s a bit difficult for you at the moment that you think it would be good to discuss with the whole collective. And then people might share some of those ideas. And we would work out what one we wanted to go into, and what we will do with the ones that we didn’t manage to discuss in that meeting time. We’ve had a general check in sometimes using spectrum lines, because Sami loves spectrum line, see season one, on the toolbox. And on some of the spectrum lines, we’ve included, are: ‘How much are you enjoying working with r&r at the moment?’ and people can choose like ‘very much’ to ‘not very much’, and we see where people land, and then have a discussion about it. It could be a question like, ‘how connected are you feeling to others in the group?’ and then again, do a spectrum line from ‘very connected’ to ‘not very connected’. And then depending on where people land on those spectrum lines is then really useful as a way to have that discussion, start opening up that discussion. And if, for example, there might be one person who’s not feeling that connected in, it’s a really good thing for the group to then notice that and maybe have that discussion about why that might be happening, what might need to shift in the group culture and so on. So really, it’s just thinking of: what tools can you use to open up some of that more reflective space on how it feels to be in the group, how the group is doing? And these are just some of the ways that we have tried to do that in R+R, to give you some specific examples. There are quite a lot of strengths and weaknesses to this particular tool. And so I’m wondering, Ali, if you want to kick us off with one of the strengths maybe? SAMI Could I, could I jump in before you do Ali, sorry to throw… just to give an example of the kind of things that can come up in maintenance meetings to give it something really concrete. So for example, if I remember correctly, one of the things that came up in a maintenance meeting we had within Resist+Renew, was that like that myself, and Katherine hadn’t actually facilitated like a workshop together. And like, hadn’t planned a workshop together. And so, like, off the back of those conversations, we were like, oh, let’s try work on this thing together, then that one ended up falling through. So now me and Katherine are like, oh, let’s try and facilitate this thing together. So like, it’s it’s like a space where you can like create those, like, you can identify where there could be areas you can focus on before you’re like, Oh, God, I’ve never talked to Katherine, I don’t even know who she is, or whatever. Sorry, that was just, I’ll, I’ll stop. KATHERINE Love it. ALI Good. Good work. Okay, so a strength that I like about it is that it is… I like the fact that it’s a regular thing. So it’s like, yeah: every two, three months, whatever you choose, that feels appropriate. So it means you kind of don’t have to request it specifically, you don’t need to be like, ‘Oh, something’s been bugging me about the group, and I need to like myself, raise it with everyone else and create a space separately.’ It’s there. And as long as it’s not super urgent, it could wait until the next one. And then I know there’s a space ready for me to like, say something. And it’s, like, a welcome invitation for that kind of difficulties that are there. And I think in so doing, it lowers like the threshold, it like lowers the energy required to or difficulties in saying something that’s difficult. So that makes it more likely to happen. And then we get more information about how the group is doing. And that’s useful. I think. Anyone else got any strengths they want to share? SAMI I can I share one, I think like, Yeah, I think so. For me, I think just to flesh out more on the like, like lowering the barrier, lowering the like energy required to say something: I feel like having a space really does help specifically with the things where where you’re thinking about them is like, oh, like, I’m not even sure I mind enough about this thing enough to mention it. So like having a space for it really helps bring out those things where actually, you maybe don’t care that much now about something that maybe you would care about if this thing continued for the next 12 months, or whatever. So having the capacity… having like, I guess, the invitation to bring things, and specifically providing space for it, which would just then potentially be empty if no one says anything. You’re like, ‘Well, I guess like, no one’s talking into the silence so maybe I’ll say this thing, even though actually, I’m not that bothered about it currently,’ or whatever. And I think that can be really helpful. And also you can do it in a space where because normally, if you don’t think it’s that important, if you raise it in a normal meeting, you’ll be like, Well, let’s not bother talking about this now, let’s talk about the normal meeting stuff. Whereas if you raise it in a space with the whole point is talking about random things you’re feeling you have more of an opportunity to actually explore it rather than sideline it and obviously, people’s feelings and human-ness should be centred in all of the meetings that you have. But given that it’s a thing that many groups struggle with doing, like making sure there’s at least one space where it happens is way better than having no spaces where it happens. KATHERINE And I think one that I would add in that I find particularly useful is that the maintenance meetings for me are a bit like a practice space, where I can practice saying difficult things that I might be feeling into the group. I can also practice hearing other people give me difficult feedback, or maybe someone has a challenge that they want to raise about the whole way the group is working. And I need to sit with that and hear that. And it’s a way for me to practice being with that and noticing like, how am I responding to this? Am I feeling defensive right now? Do I need to take a breath? How can I really hear and try and understand what’s being shared. And I think as we said, in like earlier episodes, not all of us like have good experiences of being in maybe challenging or critical or conflict-related feedback loops. And so having these opportunities regularly to be in that practice of shifting the way that we’re working with feedback, sharing feedback, hearing feedback, can just be really, really useful. And actually, that can work like across levels of the group. So, like, full group is one space for that can work really, really well. But also, if you’re working on a project with like a couple of members of your group, having maintenance meetings on those projects, like we have a maintenance meeting at the full R+R level, but we also have a maintenance meeting for the podcast crew. And so we get to check in with each other on how we’re finding working with each other and have that space held so that we can share it. And even one to one as well can be a really good way to to keep up the practice. ALI Fractal! I’m just gonna say ‘fractal’ in every episode because they keep happening. I feel like that’s a bunch of strengths. Can we shift into considerations/weaknesses? Because I’m not sure, these are super, like ‘Achilles heels’, though. weaknesses. These are like, things you might want to consider. SAMI Yeah. I think I guess one that comes to mind for me. And based on what Katherine’s saying around, when you talk about like practising hearing feedback, as well as practising giving feedback, both of which can be difficult. I think what it highlights is like, the question of how feedback is dealt with in your group. And so like, classic example, like to think of a work example, like, if you’ve got a hypersensitive manager, or something like you wouldn’t be the one probably to suggest like, let’s do a maintenance meeting, where then they’d have the opportunity to tell you off, but you’d never be able to respond because you wouldn’t feel able to or whatever. So like, thinking about how this would actually work within within this specific space that you want to set it up in is important. Like, it’s not a magic tool that will allow people to solve all problems. So: some preconditions could be that like, that feedback hasn’t been like historically shamed when it’s been shared, or people haven’t been like, individually blamed for things which are structural problems regularly and things like that, like maybe what things you could see as preconditions to thinking that doing this is a good idea. And that doesn’t mean that you’d never do this in your group if those preconditions don’t hold, but maybe you would want to focus on different interventions, rather than a maintenance meeting. If you think of it as like a maturity thing. Like maybe your group’s not at that point yet, but maybe there’ll be at that point, if you do six months, or 12 months of another thing, or whatever it is. ALI Great. One consideration that comes to mind for me is like thinking about the frequency. So: how often do we want these meetings because you want to find like a Goldilocks level of like, let’s not do it every six years, because stuff’s definitely going to bring up, bubble up, and probably lead to like, out there conflict before six years comes around. But if you don’t want to do every week, either, because that just feels like a chore. So like, what, what kind of regularity feels like, regular enough so it allows people to know that it’s coming up and name things and share things often enough that it doesn’t build up, but not so much that it feels like a chore. And I guess that’s gonna vary depending on how often your group meets. Because if your group doesn’t meet more than once a month anyway, then you’re not that tight and don’t have that many interactions. So maybe it’s less important. So it could could could be like once every six months or a year, if it’s like a loose thing. But if you’re working with someone every day, maybe you want to do it every couple of weeks and just have a can be just like quite more check in thing that happens more frequently. KATHERINE And I guess like related to that there’s something around being mindful around the labour involved in holding that particular space. And balancing that if you can. So thinking about like in a wider group meeting who’s facilitating that meeting, if it’s the same person every time they might not have the same capacity to share what might be their experience because they’re trying to hold the space for the group. So shifting the role around and noticing, like, does everyone feel like they have the skillset to be able to share that facilitation role, if not, and we want to have these maintenance meetings, maybe we therefore also need to scale up the group in facilitation skills, for example. And I think also like noticing, who is the one that often is raising things, as someone who raises things, often, there can be a bit of a role that you can fall into, of like ‘the one that raises the difficult thing’. And sometimes people or other people in the group know that you do that role. And so they might not necessarily raise their own stuff, because they wait for the person who raises the difficult things to do that. So just being mindful, if you’re having maintenance meetings in your cycle, are there people who more regularly bring difficult things? Why are they doing that? But it might also be that that person is taking up quite a lot of the space. And so what would support the people that are not bringing anything to genuinely share something if they did have it. So kind of being mindful of who’s doing what, in the space around these maintenance meetings can help the whole group feel like they’re able to participate. ALI Yeah, and that makes me think of an aspect is like, there needs to be a baseline of confidence and trust within the group. So if you, if there are quieter people, what one of the reasons for that might be that they don’t feel able to share in the group and what work needs to be done before that? So that kind of speaks to what Sami was saying earlier on, like, the maturity level of the group or like, I don’t know, just like the readiness of individuals and the group as a whole to to share. And there might be, yeah, more things that need to happen before that. SAMI And then I guess, like, so linked into that, like, these aren’t… maintenance meetings aren’t like a magic intervention. And so building on what Ali’ssaying like it’s not, it shouldn’t be the only thing that you do you agree to like, build connection, and like, try and draw out difficulties. So, for example, like Katherine mentioned before, like, we’ll do a maintenance meeting on the level of like, R+R, and then maybe we’ll have specific ones within like projects, but then we’ll also do like a debrief after we do specific, like run a workshop together, like two facilitators will do a debrief after that. And there’ll be other like feedback mechanisms and spaces to have discussions and things like that. So like, it’s important to have this as like, a suite of different things. And that could include really explicitly reflecting on: Where do I feel like the group sat? And like, if I think this won’t work? What are the reasons I think this won’t work? And then what could I do about those reasons instead, which obviously, like with all things is probably best done. It’s like, not an individual reflection, but like working with other people to discuss stuff, even if it’s only like certain allies in the group or whatever. KATHERINE And just one last thing I’d add in on this is like, in the preparation for this toolbox episode, someone asked the question, like, Would an ideal group meet these? And I really liked that question. And I was wondering if either of you wanted to respond. ALI So I guess we’re when we were talking about this, we are thinking in the like utopian space of like: when it’s all good, will people need space to like, raise difficult issues? So I guess part of the thinking behind that question is like, if this, if one of the, the purposes of this meeting is to build the muscle of raising difficult stuff with each other, and having feedback, then potentially, what we’re trying to do is make feedback culture so normal, that it happens all the time, and you don’t need it. That might be part of what we’re aiming to do. And I think that’s definitely something that could happen by going along with this. And still, I think, the meeting serves, for me, I think it serves a function regardless, because I think it’s always like, useful to have that kind of space read- like that invites it. I feel like it reinforces the culture that it’s trying to build at the same time. SAMI Yeah, I think there’s a real like, even “after the revolution”, like we will still, this, like, you’ll still do that internal mental prioritisation of ideas, right? Like there’s, there’s always going to be only a certain number of a certain amount of time in a day between when you wake up and when you go to bed, there’s always going to be some kind of resource constraints that will apply in terms of how you do stuff. So, that that’s probably what leads to some people being like, oh, it’s not important that I raise this now. Like, I’ll raise it later. Even if you change people’s values, and all these kinds of things that underlie what people think is important. There’s always going to be some stuff which people therefore don’t raise. So having a space specifically to raise the stuff you don’t feel like you want to raise in the other spaces is going to be good, even if we’re all like feedback Queens. And I guess that links to a thing, which is like, what? So like, what is the purpose of the meeting? We gave a few example purposes. But I guess one thing that is like, worth stating is like, explicitly not a purpose of a maintenance meeting is like, it’s the intention is not that it will like mean that there’ll never be conflict in your group. Like, as we said, in one of the earlier episodes, like, conflict is like a really normal thing that happens in groups and in spaces and like conflict can be a thing that is like, either really challenging, or could be, like beneficial, depending on like, what the conflict is around how explicitly it’s done, how it’s handled, and all this kind of stuff. So it’s not a it’s not a thing that will like, stop anyone ever arguing with each other or disagreeing with each other in the future. The intention is almost the opposite. It’s to intentionally draw out disagreement and make more happen. It’s the going back to the forest fire example we use before, it’s like, more in line with the indigenous fire practices of making sure you do smaller regular burns in a forest rather than waiting, trying to avoid there being any burns, and then suddenly, the whole forest burns down. I’m going to keep using that example again, because I love I love it. ALI Nice. Let’s have some top takeaways. What are our top takeaways around maintenance meetings? Katherine, you got one? KATHERINE Yeah, I think for me it’s like, what do you need to have happen in the space for it to work for your group? So it’s not just about having a maintenance meeting in the diary. It’s like, what will enable people to share in that maintenance meeting? How do you build the confidence? How do you build the, the nervous system response to feedback of members of your group so that people can hear what needs to be shared? And people can share what needs to be shared? How about you, Sami? ALI Wait a second, just when you said nervous system you- KATHERINE Oh I did a little rub on my arm. ALI A soothing, self- soothing thing. KATHERINE Yeah, just just like, when you’re when you’re being met with feedback, sometimes the body can have a like, ‘What’s happening to me?’ freeze response and other responses also. And so there is, like, work that we can do on ourselves with our with our own bodies around like how we can hear feedback. And I think like thinking about what is the individual practices? And what are the collective practices that we can do that make those spaces work really, really well? SAMI Amazing. I think for me, it’s the – linking to a thing that Katherine said before, like these, I think it was Katherine? Like these meetings do need probably, like you probably need slightly more confidence to facilitate a maintenance meeting than you do to facilitate, like, a general group meeting. Because often what people are worried about when facilitating meetings is things kicking off and people raising difficult stuff. And this is a meeting deliberately for people to bring difficult stuff. So I think like, I guess what it’s really important to say links to that is like the meeting, the content of the meeting should like should be really tailored to your group and where it’s at. And it probably will be true that what you want to do in one maintenance meeting, may not be the same agenda that you want to have for exactly the same maintenance meeting one year on, because what are the relevant things in your group that you want to respond to maybe different. Like maybe you’ve had some struggles with capacity, maybe capacity, what you want to focus on, or you’ve not been feeling connected? So whatever, like, it should be, it should be really, you should iterate it to make sure it matches what you’re doing. Ali? ALI Nice. Yeah, I guess my top takeaway is like the broad purpose of it, which is to have a useful sp- a useful space that is regular, that allows you to add things before things get a bit weird and intense. And that might be the things that are in your subconscious and you like put to one side, as like ‘Maybe it’s not that big a deal. And it’s a bit unnecessary,’ but it’s a space to like, see if that is actually a thing we want to address and see maybe other people might share it. And that’s a learning opportunity for the whole group. KATHERINE Nice. SAMI Great. And the one thing to say on this one, specifically, what we thought we’d do when we had chats about the toolbox, after season one, we were like, oh, would be really cool to do in season two is share more, like, resources and stuff. So along with having the transcripts and like a cool quote from the stuff which we have always had, we will also for this one include a template agenda based on what we’ve what we do within Resist+Renew for the maintenance meetings. And so if you’re thinking, ,how would I actually do this in your group, in my own group?’ then like, you can maybe download that and use that as a as a jumping off point. So look for the shownotes resistrenew.com Check it out! ALI Thanks once again for listening to this episode of the Resist+Renew podcast. Thanks to Klaus for the backing track we’re using right now, and to Rowan for doing all the transcripts for all the episodes of this season. To find out more about Resist+Renew as a training and facilitation collective, check out our website, resistrenew.com. We are on all the socials. And we’re also on Patreon if you want to support the production of this podcast. That’s it for this week. Thanks for listening and catch you next time. Bye bye
57 minutes | Dec 18, 2021
Resisting school exclusion (with No More Exclusions)
Season 2 episode 6 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we interview Kadeem, Nirad and Zahra from No More Exclusions. “It goes back to how the teacher stands at the front. The students act to passively receive. We don’t want to reproduce that amongst ourselves” – Nirad “Whether the law changes, and then the culture has to catch up, or whether we make it unconscionable to exclude and then the law catches up whenever it does. We don’t mind ultimately. School exclusions will be abolished in this country in our lifetime” – Zahra Show notes, links No More Exclusions Twitter, Instagram and Facebook + their website. NME have a shop, a crowdfunder, a newsletter. Check out the work they’re doing on a moratorium on school exclusions. And also, the Soul Shack that Kadeem mentions! We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there’s always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript ALI This is Resist + Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I’m recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it’s a podcast! SAMI Right. So welcome everybody to the Resist+Renew podcast. And I am stoked today that we are interviewing and a group of people from No More Exclusions who I will get to introduce themselves in a second. But to kick us off, I will explain who No More Exclusions are. They are an abolitionist grassroots coalition movement, focused around education. Their mission is to bring about an end to the persistent race disparities in school education in the next five years, and to effect change at legal policy, practice and cultural levels in education and society as a whole over the next 10 years – bold aims – and they want an education system that works for everybody. So, not a small task. It’d be great if you can all introduce yourselves. Now, Kadeem, you good to kick us off? KADEEM Yeah, no problem. So my name is Kadeem. I’ve been organising with a number of students over the last three years. So I’d consider the work of No More Exclusions as closely in line with my life’s work. Maybe seen as a troublesome student growing up now, obviously through that experience, I can see where the unaddressed issues are with the process of exclusions, and kind of what we need to do about stopping them. SAMI Amazing, thanks Kadeem. Nirad? NIRAD Yeah, thank you for having us on. My name is Nirad. I’m 22. Calling in from from Birmingham, where I grew up. I’ve been organising with No More Exclusions, mainly as part of the youth group for the past two years, since I graduated from university last year. And it was really during that time, I was introduced, or at least that thought I was introduced to abolition. But it was really without the these past years of being part of No More Exclusions, as well as other groups. I wouldn’t have developed an understanding of abolition, as it applies to the UK and as it applies to the so called education system. SAMI Amazing. Thank you Nirad. And last but not least: Zahra. ZAHRA Hey, I’m Zahra pronouns she her. I’m a recoveringteacher (all one word). I am one of the Co-founding members of No More Exclusions. And No More Exclusions is going to be three years old, so I’ve been here from the start next month. And I’m also a parent. I’m also a trade unionist, and a PhD student. SAMI Amazing. Thank you, everybody. And also, like I just realised, because I’m doing this introduction that we haven’t mentioned that Katherine is also here. Classic, classic, classic, Resist+Renew podcast person. And so Kadeem, can you kick us off? What what is what’s going on with exclusions in the UK at the moment? Like, what is the situation that you are, as a collective, facing? KADEEM Or I’d say, like as a collective. And from my personal experiences as well, there’s a real race disparity when it comes to exclusions. Always being excluded, and why they’re being excluded, and reasons they’ll keep on being excluded. And over policed in the classroom as well. I think, on obviously, through some of the reading that I’ve done looking [unclear] book, and even the things that have to drop in the pandemic, it’s clear to see that is there evidence and significant problem that I am sure the people in power are aware about, but they don’t necessarily want to do something about addressing it. So, higher rates of exclusions, and on the reasons behind the exclusions as well: I don’t think enough care and emphasis is put on family or the child in terms of finding out reasons why they might be struggling to learn SAMI Amazing. Thank you. Zahra. Take it away. ZAHRA Yeah. So there was a report that came out, I think last week by Agenda on the exclusion of black Caribbean girls, and we know that that’s one of the fastest rising groups in terms of exclusion. And, but historically, the disparities have really, really focused on boys, black boys in particular, and in particular, Caribbean boys. And what, what do we know, in terms of like, what are these disparities? Well, we know that they are up to three, sometimes up to six times more likely to be excluded, and particularly so where, where there are particular intersections, so when you’re looking at race, intersecting with class, disability, gender, when those four things in particular, I think one of the the, the figures is often quoted is that a black boy with special educational needs and disabilities on free school meals is 168 times more likely to be excluded than a white girl, not on free school meals without special educational needs and a disability. And, and anyone can can kind of Google that. And it’s one of the things that you know, is often quoted. In terms of the generics I know there’s, there is some, there is some false information. In particular, I’ve seen trolls on Twitter that kind of like spreading, basically, what is fake news. You know, these like, ‘I’ve made up a chart myself, there is no such thing as a race disparity in you know, in school exclusions,’ actually, white kids are more excluded, well, they would be more excluded because the majority of population is white. So nobody’s saying that, but we’re talking about disproportionalities, right? So we’re talking about the ratio. And we’re talking about something that is really long standing, I want people to know that this is decades long. It’s not a new problem is not something that suddenly happened the last few years. It’s not just because of austerity, although austerity has made it worse. It’snot just because of the pandemic that we’ve seen exclusions, do you know what I mean? This is something that is historically posited, and very deeply rooted in the way this society is structured and the way education functions in this country. So yeah, that’s I hope that gives a bit of of the of the context. But what if I can, because it’s really important to kind of, since I’ve described the I made that comparison, black pupils so that everyone listening knows, are more likely to be disciplined more frequently and more harshly for less serious behaviour. This is all research based, there’s plenty of evidence, and we can provide tonnes of links people interested, less likely to be praised than other pupils, treated in differential ways that can be observed very early on in, in child’s education. Even Akala in his Natives book, chapter three, talks about this. More likely to be excluded for violent incidents, stereotyped as threatening, expected to be worse behaved and perceived as a greater threat and challenge by teachers. And when you put all of that together, the differential treatment is, is whether it’s intentional intention… because people often talk about, ‘well, you know, unconscious bias is not intentional.’ To me, I first of all, I don’t believe in unconscious bias anymore. Because at this stage now, as I often say, anyone who’s still unconscious must be comatose! There’s no reason for anyone to not be aware of what’s going on in terms of, in education I’m talking about – anyone who’s got an interest in education. In terms of curriculum in terms of, you know, policy, anything like that. The people in power and authority know, they know exactly what’s going on. The reviews have been done, and again and again. And so this is willful, institutional neglect. Really, what’s going on? SAMI Yeah, thank you for that. I think that’s a really important point. And I think, like, because people can talk about like structural racism and stuff a lot, but like, it can be quite hard to conceptualise what that means. To like, imagine what it is that looks like in practice. But like, this is what it looks like in practice, right? The stuff that you’re talking about. Like, it’s kids being more likely to be disciplined, it’s talking about people being more likely to be like, not praised for the work they’re doing as well as obviously, like when you’re talking about real structural impacts, like exclusion. ZAHRA I’m sorry, just, so that, because this is also really important. When you’re talking about the profile of the – if that even exists – the ‘average excluded black child’, they are actually less likely to be on the special educational needs and disability register. To have been identified. So there’s a whole raft of kids are getting excluded, who have gone under the radar, haven’t been assessed and their needs haven’t been met. They, they are less likely actually to be on free school meals, they’re less likely to have had previous exclusion, so much more likely to be to get there, you know, in one and get excluded as a one off, right? And, you know, as a result of a one off incident. Also: less likely to have poor attendance, less likely to have a criminal record or to be in care. So a lot of those disadvantages, right, that you see with the excluded average white child don’t aren’t necessarily visible or apparent. So again, you know, what does that signal? SAMI No, I think that’s a really good point. I think that’s a really good point. Thank you, Zahra. And Kadeem, you were saying, like that you see this as a thing that’s like, links to state violence? Could you talk a little bit more about that? KADEEM Oh, yeah. When I when I say that? I’m basically talking about the presence of labelling, and how that can play a role in criminalization and not decriminalisation. And I think that should kind of a more significant role in, kind of, helping people rather than finding reasons to lock them up. So from secure schooling, to special provisions and alternative provision, obviously, surveillance, surveilling young people is generally the overarching theme. And on there’s cameras on every corner, not to mention on site; and in some academies, police on site. So, I don’t think that does well, for vulnerable young people to have that feeling. And neurodiverse people as well, of always being watched. I don’t think it does well, but just how you view crime and, just just controlling discipline in general, and how averse you are to punishment. So yeah, that’s what I mean by state violence, because I feel like it’s on a state of mind that’s kind of engineered with young people. So that’s, that’s my view on that. And maybe why I was excluded. SAMI No, I think that’s, I think that’s a really helpful lens. Thank you so much for bringing it in. So it will be really helpful, I think, for people who aren’t as familiar with the ideas that you’re mentioning, like not expecting you to get into loads of detail now, because a lot of it already, like people can Google later. But if you could just talk a little bit more specifically about like exclusion, because that may be a little bit like a dispassionate term, I guess? If you’ve not witnessed it, for what, by the, by what’s been described is quite a violent act. So like, could you describe a little bit like: what is exclusion? Like, literally, what happens? What’s it look like? Does that make sense? KADEEM Yeah, definitely make sense. Me, I personally believe exclusion is a hate crime. And it’s a authorised unlawful action, so to speak, because people’s – what’s that? – 36 and a half hours education a week. And by excluding them, obviously, they aren’t meeting that legal requirement. And the local authorities don’t necessarily do anything to correct that. So, unequal outcomes are unknown about from kind of very early on. So I definitely know that that process of exclusion, taking someone out of class for – I’ve been excluded for coming in a couple minutes late and rustling with my bags and getting my pencils out, getting ready for class. Or asking too many questions, even though you’re, you’re in school to learn. So I don’t, I feel like the negative outcomes are disproportionate and excessive for the minor infractions. And obviously, when you get older and it’s about other people in authority, obviously, it’s a lot more difficult to handle. Take it in, because we’ve never been listened to in that position before he was excluded. So there’s things like managed moods as well. Where school kind of try and go around you as a young person, I’d say, lie to your parents and create a false narrative. No, because obviously, when you’re a young person being excluded, it is is easier for the teacher to kind of, um, yeah, create create a false narrative and and get a few other teachers complaining about minor thing. Kind of authorise those exclusions and yeah. I think I answered your question somewhat. SAMI Yeah, no, you definitely did. Thank you Kadeem, that’s really helpful. And this, there’s so much in there that we could chat about. But I’m conscious that people tend to like podcast episodes that are less than, like, three hours long. So I’m going to stop asking you questions, like, we could talk about like hate crimes and all this kind of stuff. But I’m going to keep my opinions on hate crimes to myself. Katherine, over to you. KATHERINE Thanks, Sami. And so yeah, thanks so much for sharing all of that information and background and experiences with us. We just want to turn now to ask about what No More Exclusions is about. Nirad, I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about NME. NIRAD For sure. The thing I’ve realised myself stressing to other people over this past summer, when I’ve been talking to them in Birmingham is that the standout feature to me of NME beyond the principles that are outlined on on the different publications you’ve put out is that we’re intergenerational. Even the people who are here today, there’s a difference in age amongst all of us. And that not only brings a different experience, right? Schooling in the 70s versus schooling now. But it also brings a different sense of how we were formed to face the struggles that we face. Right, the current situation is affecting someone who’s a lot younger than someone a lot older. And that changes how they approach the situation. And so that’s why the decentralised structure kind of works for us, because it means that people are able to add to and ask questions of, even if we don’t always recognise it, we’re always able to ask questions of each other in a very creative way, because of that structure. What our organisation is about is, I think Zahra was saying, three, three years old this year, is that right Zahra? Three and a half, four – three years. So it’s been it came out of a moment of crisis, one that is is particularly intense now. Whether we look at the international war-baiting that the UK is trying to get involved in, and actively being a part of, or we see the very the speculation that is causing a lack of fuel, or lack of food to more people than it was before: it’s a moment of crisis. But they’re more than that, NME’s about developing some kind of power. So if you develop power is not just a one way process. It also means that power has to be taken away from people, people who currently have it. I’m thinking about these gurus, who are either self anointed or anointed by their government. And I can’t just get past the fact that ‘guru’ is another word appropriated from Hindi, appropriated from Punjabi, I mean, used to signify some kind of natural… NME’s about destruction. It’s about saying that no, that’s not natural, whether it’s a race, that’s not a natural way of organising ourselves. It’s also not a progressive or not progressive way of organising ourselves, human to human. However, we end up framed here. So it’s about disruption, about being intergenerational and creative, and it’s also about recognising that we’re in a crisis. And that that’s the essence. KATHERINE thanks so much for sharing all that Nirad. And yeah, I think the thing that I’m drawn to ask a bit more about is talking about you building power. And I’m wondering if you can share with us a few of the ways that maybe No More Exclusions does that? That can be for anyone as well, actually. Yeah, Kadeem? KADEEM I want to say that you’re giving a voice to the voiceless. And I think over the next year, we’re going to be dealing a lot with arts and culture. So I do a lot of poetry and spoken word. So yeah, I’ve got my mum in the background… [GAP??] NIRAD I would, I mean, the coach is so important. I want to emphasise some of the things we’re not not doing. We’re not a CIC, we’re not a charity, we’re not project based. Because ‘project based’ implies that the direction is coming from elsewhere. Or that the people that you’re working with are fundamentally incapable of doing that work for themselves if you were not there in the first place. Right, which is the most regressive elements of even the movements that the revolution movements that we can study. That was one of the things that held, that we can critique. SAMI Amazing. That’s a really good answer. And I enjoyed it, you’ve made me think about there’s, there’s like the term it’s really like, popped off in use a lot in the last year and a bit, but like, the old anarchist idea of like, mutual aid, feels like really crucial in that bit now. It’s not about like a group of people doing stuff for a ‘helpless’ other group of people. It’s about like, people coming together to do stuff for themselves and each other. And like, that really feels like it links to that idea of like building power. So thank you for sharing that. Kadeem, did you want to com in as well? KADEEM Yeah, about mutual aid. I was gonna say, yeah, like I’ve been involved as well in providing mutual aid, as an organisation in Lambeth, the Soul Trap. So yeah, over the last couple of years, I’ve been running some of the programmes, the people, and also like a food bank as well every weekend. So I thought that was definitely worth mentioning. And yeah, things are going on. SAMI Amazing. And I think that’s like, and I think that really is a thing that strength can really strengthen groups, right? Like when the people that are involved also have these, like links and connections and things like that to other struggles, and like, you mentioned Nirad around like, like, like, looking at the history of other struggles and building that in like, all of these things together, what really makes like a, like a resilient, dynamic, good, getting-shit-done, group. So, thank you so much for that. Um, so I mean, we’re kind of transitioning over to the next question we were going to ask you anyway, which is around like, could you talk a little bit about what are the projects that you do have, like, going on? Like, what are you focusing on in your work? And why that thing? You mentioned, like, doing some culture stuff as maybe a thing you’re gonna start doing more of, but maybe there’s a lot of other things going on, I get the vibe that No More Exclusions does a lot of stuff. Kadeem, do you wanna start? KADEEM I just wanted to say, basically, um, in terms of a personal journey of education, obviously being excluded, removed, erased from two primary schools, obviously I had kind of a personal issue of the education system or a hostile environment favoured by the education system, because I never had an issue with learning. So I guess my life has panned outl always trying to tussle, that juxtaposition. And obviously, being a part of No More Exclusions, obviously. So I used to, for I’d say it’s escapism. I’m a gamer. I’m a gamer by profession. So I studied game design, creative media, but I guess being involved with No More Exclusions, and understanding root causes and getting confirmation as well, for something that I would have been gaslighted to not believe before, or maybe would have been isolated enough for being a part of the collective. It kind of kind of brought some of those things to the surface a bit more. And I was going somewhere else with the end of that, but I think that’s a good, good place just to end up going here. SAMI Tantalising, leaving us wanting more. I love it Kadeem. Does anyone else want to come in on that question of like, what are you like, what are you focusing on in in the day to day of No More Exclusions at the moment? Nirad, Zahra? ZAHRA I can see a little bit SAMI Please do. ZAHRA So, NME’s conceptualised as a coalition and that’s because first of all, in the words of auntie Audre Lorde, and no one is (and I’m paraphrasing) nobody leads no, you know, we don’t lead single issue lives. And that’s really important. So the work that we have we do we have to do it in recognition that you know, of difference, you know, something that we talk about a lot. So although our focus is on racial justice and race disparity, we recognise that there are disabled people, children excluded, we recognise that there are gender issues that we have to grapple with in different ways. We recognise, you know, class disparities as well. And, and all of that, and all and all of that as well. And beyond that, you know, sexuality we haven’t talked about, but that’s another area of work as well. Another area of suppression in the education system! So, and in society still. So you know, so really important that we look at, who can we work with, and build those alliances and building those partnerships. A lot of my time is actually spent strengthening relationships and caring for other people: checking in, meeting people, talking to if I can, talking to people, finding out what we can do for them and, you know, how they can help us and, and how can we build power together? What you know, discussing strategies, tactics, and so a lot of the work is relational. And a lot of the work is centred around care, like what do people need is, you know, there’s a lot of – Kadeem’s touched upon mutual aid, you’ve touched about this earlier, a lot, a lot of us are, you know, affected ourselves. But a lot of the systems of oppressions that we’re fighting against. So a lot of us are in precarious work, a lot of us are out of work, a lot of us are, you know, dealing with like, heightened threat of like, because of chronic diseases and illnesses that we’ve got, and so on. And we’re not, we know the state isn’t taking care of that. And so we have to take care of each other, in whatever way we can. So that’s how a lot of the time is spent. And for example, just today, just to give an example, I was talking to children and young people at a mental health centre, who have got similar concerns to us like we are really, I’ll talk about the moratorium in a sec, but we’re really concerned about the state of children – of everybody -but particularly the state of children and young people’s mental health right now, like that is a huge concern of ours. As a as a coalition, moving in education. And the government doesn’t really seem to give a shit about that. So we have to give a shit. Yeah, so just talking to, you know, our friends and supporters within the mental health fields, you know, psychologists who themselves, I’m hearing terrible stories of how themselves, their workload is through the roof. The level of need has never been seen before. You’re not hearing these narratives, because they’re getting suppressed. And they’re not you know, people like educational psychology are supposed to look after children in schools, or families can’t cope. And they come to us, some of them have come to us because their own children are getting excluded because they’re not coping. So it’s, it’s tough is really, really tough. And that’s what we do. So: relational work, building partnership, checking in on each other, trying to help each other with meeting our basic needs and beyond. Because we’re not just about basic needs. We’re not just about survival. But a lot of our work is often centred around survival, I have to say, and like trauma, trauma care, dealing with it. Because it’s trauma, like, being out of work is traumatising, like poverty is traumatising and not being able to leave your house because you’re still really worried about catching this virus, you know all these things are really difficult. Having lost like my own family – two members – all these things are really hard. And I don’t think we are being – not we as a community but – I’d like like the state isn’t been honest with us and about the scale of it you know? They just want us to get on with it. You know, the ‘stiff upper lip’ get-on-with-it. “Yes, we’re not really looking after anyone. So what? You know, everyone’s going to get herd immunity soon”-kind of thing. But it’s not going to happen. And we don’t want it to happen because we that no one’s disposable like that. SAMI Yeah. No, I think that’s really important. I think that’s really crucial. I think it’s like, because I think it’s just really honest, right? Because like not, because the way that you describe your work as being like how a lot of it does need to be focused on like the kind of like in like, like internal like care focused work and like trauma support and things like that. Like, it’s just, it’s just not honest to not acknowledge that as part of like, the crucial central work of groups that are like, organising people, because like, a lot of people are traumatised by a lot of the social structures that like, cause all the harms that we’re organising against. Like, it’s not, it’s just not honest to pretend like those things aren’t happening to us. Right? They are, and they need to be taken into account, when we’re doing stuff together. And when we come together, and struggle, so I think it’s really, really valuable that you name that. ZAHRA Yeah, and all the time trying to push those changes that you talked about the beginning, when you introduce then me trying to, for example, push the union, the National Education union, to like work on not being complicit, you know, to kind of encourage teachers not to be racist, to have their training. If and if they can’t cope with it, maybe, you know, I see this openly, and everywhere I go, I will keep saying it: you know, like, teaching is a massive, massive privilege. So if people aren’t willing, teachers aren’t willing to keep learning, and change and grow, then they need to get the fuck away from children. Like seriously, really quickly, as well. So if we keep doing, you know, if we keep getting the same outcomes, and the changes that have been the so called changes, the reforms that are being implemented aren’t helping, then maybe we need to do things differently, you know, which is why we are pushing for radical change, as opposed to reformist change. SAMI Yeah, amazing. Thank you. Okay, yeah, so. So I mean, so it sounds like you’ve got a lot of stuff going on, like a lot of internally focused stuff, you’ve got like your youth group that does stuff, mentioned all of these, like creative projects and things like that. So like, sounds like there’s a lot, a lot going on. ZAHRA We’re also pushing, trying to push for legal change. SAMI Okay, speak about that a bit. ZAHRA Yeah, so when we first came together, and I know this is not going to sound radical to the radicals, they’re going to go, ‘What are you talking about, the law is never going to protect us never going to make us safe.’ Like we know this. Hello. It’s just part of the tools. We know this, but we don’t we don’t exist outside of legal frameworks, right? So our children and young people exist in schools, because the law mandates that it should be in school, right. And if parents don’t send their kids to school, they get fined, and you know, all these things. So it would be dishonest to say, well, you know, we don’t engage with like, legal change. But as long as it’s, as long as we don’t pin our hopes for liberation on the law, I think that’s okay. So we wanted to change the law, the currently as it stands, the law that the mandate that stipulates that it’s headteachers who have the right to exclude it’s only headteachers, it’s not deputy heads, it’s not teachers themselves. I’m talking about permanent exclusion, by the way, because there’s a myriad ways in which you can exclude people, you know, exclusionary practices of, you know, but we’re talking about, you know, your Outs. Which is the most extreme form of school of punishment that you can apply to young people in education. It used to be caning, you know, I suppose, physical sanctions, but now it’s this, you know, you just physically remove someone. And, and all that that entails, you know, like, deprive them of the sense of belonging, ostracization, all research and what that does to animals, when you take them away from their peer groups and the social groups: the harm is long term damage. It actually physically changes the structure of your brain. People experience physical pain when they’re taken away from their peers, all of that. So, that’s why the law is really important, I think it’s more of an acknowledged because, because also we are aware that laws exist, and they are routinely ignored. So, you know, you could change the law and then schools could still exclude, right? So again, we’re not fooling ourselves into thinking that if we ever get there (when we get there), that will fix everything. It won’t. Hence why we also need to do work on policy. In in that is means at institutional level, like trying to influence the way the field works, the way academics work, teachers work, trainers work, teacher, education, universe, all of that. And ultimately schools, right? And then the biggest thing is cultural: unless we see a cultural shift, we unless we, we grow in, you know, within an environment that culturally actually deems it to be unacceptable, unthinkable, abhorrent, nothing will change, you can change the policies and the laws you like, the culture is the bottom line. But the question is, does the culture need to change first? Or does the law? Which comes first, right? We don’t mind and we don’t care, we’re going for all of it! Right. But one way or another, whether the law changes, and then the culture has to catch up, or whether we make it unconscionable to exclude and then the law catches up whenever it does. We don’t mind ultimately. School exclusions will be abolished in this country in our lifetime. And way sooner than that. SAMI I mean, that’s a mic. That’s a Mic drop moment right there. I think like, yeah, I think, unless, like some really interesting, like, strategic conversation in there, right, in terms of like, which different strategies are the best ways to to achieve the goals that you want? And I think the attitude that you’ve got is the very sensible one of like: “I don’t know? So let’s just do more than one!” “I don’t know which kind of thing is going to be the most effective. So let’s make sure we struggled on multiple fronts in terms of culture, in terms of trying to push for legal change, in terms of policy work, in terms of building power”, like, and I think that’s a really, I think that’s, it’s I love, I love seeing No More Exclusions and the work you’re doing. Because I think like, it’s, it feels like a good model. ZAHRA Sorry, I’ve never even talked about like, parent power. That’s huge. Right? That is untapped power. You know? And we work to develop that to build capacity in the community. That’s why we have our parent forums. And that’s why I was talking to our friend today, you know, from the from the Coalition for Mental Health, children, young people mental health, because they have similar concerns was that there are many rate, particularly the racialised working class parents, and so called working class, whatever that means, right? That are being left out of having the tools; that are disempowered, marginalised, disrespected, not listened to. And then and then they have the audacity to say, those are ‘hard to reach families.’ Really? ‘Hard to reach’? or just, you know, or just you don’t give a damn about, and you would rather not hear from them, you know, so. Yeah, so the, like, developing parent power is really important. And the curriculum, I mean, like, I can’t go into it. And but the curriculum is key as well, because kids are bored! Students are bored! Like school is just irrelevant to a lot of young people. They’re just like, you know, what the knowledge and skills we need for life, we aren’t being taught, and you’re just teaching us lies. And you’re teaching us to be like, you’re teaching us to be competitive with each other, and to, you know, to value ourselves according to what grades we get. And then two summers in a row exams have been cancelled. And everybody’s saying, well, it’s no big deal? But you’ve you’ve literally taught us for 16 years, 18 years that is all about exams, and suddenly decided exams are unimportant. So there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance pieces we need to pick up after the pandemic in relation to: what is education for, you know, who is it for? What do we do with it? Yeah, we could go on and on talk about the purpose of education. But yeah. KATHERINE yeah, I mean, I wish we could go on and on. I feel like there’s so much more to unpack and to explore. ZAHRA There’s a lot more. KATHERINE There’s a lot more. And maybe we need a second episode, and we will go into it. And we will go into it. Yeah, I mean, it’s incredible hearing about all the different fronts that you are working on in with this topic. It’s just yeah, thanks so much for telling us. And I guess what we’re going to do now is shift a bit to the internal workings of of No More Exclusions in that, as a facilitation collective, we’re really interested in how groups work as well as what work you do. And, yeah, a lot of social justice groups, a lot of abolitionist groups are really values-driven. And we’re really wanting to hear a bit about how you practice some of those values in terms of the way that you you organise sort of within within no more exclusions. I’m just wondering if, if someone would like to share. It would be great to hear from you about about that in terms of values in practice. NADIR Communication is is really important for it, especially if we’re, if we decentralised to an extent. Really trying to communicate with one another, as Zahra mentioned at the beginning, a few minutes back of what they were saying. And it leads us to this because it’s kind of saying: we need to know first, the very basis like what’s the best way to reach this person? Then: what’s the best way of making sure that we’re not imposing themselves on on them? I know communication is something that I, I really struggle with, even when people I’m in an organised organ, like I organise with, who I call friends or who I call comrades. To the extent where there’s this, there’s this young young person I’ve been seeing outside of McDonald’s when I when I’m doing deliveries. And I’m like this the second time I’ve seen them now, when they should be at school. And it’s and it’s the situation where like, I should have spoken to someone in NME about that. Being like, what would be the best way to intervene. That’s the benefit of having the organisation; at the same time I realised I haven’t been doing that. After this, I can go and find someone, probably someone who’s slightly older than myself to be like, in that moment, what’s the best way to intervene, because you also don’t want to, again, imply that, that that young person hasn’t made a set of choices in response to stuff that people have already told them. So it’s not about doubling down, in the hope that if you keep grinding and grinding will happen, but I’m kind of waffling. Communication is the essence. And it goes back to how the teacher stands at the front. The students act to passively receive. We don’t want to reproduce that amongst ourselves. KATHERINE Yeah, absolutely. And like, just even thinking about, like, how you might reproduce that and reflecting on like, how could I not reproduce that and what would be a different way to intervene, like, just feels like just the thinking about that feels like such a way of putting that value into practice? So yeah, thanks so much for sharing that. I’m wondering if anyone else has anything they’d like to share on values in practice? Yeah, Zahra, great. ZAHRA So I was just thinking about the obvious one: social justice and solidarity, those two values in particular. So, everyone’s got a different interpretation of what they mean by social justice, I find, which is not a bad thing. But to us, what is one thing that it means, it means decentralisation and de-hierarchy, deconstructing hierarchies. And I’m not just talking about formal hierarchies, I’m talking about all hierarchies. Because what that breeds, it breeds division, control. It stifles creativity, it kind of really limits possibilities for change. Because people think, well, that’s not my job. It’s not for me to think about, somebody else will do it. Somebody else will think about that. That’s not my role. Do you know what I mean? So for us, I think the, but it’s not, I don’t want to give like a like a romanticised version of that, because it can be challenging. Like, we’ve all been raised in hierarchical, whether it’s the family structure, whether it’s schools, whether it’s church, mosque, community, whatever, there’s always seems to be somebody in charge, in control. And, oh, we can be briefly in control or think we are in control. But there’s always somebody above, right. So really, I think there’s what we’re trying to do with, with, with with our decentralised structure, is to constantly work on like, communication is key, because if we’re not talking to each other about how we feel, and the process of unlearning, and how difficult that is? Because it’s so entrenched, you know, this idea that somebody said, somebody above me that will take care of it or be responsible for something. We are all responsible for each other, and for all of the work. It doesn’t mean we all do everything, obviously not. But it just means that that it doesn’t work like that. And also the, the the within that there has to be an element of like fairness. Otherwise, it’s not really social justice. So, you know, the ones who have more time have less kind of like, are less impacted by these systems of oppression, you know, allies within the collective and so on, you know, for them to think about, like we do a lot of work on positionality from the start, we get people to think about when they’re joining us. Right. Okay. What what is your positionality? How, what are your principles coming in? And how do those principles and values align with NME like, have you read the website? Are you, are you sure you know what you’re getting into? Because we centre the voices of young black people who’ve been excluded. Like, that’s who we centre. They even have a final say in decision-making, actually. When, when we, you know, we can’t come up to consensus. So: sociocratic elements in what we do, you know, decisions about consensus; work strands, decentralisation, local chapters, but generally just a lot of relational, kind of, we, like we’re all in this together, and we all chip in where we can. So there is no departmentalization of roles. In that way, we all have a focus in, like, things that we can bring and things that we’ve gotten interested in. But then if somebody needs help with finding a space, or running a session, or writing a submission, because we’re doing a submission to policy, our work is really varied like day to day, week to week. And this is really quite beautiful, the way it comes together, but it’s really difficult to, to, to illustrate, and to explain, even when you’re in it, you know? It’s difficult: it’s really organic, is really rhizomatic, you know, if you can think of like, lots of sprouting roots everywhere, and ideas and actions coming from all over. But yeah, the, and the solidarity part is so important, solidarity with each other, solidarity with families, and solidarity with – there is there’s a lot of good teachers out there who are really suffering in the profession, because they’re having to, they’re having to embody very oppressive policies. And they, and they can’t, that’s why CARE was born, you know, the Coalition of Anti-Racist Educators, because we will get contacted all the times by teachers who are like, “I can’t quit my job, but I fucking hate it. You know, so I’m like, I love the kids. But you know, I, you know, what’s happening to me? They literally changing my identity as an educator, I feel like I’m a state agent, or a, you know, a cop or something.” And so we really want to rescue education from carcerality. Really, that’s what we need to do. And, and so solidarity with educators, solidarity with struggles that are not directly seemingly linked to education, whether it’s immigration struggles, whether it’s workplace struggles, whether it’s struggles against the police, and like, do you know what I mean? Like, they’re all linked, by the way anyone who’s listening. They are absolutely intimately linked. But it might not always be obvious. And like, we want to make those connections obvious. So that, yeah, we stand side by side, really. So those, those are the things that we do. And so, when you if you look at the newsletter, if you look at our socials, but also if you’re part of the collective, you kind of see how that solidarity works. And we bring different things to meetings, or post share with each other, like we need to support this family now, like they need help now. It’s like the campaign is a good example for Osime Brown and his deportation. And, like, we were honoured to be able to support that family. And it was an issue that became a case that became a cause. Because it kind of shows the full breadth of that school to prison to deportation pipeline. And so it’s, I’m so happy that we were able to halt that deportation, but that’s just one case. Right? And he’s still trying to just clear his name, just the basics. You know, like, as always, people of colour are fighting for the basics. He’s trying to clear his name because that’s not, it wasn’t, you know, he was convicted of something he didn’t do. Anyways, I could talk forever as you can see, that’s one of the occupational hazards of being a recoveringteacher, I warned you at the start. SAMI [laughs] No, that was great. I mean, I think from, loving everything that you shared and for like, we talked a little bit before we started the recording, like often like the ‘how do you live the values of like work in your organisation’ is the question that people struggle the most with answering. I mean, firstly, smashed it. Secondly, I think you’ve there’s a there’s almost like a short version, a tagline for NME that came out of that, which is like, rescuing education from carcerality, which is a really nice short tagline. Or maybe, as you said before Khadim rescuing learning from carcerality as maybe a better way of framing it. And so I mean, amazing. So then, okay, so to, to play us out to wrap us up. And as you said before, like obviously, like the the deportation case that you supported on: successfully resisting like, as you said, it’s just one case, right? And there’s always going to be more things like that in the future. And the best way to resist things like that is to get involved and to like to be involved in organisations like yours. So: what can people do if they’re inspired by what you’ve heard? Or if they’d like to get involved in like, the 27 different projects that you’re running? Like, what can people do? NIRAD If people are already involved in in doing work, share it with us on, I mean definitely in the Instagram account on our No More Exclusions account, share it with us. And that’s a good way to see what what other people are doing. It isn’t. It’s definitely not restricted to education, whether it’s people restricting borders in healthcare, resisting borders generally, like, please share that work because knowing that, part of the struggle is knowing what other people are doing. So that’s more directed towards people already involved in some kind of organisation, or collective or mutual aid group. Or music band or writing workshop. Please share with us what you’re doing. That can be the start something. KADEEM I was gonna say as well. Just to add to what Nirad said. We’ve got some upcoming merch that’s coming out as well to support us, we’ve got a Crowdfunder as well. And obviously you can support the movement and the wider coalition that we’re a part of as well. Um, yeah, yeah. SAMI Amazing. And we’ll definitely put links, links in the show notes to the merch, crowdfunders, socials, things like that. I for one, I’m very excited for the mention of merch. I always feel weird buying like merch for groups. I’m not a part of because it’s like, why would I do this, but I feel like now I’ve talked to you this is less weird. So I’m gonna get involved. I’m gonna buy some. Amazing, thank you so much. Zahra. Anything else to add? NIRAD Just to add with what I said before, we also have a monthly newsletter. So as well as reaching out, reaching out to us on socials that’s something where it can go, where, we do interviews from time to time in there. So if there’s something that you’re working on, and you’d want to speak about, maybe it’s not, because not all work can end up in like a link to be shared. Sometimes it’s something that is very in person. So I also direct people towards our newsletter as a way to build something. SAMI Amazing. Can they sign up to that on the website as well? NIRAD Yeah. Sorry today to advance because I know that’s gonna be weird to like, deal with but yeah, it’s on our website. SAMI No, that’s mint, I love it. This is great. ZAHRA I can add, I can add a couple of bits? SAMI Please do. Yeah, I mean, it’s all been said to be only the key things have been said, in addition to what’s been said. Like, we need more people to join, of course, our day to day organising. But also we need friends and supporters who might not have the time. To give, you know, to do internal organising or day to day organising, but can support in other ways that can be really, really powerful. So I want people to think about what power, what influence they have. Where they are, and how can they help build power and, and for coalitional work. For example, by amplifying, by inviting including uplifting, centering lived experience. Not exploiting it, but not being extractive with it, you know? How can you build parent peer support where you are, if you’re a parent, for example, be mindful of positionality because, you know, your positionality as a as a white, middle class, non disabled person will be different to you know, the positionality of someone who’s, you know, got English as a second language, migrant from a, you know, working class, you know, with a precarious job background, etc. So to think about that, when you’re pulling together resources and groups, but definitely think about that. I also want people to, especially educators it’s particularly for educators, teachers, to speak up. I know it’s scary, but to actually be courageous because education, young people, children like need, they don’t need saviours, but they need us to use our voice right now. Education in particular, all spheres of our social lives are under assault, but particularly education, and authoritarianism has no place in the classroom. And we really need to use our voice and oppose and resist, call it out. And don’t go and reinvent shit. Like, if you want to help with a particular cause, whether it’s police in school, whether it’s prison, school exclusion, go and figure out who is already doing the work and support them. And finally, yeah, please help us with the moratorium, we really need a ban on exclusions in the wake of the pandemic. Like, the last thing children young people need right now is to be kicked out of school. So help us to disrupt the narratives and you know, to shift the frame of like, who is deserving of care, love and education ultimately, SAMI I mean, what a list! ZAHRA Yeah, very demanding. I am known for being demanding. SAMI I mean, you’re fighting, you’ve I read your vision statement, you’ve got a big struggle ahead. You’ve got last time you want to do in the next five and 10 years, so, All Aboard. ZAHRA Before we burn out, right? SAMI And that’s why the care bit is so important. So thank you so much. Zahra, Kadeem, Nirad for joining. It has been a genuine pleasure. And feel free to to unmute now and say goodbye. ZAHRA, KADEEM and NIRAD together: Thank you for listening to me – Take care – Thank you for listening to my bad jokes! ALI Thank you to Nirad, Kadeem and Zahra from NME for joining us on this episode of the Resist+Renew new podcast. Thanks as well to Kareem Samara, and Klaus for the backing music. And shout out to Rowan for doing all the transcriptions on this season. To find out more about No More Exclusions, check out their website: Nomoreexclusions.com and Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are all in the shownotes so check them out there. And find out more about resist renew as a facilitation and training collective. Our website is resistrenew.com We are on all the socials. And if you want to support the production of this podcast, check us out on patreon.com/resistrenew. That’s all for this week. Catch you next time!
32 minutes | Dec 11, 2021
Toolbox: Transformative vs punitive approaches to conflict
We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there's always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Season 2 episode 5 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we talk about some frameworks of justice, and reflect on them in relation to conflict. 'Whose responsibility is the conflict? Is it the responsibility of the people within the conflict…or is it the responsibility of the whole group? Because they are nodes within a network of a group – they are in conflict, so the group is in conflict' Show notes, links An explainer for the different approaches to justice that we use to reflect on conflict in this episode: Note: these words are used in many different ways. Some use restorative justice (RJ) and transformative justice (TJ) interchangeably; some see RJ as between TJ and punitive systems; some see RJ as focusing on individuals and TJ as situating individuals in structures etc. Words are multivalent - don’t get too bogged down on “the right definition”. A quick summary of the episode: People choose the tactics they use to respond to conflict in service of a broader aim. These different approaches all come up when thinking about what tactics to choose to respond to conflict. People may respond because they want to disappear a problem through punishment, or because they want to bring cohesion back to a group. So it's useful to have some shared language to discuss in your groups the different tactics you use. What are your rituals around conflict in service of? Deeper responses to conflict should look at the people in your group, the relationships between people, and what need to change in the wider structures. Conflict can be one of the most visible instances of structural power in a space. Working with conflict in a group can be a path to address how those structural powers impact the group and the relationships within it, in a way that could help shift or transform things. Some useful links: Brick By Brick, a new book by Cradle Community on prison abolition and transformative justice. A collection of resources on transformative justice at Transform Harm Fumbling Towards Repair, a workbook for community accountability facilitators. A small bit from that book, to give you a flavour: Perennial resources: our sister facilitation collective Navigate have a conflict facilitation booklet (from back when they were called Seeds For Change Oxford). See our "What is facilitation?" podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. Transcript ALI This is Resist + Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we're fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I'm recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it's a podcast! Welcome back to the Resist + Renew podcast. This is another Toolbox episode with a focus on conflict. Last episode we looked at some of the common ideas around conflict, which might be floating around in people's heads and groups; which may not be that helpful as to impacting how we approach conflict. In this episode, we're going to take a look at some ideas around conflict, which are often held up as better, as more appropriate ideas around conflict, particularly in social movement spaces. These might be ideas like restorative justice, and transformative justice. But as they’re used quite a lot, we'd like to take a bit of time to explore what those words mean a bit. So yeah. Gonna get a bit more clear on that. Sami, are you up for giving us a bit of a spiel around these frameworks of justice? SAMI [Laughs] Yeah, I can, I can definitely start with a bit of a spiel. So I think so I guess a few things to note so like, yeah, we mentioned terms like ‘transformative justice’ and ‘restorative justice’, I guess,
34 minutes | Dec 4, 2021
Practical migrant solidarity (Savan from No Evictions Network)
We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there’s always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Season 2 episode 4 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we interview Savan from the No Evictions Network. “Evictions, arresting people, kidnapping them – it has a long history… undermining human rights, disrespecting human beings” – Savan Show notes, links No Evictions Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. A few extra links: No Evictions’ statement after the raid in Kenmure Street. A Guardian article summarising (“Glasgow protesters rejoice as men freed after immigration van standoff“) and an interview with an NEN member (“Kenmure Street’s ‘van man’ speaks out after protest in Pollokshields“). A site from NEN highlighting the conditions in asylum accommodation. Transcript ALI This is Resist Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I’m recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it’s a podcast! KATHERINE Okay, so here we go. Welcome to this episode of the Resist Renew podcast. Tonight we’re really glad to be joined by Savan from the No Evictions Network. Savan is originally Kurdish, he joined the No Evictions Network in January 2021. He’s a student studying Political Economy and Philosophy, as well as being a human rights activist and campaigner. Welcome. It’s so great to have you tonight. SAVAN Thank you very much, Katherine. And Sami, thank you for having me. KATHERINE Great. So we’re gonna start with the first question, which is: What is the political context that you’re organising in? Can you tell us a little bit about that? SAVAN Yes, in general, well, I, I suppose answer on behalf of No Evictions, so what No Evictions does at the moment, we concentrate on a few things. One of them is basically what we stand for is No Evictions. We’re trying to see, we don’t want to see any eviction in Glasgow, in general because that’s our capacity in Glasgow, but also we’re trying to influence other organisations to do the same around Scotland and even in the UK. We’re focusing on that, and also the new Immigration Bill’s one of the things I’m focusing on. I’ve got a group, we are trying to resist as much as possible and trying to raise awareness and also influence, influence the politicians to stand up against the Immigration Bill. And one of the things it was I’m sure you both familiar with the Kenmure Street event it was trying to obviously was about eviction and arresting people during the Muslim celebration. Trying to put two people again in the van and stuff like that, so we have a group monitoring the immigration van and trying to be there for them be there for the people who are at risk to be you know, we call that kidnapping in our you know, a way to say kidnapping and actually taking them to somewhere we don’t know and nobody else know. And we have a group focusing on raising awareness in East Ends and in those areas we focus in on those areas mainly refugees and asylum seekers learning. And we trying to get in touch with the community, basically, be trying to raise awareness from the local community with the shop and you know, the neighbours and all of that. So we’re trying to let them know that’s what’s going on. If you notice something please give us a call or please stand up, you know, we’re trying to hold them off to we’re going to be there. And we’re trying to, you know, save lives as much as they possibly can. So that’s what we mainly broadly we focus in on. KATHERINE Thanks so much for sharing, it sounds like really varied work as well that you’re doing: both like on the ground stopping the kidnapping from happening, but also this raising awareness within the community so more people know. And, and for people that maybe are a little bit less familiar with what’s going on with the immigration system and with evictions, more generally, could you just share a little bit for us about, kind of, what’s, what’s happening at the moment: why why is this resistance needed? SAVAN Yes, sure. So we have, we have a broken immigration system, we have a very broken immigration system. And in recent years and under Priti Patel the Home Secretary it’s going to be more broken and demolished. So if eviction and arresting people and kidnapping them has been, it has a long history, actually: it’s not, it’s not a new thing. I know Camera Street highlighted that than any other time. But it’s been happening and it was happening and it’s still happening. So basically what they’ve done is a people with ‘failed asylum seekers’, ‘failed asylum seekers’ are those people where they’ve been here for 10 years, over 10 years, though they’re undocumented migrants. And so, what the Home Office do, you know, usually they don’t even send a notice for for the applicant for the person. So they just go to their house: six o’clock in the morning, four o’clock in the morning. They simply go you know, they rack into a terror event, you know what I mean? So so they go, they’re arresting them while they’re sleeping, with no respect for their human rights and nothing like that. Put them in a van without letting them know where they go, how they go. All of all of this kind of stuff. So they completely undermine the human rights and the human rights and they completely disrespecting human beings in general. And those people, at the end of the day, might not have a piece of paper say they’re legal, so to speak. But they have blood in me, like all of us, so they’re human and they need to be treated as the way we all been treated. Even if you takes llegal action, do it in a legal way that you normally do for any other human being any EU citizen. So they make a big difference. They treat this human being just because they’re not citizen, a citizen or they don’t have citizenship, they don’t hold any citizenship. They treat them like very inhumanely; but whereas you know, in compare in, you know, in contrary, they treat other people, rightly with the justice system with legal. Let them know, give notice: that’s the court date, that’s where you’re going to go. All of these information, they don’t have these things and sometimes they go… ah, no, I talk too much, please stop me when whenever you want. KATHERINE No, it’s great. SAVAN So they put them in a deport centre without letting them know, without having a legal access. And even nowadays with new immigration law they’re trying to take so many more rights, legal rights away, they cannot challenge that. So I would like to stop. SAMI Amazing. Thank you, Savan. And I think firstly, no, please, please talk as much as you like. I think we’re definitely enjoying it. Yeah, thank you for that information about like, the broader context, the current like immigration system and things like that. Because and I think it’s really important what you said that, I also agree that people can act as if, if like evictions, like detention, deportation, all of these things can can be considered to be like quite like ‘new’ things and people will talk about the ‘hostile environment’ and so I think it’s really important to make the point that like these things have been going on way longer than the phrase ‘the hostile environment’ in the UK. For decades, if not longer, depending on what kind of stuff you’re bringing into scope. So I think it’s really important to ground, ground ourselves in that when we think about it. So you said a little bit about No Evictions Network and the work you do, and you talked a little bit about having some like Glasgow-focused work because you’re there’s at least some kind of link with Glasgow in the No Evictions Network but please correct me if I’m wrong. But also you mentioned some wider stuff around, like, Scotland and maybe the wider UK and things like that. So could you say a little bit more about, like, what like, what what does your organisation kind of like focus on and what you’re about. Like, is it a Glasgow thing, it is a Scotland thing, is it a UK thing, like: what do you see as the focus of the group? SAVAN Very good question! So we have, so we basically work on events and on necessity. For example, in Glasgow we have the highest number of refugees compared, for example, to Ayrshire. In Ayrshire for example, we might have five or six refugees here. Although we are not thinking about ignoring them just because they are less numbers, though, out-numbered. But so the main focus is on Glasgow because, just because of the high number of refugees, and obviously when there is a high number of refugees and asylum seekers there will be a high number of events and incidents. But in terms of broad work together, when it comes to, for example, when the issue requires more collaboration for example, we had an act that we were working with every organisation in the UK, from London, Manchester around the UK, Edinburgh, all of Scotland, Wales, so it was it was gotten very y’know, collective. It was a it was against Mears Group so we’re trying to expose the you know the managers and stuff like that. So for that, it was collection work around all around the UK, because Mears Group also had a house in, for example, in Manchester and places like that. So we have shared values and organisation came together. Obviously, unity is one of the things we are focusing on, we’re trying to be united we’re trying to be an organisation to come together because I think together we have stronger voice and we have stronger influence on, on the policy, on, on, on government. So, but when the situation only requires one particular area, for example, in Glasgow, we have more capacity in Glasgow because actually No Evictions was in Glasgow so the beginning of No Evictions was started in Glasgow. It was the time that Serco was changing the locks. So basically you are going out, you’re a migrant and you are going out to see your friend, and coming home, your lock will change. So you were evicted and you were homeless, and then and your stuff was right outside of the door. So No Evictions started resisting to make a lot of change. So that’s why our members are mainly in Glasgow, but we are working we trying very hard, and we’ve been successful at gathering other organisation and to have a collective work. SAMI Great. SAVAN I hope I answered your question. SAMI You definitely did. And you, you gave me a lot of thoughts which mean I want to ask you a follow up question as well if that’s okay. Which is: you… It sounds like you, in terms of what your group focuses on, what No Evictions Network focuses on, it sounds like there’s a bit of a balance of a few different, kind of, tactics; is this fair? Like, it sounds like there’s a little bit of stuff around what maybe you could call like ‘direct action’, or like kind of like direct resistance work of like, trying to stop evictions, kidnappings, as they happen: trying to stop people getting detained in immigration raids, things like that. And there’s also an aspect of it, which is more, like, kind of, maybe campaigning work, which is maybe what you mentioned with the campaign against Mears, which I’m sure will probably ask you another question about maybe later. SAVAN You’ve absolutely got it right. That’s what No Evictions does. We we have our priority. I think the urgent matters for us is the eviction matters. Obviously, when when you talk about human rights and protecting others, it’s always urgency, the urgency. But some some matters are more urgent than others. So eviction, when we know some people are going to be evicted. So we have more direct action. So what we’ve done: we organise communities in each area. For example we have in Pollokshields, so we have group each so that they can go act as quick as possible. So we managed to organise that, and it works quite well. So we have always few people there. And to let us know if there is something going wrong. But in terms of campaigning, yes, of course we have a group. All of us: we’re doing that, and we’re doing the campaigning work as well. And the campaigning side now is focusing on the new Immigration Bill. SAMI Amazing, thank you. And I think it’s, I think it really, what what I’m getting from partly from your answer is, like, how important it is to have that really, like, locally grounded and, like, locally rooted resistance stuff. Because like you mentioned, for people that aren’t like maybe Glasgow familiar like East End, Pollokshields, these places you’re mentioning, they’re like areas of Glasgow, right? And so, like, having that really, like, locally, locally, rooted locally grounded resistance sounds really important. And it’s, and I think that focus on Glasgow, because there is a high density of like, people who can, like, coordinate and can struggle together. That sounds very, like tactically sensible. I think, like I come from my perspective, I’m part of a group, which does work against like immigration raids, in like a, in a borough of London as well. So I’m seeing like, I see a lot of affinity there, which makes sense, because I’ve also, I think, I’ve had chats with people from No Evictions Network before about immigration raid-y stuff. But I think, yeah, it reminded me there’s a, there’s a resource that we made in our anti raids group to map where immigration raids happen in London, to give people an idea in places where they’re not already organising against immigration raids to say like, if you live in this place, like this would be a really good thing to struggle around. Because, like, there are a lot of immigration raids that happen. There’s a lot of attempted kidnappings that the state will do in our communities, and there’s stuff you can do about it. And I think No Evictions Network Chemyou Street and otherwise is like a really good model for that. So. So thank you, thank you for your work, Savan! So, I’ll stop gushing. Katherine! SAVAN No, I enjoy listening to you. KATHERINE Yeah, you should gush, gushing is great. [musical break] SAMI I am interested to know like, how does being, like, What does being part of No Evictions Network look like? If you can give it, paint a bit of a picture? Like as in, do you have like, like regular meetings? Like, do you have different meetings, for like the different bits of stuff because you mentioned some campaign things, you’ve mentioned some, like more direct action things. Do people like, is there like different working groups for folks from different bits? Like, how does it, how does it work? You don’t necessarily need to share loads of detail if you’re not comfortable with it, because obviously sometimes groups when they’re like, you know, struggling against the state don’t want to lay out all of the detail of what they do and how they do it! But if there’s anything you could speak to SAVAN Sure, of course SAMI That’d be really interesting. SAVAN I think I’m the most layout person with authority. You know, I’ve always went to protests, everyone say when the police come in and say, ‘Who organised this’ and everyone say, ‘Oh, we just we all organise it.’ I say, ‘I organised it.’ Because I know I’m there for a good reason and I’m not there to do something stupid, so unlike, you knows what they do to the people. So basically No Eviction got every month meeting and got different group as well. So we approved anti raids group we have, we have group, the no immigrant, anti anti no Immigration Bill, the new Immigration Bill. We have a group, a campaign, you know that. And we have a comms group are dealing with, you know, the communications, press conference, not press conference, not that big yet! But press release and stuff like that, sorry. Also, we have response group. So what we do is not just campaigning and activism and resisting to eviction, we also have a response team that we’re helping asylum seekers and refugee with food and clothes and stuff like that. Because what’s so great about No Eviction: we have people from every walks of life, we have people manager in the charity show, we have people we have PhD doctor we have, we kind of have people in every sector of the, in the society. So when asylum seeker asked for help, we always got someone to stand up and say, Okay, I can offer something. So we have the response team who has to helping asylum seekers out in their daily needs and basic thing. We have anti roots groups. Now they have different focus. They’re trying to raise awareness, and sharing leaflets and stuff like that. We have our group, the new Immigration Bill, anti Immigration Bill, we are trying to campaign and protests most likely. So we have regular meeting, each group got their different timing for meetings and different ways that they organise events and stuff like that. Be we all do it under one umbrella, which is No Evictions. And then No Evictions is under one umbrella, which is human nature. SAMI Amazing. Thank you. I love it as a description. And I think it’s, I think it’s really, I really like the model of all of those different things existing within one group. Because in some places, you’d have like, maybe there’d be like a direct support group that would do like support with food and stuff like that. And maybe you’ll have another group that will do, like, eviction, resistance stuff. And then you’ll have another group that will do, like, campaigning: that’s often the case in London, where I live, because just because so many people. There are so many groups and things like that, that it can become a little bit more specialised. So I think it’s really nice that in No Evictions Network, you’ve got all of those things kind of all working together under one under one banner. I imagine it makes the collaboration between the different bits easier than if they were all different groups. SAVAN Absolutely. Yeah. Because we have, I mean, where some of us are focusing on the New Immigration Bill? When there is a need? In response to I’ll go. When there is a need in the comms group, I’ll go and vice versa. So it’s like, we always we’re very interconnected together. SAMI Mm. Resilience, that’s what they call that., right? Like, each bit can support each other bit. Love it. KATHERINE So good. And yes, I think you mentioned already, but we’re just wanting to bring attention to what you’re focusing on now. And you mentioned the new Immigration Bill, is an area of work that you’re currently working on. I’m just wondering if you could share a bit more about about that? SAVAN Yes, of course. So I’m not trying to take any credit. But once the new Immigration Bill before, started going into the first reading in the House of Commons. So we started shouting out on Twitter. It was so hard to make people aware of what’s going on. If for some, you know, one can say ‘I’m not politically engaged, I don’t even know what does that mean?’ So it was very hard one for me to put a big statement for a four statement, putting it out on Twitter, begging people to please share, tagging people and do that. So I made a lot of noise about that. And then I brought that so first, for No Evictions, even for No Evictions it was something we were kind of thinking about considering or not. So I was like you would do it or I will do myself individually. So I was very determined about it because i’ve i’ve read the Bill, I knew what was going on. So I’m very fortunate that No Evictions responded very positively. And then they said, We’ll help you, So we made a group, different group it’s still a part of No Eviction. Then we start focusing on the new Immigration Bill. What we were trying to concentrate on, just highlight, because it was too much information: very, very, it was too much, very informative. KATHERINE Yeah. SAVAN And it was a lot of law inserted, lot of law was deleted, removed. So we tried to focus on the damage, highlight the damage, and we made a poster. So we shared the poster on Twitter and everywhere and with our network. So we wrote a lot of a rose awareness at the time, we had a good response from everywhere from MPs, MSPs. And they were trying to get engaged. And after that, we’ve done that. And when we put a, we got press, we got press to cover our, our concerns. And then what we’ve done, we tried to organise, we’ve organised the protests in front of Scottish Parliament, obviously, for some people was nonsense, because the immigration matter is a reserved matter, why would we go into Scottish in front of Scottish Parliament and asking Scottish Government to act. But we thought like Scottish government can do something more than just saying, ‘Oh, it’s a reserved matter.’ So we we went there, we have MPs and MSPs coming out: Please let us talk and let us share our concern and we were happy. So we managed to send a clear message: Say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here. So we sent that message, that was our message. At least, you know, with, at least in Scotland, in Scotland, we have the politician somehow, you know, calling refugees, ‘new Scots’: very good approach. So we rose that. So the new Immigration Bill was something that’s got to government through the protests, they confirmed that they are against it. And they know they’re not cooperating for example, and one of the things they said we know they’re going to cooperate in an new Immigration Bill that says we use in the barracks and an army base to house asylum seekers. And the Scottish government responded to say, We will not going to do that. So great achievement. SAMI I have a sorry, I have our follow up question. But it’s not about that, Katherine. KATHERINE Go, on, you go. SAMI And it was because you also mentioned, and it comes to my mind because you mentioned the barracks and stuff. You also mentioned that you have a campaign going on against Mears? Which, correct me if I’m wrong, Savan, they’re the one of those big shady conglomerates that does loads of stuff like G4S and Serco and all those kind of things and what they do, what I know them for is they do a lot of the immigration housing in the UK. Is that right? Could you talk a little bit about Mears and the work that you’ve been doing around that? SAVAN Yeah, sure. So it was a campaign, we launched the campaign, I think, if I’m not wrong, it was somewhat few, several months ago. So really, really bad from you know, from memory, I’ve got a very bad memory. But so we launched we launched a campaign against Mears Group because Mears was treating asylum seekers terribly. Put them in a house: very bad food, bad hygiene people was it was in the middle of the pandemic. It wasn’t COVID COVID secure and Mears Group was trying to get the cheapest the cheapest cheapest house for asylum seekers, they were actually moving asylum seekers from their house to do hotels. That was something else, was one thing that amazed me when I spoke to one of the Mears director – II think was director – and I asked him I was like, I’ll just I’m just wondering because the UK government’s saying you’re not allowed to. The hospitality sector was totally closed. Hotel, hotel for me is the hospitality sector, but you’re using those sector for asylum seekers? If it’s okay for for asylum seekers, why is not okay for other people? If it is not okay for the people? Why is it okay for asylum seekers? So, so I was like, Is it like something that COVID-19 will recognise your citizenship or your legal status or COVID-19 will treat you will, you know, contract with every human being? How can you put 200 people in a hotel? And how can you, you know, how’s that safe for them? And in response, they say, Oh, we’re trying our best and stuff like that. And I’ll share one information with youse that I never shared with anyone else. So in, I was like, I was really interested why these house conditions are very bad. So I managed to get someone that they were housing, they were giving houses for Home Office and Serco and stuff like that. That was a temporary accommodation to provide, they show me the picture of the house. Brilliant house you would love to live in. But do you know what he said, he said, ‘They took us our contract away because our house was too good.’ Too good for them. So they were like, basically they told us very, very clearly: We look for the cheapest house with the worst condition. That rat playing football in a kitchen. You know, so molten moulding, all of that. So basically, what Mears done a profit maker. That’s what happens when you have private companies taking over of something I could call humanitarian crisis. So we’ve got 1 billion pound contract, and they’re trying to spend as minimum as possible. They were paying the staff very, very, you know, minimum wage. And they’re treating the staff and asylum seekers, like, very inhumanely. So we stood up for that and we will compare and contrast the asylum seekers house to the director’s stuff. So we made a website called landro the landlord landlord asylum seekers. So we we’ve done that. We found out one of the directors got living in a house worth two point something million pound when he was the one saying, ‘Oh, putting four people, or putting 25 people in the barracks is okay is appropriate,’ but he was living in 2.3 million house just right next to the barracks in Sheffield. So we put that, his photo, put on the website and share it. So that’s basically what we were what we were doing against Mears. And I could say they really feared of our campaign because we exposed a lot of information about them. SAMI Great, thank you Savan. And I think that the those kind of those kind of struggles against, like commendation for refugees, migrants asylum seekers, I think is it feels like it’s really been like a key point of struggle in the last 12,18 months because of COVID. But it’s not, I think, I guess it’s really important to also reflect on the fact that it’s not a one off: it’s not a COVID thing. Like, migrants are housed in terrible conditions. They were housed in terrible conditions before COVID and they’ll probably continue to be housed in terrible conditions as we start to transition out of like, out of COVID times regardless of how true that is. Because there’s a lot of virus around. SAVAN You’re absolutely right, you point out a very, very good point. You know, the housing was terrible. Always been terrible. Because Because always been in the hands of private companies and private companies always focus on one thing, which is profit. SAMI Yeah. I think, and I think even when even when it’s been state run, like it’s like the thing I think of often is like prisons, as I think people talk about with prisons. Like obviously, there’s, there’s an element of prisons and detention, which is like when prisons are run for private profit, then that can be a thing that is really, like exacerbating like really making worse some of the really horrific elements of prison, but then even when they’re run by the state it’s still terrible, like it’s still a prison. And so like, and I think that’s often the case with like, migrant accommodation as well, like, even when it’s run by the state it’s still often really bad. Like I think of people struggles that I see, people who are like friends, friends of friends in the area that I live. SAVAN Sami I mean, I would say I would say I would add one more thing to that so, the you know, the prison kind of thing. So the prison example, if it was run by a profit, a private company, and versus run by government, so we can give we can have two example. One of the examples is Serco running a prison in Scotland in HMP Kilmallock. So this prison, so how do you have a perfect service by giving those people who provide the service good wage and respect and you know, they’re working 40, 40 hours per week? I know our situation is not prison, but: 40 hours per week they get 18,000 per year so basically nine pounds per hour and become a prisoner of 7,12 hours they all shut it in. Obviously they don’t have that, you know they’re all depressed and they’re all like thinking about their life; they’ve been thinking about the wage of this is wage I’m getting you know, it’s not worth it. So obviously they’re not they’re not do their best, you know, to rehabilitate our prisons and stuff like that. But versus that we have, we have prison run by government, we have Netherland we have we in Netherland we have a prison there. And one can say I wish to live in that prison because it’s run by government, it’s very nice and calm and they actually rehabilitate people. So the situation with obviously in the UK it’s very different. It’s a capital, it’s very capitalist in the way, like, everything’s about profit. But I wish that was government, you know, UK government was running all of this kind of stuff, prisons, housing, accommodation, and all that stuff. Because it’s all subcontract. They give a billion pound to me, here’s Mears going looking for cheaper, and that company looking for cheaper, and then you get the cheapest quality. That’s the problem with that. SAMI Yeah, 100%. And I think we can, I’ll try and not sidetrack us into a big conversation around, like, prisons and rehabilitation and all this kind of stuff. Because I think we could get sidetracked for ages. Yeah, but i think that, i think the point that you make is a really good one around like that what, like what, what often matters, and what can be a real site of struggle is like, is the conditions regardless of what causes them, right? Like the, the point is that conditions are really bad, and like that is the site of struggle. And let’s maybe let’s park that one and come back to it maybe later. And I think there’s another question that we wanted to ask you, a little bit of a tangent, is: How do you like live the values of No Evictions network in whatever sense, you’ve got them in the outward facing work that you do, like what do you do to put your values into practice? SAVAN So it was a good question and it’s all are good questions. And so what we do, basically we’re raising awareness in the communities and basic, but we raise awareness around ourself as well. So we refresh ourselves, what we stand for, and what we against what we stand for, and why we against those things. For example, in any meeting, we go, the first thing we do: reading, reading out a statement, and in that statement we’re talking about equality, sorry, we’re talking about equality, we’re talking about respect, we’re talking about, you know, all of these kind of virtues. So what we do, we refresh ourselves all the time, it doesn’t mean all of all of us, all of us always, you know, practice the, you know, as best as possible. But we try as best as possible to be as respectful as possible. And we try to reflect on our works and with our colleagues, and also with those people we approach. So, I know I’ve got 10 minutes to talk about that. So I couldn’t say, I can I can give you one, one thing about it. So obviously, this group, we have seen value, that’s why we all came together. So it reminds me something of Aristotle saying, When you have a good virtue, which is, one with a good virtue, you will always do good. So we hopefully what we do, and he says regardless, he says, Regardless where they go, and regardless what they do, regardless, when they do, they always do good, because they have good virtue. So people with good virtue, I hope we are one of them. So we try to reflect to our colleagues and to our friends as much as possible. SAMI Great, thank you. I think that’s a very fair point. That’s a very concise answer in terms of the question, so thank you for that. And Katherine. KATHERINE Yeah, so I feel like because you’ve named so many of the amazing campaigns that you’re working on and a lot of different kinds of actions that you’re you’re doing and have done over the last while, some of our listeners might be wanting to know how they could get involved with No Evictions Network and I was just wondering if you could share with us how people might be able to join you or work with you if they wanted to? SAVAN Of course though, that’s a great chance to asking people to join us. They can join us through our social media. Our Twitter is NoEvictionsNetwork and our Facebook is No Evictions Network Glasgow – I don’t use Facebook but I’m sure that’s what it is. And it’s the same for Instagram. And we’ve got phone numbers on our website as well: just write down No Evictions Glasgow you’ll see our website and there’s phone number there, there’s detail that you can you can get in touch with us obviously. We are very, very happy you know, to expand our our group as much as possible, and we love to hear from anyone who’ve got the same virtues. KATHERINE That’s great, thank you and we can share in the show notes, the links to the Twitter and the website and their social media. So thanks so much. ALI Thanks once again to Savan from No Evictions Network for being on this episode. As already mentioned, you can follow them on Twitter and Instagram they are @no_evictions. And their Facebook page is Glasgow No Evictions Campaign. As always, thanks to Klaus and Kareem Samara for letting us use their music for backing tracks. And if you want to find out more about Resist + Renew, you can also follow us on socials. Our website is Resist Renew calm where you can find the transcripts for all the episodes. And we also have a Patreon, so if you want to support them production of this podcast and future episodes, please consider giving there. Thanks so much for listening and see you next time.
27 minutes | Nov 27, 2021
Toolbox: Unhelpful frames about conflict
We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there's always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Season 2 episode 3 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we talk about some unhelpful frames* that come up when we think about conflict. 'Conflict may not be the choice of how you’d choose to improve relationships, but given the conflict will happen... play the hand you’re dealt' 'We need to be in it with each other, which makes the conflict worth it' * We give examples of different “frames” in this episode, but don’t define the term “frame” (for shame!). To plug that gap: A frame is a lens you look through to see the world. When looking at conflict through the frame of essentialism, you will see people who do bad things as inherently bad people. Frames will always highlight some things (‘they did something I didn’t like, so they must be a bad person’) and hide others (e.g. questioning what could have led them to act the way they did). No frame is an accurate summary of the world. To adapt a phrase we’ve alluded to before, “all frames are wrong but some are useful”. A few other ways of thinking about it: “mental structures that shape the way we see the world” (George Lakoff) “The frame around a painting or photo can be thought of as a boundary between what has been left in and what has been left out. Each of the elements placed inside the frame is significant, and makes a difference to the meaning of the piece.” (Common Cause) Show notes, links A very condensed summary of what we talked about: How we think and feel about conflict is shaped by our histories, our society, our traditions People often don’t consciously know what these ‘norms’ around conflict are, though they can affect how we act, how we approach conflict -- and as they sometimes make us act out of line with our values And the zine that was mentioned was "You can't blow up a social relationship". Perennial resources: our sister facilitation collective Navigate have a conflict facilitation booklet (from back when they were called Seeds For Change Oxford). See our "What is facilitation?" podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. Transcript ALI This is Resist + Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we're fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I'm recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it's a podcast! KATHERINE Welcome to the second episode of the Resist+Renew Season Two toolbox. Last time we talked about conflict in general, we talked about how we three feel about it: as facilitators, as people in groups, as people. We talked a bit about what we're going to cover in the toolbox this season. And we also had some introduction to what we mean by conflict, and and some of the ideas that we're, sort of, using throughout this toolkit to shape our thinking. In this episode, we're gonna do a deeper dive here on ideas that people often have about conflict, and why they might not be so great. Sami, do you wanna tell us more about that? SAMI Sure, yeah. So I guess, maybe we can start by just, like, putting forward some like, axioms or assumptions, I guess, about, like, conflict and our thoughts around it, just to make sure we're all starting from the same page. So one is that like, and we touched on this a lot in the last chat, like how we think and feel about conflict is shaped by our histories, the society we live in, cultures, internal norms, assumptions, all these kinds of things. Like, there's a hodgepodge of different different things that go into that mix of how we think about conflicts and how we interact with conflict. And what that means in practice, is that the ways in which we interact with conflict will be like shaped by a lot of that stuff, but,
40 minutes | Nov 20, 2021
Join a grassroots union! (Henry from IWGB)
We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there's always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Season 2 episode 2 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we interview Henry Chango Lopez from the Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain. “In our union, the cleaner gets the same as the general secretary, in terms of being paid an hour...We pay £3 more than the London Living Wage, for instance, and the cleaner is paid the same” - Henry Show notes, links IWGB website, Twitter and Instagram. A few extra links: A podcast from Pluto Press where Henry is interviewed alongside two authors on labour, Eve Livingston and Jane Hardy Solidarity Squad -- a new scheme from IWGB where friends and allies can provide material support for IWGB branches List of IWGB branches: Charity Workers, Cleaners and Facilities, Couriers and Logistics, Cycling instructors, Foster care workers, Game workers, Nannies and au pairs, Security and receptionists, United private hire drivers, Universities of London, Yoga teachers. And there’s a general members branch if none of these apply to you! Transcript ALI This is Resist + Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we're fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I'm recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it's a podcast! ALI Okay, welcome back to the Resist and Renew podcast. Today we are going to be talking to Henry Chango Lopez, who is from the IWGB. So a little bit about Henry and the IWGB. Henry is the General Secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain. The IWGB is a union that represents and supports some of the most marginalised workers in Britain. The union focuses on outsourcing, the gig economy, and other areas where precarity, low pay and exploitation are the norm. Henry has been closely involved with the union since the early days and previously worked as an outsourced porter at the University of London, where he was involved in high profile campaigns. Henry has years of experience in organising, listening to the experiences of workers in precarious positions, and advising them and what avenues are open to them. Thanks so much for joining us, Henry. HENRY Thank you. Thank you for inviting me. ALI Great to have you here. We'd love to just get started by getting a bit of your understanding as to like what is the current political context that you're organising in right now? How do you see the situation, I guess, for workers right now in Britain? Yeah, I mean, the situation at the moment is, is very difficult for workers, especially in regards to what has been happening during the pandemic, with with employers taking advantage of the pandemic, in order to worsen the condition of workers. And before the pandemic started, we already were fighting the pandemic as a union, which is exploitation in the, in the UK. And this obviously has made the situation worse because workers have gone through a very difficult situation in our union. We represent low paid workers, migrant workers, workers without workers' rights, and also workers who are in a difficult situation, and have been put in a difficult situation during the pandemic. Because of the sectors that they work in, the sectors that we organise as a union, like cleaners, like security guards, like couriers, private hire drivers, foster carers and other workers that we represent as a union. And most of them are, have gone through very difficult situations in terms of health and safety. For instance, during COVID, we have had to even take the government to court in order to improve the health and safety in the UK. And we've been successful in that regard. But yeah, we've been basically challenging many employers who have been over exploited workers. ALI
29 minutes | Nov 13, 2021
Toolbox: Understanding conflict
We now have a Patreon! Please help keep the podcast going, at patreon.com/resistrenew. If not, there's always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Season 2 episode 1 of the Resist + Renew podcast (we're back!). In this one, we go over what we think conflict is, why we're focusing on it, and some ways to understand it. 'Conflict is both the spark, the fight, the loud things, the incidents which you notice above the water, but it's also the things that have been going on under the water' Show notes, links Our sister facilitation collective Navigate have a conflict facilitation booklet (from back when they were called Seeds For Change Oxford). As we only briefly touched on the idea of "cancel culture", check out this longer ep from You're Wrong About getting into more depth. See our "What is facilitation?" podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. And finally, a visual representation of different types of conflict (designed for a therapy context, but still relevant) Transcript ALI This is Resist + Renew, KATHERINE the UK based podcast about social movements, SAMI what we're fighting for, why and how it all happens. ALI The hosts of the show are KATHERINE Me, Kat. SAMI Me, Sami, ALI and me, Ali. SAMI I'm recording this now, baby! ALI Shit, it's a podcast! ALI It's the toolbox again. And as we said, in our teaser, we are gonna do a theme for the whole of the toolbox. And that is conflict. So, in this episode, we are going to talk about framings to help understand conflict. We're going to share our aims of this toolbox for the season, why we're focusing on conflict, how we feel about it, and then we're going to share some frameworks that we find helpful to understanding conflict, and that will shape a lot of the other episodes which are coming up. And we'll, we'll come back and reference those. But Sami, do you want to start us off by giving us a bit of a framing as to like, What even is conflict? SAMI Yeah, we’re, I thought this would be a good thing to start with. I just, I have a memory of a session. Like a training for trainers thing that I attended once, where there was a session on, like, managing conflict, conflict resolution; and someone maybe got 10 minutes in looking really confused. She was like a woman from the Balkans and was like, ‘Why are you talking about just like arguing with each other in like a conflict resolution session?’ Because she thought of it in like a statecraft kind of way. So that, to be clear, that's not what we mean, we're not talking about like wars. And there's a, there's a description of conflict. And that comes from a person called adrienne maree brown, she’slike a writer, amongst many other things, and facilitator. And, and I think it's quite just like a helpful summary of what conflict is, which is disagreement, difference or argument between people. And, and so when we talk about conflict over the course of this toolbox, that's broadly what we're going to be referring to. So, like, more the like interpersonal, like kind of beef-within-a-group type stuff, less the like, society to war, nation state to nation state, kind of deal. And so probably makes sense for us to start by talking about, like, why we thought this was a good idea for a podcast. Who would like to start? KATHERINE I can start. And so I am interested in conflict, mainly because I'm quite scared of it. And I find it difficult, I avoid it quite a lot. And I guess recently have been noticing that I also name things that are difficult in groups, which means maybe I'm more likely to invite conflict, even if once it arrives, I don't want to deal with it. Um, so I'm kind of interested to understand a bit more about like, how do I deal with it once I've named it? But I guess also sensing into, like, my own conflict avoidance. It's something I see quite a lot in groups that we work with as facilitators: people not wanting...
3 minutes | Oct 30, 2021
Season 2 is coming…
Episode 15 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we bring a little teaser for season 2. This season, we have a Patreon (patreon.com/ResistRenew) if you want to help support us in our podcasting and wider facilitation work. If not, there's always the classic ways to support: like, share, and subscribe! Transcript SAMI Okay, so Hello, everybody, we're back, because we've decided that we're going to do another season of the podcast. (Yay!) Round of applause for everybody. So: season two, weekly thought it was a good idea to do more, what are we going to be doing? KATHERINE So like last time, we're going to do some interviews with some great grassroots groups based here in the UK, and some of the groups we're going to be speaking to are: Youth For Climate, based in Leeds, No More Exclusions, the Independent Workers of Great Britain, Decriminalise Futures, and the No Evictions Network. And, alongside these interviews, we're also going to be doing the Toolbox. Ali, do you want to tell us a little bit about that? ALI Yeah. So, if you listened last time, our Toolbox is like 15 (maybe a bit longer, 20 minutes, this time) shorter episodes about facilitation tools, and we kind of just had a bunch of random tools that we liked last time. This time, we have a theme running through it, which is: conflict. And we're grimacing at the thought of it now some of us. Yeah, it's just going to look at some of the: why it happens, some of the frames and maybe some tools as to what to do about it as well. But we'll get into that shortly. SAMI Hmm. And another difference? Oh, before I get to the difference, one thing to say is, so we listed some of the grassroots groups we're talking to, we may talk to other groups that we don't include in that list. We haven't mentioned them now, because we're still finalising some things. So, that's some dynamism right there. Keeping you on your toes. But also a difference is: we have a Patreon this season. ALI Money, money, money! SAMI [Sings] Money, money, money, money: MONEY! So we're not doing this for the cash. And so because of that, there's no requirement that you pay us anything to be able to listen to the episodes, all the episodes will still be in all the places where you listen to podcasts. But we are doing it so that if you are having such a great time, you would love to just open your wallet and throw some cash at us, we will give you a mechanism where you can do that. It will be patreon.com/ResistRenew. And we probably aren't going to release any super great secret content through it because we've had a thought about some super great secret content, we could release through it and we didn't think of any ideas; but we'll probably I don't know, maybe we'll chat to you on there? Give you some goss, some behind the scenes stuff. Who knows? Who knows, but probably nothing super valuable. So don't, don't sign up under those pretensions. If you want to just listen to the podcast, you can just listen to it. If you want to throw cash at us? patreon.com/ResistRenew. Ali! No? Katherine? Katherine go on you started talking go, do it. KATHERINE Yeah, I just wanted to let people know if you weren't aware last time that we have transcripts of all of the recordings that we do in the show notes. So if you want to read along, you're very welcome to do that. And and also this time particularly it's worth checking out the show notes for the toolbox because we're going to be sharing additional resources about conflict and conflict facilitation. And so definitely worth checking out those this time. ALI Amazing! Go back! KATHERINE The end! [laughs] SAMI The end, stylish intro, small teaser. Done. ALI Great. KATHERINE Great.
55 minutes | Feb 27, 2021
Living healing justice (Farzana from Healing Justice Ldn)
This is the final episode of season 1! We can only do a season 2 / iterate and improve this with your feedback: so please, let us know how you've found this season using our super-quick feedback form. Episode 14 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we interview Farzana from Healing Justice Ldn. “And at some point, it stops being about recovering yourself, and it becomes about uncovering who you've always been, and it's the uncovering, and then expansion that is super, super delicious.” - Farzana Show notes, links Healing Justice London website, Twitter and Instagram. And a few things mentioned in the episode: Loss and Grief: a litany for survival (a research project on loss and bereavement within marginalised communities) Voices That Shake: Bringing together young people, artists & campaigners to develop creative responses to social injustice INCITE: a network of radical feminists of color organizing to end state violence and violence in our homes and communities Lumos Transforms Molly Boeder Harris from Breathe Network (a network that connects survivors of sexual violence with healing arts practitioners for trauma-informed, holistic support) Transcript Ali: This is Resist + Renew. Kat: A UK-based podcast about social movements. Sami: What we're fighting for, why, and how it all happens. Ali: The hosts of the show are: Kat: Me, Kat, Sami: Me, Sami, Ali: and me, Ali, Sami: I'm recording this now baby Ali: Shit it's a podcast. *Laughter* Ali: Hey, everyone. Thanks for joining us again for this episode of the Resist+Renew podcast. And before we go ahead and pass to Katherine, who's gonna introduce this week's guest, just wanted to say a couple of things about this being our final episode of season one. So as we mentioned last week, we have some thoughts and ideas around doing a season two at some point. But we'd love to get some feedback in the meantime about what's been working and what you'd like to see more of what you'd like to see less of. So if you are up for that we have a Google Form, which we're putting with the show notes, and also sharing on social media. So if anyone wants to let us know what, yeah, what your thoughts are, that would be really great, and really appreciated, and help us think about future episodes. Ali: One other thing to say about this episode is that during the editing process, a couple of the segments asked to be changed by our guest. And we're really happy to do that. But it just means the audio quality is a bit different, as these were voice notes sent to us later on. So a little bit of a warning about audio quality, but stick with it because there are gems in there. Over to Katherine. Kat: Right. Okay, so, welcome to the Resist + Renew podcast, and we're joined by Farzana Khan. Welcome. It's really great to have you. And because great and Farzana is the executive director and co founder of Healing Justice London. Her practice works on building community health repair and self transformation rooted in Disability Justice, survivor work and trauma informed practice working with communities of colour and other marginalised and underrepresented groups. We're so glad you're here. Thank you for joining us. Katherine: So the first question, and that we'd love to ask you is to just invite you to share a little bit about the context that you're organising in Farzana: the context. So I guess that's like, the political reality and the social reality. I think we are living in a world that is chronically unsustainable, and has been designed to be so it brutalises our bodies, all our bodies, but particularly those that are authorised on racialized class gendered ableist sexist lens. And so I guess that's the context in which I am organising is how do we, within the real limits and confines of these social constructs that we are forced to live in, but also live the cumulative impacts of everyday and reproduce?
22 minutes | Feb 20, 2021
Toolbox: Temperature checks
We are nearing the end of season 1, so please, let us know how you've found this season using our super-quick feedback form. Episode 13* of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we feel the heat of temperature checks: what they bring, issues and benefits. (* the observant amongst you will spot that this episode was meant to be number 14: we did some last-minute rearranging of the season. Please bear with us!) 'A temperature check can visiblise polarisation in the room' - Ali Show notes, links The perenially-useful Seeds for Change have a description of temperature checks on their tools page. Ali also mentioned the work that Navigate do around convergent facilitation. See our "What is facilitation?" podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. Transcript Ali: This is Resist + Renew. Kat: A UK-based podcast about social movements Sami: What we’re fighting for, why and how it all happens. Ali: The host of the show are: Kat: Me Kat Sami: Er, me, Sami, Ali: and me, Ali. Sami: I'm recording us now, baby. Ali: Shit, it's a podcast! Laughter Ali: Helloooo. And welcome back to the Resist + Renew podcast. This is another episode of the toolbox. We've switched the order around just now, so this is the second to last episode we have for the season. And before we jump in to the episode itself, just wanted to say a little bit about the end of this season. We've enjoyed it a lot -- recording, interviewing people, chatting through stuff about facilitation tools. And it's been really nice to hear some feedback informally via social media and through friends, about how it's been going. We have some intentions and plans to carry on and do a season 2. But before we do that, we would really like to hear a bit more structuredly from people who have been listening. So it'd be great if you could fill in a little Google form we made, and give us some feedback about what you liked, what you didn't like so much, what you want to hear more of, what you want to hear less chat about, and that will help us to make season 2 even better when we come around to do that. So there will be a link on the website page for this episode, and also we'll put it out on social media. So if you're up for that, that'd be amazing. And maybe some of you would like to chat to us more and have some kind of 1 on 1, or focus group type thing. We haven't figured it out yet, but if you're up for that, let us know on the form. So... today's episode is a toolbox episode, and it is about temperature checks. So, Sami, would you like to kick us off and tell us what they are? Sami: I would love to. So, temperature checks are a tool that is used by facilitators to kind of get some kind of often visual representation of how people are feeling about something. And so often it's based around some kind of question. And, and they're generally used as a tool to gauge whether people so like a classic example is if people want to like do people want to continue talking about something or do people feel happy to like move into a decision making kind of conversation from a discussing conversation would be the kind of example of where you use a temperature check. And they can there's like, kind of more discreet, kind of like, yes, no versions of temperature chips, but often temperature checks are quite continuous. So, it'd be like, one would be, you'd like stand somewhere in a room based on how you feel about something which is getting a bit more spectrum liney, which we'll find out about. spectrum line chat. And sometimes it'll be more like kind of hands up hands down, or like hands kind of in the middle if you feel kind of middling about something. And, and often as a tool they use to kind of make visible similar to spectrum lines, whether there is agreement about something or not. And, and there's kind of a bit of a crossover between temperature checks and voting. And I guess some of the key differences are temperature checks,
14 minutes | Feb 13, 2021
Toolbox: Spectrum lines
Episode 12 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we lay down some spectrum lines: what they bring, issues and benefits. 'What's really valuable about them is their way of drawing out and making visible polarity' - Sami Show notes, links The perenially-useful Seeds for Change have a description of spectrum lines on their tools page. Training For Change have a video 10 Ways to Use A Spectogram Online. ("spectrogram" is another term for "spectrum line"), which includes a how-to guide for making your own spectrum line slides in Google Slides. See our "What is facilitation?" podcast episode page for more general facilitation resources. Transcript Ali: This is Resist + Renew. Kat: A UK-based podcast about social movements. Sami: What we're fighting for, why, and how it all happens. Ali: The hosts of the show are: Kat: Me Kat, Sami: Me, Sami, Ali: and me, Ali, Sami: I'm recording this now baby Ali: Shit it's a podcast. *Laughter* Sami: Hi, everybody, and welcome back to the Toolbox. So today we are talking about spectrum lines. The reason I'm doing the introduction is because spectrum lines, I have decided, are my favourite facilitation tool. And what they are, is it's a tool used to kind of show a spectrum or a continuum of positions on a thing, often they're framed around a question. And which you can sometimes it will be like, often the IRL version will be like two ends of a room. So it will be go towards this end of the room if you feel this way about something and go to the other side of the room if you feel the opposite way about something. And so could be like how much you agree with a question. And then like from not at all to loads. That's a classic spectrum line. And, and online equivalent versions that people do are things for example, where they'll like put a little line on like a slide tool that everyone can edit. And then everyone like put a dot somewhere on the line, things like that. So that's what it is. And and very quickly. So what it's good for generally, it's a it's used as a thing where you can kind of it's used as a tool to highlight differences in response to something that's a very broad answer. Maybe Ali, if you can give a specific example. Yeah, let's make that concrete. Ali: Let's make it concrete. Okay, so sometimes I run workshops on things around sci fi, and like utopia and dystopia. And I've used spectrum lines in the beginning of those kind of workshops, asking kind of questions like that one in the room would be I think the world is getting better. And at the other end of the room, I'd have I think the world is getting worse. And people stand on the line in that position. And I think it's, it's, yeah, I've enjoyed doing these spectrum lines, because it draws out like a whole range of opinions and perspectives around the world, like, how can anyone objectively say which it is like it's too difficult, you can always draw examples of things which are good in the world. And you can always try examples of bad things that are bad in the world. And I find that optimists and pessimists struggle to talk to each other, like they're so wrapped up in their particular worldview. But like with this spectrum line, I found that it was like, a powerful and quite emotional way of getting those people to talk to each other and see, like, the complexity and the ‘both and’ in that situation. So it is really shift in some places and certain situations. And it is really amazing in certain situations, and often in the same place, it can be both things. And I think that's a cool tool to bring that out and have those conversations and hear each other. Sami: And I think as a facilitator, a reason that they're often very useful as a tool is, so you can easily get a read of a room around a specific question. So often when I feel like when I use them, I use them quite near the start of a workshop, especially if it's an open workshop for a group of people, I don't know.
54 minutes | Feb 6, 2021
Decolonising local organising (Rabab from Gentle/Radical)
Episode 11 of the Resist + Renew podcast, where we interview Rabab from Gentle/Radical. We couldn't pick one pull quote, so here are two! "Conversation and dialogue is probably the bedrock of how I understand the work, how I understand organising, how I understand cultural work" - Rabab and "Cultural praxis, for me, has to embody our principles that we must do more than just talk about stuff and make it look good and sound good" - Rabab Show notes, links Gentle/Radical website, Twitter and Instagram. The project mentioned towards the end of the episode was Doorstep Revolution. And a few things mentioned in the episode: The Out of the Spiritual Closet report, by Movement Strategy Centre. Audre Lorde Emergent Strategy, by adrienne marie brown Transcript Ali: This is Resist + Renew. Kat: A UK-based podcast about social movements. Sami: What we're fighting for, why, and how it all happens. Ali: The hosts of the show are: Kat: Me Kat, Sami: Me, Sami, Ali: and me, Ali, Sami: I'm recording this now baby Ali: Shit it's a podcast. *Laughter* Kat: Welcome to the Resist and Renew podcast. And today we're really excited to have Rabab Ghazoul talking to us from Gentle Radical. And welcome Rabab. Rabab: Thanks. Hi. Kat: And so just to give you a little bit of an introduction before we dive into the questions, Rabab Ghazou is a socially engaged visual artist, activist and founder director of Cardiff based organisation, Gentle Radical, centering, social justice, healing, justice, decolonial practice and non extractivist engagement, Gentle Radicall work to curate collaborate and build projects that seek to make the marginal our mainstream, born in Mosul, Iraq, living permanently in the UK, from the age of 10. And in Wales for the last 27 years, Rabab is deeply engaged in ideas of place, colonial coloniality, connectivity and the disporic experience. So glad to have you here revived. That's great. And so yeah, the first question, can you tell us a little bit about the context that you're organising in and why you choose to do the work that you're doing? Rabab: Yeah, I can. First of all, thank you so much for having me. It's really great to be with you both. So yeah, I, I suppose we are organising, Gentle Radical is based in Cardiff, and I've been in Cardiff since 1993. I came to Wales as a student, actually. And I stayed. And I think that happens for a lot of people that come here, and then they, they sort of end up a lot of people end up in Cardiff. And so on a personal level, just, I suppose before I talk about maybe, how we're organising why we're organising here and why I choose to continue being here. I think I almost came here by default. So I was in Aberystwyth as a student, as an undergrad and then moved to Cardiff to work in the arts or to start trying to work in the arts. And I ended up sort of staying like a lot of people. But I think at a certain point, I had a real realisation or a kind of recognition in myself that I was consciously making a choice to stay in Wales. And I realised that was because there was a certain consciousness around the colonial that I felt was deeper, more alive. Of course, it would be as because of Wales’ own history and experience of colonialism for the last well, it's it's, it's England's first colony. And so I felt that as someone who is someone who's living out of a diasporic experience, or someone who, whose homeland is not easy to get back to who in many ways, I've not been, apart from a moment in 2016, I hadn't been back to Iraq since I was 10. So there's so much bound up in those, those dislocations, those disconnections, that the sense of the losses that you're constantly sort of navigating and negotiating. And the and I suppose the, the new places, the new spaces, the new person you become the person you have become the person you've been evolving into is, I felt somehow that alongside my interest in the work and the interest ...