Spokescouncils – learning from Stop New Nukes: Part 2

I was back at Hinkley power station this weekend for the Fukushima anniversary action. Actions at Hinkley have a new poignancy – the site for the new and much bigger Hinkley C reactor has now been cleared, despite valiant efforts to hinder it (a tree-sit and occupation of some farm buildings), and G4S security guards are everywhere.

Once again my role was that of spokescouncil facilitator. But whereas last time we had several days at a pre-action camp to help people get used to the idea of affinity groups and consensus, and in particular spokescouncils, this action had no such preamble. All spokescouncils were held in the immediate vicinity of the station and mid-action.

Over the course of 24 hours we held 3 meetings, all of them spokes-only meetings, so as not to distract people from the blockade itself.

  • The first to check in, share information and respond to anything that might arise from the group.
  • The second to plan the transition from the big ‘surround the station’ action to the more contentious blockade. Ingeniously, the group decided to solve the problem by moving the meeting into the roadway, thus the meeting became the blockade, and runners were sent out to tell others that the blockade had begun.
  • The third to check out how much energy the group had for maintaining the blockade after a cold and (for many) sleepless night and decide on an end time and process.

I don’t want to repeat the learning from previous involvement in this campaign. If you want that, have a glance at the previous post. But I thought I’d update you with what’s working well and less well (in my opinion, of course) in the world of spokescouncil consensus, Stop New Nuclear style

Working well?

  • I continue to be impressed at the willingness to co-operate within meetings. It felt like we were doing at least half decent consensus in a disparate group of people whose only connection was the choice to take part in a particular action. None of the posturing and positioning that I’ve witnessed elsewhere. And all this with a short introduction to the mindset needed for consensus, to hand signals and to spokescouncils at the start of each meeting.
  • The short intro, and the action setting mean that the group is starting the consensus process without necessarily being aware of where it’s taking them. I’ve been introducing each step of the process as the meeting unfolds (“lets hear a few perspectives?”… “any more perspectives that we need to hear?”…. “can anyone see a way forward that brings together what we’ve heard so far”… “any major objections to what we’re hearing”… and so on). It’s a potentially risky strategy, but one that’s working at the moment.

And less well?

  • The lack of a pre-action camp meant that not everything I’d hoped we could do to improve awareness of spokescouncils was able to take place – induction meetings and workshops, a flier handed out at the welcome tent, and so forth.
  • I probably should have taken a deep breath and done a formal intro to the whole group over the PA system since one was available. Partly this was an aversion to public speaking, and partly deference to those who had come to speak and whose words seemed so much more necessary than mine – for example the young Japanese couple who shared their personal story of the impact of the Fukushima disaster.
  • If spokescouncils are an affinity group tool, then we’re not really doing spokescouncils at all! Many, possibly most, of the people present were not in affinity groups. Some were in looser group formation (a few mates, the folk they traveled with on the coach…). Others were there as individuals. Whilst the spokescouncils did attract people from the looser groups, many of the individuals were essentially not represented. As I see it this will continue to be the case until we succeed in encouraging greater take-up of the affinity group model, or start  having fishbowl-format spokescouncils. At these latter meetings it’s easy enough to cluster individuals into ad hoc groups and invite them to select a spoke.

For all of these failings, in the relatively small confines of this action (the blockade focused on one gate only), and in the relaxed atmosphere of the action (once again the police took a laissez-faire approach), the meetings are working. Decisions are being networked out to the wider crowd, and I saw no signs of them being ignored. When there’s more than one physical location, and tougher policing? Then we’ll need the discipline of affinity groups and more experience in consensus. But we have a little time….

This is where the battle to stop a new generation of nuclear power stations will be won or lost

The campaign against the building of Hinkley C nuclear power station is hotting up. Campaigners have occupied land that’s due to be cleared for the new site. The campaign is about far more than the building of one new generation nuclear power station. To quote the short video below “This is where the battle to stop a new generation of nuclear power stations will be won or lost”.

 

Five go blockading

with apologies to Mike Noble

Stop New Nuclear have an ambitious plan to surround the Hinkley nuclear Power station and then blockade the gates in a 24 hour action to mark the anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident on 10th and 11th March. They’re asking us all to be there and pledge to bring 5 friends. Here’s a snippet of what they’re saying:

In 2010, dozens of us blockaded the gates at Hinkley. In 2011 hundreds of us blockaded the entrance again. In 2012, thousands of us will surround the power station to say No to new nuclear! Not here, not anywhere!

In October 2011, people pledged to blockade. This time, pledge to bring 5 friends and tell them to do the same. Thousands are needed to surround the station!

Now, Rhizome folk will be there as spokescouncil facilitators rather than blockaders. So it seemed like we should do our bit to bring 5 friends of Rhizome (yes, that’s you!) to the blockade…

…Never done it before? There are trainings running in advance… Not sure about the issue? Read the Stop New Nuclear website… Can’t be there but want to support it? Sample training agendas are available if you want to contact Stop New Nuclear and offer to facilitate a training. I’m sure other offers of help would also be appreciated. See you there.

On the 10th-11th March 2012, one year since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began, we will return to Hinkley to form a human chain around the station to show our determined opposition to new nuclear.

In 2010, dozens of us blockaded the gates at Hinkley. In 2011 hundreds of us blockaded the entrance again. In 2012, thousands of us will surround the power station to say No to new nuclear! Not here, not anywhere!

In October 2011, people pledged to blockade. This time, pledge to bring 5 friends and tell them to do the same. Thousands are needed to surround the station!