In the first part of this post fingers were compelled to keyboard by Chris Johnston’s post in which he critiqued the traditional activist meeting. He finished by promising us ideas for alternatives and has shared his thoughts in his latest post Birth of the activity meeting.
I’m more in tune with this post than his last one – it’s hard to disagree that meetings should: be activity-based; enable learning; give early responsibility; be fun and social. Chris calls these activity meetings. But I’m still a little uncomfortable with the possible interpretation that newcomers to activist meetings need a step by step introduction, hand-held all the way. See the middle step of his 3 posts Inspiration for the resurrection – it’s a fine line between peer support and coming across as paternalistic, patronising and worse.
Let me clarify…. given the choice of the way things are at the moment with your ‘average’ activist meeting, or the ideas that Chris offers, I’m sorely tempted to side with Chris. But it’s not that binary. Better agenda-based meetings are possible (paint that on your banner for the next march!). And they can be made accessible to newcomers.
Yes, have more (much more) activity in your agenda meetings. But the polarisation between the two creates a danger that we have a ‘committee’ doing the back-room drudge of agenda meeting stuff (including planning activity meetings) whilst newcomers have fantastic meetings. That way informal hierarchy and burn-out lie. So let’s take the drudge out of the agenda meetings we have whilst simultaneously organising parallel activity meetings. There’s no need to choose.
One choice is clear though, the way most activist groups currently meet has to change if we’re to encourage newcomers to join, and enable the current generation of activists to continue to make change.