Following the support we gave to Leeds Uni students at the end of last year, we were asked to facilitate a 3 hour nonviolent direct action (NVDA) workshop on Saturday, as part of a weekend of activities at Sheffield Uni. People & Planet staff were on tour supporting their university groups. Our workshop made up a part of the programme.
I think it went well, and the overall energy and ‘vibe’ from the 24 participants were good. They were engaged and threw themselves into the practical exercises with enthusiasm. And I kept it very practical with the exception of a more discursive opening activity to explore personal definitions of effective action.
I was acutely aware that some of this group have an action in mind for the not so distant future,and it seemed appropriate to ensure that they had some experience of working together behind them.
Yes we could have used more time. There are so many facets of nonviolent direct action we could have covered. I was particularly hoping to get time for a quick decision-making exercise. It’s a favourite of mine which teaches a practical skill whilst giving the group an experience which can help bring them closer and point up any group dynamics issues they need to be wary of. But what we did cover was covered in-depth. We finished with a legal rights activity which led to loads of questions. The group had plans to eat together, and the table reservation saved me (and them) from a long discussion. Sadly it also knocked my 5 minute evaluation on the head, but feedback received by email has been good.
The group was very mixed – some exploring NVDA for the first time, others already veterans of several actions. One or two had been at the Leeds workshop. It felt like a safe space for all concerned. The more experienced were both generous and supportive in sharing their experience without alienating the less experienced.
I’ve already been in touch about next steps – possible workshops with students from Leeds and Sheffield (and elsewhere?) on odds and ends we’ve not had time to cover, plus legal support and legal observing. You’ll hear about it here.