The many faces of activism

I’m not long back in from facilitating a 2 hour ‘information meeting’ for the Steiner School Leicestershire Interest Group. As meetings go it was relatively straightforward – no crucial decisions to make, no deeply embedded history of conflict and so on. The group’s very recent, and I got into conversation with them about building their awareness of their group dynamic nice and early to avoid it setting in stone.There was already a high level of awareness which gives hope that this group may thrive.

One thing led to another and I volunteered to facilitate the meeting. The brief involved all the usual things about getting the task done in the allocated time (the task being giving people a chance to find out more about Steiner education, to get up to date with the project to open a Steiner school in Leicestershire, and crucially to have an opportunity to get involved). The more demanding bit was to do this without reinforcing the existing group dynamics of the project – a core group of 4 families doing all the work. But with a sincere and open approach it wasn’t that hard. The meeting went well and new volunteers came forward to offer skills, time and resources. There was also the option to make tentative offers – in other words an offer that was dependent on receiving appropriate support, mentoring and skill sharing. It would have been nice to see more offers, but as many people still haven’t decided whether the school is for them that’s not too surprising. I’ve shared some of the evaluation comments below this post.

For a moment I considered whether this was really Rhizome work, not that I don’t facilitate outside of Rhizome. No, the question was “Is it really activism?”. I think the answer has to be ‘yes’. For some of these parents it’s all about building a better world for their children. Quite literally – a creative, humane educational experience that build world-changing values and attitudes in the next generation. This, as well as having had a baby in the last year reminds me that there are so many more faces of activism than the ones many of us are familiar with. It’s not all petitions, banners, marches and ‘lock-ons‘. There are countless folk out there working away to build alternative social structures. So here’s a few to interest and inspire:

The Association of Radical Midwives is a resource to allow women (and their partners) the empowering birth that many aspire to but few get.

There’s also a growing homebirth and freebirth movement. Despite recent media campaigns here in the UK to undermine the strong reputation for the safety of homebirth.

I’ve always been inspired by the midwives of the Farm, an US commune that started out as a hippy convoy snaking its way across the USA on a journey long enough that several babies were born en route. The women of the Farm became self-taught midwives (well, with a little help from supportive doctors along the way) and have gone on to challenge a lot of current birthing assumptions, such as the need for significant medical intervention in a breech birth. This DIY approach to life has a lot in common with other elements of activism.

And of course then there’s the home education movement and the related but lesser known unschooling movement, vegan parenting and so much more.

And that’s just the early years – hundreds of people pioneering ways of living that fulfil their ideological view of the world. Activism? I think so.

Pick any other aspect of life and dig around and there will be an activist ‘scene’. You get up in the morning and there’s folk campaigning for different daylight saving hours. You eat breakfast – foodmiles, localism, organic, veganic. You go out – transport, local amenities and so on…

It’s both humbling and inspiring to think that by the time you turn on your computer (open source software, corporate domination, conflict minerals….) to start your day’s work as an activist or someone building the capacity of activists you’ve already connected with this much activism.

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5 thoughts on “The many faces of activism

  1. Completely agree! It is a massive bugbear of mine that activism is often construed as campaigning and campaigning alone. Activism is – in my book anyway – any action for a better world, and that means new forms of business, education, healthcare, construction, entertainment, art, everything.

    Campaigners tend to believe the only way you change things is through campaigning. Not only is that quite breathtakingly arrogant, the real danger is you fail to understand where your own preferred method of social change fits in with all the rest. Without this knowledge you’ll never come close to being as effective as you can be.

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  3. As promised in the body of the post, here’s a sample of the participants’ evaluation comments:
    *impressed with the enthusiasm generated by those of you who led the meeting.
    *Open, accommodating, flexible, organised
    *Excellent

    *Slightly rushed – discussion could have been shorter.
    *Some clearer roles on how people can get involved.  Hard to put your hand up
    for generic requests.
    *Small groups – in case we missed any questions/answers that other groups
    mentioned.

    And here’s some feedback from the group organisers. First a report of a conversation with a participant:
    “She’s been to a couple of our meetings before and said the one on  Saturday was by far the best. She missed the intros so didn’t know who you were and had therefore assumed throughout that you were Steiner trained and leading the meeting in that capacity. She was very impressed with the format and content and said to her partner afterwards that “if that is a ‘Steiner style’ meeting then there’s even more reason to like the philosophy’. I did explain to her who you were and she was still impressed : ) She liked the way there were lots of children around too but, because of the meeting format, it wasn’t a hindrance at all.

    Next an organiser’s own perspective
    I felt the meeting went very well and gave the impression of a serious group with a serious mission and being open to others getting involved.  I haven’t heard any negative comments at all.  With us being so involved it’s obviously hard to see it as a newcomer would see it but I’m hoping we achieved our aims.  Thanks to you Matthew the structure and facilitation of it worked well.  There’s nothing I would have changed about that. I loved how it started and ended on time, something we would have struggled to do without you. I think some people felt they missed out on what was being discussed elsewhere when we split into three groups.

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