Anti-oppression work plays a crucial part in the struggle for social, environmental and economic justice. A long history of systemic and structural oppression has led to diverse experiences of opportunity and privilege, and multiple forms of injustice. Anti-oppression work seeks to bring equity to these multiple injustices, by actively challenging the status quo, and the oppressive power relations entangled within them.
It is important to acknowledge that many of these oppressions and injustices are replicated within our social movements, and that those who are the most impacted, socially disempowered or marginalised are often the least represented or heard. Unless we are willing to challenge our own systems and structures, we are likely to be perpetuating cycles of oppression, albeit unintentionally. This work is not easy and can be emotionally challenging, and the complex and intersectional nature of systemic oppression compounds those challenges.
Ulex Project’s work aims to support social and environmental movements to create regenerative cultures and bring about deep and radical change in the world. So it’s important that addressing the core issues of current systemic injustices remains a key part of our work and the training we provide. The work of creating a more just society also needs to happen at home, and so we recognise the importance of applying this thinking to the way we function as an organisation and in the culture we create as a team.
This document is a statement of our commitment to anti-oppression work and outlines some of the ways we approach this in practice. In the interest of reflective growth, we have also identified ways and areas in which we think we could still do better.
We understand that anti-oppression is an ongoing practice, and we are committed to continuous learning and deepening of practice. We want to be held accountable to our commitment, and to continue developing our anti-oppression practices as we evolve as an organisation. We recognise that being accountable for our fallibility is an important part of the learning process, and to this end we are committed to staying open and being responsive to feedback.
We realise that it’s an important practice to own our mistakes with humility, so that we can continue to reflect and evolve, and truly enable the kind of systemic change we are working hard to support. With this in mind, we’re highlighting some of the existing limitations of the project and some of the ways we haven’t always got it right.
Firstly, we recognise that Ulex trainings are inaccessible in a variety of ways:
The length and format of some of the courses we host might create limitations of access for people who take care of dependent others, are in precarious economic situations, are neurodiverse or are dealing with chronic illnesses.
The location and physical spaces of our two training centres also create barriers to accessibility for those with various levels of physical abilities, and those who are not able to travel for various other reasons.
Most of our training courses are held in English, and so have only been accessible to those who already have a high degree of fluency in English.
Historically, many of our networks were connected to western European movements that focussed more on environmental issues and less so on issues of race, class and gender identity. This has been reflected in the demographic of participants on many of our courses – being more white and less diverse in various ways. We have worked hard to address this and make our courses more widely accessible to a more diverse base of participants, however, we recognise that there is still a lot of scope for improvement.
We acknowledge that the range of lived experiences or identities of the training teams facilitating our courses isn’t always as broad as that of the groups they are training. We also recognise that there has been scope for improving anti-oppression skills amongst some of our trainers. At times, we haven’t been able to create as much safety on our courses as we would have liked for participants who already experience marginalisation and oppression within society, which has on occasion been experienced as harmful.
We are working to address some of these limitations, and making an effort to ensure our work is made available more widely than just the courses we host, so that it can reach well beyond those who are able to come to our centres.
We want Ulex to take diverse perspectives, voices and points of view into account, especially of those that might be underrepresented in our activist communities or social movements, and disempowered in the wider social context. Having recognised the limitations of our outreach, we are aiming at improving the diversity of perspectives and experiences inside the core team, in our facilitators network and among the participants on the courses. We have used positive discrimination in our recruitment processes, both for our core team members, as well as for some of our course participants. We are proactively reaching out to underrepresented communities and keep a commitment to discover barriers and blind spots that might create limitations for people to engage.
We want our facilitators network not only to include diverse experiences, identities and perspectives but also to be literate in the topic of anti-oppression and creating safer spaces that are more inclusive. To ensure that it is happening we ask all our facilitators to use our Anti-oppression Toolkit document as a guideline for best practice. Let us know, if you think it is lacking something!
We are in the process of developing ongoing, proactive anti-oppression support and accountability mechanisms for our facilitators and trainers. We are also developing an educational curriculum for our facilitators, around anti-oppression topics, that we will encourage them to engage with.
We incorporate a holistic, intersectional approach into our trainings and thinking about social change. Our trainings use a variety of methodologies and approaches to suit different learning styles and needs.
We are making efforts to be strategic about who we support with our trainings, and with whom we collaborate on our training projects. In the current political situation of the rise of the far right, one of our priorities is to support organisations and communities who are most impacted. We are proactively reaching out to LGBTQI+ communities, activists in eastern Europe, PoC communities and migrant solidarity organisations to find ways to support their struggles. To this end we have been developing programmes of training exclusively for Transgender activists and PoC activists, recognising the importance of creating spaces where people with shared lived experiences of structural oppressions can learn together more safely, and in doing so can help build capacity for leadership amongst these marginalised groups.
We are aware that activist spaces and social movements are often based on and amplify perspectives of those who hold a lot of privilege – white, able-bodied, middle-class westerners. We are committed to changing this, visibilising and incorporating views, methodologies and perspectives of those who are silenced by systems of oppressions.
We do not believe that it is possible to guarantee any space is 100% safe, because existing systems of oppressions are so pervasive that the potential for unconscious bias and oppressive behaviour is always present. We do however want to keep working to ensure our courses and working environments can be safer spaces, created on the basis of respect, for people to come together and listen deeply to each other, assume positive intent and take responsibility for what they say, think and feel. We want to create space for accountability, vulnerability and transformation. We are committing to holding conflict and injustice with love and courage, supporting empowerment and visibility of those experiences that are disregarded in a capitalist, patriarchal, white supremacist and ableist society.
We want our training centres to become more physically accessible. We are working hard on generating the funding to convert one of our training centres to make that happen. You can learn more about more our centre’s location and facilities here.
The functioning of our project is based on a solidarity economy, which encourages redistribution of wealth and helps to ensure that economic precarity and background are not obstacles to participation in our courses, by securing funds to support travel costs for participants who can’t afford to travel to our training centres.
We are committed to holding ongoing reflective work as a team and a wider organisation, to support each other in better understanding and dismantling systems of oppression, including working with our own unconscious biases and power dynamics based on social privileges and lived experiences.
Finally, we have created an anti-oppression working group to monitor our development in this area, regularly dedicating their time to monitoring, visioning, researching, planning, training and creating materials on anti-oppression.
We want to stay responsive to feedback we receive around our anti-oppression practices and ensure we adjust our practices and methods accordingly. If you would like to feed something back to our anti-oppression working group, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org