Organising and strategizing for transformative power
This training weaves together learning from our ‘Ecology of Social Movements Training’ with modules on community/political organising and the new municipalism.
We’re living at a historical point of disruption which contains both great peril and promise. The stalled engine of neoliberal growth, bankrupted political leadership, an increasing sense of distributive injustice, and the fierce urgency of the ecological now are the cracks out of which something new can emerge.
Built around the core of our Ecology of Social Movement training, this is an opportunity for experienced activists and organisers involved in movement thinking and practice from across Europe. We’ll inquire deeply into how our organisations and networks relate to the wider ecology of activism within our movements – and how these movements relate to wider struggles in the ever changing cultural, socio-political and ecological context. Participants will engage in deep analysis of their own movement practice and ecology. They will gain skills and understanding related to contemporary practices in community and political organising, as well as current developments in municipalist organising.
Facilitated by an international team of movement organisers and thinkers, we’ll learn to make our activism and organising more powerful and transformative.
Ecology of Social Movements
This core element of the training aims to help us understand the opportunities and threats of this crucial moment and to empower our efforts to contest our future. We’ll explore the life cycle of social movements and seek to learn from social movement history. We’ll survey theories of social change, identifying tensions and complementarities. We will increase our skills in strategising, planning and working for change in the complex ecologies and systems of movements and societies. And we will ask how big picture thinking can inspire and empower our work together.
The course blends a participatory inquiry methodology with the Ulex team’s framework for strategic analysis and deeper political reflection. Participants will engage in deep analysis of their own movement practice and ecology. The training will support the development of creative and strategic responses for radical social change.
This course involves deep and critical thinking, so participants should:
We will select participants to bring together a range of people from diverse movements and across Europe to share and learn from each other.
We will explore:
Key areas of study and reflection include:
Theories of Social Change
Movement Seasons and Cycles
Planning and Strategising
We won’t just explore theories. We will also ask what we do with them – personally and collectively. This course will help us to think afresh and to gain perspective. We will explore the formation of political identities – exploring how they serve us and how they hinder us. We will ask: How can we learn to strategise in a way that acknowledges the partial and provisional nature of our views and analysis? How can we develop a strategic approach that is responsive and in which on-going learning remains integral? How can we construct political identities that are genuinely empowering? And how can we develop campaigns, organisations, and movements with significant impact for systemic change?
Community Organising and Social Transformation Modules
Community organising is about building power from the ground up. It brings people together to take collective action on their shared concerns. Starting from local problems and everyday injustices, it has the potential to strengthen people’s sense of agency, build solidarity, and foster leaderful communities. We’ll explore how politicisation can build from action on local concerns to the mobilising of new constituencies seeking radical structural transformation.
While activism and community organising often share goals of social transformation, they can often apply divergent practices, strategies and analysis.
We’ve found an increasing interest in community organising methods amongst many of the activist networks we’ve been working with. They seek a more embedded approach and the tools and skills to mobilise and engage more diverse constituencies.
At the same time, we’ve also been encountering many community organisers who feel their practice falls short of the level of politicisation and mobilisation they aim towards. Often the political ‘neutrality’ the methods can involve leave community power tackling local issues, while failing to confront deeper structural injustice.
These modules will seek to bring community organising skills into a clear political framework, in a way that can enhance activist practice and extend the scope and ambition of community organising.
Community organising depends on key skills for reaching out beyond the circle of usual suspects. It offers methods for really listening for what matters and motivates people. It shares tools for connecting people and helping them organise to empower collective action. This training will share these key skills and the frameworks we can use for applying them.
We’ll combine community organising with political analysis, to bring fresh and powerful approaches to social change practice.
New Municipalism Modules
Rather than essentialising cities as inherently progressive or democratic, the new municipalism, as witnessed in the Fearless Cities Netowrk, is instead becoming framed as a “strategic front” for developing a transformative politics of scale. Given this critical awareness, this nascent movement demonstrates how local loyalties can be mobilised as part of a progressive scalar strategy without falling into the trap of a “particular localism”.
Learning from case studies and the experience of leading municipalist organisers, how neighbourhood movements, mayors and local councilors have been collaborating to build global networks of solidarity and hope from the bottom up. We’ll explore the skills and structures that have been successful, ongoing challenges, and opportunities for applying these approaches in our own contexts.
This course will be hosted at La Solana, a venue close to the Ulex Project centre that we are using to host rescheduled courses that were impacted by the Covid pandemic. Venue details to follow.
G has been involved in social movement organising and education since the late 1980’s. He is a highly regarded trainer and has designed numerous training programmes covering areas such as psychosocial resilience in activism, the ecology of social movements, and leaderful organising. As a founding member of the Ulex Project, he is known for highly innovative work blending pedagogical methodologies. This holistic approach to activist learning has inspired numerous training initiatives across Europe. He currently steers the strategic development of the Ulex Project and its social movement capacity building programme.
Laurence is a writer, teacher and activist specialising in social movements. If you went searching for key academics in the field in Europe Laurence’s name would pop up pretty fast. He co-founded the practitioner-oriented social movement journal Interface, co-ran an activist Masters for five years and works with activists doing PhDs on their own movement’s practice. His books include Why Social Movements Matter; Understanding European Movements; Voices of 1968; Silence would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa; and We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism. He has been involved in many different kinds of movement since the 1980s, including ecological, international solidarity, human rights and organising against repression, antiwar, community activism, radical media, self-organised spaces, alternative education and the alter-globalisation ‘movement of movements’.
Natasha’s years as a grassroots activist focused on environmental and social justice, and anti-militarism, evolved into a career as a professional campaigner which has spanned the last decade. She is a self described social change geek, obsessed about bringing fresh perspectives to the important question of how best campaigns, especially those focused on transformative systems change, can succeed. To this end she has convened numerous workshops and events exploring the theory and practice of many aspects of campaigning, and has gained a reputation as an activism expert in the UK. Having become frustrated with the limitations of NGO campaigning, Natasha now works as a freelancer, prioritising projects promoting community organising approaches and nurturing European social movements. Natasha also runs the Engaging Activists Facebook group and writes her own blog on activism and social change.
Team to be confirmed.
a community of practice
Skills for building collective power
Agency, theory and strategy - a deep inquiry
1. A thorny-evergreen flowering shrub, with a high capacity for regeneration and resilience. Its seedpods open in contact with fire and it reshoots from charred stumps. A successionary plant that grows well under challenging conditions. It improves soil fertility through nitrogen fixing, preparing the way for renewed biodiversity.
2. A traditional choice for igniting fires. Burns hot and bright.
3. A networked project adding nutrition and fertility to European social movements through training and capacity building. It kindles the realisation of social justice, ecological intelligence, and cognitive vitality.