Strengthening the Ecology of Movements Training

8 to 15 May 2021

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:

  • Have significant history of social movement engagement and experience to bring
  • Be embedded in organisation/s or networks that can benefit from thinking strategically about their place in social movements
  • Be well placed to bring new strategic thinking back to their group or organisation

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:

  • How different social engagement practices intersect with each other
  • How to increase the collective impact of our work
  • How to build campaigns, organisations and movements geared towards systemic change
  • How to build alliances and transversal strategies and increase our collective impact
  • How to create strategic approaches that are responsive, dynamic and systems intelligent

 Key areas of study and reflection include:

 Theories of Social Change

  • Exploring a wide spectrum of theories of change (influencing elites, points of disruption, exodus and alternatives, cultural change and public attitudes, organising vs mobilising, disrupting hegemony, beyond patriarchy/intersectional approach to power etc)
  • Investigating historical precedents and identifying where different political approaches have been effective or ineffective.
  • Lessons from historic social movements & some theoretical analysis (touching on systems change, transformational shifts of power, and public perception)
  • Studying practical contemporary examples (organisations & movements) and examining strengths and weaknesses
  • Emergent understanding: How does contemporary systems thinking and complexity relate to theories of social change?

 Movement Seasons and Cycles

  • Reflecting on the ebb and flow of movement life-cycles- recognising phases of preparation, engagement and regrouping
  • Mapping the range of actors and their roles, as well as their spheres and phases of influence
  • Recognising the importance of balance for movement care and self-care

 Movement Ecosystems

  • How do different approaches condition each other?
  • What are the contradictions and tensions?
  • How can different methods and efforts fit & how can they be complementary?

 Planning and Strategising

  • Developing long term strategy – scaling differentials between 5 to 20 year frames
  • Context and stakeholder analysis
  • Collaborative and expanded visioning
  • Creating agile frameworks that adapt and respond to feedback
  • Applying Action-Reflection Methodologies with seasonal rhythms

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.

Venue

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.

Contribución sugerida
En la economía solidaria: €400/€700/€1200
(ver los detalles de nuestro enfoque hacia Economía solidaria)

The Team

Our Name

Ulex: Latin (argelaga Catalan, gorse English) noun:

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.