Skills and understanding for building effective collective power
We are living through a crucial time for social movements. During this ‘twilight of neoliberalism’, we are seeing growing movement power and significant shifts in public narrative. At the same time, the challenges of the climate crisis, increasing inequality, the rise of the far right, need us to continue to build effective collective agency.
“Leadership is accepting responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty.” (Marshall Ganz)
Since the social awakening that began around 2011 in the post-crash and austerity context, we’ve seen a surge of socio-political engagement. More recently, there has been a new round of fresh mass mobilisations responding to the climate emergency, racial justice and inequality.
These surges of engagement are bringing many new actors into the field of social movement organising. At the same time, we are seeing failures to understand and work well with power dynamics (within groups, between organisations, and in the wider socio-political sphere), or to bring deeper understanding about methods for mutual empowerment and solidarity. All too often these can hinder our efforts to build effective collective agency.
Without greater skill within these new movements, their radically transformative power can be lost. Both social change and social movements are highly complex. Faced with these challenges we can also lack skills for thinking and acting in ways that bring systems intelligence and understanding of complexity.
This training explores skills and understanding needed to sustain and consolidate the potential of these new actors and mobilisations. It offers new thinking and learning for fresh approaches to leadership. On the one hand, this needs to provide a clear critique of classical models of leadership (authoritarian, top-down and often bestowed with patriarchal tendencies). On the other hand, it needs to address the pitfalls recognised in what Jo Freeman described as a “tyranny of structurelessness”, where informal power still is unequal and groups become without clear direction, accountability and even a viable strategy.
We will draw on case studies and offer a language and conceptual framework on grassroots leadership that is adapted to current social movement’s needs. We will explore ideas and practices related to:
• The idea of “group-centred leadership” (Ella Baker), which allows for leadership to be shared and accountable
• Leaderful movements instead of leaderless movements
• Leadership that enables groups to embody their values
• Models that avoid the failings of both classic hierarchies and the limitations of fetishized horizontalism
• The adaptation of learning about ‘agile’ organisational leadership to the context of socio-political work
• Leadership development as a practice to support groups to transition from mobilising to organising.
Who is it aimed at?
Anyone involved in socially engaged action addressing ecological, political and social justice issues. We embrace a broad definition of activism, including: Resistance – action preventing further damage to ecosystems and social justice; Renewal – action focused on developing and creating alternatives for healthier societies and communities; and Building Resilience – action supporting increased resilience in communities to weather the uncertain times ahead.