a space to think critically, to ask challenging and transformative questions, and to find deeper inspiration and understanding to empower social change
This is an intensive two-week training for experienced activists and organisers involved in movement level thinking and practice from across Europe. It is an opportunity to 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 to make their activism and organising more powerful and transformative.
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. This 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 – and we will also draw in presentations and seminar contributions virtually.
We will explore:
The inquiry will be structured around a core curriculum, developed and designed by the facilitation team, which will act as a jumping off point for deeper reflection, sharing and learning as a community of inquiry.
Key areas of study and reflection include:
Theories of Social Change
Movement Seasons and Cycles
Planning and Strategising
Organisational structures and how to work together
All of this will inform deeper inquiry and experiential learning. During a period of campaign building and bench testing we will:
We won’t just explore theories. We will also ask what we do with them – personally and collectively. Do we use them or do they determine us? We can become entrenched in our political views. We can hold models of change unconsciously and they can be hard to examine. History suggests that none of our theories of social change encompass the whole story. And yet we can find our strategies and approaches welded tightly to one fixed position or another. Our approach can become entrenched and unresponsive.
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?
Preparation and follow up
The course will be designed to incorporate some preparatory reading and reflection, as well as some participation in a forum with co-participants. Similarly follow up process will help us to continue to share our learning with each other as we carry our learning back into our day to day work.
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’.
María worked for the Red Cross in community development, strengthening civil society, education, and food security in Latin America and Africa. Building on her studies in social psychology and international development, she studied Alternative Economics at Schumacher College, UK. This led her into work on organisational change with NGOs and grassroots movements. María specialises in complexity and participation applied to organisations: organisational structures and culture, emergent strategy, leadership amongst others. She co-founded The Eroles Project, a learning for action project and La Bolina, a systemic project looking at repopulation, inclusion and agroecology. María´s co-authored: Small is Important: Learnings from an integration and regeneration Project. Factores Clave para la Acción Reflexión Colaborativa, Enfoques y herramientas participativas en la cooperación al desarrollo, Activism and spirituality.
Hilal Demir, a cook, an artist and a DJ at home; nonviolent trainer, facilitator for already 20 years with a lot of experience on nonviolence and related topics such as organizing, conflicts, nonviolent action, understanding power, resilience, strategy etc. She is passionate about informal learning experiences, community organizing, group dynamics, supporting activists and organizations for long lasting healthy social movements for a just future. As a nonviolent queer-feminist activist she has created organizations and groups in Turkey for spreading nonviolent culture.
building collective agency - theory and practice
a holistic approach
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.