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, deepening inequalities in wealth and power, ongoing racist and patriarchal violence, and the fierce urgency of the ‘ecological now’ delimit the terrain upon which we need to contest our future. Against a backdrop of a rising far right, big data, and the ongoing consolidation of unaccountable power by elite groups, we have a lot to do to contest our future. Now is the time for something new to emerge.
This year-long+ programme aims to nurture the interconnected movements and responsive strategies needed to challenge the interlocking systems of oppression we face today. It combines high quality training, an action learning framework, as well as cross organisational and movement networking.
In late 2021, we engaged activists involved with more than 100 organisations across Europe, to ask them about the key challenges their movements and organisations were facing. Most pointed to fragmentation, persistent divisions within and between movements, and a lack of movement capacity for longer-term and coherent strategy.
Responding to these challenges, this training programme aims to build capacity for initiatives that are transversal and transnational in nature, able to connect across issues, communities, and socio-political cultures – supporting the building of the kinds of impactful social movement alliances required to achieve the depth of structural transformation we need today.
The first year of the programme will support a cohort of 40-60 activists from across Europe through a blend of online and in-person training to:
– Bring together experienced trainers and organiser/activists to work on key movement building themes and issues using a well-crafted framework for ongoing action learning, coaching, and peer-to-peer inquiry
– Develop collective capacity for long-term strategic projects that can respond to crisis and change
– Build relationships within the learning space across organisations and movements, seeding new transversal and transnational initiatives
– Embed structured action-reflection learning within their activist practice to enhance long-term movement strategy and collaborative enquiry.
This programme has grown out of several flagship trainings: Ulex Project’s Ecology of Social Movements, the Citizen Participation University that the European Community Organising Network contribute to, the National University of Ireland Maynooth’s MA in activism, and European Alternatives’ School of Transnational Activism. It is aimed at experienced activists and organisers involved in movement thinking and practice from across Europe. A short description of the programme can be found here.
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 movement ecology. They will have opportunities to explore and develop skills and understanding related to bridge building within and between movements and give attention to the opportunities and challenges of transnational movement building.
The programme is more than a training. It is designed as a transversal movement building project – connecting different struggles and communities across issues, strategic approaches, and localities. The course places deep reflective action-learning and the building of solidarity-based relationships at its core. It aims to model and evolve transversal and transnational movement building practices, while strengthening our capacity to embed learning across our different movements’ practices, so we can continue to learn from experience, design creative and testable interventions, and build strategic approaches that can respond to the ever-changing conditions we struggle within.
Through our work in activist education, we’ve witnessed the value of critical learning spaces for building the kind of relationships needed to underpin more effective transversal movement initiatives. Too often, when people from different organisations, networks, or movements come together, they each bring their often-competing agendas, preferences and often prejudices about each other. The scope for finding new and transformative ways of working across our differences under these conditions can be limited. In contrast, in spaces for learning, supported by effective facilitation, we find that it becomes far easier to develop a higher level of respectful interest, curiosity, and openness – even the sense of shared purpose and solidarity needed for creating the transversal movement connections we need today.
The programme is aimed at activist and organisers based in Europe who:
– Have substantial personal history of social movement engagement and experience to share with each other
– Are embedded in organisations or networks that can benefit from thinking strategically about their place in social movements
– Are well placed to bring new learning and strategic thinking back to their organisations or movements
– Understand what is at stake at this time and care passionately about developing social movement alliances on a scale capable of winning
– Recognise the importance of developing our capabilities to organise transversally, across multiple forms of difference within and between our movements
– Are conscious of the importance of translocal and transnational dimensions of organising today.
We will select participants to bring together a range of people from diverse movements and contexts across Europe to share and learn from each other. Where possible, we encourage participants to take part in pairs or small groups from the same organisation or network, so as to create learning partnerships that can support action learning and implementation.
This programme will be designed with you and tailored to your context and needs. Recognising that activists and organisers face a wide range of challenges, have different access to resources, and diverse demands on time and energy, we are designing this programme to be adaptable to these different contexts and to support accessibility. We will offer multiple components and resources, which can be tailored to support optimal levels of participation and value for those involved.
During the initial stage of the programme, we’ll engage with you in a close process of understanding your context and specific needs. From this we will combine elements of the programme into a number of differentiated pathways, designed to support cohorts of participants to follow different routes through the programme in ways that best suit their capacity and needs. Throughout the programme we will ask for feedback so that it responds and adapts to emerging needs and interest. We will use a range of different tools to support your learning and develop personalised pathways through the programme with you as the course develops.
Depending on participants’ experience and learning needs, we expect that core elements through the year will include:
– Understanding social movement ecology and social change
– Mapping our own movement ecology and locating our movement histories
– Facing the challenge of transversal organising (across different movement issues and organising traditions)
– Alliance building between organisations and across movements
– Skills for translocal, transnational and cross-cultural organising
– Active solidarity, Equity-Diversity-Inclusion, and intersectionality practices within movements
– Transforming inter-organisational conflict
– Strategy and complexity
– Power, hegemony and crisis
– Analysis of historical and contemporary case studies
– Analysing contemporary socio-political developments (such as the strategies of the far-right or emerging geopolitical dynamics)
– Understanding and weathering repression
– Activist psycho-social resilience and sustainability
– Embedding action-learning into our movements and organisations
– and more…
Everyone learns in different ways, and the course team has long experience of supporting movement and community learning in diverse contexts. You will be able to select among multiple learning components and resources online and offline to support your learning needs and develop personalised pathways through the programme. Depending on learner needs, these are likely to include:
Developing Movement Practice Through Action Learning Accompaniment
This course starts from the best of what we are already doing in our movements – and the challenges and limitations we are facing. During the programme, participants will be asked to either use an existing initiative or to design a new project (possibly in collaboration with other participants from different organisations/movements) that will serve as a core action learning focus. The initiative should itself be a movement building activity seeking to overcome some of the key challenges related to transversal and/or transnational organising. We will accompany one another’s work on this in a process including elements of research support, action-reflection circles, and coaching.
On-line Modular Curriculum and Seminars
Throughout the year, we will offer a series of modules in the form of online seminars or workshops. These will vary in length and include both live and asynchronous elements. We will offer a wide range of opt-in sessions on topics which will be shaped according to participant needs and how the action learning process develops. Specific learner groups will be formed around modules.
International Residential Training Components
We know first-hand the value of in-person residential trainings exploring these themes. We will offer a series of in-person residential trainings to participants. These will be designed around Ulex Project’s Ecology of Social Movements training and needs identified by the programme cohort. Previous participants on that training will be invited to use the year-long programme to deepen and extend the learning from previous participation. We aim to have funding in place to offer a residential training opportunity to all participants towards the end of the programme.
To offer more accessible in-person learning opportunities, we aim to arrange a series of shorter regional gatherings. These will be scheduled once we have a clear sense of the geographical spread of the cohort and could be arranged to support different language groups.
Peer-to-Peer Learning Circles and Forums
These circles will use an action learning methodology to provide a structured space for ongoing inquiry and reflection using a peer coaching method. They usually comprise a small group of 5-6 people and enable ongoing deep inquiry into live issues and questions related to current practice. They will augment other action learning accompaniment and enable a wider sharing of experience across the learning community. In addition to the circles, a dedicated forum space will be provided to support dialog and inquiry.
In some cases, we will arrange for participants to visit each other in different settings to get a clearer sense of diverse working contexts and cultures.
In addition to action learning accompaniment and peer-circles, we’ll offer one-to-one mentoring where requested, with regular check-ins, either in person regionally or virtually.
We’ll operate the programme in the spirit of a Solidarity Economy and we’re committed to challenging economic marginalisation and exclusion. There will be no charge for any elements of the programme. We do not want to enter into relationship with you as the providers of a service, but as co-producers and collaborators in the joint project of movement building.
We aim to embody the principle of ‘give what you can, take what you need’, to the extent that this is economically possible. We will ask all participants or their sending organisations to consider making a financial contribution towards the running costs of the programme. However, inability or unwillingness to do so will not preclude participation. Similarly, where activities involve travel and other costs, if participants or organisations can cover these costs themselves, we ask that they do so. Where they cannot, we will engage in fundraising, aiming to help create bursaries to help cover these costs.
Depending on the specific elements combined into specific and differentiated pathways, the running costs will vary. Where a contribution to costs can be made, we anticipate something in the range of €500/€1500/€4000. But just to be completely clear, inability to make a contribution will not preclude anyone from participating.
The programme development is being led by the Ulex Project in close partnership with the European Community Organising Network, the National University of Ireland Maynooth, and European Alternatives. We will draw on the pool of trainers connected with these organisations to provide training elements, action learning facilitation, and accompaniment/mentorship. Some of the trainers involved will be listed on the short course description page.
Participants will need to commit to engage in the following programme activities from Autumn 2022 to December 2023:
– October to December 2022: Recruiting participants, conducting needs analysis, and refining the programme based on participants’ needs and experience
– January to December 2023: 12-month core action learning programme
– 2024 and beyond: We hope to build on the movement learning community created and expand the action-learning and organising network
Inquiries and applications are now welcome. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive links to application forms or to ask us about the programme. We aim to finalise recruitment during October and November, so that we can use the autumn to enter into discussion with participants about their experience and learning needs, to help us refine the programme design. Then we’ll kick-off in January 2023.
Applications are welcome from anyone fulfilling the broad criteria listed above. We will specifically invite participants from the Strengthening Social Movement Ecology training (22-30 Oct 2022) and aim to use part of that training as a kick-off point for those participants. We very much welcome participants who have done previous trainings in this direction (transversal / transnational alliance building) like Ulex’ Ecology of Social Movements trainings, the Citizen Participation University (ECON and others), European Alternatives’ School of Transnational Activism, Maynooth’s MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism.