ecology of social movements (week-long version)

4th to 11th April 2020

This training will be run by facilitators from the Ulex Project network.

A space to think critically, to ask challenging and transformative questions, and find deeper inspiration and understanding to empower social change

This is a one-week version of our Ecology of Social Movement 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:

  • 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 – and we will also draw in presentations and seminar contributions virtually.

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 changeHow 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 framesContext and stakeholder analysisCollaborative 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. 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.

SUGGESTED CONTRIBUTION IN THE ULEX SOLIDARITY ECONOMY: €450/€900/€1500

How to apply
Contact events@ulexproject.org or visit the course page on the Ulex Project website.

The Team

Gee has been involved in social movement organising and education since the late 1980’s. He is a highly regarded trainer and has designed several training programmes covering areas such as sustainable activism, effective soci-political organising, ecology and systems thinking, wilderness immersion and nature connection work. He has also developed training for trainers work. He is known for highly innovative work blending pedagogical methodologies, which has inspired numerous training initiatives across Europe. He’s what you might call the Ulex Programme Director.

Natasha Adams' 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.

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