September 30, 2010 § 3 Comments

You may have come across the craftivist movement over the last couple of months, and I can’t help but love their cute and cutting mini-banners like the one below. Hanna has made a little video about Sarah from the Craftivist Collective and the wonderful Josie Long that raised some questions in my mind – particularly about the role of gender in activism.

It seems to me that craftivism has created a space in which you don’t have to engage in a (what Anna would call) ‘traditional white male’ way of doing things. Would it be fair to argue for having separate male and female spaces – as we find in many religions and cultures (like the Celts)?

Either You Pay The Farmer, Or You Pay The Hospital

September 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

This 11-year old kid opens a whole can of whoopass on this TEDx stage. Take five minutes and enjoy!

A Thousand Solutions – StroudCo & Hale Local Food Market

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

One of the exciting things about wanting to change how we organise society is that there are so many solutions out there.

This food hub in Stroud, and the farmer’s market in Hale are just two examples. What Paula says in the second video really struck me,

‘It was great yesterday because nearly everyone I served on the stall – I knew them. I knew their name, or I knew their children – it was really lovely.’

It reminds me a lot of my hometown Forest Row and the two bio-dynamic farms there – Tablehurst and Plaw Hatch.

Understanding The Tea Party

September 27, 2010 § 2 Comments

What does this short video remind you of?

It could be a bunch of climate/social justice organisers just like me. This one on the New York Times website is even more stark.

This piece in the National Journal on how the Tea Party organises itself gives a valuable insight. It focuses on the Tea Party Patriots and explains how the highly dispersed power structure has allowed the Tea Party to become such a political force. (Needless to say, it doesn’t mention the role of big money – the Koch Brothers, and the role of Glenn Beck and Fox News.)

Tea Baggers talk a lot about the unstoppable power of leaderless organisation – and they’re right. As we’ve seen with recent primaries, the Republican Party is not going to like a lot of what the Tea Party does, but there just isn’t anyone who they can call to stop it.

The empowerment anyone feels when they organise a rally and hundreds of people show up, or when they successfully elect a candidate – that feeling of empowerment is wonderful. It’s what gives people a feeling of control over their own lives, a sense that they matter in the grand scheme of things. I’m totally supportive of that, and it’s great to see so many people organising.

At the same time, it’s easy to dismiss Tea Party supporters because their political analysis is so weak. They are a classic case of people organising against their own self-interest, and for the interest of those who manipulate their actions of their own political gain.

So is the reason why Tea Party activists and supporters are so committed – and therefore successful, because they have claimed power over their own lives, and found ways of publicly experiencing that power – rather than their political understanding? Is the way in which Tea Party activists are organising more important for them than the issues that they’re organising on?

Paul Hawken – An Uplifting Talk

September 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Paul Hawken is the author of the must-read book ‘Blessed Unrest: How The Largest Movement In The World Came Into Being‘ and a generally fantastic man. His talk at Google a couple of years ago is a great introduction into his thinking and his attitude is wonderfully infections.


Friday Afternoon Joy – Best Gay Protest Signs

September 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

There are too many good ones to quote – enjoy!

Compare & Contrast – Or – How Not To Do Youth Training

September 23, 2010 § 4 Comments

UPDATE: David and I have been tweeting back and forth and are now arranging to meet when I’m in New York next month to discuss how to improve One Young World next year. All credit to him for being so open to critical voices and engaging me in finding solutions.

Earlier this year, young people from all over the world came together in London for the One Young World summit. They’ve just had a second one in Zurich.

Watch this first video to get a sense of what it was like.

Ask yourself while watching-

  • Who has the power?
  • Who has the knowledge, expertise and solutions?
  • What are the next steps that these young people are being encouraged to take?

The answers to those questions reveal the problems with this model of training for young people. This isn’t about video editing – it’s about an entire approach to political and cultural change and the role young people play within that.

For example, we see Kofi Annan tell participants, ‘You are the leaders of tomorrow’. A more disempowering statement I cannot think of. Young people can be leaders today – right now. Many of us already are. Suggesting that one day we can become copies of today’s figureheads is setting the bar pretty low. If we want peace, justice between North and South, and better global institutions – we need new ways of organising, new narratives for human development – and we should get started now.

Another case in point – Bob Geldoff (GROAN) challenges the participants to be ‘unreasable’ for the upcoming three days. And hey – what better place to be ‘unreasonable’ than in London’s largest corporate exhibition center – the ExCel center?

When I was 18, I went to a similar global youth forum – The World Youth Congress (organised by PeaceChild) held in Scotland. Compare this short video with the one above.

2005-era video production and hilariously over-the-top introduction aside – it is clear that the knowledge and expertise lies amongst the youth present. The actions taken are practical as well as educational – we all volunteered at local charities for 3 of the 10 days we were at the conference. Older people were there as a resource for youth, not as leaders to tell them how to do things. The outcome wasn’t just a deceleration of nothingness for some far-off UN agency which will use the hours of work as recycling-fodder (though we did that too!), but a practical tool-kit on how to do youth-led development, filled with experiences from the 600 young people present. I still refer to that document every time I’m designing a workshop.

One Young World obviously has it’s heart in the right place. It is always wonderful to see people coming together to support the Millennium Development Goals. I’m sure that each participant came away inspired, energised and connected – heck, if you’ve got Desmond Tutu in the house, how could you not be?! But the way in which this summit is run limits its potential enormously. A quick check-list;

  • Hosting it in corporate conference centers takes youth out of ‘their’ world and into a new power dynamic – this immediately impacts confidence levels and who has authority. (See Saul Alinsky’s third rule of organising for more info on this)
  • Charging €3000 per delegate – I mean seriously? And the idea that corporations will sponsor delegates as part of their CSR package should get all your alarm bells ringing.
  • Calling itself a ‘movement’. This reveals the fact that both founders are marketing professionals, not social movement builders.
  • Who’s on the front-page of the website? Who features predominantly in the video content? Who ‘owns’ this space? The two founders – David Jones & Kate Robertson (both associated with the British Conservative Party incidentally).

One Young World calls itself a Young Davos – I think that’s probably fair. But to suggest that it ‘connects and brings together the youngest and brightest and ensures that their concerns, opinions and solutions are heard and taken into account by those in power, whether in government, business or any other sector’ as their website does – is a fallacy.

Imagine – with this sort of access, with this sort of money – what could actually be done? That’s why I’m angry about this – because it is wasting such a huge opportunity to get it right.

PS. I’ll be sending this blog post to their organising team – to see if we can open a conversation about how to improve on it next year. I’d also love to hear any thoughts and comments you have.


Andrew Wolf – A Fallen Hero

September 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

There are many people all around the globe who are trying to make the world a better place. One of them was Andrew Wolf.

Originally from Brooklyn, he now worked as a food educator, teaching at-risk youth about cooking and food in Washington D.C. He had joined the wonderful Otesha Project this summer to cycle across Canada to share sustainability skills through theatre and training workshops for young people in schools and youth clubs.

Last week, he was hit by a lorry as he cycled with the group. Two others were injured, and Andrew was killed.

Hanna Thomas, who works for The Otesha Project UK, wrote this.

I had never met Andrew, but I do know some things about him, as each person who signs up to an Otesha tour has these things in common: An incredible spirit. A thirst for adventure. A belief that the world can change for the better. A belief in themselves. Strong thighs, strong heart. A deep sense of morality. A smile. An inherent optimism and appreciation for people, beauty, nature, life. The ability to meet a stranger and soon enough, call them “family”. An open mind. A need to prioritise what’s important in life – people, experiences, contentment, our earth – over prestige or money.  A good sense of humour. An ability to laugh at themselves. Playfulness. A desire to connect with young people and pass on what they’ve learnt. A desire to stand up and be counted.

His family has created a fund in his name, to help others to take part in Otesha’s work. Friends and Otesha family members are sharing their stories of Andrew and paying tribute to the work he did, and the man he was.

Building a sustainable, equitable, better world for us all is going to take a fight. We must honour and remember those who we’ve lost on that journey.

Rest in peace Andrew.

Let The Sun Shine In

September 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’m spending a lot of time speaking to people about a new project that I’m co-creating. It has bold dreams but is still in it’s infancy. One thing that’s helping me dream big and advocate bold and transformational solutions is this finale from the musical ‘Hair’. I’ll always remember dancing on the West End stage to this with Petia, Paul and Sho.

Che Anna: Style To The People

September 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Imagine combining  The September Issue with The Motorcycle Diaries – and you’d end up with Che Anna.

She writes,

‘This is a call to revolution, to confront the menace of editorial dictatorship and fashion tyranny and return style to its rightful place in society. We must unite to advance sartorial consciousness towards individuality and away from oppressive fashion imperialism. Go forward with your eyes on the future, communicate it, live it, love it, spread it. It is your duty, it is your obligation as a loyal member of the fashion revolution to bring STYLE TO THE PEOPLE.’

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