Diversity & Consensus

By Betsy Raasch Gillman
Picture this: a group of activists who’ve been planning a direct action come together for a regular meeting. Tensions are high, because two members posted something on their e-mail list that offended a potentially key ally. At this meeting, the group has to decide, by consensus, what to do about the incident, and reactions to the incident are split in several directions. It’s not an easy meeting. Accusations fly, defenses are up. Some people are silent because they don’t know what to make of the situation or hate getting involved in conflict. Others offer suggestions or solutions that are shot down one after another. Gradually, though, emotions cool, and everyone agrees on some next steps – facilitated by a half-apology by one of the two people who caused the uproar in the first place. Is this a victory for consensus process?

Training for Change Trains Burmese Activists

By Erika Thorne
In November 2012 I worked in Thailand for four weeks, offering five workshops to various constituencies. My trip coincided with the re-election of President Obama and his subsequent trip to Burma, where he declared that Burma is the middle of historical change. While there I listened to the views of people most impacted by 50 years of military dictatorship in Burma. It was a good time to be training Burmese activists in nonviolent strategy and tactics. The tremendous change currently happening would be enhanced through training and facilitation.

A Worldwork Perspective on Occupy

By Lane Arye
Occupy Wall Street took TFC trainers by surprise much just as it did many others in the country. In the early days of the occupations we debated what our role should be in this movement and puzzled over how we could use our experience to be helpful while respecting the leadership that was springing up organically at different sites. For support, we turned to our friend, therapist and Worldwork facilitator, Lane Arye from whom we've learned a lot from over the years. This article by Lane resulted from the conversation our trainers had with him and while the movement has since evolved and some of the specific reflections may not be as relevant to the current stage, we still think that Lane's insights provided needed feedback about roles that are needed within any mass movement.

Taking Play Seriously

By Hannah Strange
As a trainer and organizational development consultant to various social justice and environmental groups, I take my responsibility to play very seriously. Unfortunately, when I use my role as a trainer to invite groups to play-- through ice-breakers, games, skits or other kinesthetic activities—the opportunity is often met with groans and eye-rolling. “What does acting like a chicken have to do with learning to be a trainer?” people grumble. “Role plays aren’t the same as real life!” they cry. “Can’t we just sit down and talk about it?” “We don’t have time for this. We need to get back to work.”...

Populism in Time of War

By Betsy Leondar-Wright
It's a tough time to be a peace activist. Just walking past the flags on our neighbors' cars and porches can throw us into the pits of despair. Public opinion polls confirm the isolation we feel. As of January 6, 2002, President Bush had the overall approval of 84% of Americans, according to a CBS/New York Times poll. When asked in December how satisfied they were with the progress of the war in Afghanistan, 92% reported being very or somewhat satisfied. We have choices about how we respond to being outnumbered. Which previous era is our frame of reference? Is our mental model fascist Europe in the 1930s, in which we are the tiny underground resistance? Or is this the New McCarthyism, as Matt Rothschild put it in The Progressive, and are we enduring the 1950s until the 1960s arrive? Or is this the equivalent of the polarized '60s, and are we hoping to outnumber and overpower the equivalents of the segregationists and the Vietnam hawks?

A Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution

by George Lakey
How can we live at home on planet Earth?
As individuals we often feel our lack of power to affect the course of events or even our own environment. We sense the untapped potential in ourselves, the dimensions that go unrealized. We struggle to find meaning in a world of tarnished symbols and impoverished cultures. We long to assert control over our lives, to resist the heavy intervention of state and corporation in our plans and dreams. We sometimes lack the confidence to celebrate life in the atmosphere of violence and pollution which surrounds us. Giving up on altering our lives, some of us try at least to alter our consciousness through drugs. Turning ourselves and others into objects, we experiment with sensation. We are cynical early, and blame ourselves, and wonder that we cannot love with a full heart.

An Open Letter to Anti-Oppression/Diversity Trainers

By Daniel Hunter
If you're like me, you're getting lots of requests for 2-hour and 1-hour workshops. †Sometimes it's on very specific skill sets -- like how to do a march or increasing facilitation skills. But I'm increasingly finding people asking for short workshops on topics that require deep work and thoughtful attention, like anti-oppression issues (race, class, gender, etc). Sometimes I've found situations where doing short workshops helps make space for longer workshops to happen. But often I'm faced with groups that are cutting back on longer anti-oppression workshops (moving from 3 days to 4 hours); or I see groups using the workshops as cover for their organization ("see? we offered a workshop!").

Lessons from the Borders: Empowering Participants with Disabilities and Transgender Participants

By Nico Amador and Jana Schroeder
Read about the direct education approach's contrast to anti-oppression style trainings that exploit margins' experience for the mainstream or that create a laundry list of do's and don'ts for each experience. Two participants share their experiences from the ’06 Super-T to encourage increased awareness and greater inclusion of people with disabilities and transgender people in all types of workshops and trainings. We, Jana Schroeder and Nico Amador, met at the "Super T" training for social action trainers held May-June ‘06 in Ontario, Canada. In January ’07 we both participated in a workshop led by George Lakey called "How to Do Transformational Work" that took place in Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia, Nico initiated a conversation with Jana about the possibilities for natural alliances between transgender people and people with disabilities based on similar concerns (e.g., needs that both groups have for physical accessibility and attitudinal barriers both groups may face because of mainstream assumptions that marginalize our identities and our bodies.) We decided to write this piece together to share our experiences with other facilitators and to encourage increased awareness and greater inclusion of people with disabilities and transgender people in all types of workshops and trainings.