A different way of thinking about community activism

We’ve just completed a six week course facilitated by Graham Burnett and Sherry Fuller – Creating A Positive Revolution In Southend (CAPRIS). It was an incredibly useful course that made us question a lot of our assumptions about community organising. As community activists, it’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut of operating in a certain way and constantly wondering why your efforts aren’t making the impact you want them to make. For some activists it can be hard to have to question set patterns of working – we’re fortunate in that we welcome the opportunity to have our assumptions questioned and to start thinking about different ways to deal with the issues we encounter on the estates.

As part of our final presentation which was based around enhancing the work we’re already undertaking with the Vange Hill Community Group and Basildon & Southend Housing Action on an estate in Vange, we came up with the outcome tree shown above. It works in a very simple way. In red in the middle is the ultimate outcome we want to achieve. Above in blue are aspects of the vision we have for the estate. Below in green are the actions that need to be undertaken in order to realise that vision.

The outcome tree was just one tool we discussed on the course. There were others that were useful in making us think about how we work towards our desired outcome. One of these was a timeline that in our case stretched out to eight years. It starts off with one small undertaking which in our case will be encouraging residents to work on converting a patch of land recently cleared of flytipping and turn it into a pocket garden. As residents achieve more, learn more, become more confident and empowered, the vision for the development of the estate becomes more ambitious until the aim shown in the outcome tree above is realised.

This may seem like pie in the sky thinking but if you really want to change the world, you have to have a vision. Obviously, we’re well aware of the obstacles that lie in our way and we had a frank and useful discussion about those at the last session of CAPRIS. The point is that we want to move from a situation where we’re just fire fighting the whole time and dealing with the same issues over and over again to one where we’re moving forwards and making genuine progress. CAPRIS has hopefully given us the ideas and inspiration to achieve that.

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Building a new world in the shell of the old

Normally we’d be promoting a course like this on our side project, The Estuary Alternativehttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/ However, there are a number of very good reasons why we’re promoting it on here as well…

Firstly, as the title of this piece suggests, amongst other attributes, this course has an element of building a new world in the shell of the old. It’s all very well knowing what we’re against – we also need to be able to articulate what kind of world we’re aiming for…

Secondly, Graham Burnett is a good friend of The Stirrer and the least we can do in return is to promote this course:)

Thirdly, try as we might, The Estuary Alternative isn’t getting as many hits as we would like so we’re promoting the course on here in order for it to reach a wider audience.

Details on how to book a place on this course can be found here: https://spiralseed.co.uk/prod…/creating-positive-revolution/

Get digging!

Type ‘Brexit and food security’ into a search engine and you’ll come up with a slew of articles warning about significantly higher food prices, crops not being harvested because there isn’t the labour to undertake the task and last but by no means least, the distinct possibility of food production standards being lowered. This piece is just one example of what we found: Brexit about to trigger sky-high costs for British food industryhttp://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2017/05/02/brexit-about-to-trigger-sky-high-costs-for-british-food

Now we don’t want to come across as ‘Remoaners’ complaining about the impact of Brexit – as anarchists, we’re on record as having a pox on all your houses attitude towards the issue: A few thoughts on Brexit…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/a-few-thoughts-on-brexit/ However, if those eager to pull the UK out of the EU had undertaken some planning for life outside rather than relying on blind faith that things will work out okay in the end, we may not be facing a future of soaring food prices and disruptions to supply…

A tanking sterling has already started to force food prices to go up. If the UK ends up crashing out of the EU without any deal, tariffs on imported food from the EU will send prices soaring. Then there’s the question of the labour needed to get the food from the field to our plates. The stark fact is that much of this is undertaken by migrant labour from the EU. Already, there has been a decline in migration from the EU as potential migrants are being put off by what they feel will be a hostile welcome. If inward migration is cut to the levels the likes of UKIP and hard right Tories have been screaming for, we could face a situation where crops will be left to rot in the fields because there will be no-one to pick them. The jury is still out on this one but in a post Brexit UK where food prices are going through the roof, there may be a temptation to ease up on some hygiene and safety regulations relating to home produced and imported foodstuffs in a bid to keep prices down and stave off domestic discontent.

As the title of this piece suggests, there’s a solution…get digging! We’re not suggesting a patriotic ‘dig for victory’ drive – we’re anarchists and we don’t do patriotism or nationalism. What we are suggesting is making a start on building community resilience to deal with the shite that’s likely to come if we continue to rely on clueless politicians to negotiate the complexities of a Brexit no one seems to have any plans for or idea of how it’s going to pan out. One aspect of community resilience is localising as much food production as possible down to neighbourhood level.

We’re talking about things like turning your back garden over to growing your own. If you can get hold of an allotment, do so: Allotments going begging – get one while you can!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/allotments-going-begging-get-one-while-you-can/ If you feel a plot may be too big to handle on your own, team up with friends and neighbours to work it and share the produce equitably. If you can, find a plot to start a community garden. It’s not always necessary to ask permission – we’ve seen guerilla gardened plots that have been going for a good few years without any unwanted attention from the authorities!

Obviously, it’s better if food growing can be done as a neighbourhood project. Working together growing food and sharing the produce helps to build friendships and goes a long way to generating the community solidarity that will be vital in the troubled times ahead. Localising food production in this way with the solidarity it generates, not only gives you more control over where your food comes from, it’s empowering people to start taking more responsibility for, and control over, the neighbourhoods they live in. Also, growing food in this way is healthier, not just because of the fresh air and exercise involved but also because you have complete control over the inputs. Once a community feels empowered enough to start taking control of their food supply, that could lead to some interesting developments in the fight for a more just, equitable, sane and sustainable world…

Unsure how to make a start? Below is a list of resources which have loads of useful information on community gardening that can be done in a healthy and sustainable way – get reading!

Resources

Billericay Community Garden – https://www.facebook.com/billericaycommunitygarden/
Empty Cages Design – http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/
South East Essex Organic Gardeners – http://seeog.org.uk/
Southend In Transition Community Allotment – https://www.facebook.com/SiTcommunityAllotment/
Spiralseed – http://spiralseed.co.uk/

Disability Law Service – new website launched

The Disability Law Service (DLS) has launched a new website here: http://dls.org.uk We’re posting this up in solidarity with anyone who’s disabled and their carers, family and friends. Given the numerous shocking examples of the treatment of disabled claimants by the Department of Work & Pensions, this is the least we can do. The DLS rely on donations to be able to provide access to justice for those with disabilities and their carers, so if you can afford it, please donate…