The best way to talk about movement building is to hear from the people who are doing it. We'll be talking to 6 people talking about their experiences of building a movement.
First up is Dina Ariss from CHAYN.
CHAYN is an open-source project that leverages technology to empower women against violence and oppression so they can live happier and healthier lives. Running solely on the passion of skilled volunteers, Chayn leverages technology to address the problems women face today. Dinas discusses how CHAYN has grown from an idea to a global network of volunteers
Everything they do at CHAYN is done by and for victims of violence and oppression. “Everything we do is by us, rather than people designing something for us.” CHAYN has developed to a global network through the use of tools such as Facebook and Slack.
Dina describes CHAYN's non-hierarchical leadership as the roots of its success. If someone has a proposition, it’s discussed collectively as an online group. She also discusses some of the challenges CHAYN are facing, namely that across their network they lack some skills, but also, as it is a volunteer organisation, it’s very difficult to retain volunteers.
Next up is Andy Goldring from Permaculture Association
Andy talks to us about how the Permaculture Association has adopted some unique governance models and tools both within the organisation and across its network to grow its impact.
In particular, Andy spoke about Carver Governance, which consists of
Andy points to his 3 ultimate learnings which are:
There'll be a chance to ask our speakers any questions you might have - do non hierarchical models truly exist? What has failed about traditional governance models and what are the challenges with new models?
Immy Kaur from Impact Hub is up next.
Immy Kaur is a co-founder of Impact Hub Birmingham, a network of citizens, makers, doers, entrepreneurs, activists and dreamers committed to building a better Birmingham and better world as well as a co-founder of Dark Matters Labs.
Immy made some incredibly insightful observations about the whole notion of movement building. Firstly that we need to be able to create authentic invitiation to a shared challenge that’s much bigger than any of us.
Immy talked about how organisations need to learn to lose central control; there must be more of a love of the outcome than there is the attribution. “We’re part of people, to grow a momentum of multiple actors. The problem is when it comes more about the organisation than the cause."
Immy also highlighted the tension between growing a movement which involves thousands of voices and yet is constrained by a funder’s vision. How do you still speak that truth to power when you’re suffocating due to funder’s demands?
They also remind us that it’s ok to be imcomplete in this space, its ok to be in this journey, and that genuine movement building is driven by relationships.
A really important topic was highlighted by Immy, that of diversity. I’m just going to quote Immy as I couldn’t put it into better words myself:
“Unless there is a wide ranging diverse group of people in your leadership, positions where decisions are made, you can’t retero fit this afterwards. IF you start with a homogenous group of people, that is how you’ll continue to grow. These system perpetuates themselves”.
(Disclaimer: I was too engrossed in this speech and forgot to take a photo of Immy)
Next up is Paul Steedman from Friends of the Earth
Paul candidly shared his experiences leading FoE’s recent ‘renewal’ of the organisation’s strategy. He shared his ‘cautionary tale’ of his organisation that lost its way and – like many organisations – gravitated towards accumulating power and control.
Paul talked about the fact that controlling tendencies are amplified by people recruiting people who look like them, rather than investing in the vast network of change makers. He also highlighted an issue that across the sector is highly apparent – even if we’re not quite ready to accept it. That is that, the people within our networks, the people whose power actually make things happen – are not nurtured within the top levels of an organisation. Staff find them frustrating, annoying, and difficult. As Paul states: ‘Our power to make change happen resides in millions globally who want to make that change happen’.
Paul ended on a positive note – namely that his organisation has worked towards viewing themselves as enablers and supporters of change.
Next up is Bob Cannell. Bob talked primarily about his time at Suma. He described the the co-op management approach, stating ‘ management is a function, not a status.’ He claimed that executive hierarchy is the most dangerous aspect of an organisation, and the goal should be to disempower the executive.
Bob argued that the values that underpin a good co-op are:
Next up is Kayleigh Walsh.
Outlandish is a technologist workers co-operative. They build digital applications and websites for companies, charities and universities that make their lives easier and then invest all surpluses into projects that help achieve their goals. Rather than traditional closed departments, Outlandish use circles to make sociocratic decisions which are open to participation for whoever is interested.
Kayleigh described the empowering nature of having unspecified roles within the organisation long as it allows for someone to explore all their different skillsets, rather than being pidgeon-holed into one job description. She emphasised the importance of collaboration over competition and values the ‘sociocratic’ method because it means ‘egos are left at the door.’