On Sunday 18th July, XR Lambeth held its first people’s assembly in Brockwell Park to discuss how we organise ourselves, how we communicate and what we should focus on after a challenging 18 months. This post summarises the main outcomes.
After more than a year of semi-hibernation as a result of the pandemic, XR Lambeth has been slowly and cautiously coming out and planning ahead. However, our group, like many other movements, took a hit when covid made actions unsafe and meetings and planning more challenging. To use the words of one of our rebels who gave us feedback:
“We need to recognise that XRL is not as big as it once was and come to terms with the fact there are only a small number of active members. What was possible two/three years ago is no longer possible with the numbers today. And I feel those numbers will continue to decline if all the burden is placed on a handful of people.”
With this in mind, we held a face-to-face assembly in the park, followed by an online General meeting and an online survey to gather maximum feedback on three areas that were identified as key to how we work as a group: structure, focus and communications. We based the People’s Assembly on the XR model, itself based on participatory democracy:
“People’s assemblies are a structured way for a group of people to discuss issues or make decisions collectively, so that all voices are heard and valued equally, and no one person or group dominates the discussion.
Extinction Rebellion uses participatory democracy processes, such as people’s assemblies, in order to model participatory democracy within the movement, generate ideas, gather feedback and make decisions.”
After hearing about our current situation and providing individual feedback on the three areas, rebels split into breakout groups to discuss one each and come up with three priority proposals. The proposals were also presented at the general meeting and an online survey was shared on our channels to vote on them and gather more feedback from rebels who couldn’t attend the assembly.
What came out
Rebels signaled they were keen on offering a variety of actions, ranging from outreach to more risky, to make the movement more inclusive. Engaging with our local community through outreach events where we talk about the climate crisis was seen as a priority. Climate Emergency Centres were highlighted as a good way to support this.
In terms of focus, targeting fossil fuels companies and their enablers like banks came out strongly. Shell was given particular attention as its HQs are in Lambeth and our local rebels targeted them a few times already. Other big campaigns included the obvious active participation in XR’s Rebellions and also in movement of movement events and actions (eg Kill The Bill, social justice, media-related, youth groups). Many also recognised the need to balance national actions with more local ones, for example housing (refurbishing, insulating) or air pollution/active travel.
In terms of organisation, working groups and communication channels would need to reflect the focus on outreach and actions, with an emphasis on reducing their number as well as the various platforms being used for them. It was felt that “teams” including “experts” focusing on either area may work better than the current, fairly hierarchical (and therefore non-XR!) system of working groups with one coordinator. This would also help spread responsibilities and therefore workload among more pepole and make the process fairer.
It was highlighted that a system needed to be put in place to induct new members (eg a buddy system) and that considerations should be put into “reactivating” the others.
Finally, in terms of communications, our newsletter got some really good feedback but we’ll have to make it more regular. The need to focus more on solutions and balance the “doom and gloom” of XR’s messaging was made clear in the feedback. This would help motivate existing rebels but also reach out to a wider audience (via different channels and face-to-face) who may be put off otherwise.
Rebels also highlighted the delicate balance between sharing enough and too much information, which can be overwhelming especially if spread over many channels. Many suggested to review our current comms structure and plan to make the process easier and more transparent for everyone.
You can find all the comments and proposals in our shared file. We want to make sure tthe proess is as transparent as possible!
Now that we know where we’re heading, we will start taking steps towards implementing all the great suggestions. Some of them are fairly quick and easy to implement, some will take a little bit longer and are more resource-intensive, especially now that everyone is busy preparing for our August rebellion!
We’ll start by making sure these suggestions and resulting changes are being shared widely and people are given time and support to transition into our new model. We’ll keep encouraging and supporting rebels to get involved regardless of whether they are new or “veterans” and once the structuaral changes have been implemented, coordinators can also take a step back and – after taking some well-deserved rest!- can join outreach and/or actions and provide their support and expertise to keep the momentum going.
Make sure you keep up with all of this and get involved by:
- joining our Whatsapp broadcast channel (admins posting important information between 8am and 8pm)
- joining our Actions and Arts Whatsapp groups that we will be prioritising in the lead up to the rebellion
- joining our New Rebels chat and introducing yourself so we can welcome and support you
- subscribing to our newsletter
- emailing us with any questions or suggestions
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