The Radical Assembly had facilitation training on Tuesday. It doesn't sound like the most exciting thing in the world but Roger Hallam, one of the founders of the housing co-op network, Radical Roots, gave the training and some interesting questions came up.
How do we introduce ourselves?
Roger explained that a good facilitator will introduce the meeting by saying what the group is, some guidelines we use to conduct meetings, and what the meeting is for. This is so that newcomers or people that have been out of the loop for a while get a better grasp of what is going on. And it helps give guidance to the meeting. As far as I'm aware we skip the first part in RASEL of explaining what we are. I think this is because we haven't fully agreed as a group. I suspect answering the question 'What is RASEL?' will help us clarify with each other what we should be doing and how we should be doing it. And this will help us have more productive meetings. Hopefully, agreeing the flier text will help with this. There has also been talk of a strategy day, which I think might be helpful.
Exclusion and common knowledge
We spent most of the workshop practising dealing with problem behaviours during the training. I've been told that we are quite 'on it' in RASEL in terms of not being exclusionary or oppressive in terms of gender, although at times we have slipped up. But one thing Roger highlighted was that activist groups can also be exclusionary by using lots of technical political language. I imagine this also includes taking for granted that people will understand political arguments on a range of social issues from immigration, to gender, to parliamentary politics, to economics and so on. And being snobbish about people that don't approach each issue from the most radical angle is a common complaint of leftist groups. I'm not sure how far this is a problem in RASEL but it’s something else to consider and keep an eye on. Especially if we wish to keep newer people engaged.
Facilitation training and compulsory empowerment?
Roger also explained that one of the reasons Radical Roots expanded to dozens of groups quickly, was that each new member of the network had to have facilitation training. It was compulsory for people to be empowered this way. The result was that people gained an insight on how to have productive meetings and the organisation's cohesion was very strong. I am personally quite receptive of the idea of at least encouraging all people involved in RASEL to get facilitation training. I'd also be interested in refresher training sessions for experienced facilitators. This isn't just to make sure meetings are as high quality as possible (my experience is meetings work best when everyone supports in facilitation. We could also use such trainings to reconsider and update our meeting processes and guidelines). It is also to help empower people in RASEL in whichever way we can. For example, it is a skill that can be used by individuals when engaged in local campaigns with outside groups. I'd be interested in a group training event every few months or so.