Exchange for Change: “skills share” held, lessons learnt

Exactly a month ago Manchester Climate Monthly tried to hold a skill-share.

exchangeforchangeThe (15) people who came seemed to enjoy themselves a lot, and made new connections. But overall, the numbers were too low (1) for it to have achieved what it could have (which was to get a toe-hold for the “activist skills and knowledge” framework into the consciousnesses of individuals and groups.

Here are the type-ups from small group discussion that various people very kindly sent in almost immediately. Below them are the types-ups that I only now could face doing.

How to get out of the ghetto or “stop preaching to the converted.”
Approach diverse groups
Make a concerted effort to list as many groups as you can think of.
Use diverse media – not “one size fits all”
email / leaflets / posters / social media
make it fun and interesting
people like different ways of being informed
use language appropriate to different groups
Be interactive
engage people in different ways – people learn in different ways
make it fun!
Provide a welcoming atmosphere
Welcome every individual!
Make people aware that they have not walked in to a clique
Provide very simple ways to get involved – This helps overcome the “don’t have time” barrier
Find a way of valuing people’s opinion that they can appreciate and respond to – Saying, “I value your opinion,” is not enough.
Allow people to feel ownership
Find people in the community who can engage their peers
Find a way to make space for people in their own environment – The closer to home, the less effort or reason is required to attend.
Offer solutions

  • Make them practical
  • Make them ground up
  • Make them easily applied
  • Make sure the solutions show visible effects quickly enough to enthuse and encourage people.

That last bit reminds me of common advice for new programming teams: Start with an easy-win that requires just enough effort so that people need to work together. Then do something that is challenging enough to make the team feel tested and that you are sure is possible.

How to sustain momentum
1) use what you have – personal interest in particular topics or expertise.
2) Go to other’s meetings. Go to people rather than get people to come to you. Go to events that aren’t specifically about the environment, but related: e.g. health events.
3) Have a good reason to meet and hold events.
4) How you you get feedback and evaluate an event – act on what you are told.
5) Think about follow up, set targets for what each attendee is going to do afterwards. Ask about progress.
6) Don’t set a topic to be too broad or the aspiration too vague or in the future.
7) Have regular meetings, tell people when the next on is. Continue a discussion rather than have one-offs.
8) Structure is important – but make it work in the background. events should feel natural and spontaneous.
9) Different people communicate and take on-board things in different ways. Have a mix of techniques for sharing information.
10) Think about location and time of events to e.g. convenient and accessible for the type of people you want to attract.

Here’ what people wrote on the various flip-charts dotted around the room…

I want (to be able to)
calm communications
food growing
community engagement/outreach/pre/media
welcoming/attractive to newbies
collaborative working
speaking truth/positively
network/create links
organise events
able to communicate at all levels
self-preservation/burnout avoidance
meme warfare
project management
establish connections and develop understanding
articulate clearly what our organisation does and why
communicate fluently and calmly
speak French fluently
knowledge of environmental creative ideas

I can
build websites
organise high profile events for communities
philosophy/aesthetics debate
write pretty good business plans

Activists in Manchester should
Get drunk more often together
Keep their websites up to date
Not use the word “should” because it’s tension-provoking
Reach out
Support each other
Yes support each other more

Gaps in my knowledge
Local economic figures and opportunities – x 2
Greater Manchester politics – x 2
Amount of embedded energy in consumer products
food growing
Getting answers (concrete ones) from Manchester City Council

I want training in
Communicating calmly with people who don’t hold my opinions, beliefs and knowledge
Social media
[Someone has written – “I might feel like offering a short-term group of attaining calm!]

25th Fuelling Manchester #6
28th AfSL recruiting 6 local project managers (volunteer)
End of June for applications. Receive £600 free training in community project planning
30th An economy for the 99% – organised by Climate Survivors and the Alliance for Jobs and Climate

July and August
Eco-house in Chorlton open
Shop/community space open to rent
13th July Feeding Manchester
28th Matt Rowe leaving

Moss Side Community Allotment open day – date to be confirmed

Marc Hudson

(1) The numbers were low because, for various reasons – MCFly had not plugged the event as regularly and religiously as you need to in order to make things happen.  That’s lesson number one.  Lesson number two is, I think, that without specific skills being offered (“come learn how to write a press release/do basic bike maintenance/deal with denialists” then folks think it will be all too general and airy-fairy for them to bother with.

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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