Last Saturday, feminists from across Birmingham & the Black Country came together for the final session of UK Feminista’s first Feminist Activist Mentoring course.
Facilitated by a team of inspiring Regional Organisers, the five day course brought together passionate feminists with a hunger to tackle sexism in their communities- whether fighting against cuts to essential women’s services, tackling the limitations put on girls’ aspirations or challenging the stigma around feminism. Through the five sessions participants worked together with Regional Organisers to identify the root causes of the issues they care about, explore different ways of disrupting power, discover new tactics for making change and realise their own unique skills as change-makers.
There was input from experienced campaigners too: Inspirational Community Organiser Marcia Lewinson from Women Acting In Today’s Society offered her top tips for influencing decision-makers and building powerful movements, and Elena and Becky from Common Cause shared fascinating research into the importance of putting our values at the heart of our campaign tactics and communications as well as the ways we organise.
Below participants from the course share some of the tools they found useful for understanding how change happens and planning their own campaigns.
Nicola on the thinking about values when communicating our campaigns:
“Common Cause really caught my attention… The session briefly showed how values are what we hold, frames are how we order ideas and how values are communicated. The activities began by finding the common values that held all our issues together, then followed by looking at how feminism, equality and women are framed by others. The surprising thing, but I suppose upon further reflection shouldn’t be, was how often women and feminism are framed based upon image not content. So to sum up the first session lesson for me: the values you appeal to when framing a campaign will effect the behaviour of your target audience. Whichever values you appeal to will amplify those that surround it also. “
Saira on exploring the root causes of sexism:
“The next activity we did was ‘problem trees’. Sounds simple enough, the trunk of the tree is your problem (e.g. street harassment), the roots of the tree are your root causes of said problem, an example how it is engrained into society to see women as objects. The branches of the tree are how the problem impacts upon people. Not so simple anymore, the root causes and how the problem manifests itself begin to merge until they become inextricably interlinked. It made us realise that the causes are not always easy to identify and that’s how issues that affect women aren’t extinguished so easily.”
Lindsey on investigating how social change actually happens:
In the afternoon session we split into two groups to talk about a social change that had happened within our lifetimes. We looked at who the actors were, what the context was and what barriers and facilitators were involved. One group looked at the removal of images of violence against women from Facebook, the other at the legalisation of same-sex marriage. It was interesting to compare the difference in scope between one slow-building long term change and one that was localised to within a social network. There were many similarities, such as the importance of grassroots support, and the potential complications of profit; and how they both, through being achieved, allow other things to be achieved. For example, the Facebook case creates a precedent for other types of harmful content to be removed, or for other social networking sites to be targeted with a similar campaign.”
Saira on choosing your targets, and identifying tactics to influence them:
“For the first activity we paired off and discussed the progress of our current campaigns, using the power maps from last week. We put the actors involved into categories of support change, oppose change, more and power and less power and went on to discuss how we could work with (or as the case may be, ignore) those groups. It definitely was useful, as knowing 1) what the hell you’re doing and, 2) Who you are targets helps to solidify a plan in your head. In order to make the whole prospect of campaigning less daunting we took a successful campaign and unpicked it, marking its impact month by month, identifying the techniques used and key actors in the process. The campaign we studied was ‘Lose the Lad’s Mags’, very topical as it had just been announced Nuts magazine was shutting down (hooray!)…
> Take a look at photos from the course
> Want to get going on your own campaign? Take a look at our online guide to running an effective campaign
> Want to take part in the next FAM course in Birmingham? Email Fiona@ukfeminista.org.uk to register your interest.