From 16th – 18th March Woodbrooke will be hosting a course exploring how to build a diverse and transformative movement for change. We caught up with one of the facilitators, Tim Gee, to find out more:
Building a diverse and transformative movement for change – is the name of your upcoming course. It sounds rather grand, can you tell a little about how it came about and what it sets out to achieve?
The thought behind the course began with the offer to give a lecture at Yearly Meeting 2017, themed on ‘movement building’, with the possibility of a Woodbrooke weekend to follow it up.
Through the process of conversations and consultation which informed the lecture’s preparation, it quickly became clear that Quaker Meetings are – with exceptions – not always as welcoming as we maybe think we are, nor are we as socially engaged with all parts of our communities as we might hope.
Working to change this seemed to me like the first step towards our participation in the kind of mass social movement that we would need to play a transformational role in changing society.
What are your hopes for the course?
I’ve worked as a campaigner and grassroots trainer with environmental and anti-poverty organisations for most of the past ten years or so, including with groups in similar situations to modern day Quaker Meetings.
My hope is simply to build on that experience to share some tools with participants to support their meetings in building and deepening relationships with others for change. I hope it will also be a space to continue generating and encouraging ideas for how every Meeting can be as inclusive as possible to newcomers. Both approaches to relationships – within and beyond the Meeting seem to me equally important, as we work towards being the most effective partners in change we can be.
Can you share with us some of your thoughts as to how ‘change’ happens?
Change can happen in a multitude of ways. Some people run for political office. Some people become experts in relationship building with decision-makers. Some people – and Quakers have been especially active in this – have found ever more creative ways to non-violently place their bodies in the paths of injustice so that violent processes are disrupted and dismantled. Some people have – through their words and actions – transformed culture, structures of thinking and repertoires of possibility to show that that change previously considered unthinkable is in fact completely achievable.
One thing that connects all of these approaches to change though is friendship – relationships – the core of the Quaker way. None of these approaches can effectively be pursued without people from different walks of life working together. More than anything else, that is what this weekend will be about.
Would you share with us some of your personal experiences with all this as part of your journey with Quakers?
I’ve come to understand social change in terms of power: ‘power between people’ to build movements, the ‘power from above’ that governments and other elites use for better or worse, and the ‘power-from-below’ of popular pressure for change.
In my Quaker journey though I have encountered a fourth kind of power: the spiritual power from within which Quakers have characterised as ‘the inner light’. The uneasiness around talking about ‘inner work’ that exists within purely secular campaigning cultures seems like a sad absence, but also something that Quakers are well placed to bring, as we share with progressive forces what we’ve learnt from our centuries of peace witness about sustaining social movements for the long term.
Through my journey as a Quaker I’ve learnt more about the power that comes with privilege which left unchecked would seem to both to obscure our ability to interpret that same inner light, and to limit the perspectives which might lead to deeper understanding of truth. Understanding and seeking to dismantle social inequality then is every bit as much a spiritual consideration as a political one.
And lastly – if you had one day to do with what you liked, and had the resources to do it – what would you do?
Truly? I feel blessed that my greatest joys – time spent with loved ones, reading, writing, working with others for change are not at all resource intensive and I have the chance to do them.
If you would so tempt me with any resources at all though, I think I’d find a way to try and combine all the things I love best whilst successfully suppressing something bad.
After a few times trying over the years, it would certainly be nice to party in the road outside an arms fair with so many people that they finally decide to close the damn thing down! Perhaps we could make that the target for 2019…
Watch Tim Gee’s Gorman Lecture given at Yearly Meeting Gathering 2017
Building a Diverse and Transformative Movement for Change will run from 16th to 18th March at Woodbrooke. To book a place, please visit the course page in the Learning section of our website
We offer a 50% discount for 18-30 year olds on all Woodbrooke short courses, whether on-site or online.
In recognition that the course follows a lecture typically given by a younger person, four fully-funded ‘George Gorman Scholarships’ are available for 18-35 year olds. To find out more and apply email firstname.lastname@example.org