Framework sections highlighted: Connect, Listening, Reach

“Don’t look back unless it’s to see how far you’ve come”

Spider Project is a creative arts and wellbeing organisation that works with people who are in recovery from drugs and alcohol problems. They asked their local community organisers to run a workshop there, to train people in the process of organising in their communities.

At first, some participants were reluctant, including one who wanted to leave at the beginning, but Eve, the trainer, persuaded him to stick it out until lunchtime.  By the end of the day his perception had been completely changed, Eve explained:

“He said, ‘I saw the word organising and I thought of the word organisation. and I thought of all these institutions.’  And he was like, ‘It’s the complete opposite.’  It was really interesting [to hear] what he expected just from the title of it.”

The listening section of the training brought out some interesting points around how differently people can see things based on their experiences, reflected Eve:

“I remember one guy picked a picture of someone standing on top of a mountain, and my sister had been on one of my training courses, and she had picked that photo and said, ‘I just feel so free, this is me at the top of a mountain.’  You know, all those really positive things that it stands for.  And this guy picked up the same photo and said, ‘This is me sitting up there all on my own, not knowing how to get down.’  And that really brought it home to me, how differently two people can take the same thing.”

Throughout the day, the group began to uncover some issues they could act on straight away.  They discussed that, although Spider Project is a membership organisation, the members didn’t feel they really have a say in what goes on, or the ability to influence the organisation in a meaningful way.

Spider Project was fully on board with the process from the beginning, explained Eve:

“There have been some organisations I’ve done training with who don’t really want their members to take any power, they just want to offer them some kind of training.  Whereas Spider really wanted them to do this, but they didn’t quite know how to go about it.”

At the end of the training, the group agreed to digest everything and meet up with Eve the following week.

In the meantime, I had got a phone call from Kerry, who works for Spider and she was like, “What have you done?” They were going around talking to everyone and listening to everyone!

The group had decided that they wanted to have something to take back to the meeting with Eve, so they had started listening to the other members and new people about their first impressions of the organisation.

One woman who completed the training and started listening sadly passed away, so her son received her training certificate.  On the day, he gave Eve a card with his mum’s favourite quote on it:

Don’t look back unless it’s to see how far you’ve come.

This has now become the social action group’s motto – reflecting on all the experiences they have been through and looking forward.  Eve highlighted the personal power that has been gradually brought out in members of the group throughout the process, power that for many in the group has, for most of their lives, been exerted from outside onto them.

“When we first did the training, it was a really heavy day, because a lot of the things we talked about brought up these horrendous memories for people, and all these horrendous experiences.

“But having seen them all go through that and then go, ‘Do you know what, that’s in the past, this is about how we can change things going forward.’  It’s been really, really good.  It’s been really lovely.”


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