Rainbow lobbyers: training the trainers

Greenpeace UK have a vision of having a trained lobbyist in every constituency in the UK. Their reputation is in taking direct action, but lobbying MPs (and I include MSPs, AMs and MLAs in that), MEPs, councilors and corporate representatives is also an essential part of the work they do. To that end, this weekend, I was training trainers in delivering Greenpeace’s political lobbying training.

The 12 participants all had existing experience as trainers, teachers or lecturers which added to the challenge of creating a workshop that felt useful to them. From the feedback it looks like the agenda met that challenge. Overall the workshop was a success. There were, of course, one or two niggles about specific exercises which didn’t work as well as they might for everyone. This reflects my experience of this kind of course over the years. Because it’s full of opportunities for people to practice and receive peer feedback it’s always well received.

I’ll be emailing out the evaluation form so that people can add further reflections, and because one or two participants had to leave before the final evaluation session. In usual Rhizome fashion, I’ll share anything new

What worked best for me was stepping away from traditional learning theory and focusing on the skills and attitudes that make ensure trainers are also competent facilitators. Because an awareness of things such as learning styles and the need for experiential learning had been applied in the development of the political lobbying training I could afford to change to focus. So we spent much of Saturday working on enhancing existing skills in listening, reporting on the state and sense of the group, and formulating questions that helped to draw learning out of the group. We also dedicated some specific time to looking at roleplay as a tool.

What worked less well from my own perspective was my own reporting on the state of the group. In part this was because I stepped away from this role, having explicitly invited and encouraged the participants to take it on. But they were not always forthcoming, and there were dynamics in play that were worthy of naming in order to both ameliorate them and share some collective learning around them.

Of course I didn’t ignore these dynamics, employing a number of techniques to deal with them. But nor did I shine a light on them in the way that naming them might have.

The Greenpeace staff seemed genuinely happy with the quality of the work they’d received from Rhizome at the weekend and in the run up to it. This was a new departure for Greenpeace. They have other trainers – nonviolent direct action trainers and street campaign trainers who haven’t received this kind of support – sink or swim has been the name of the game to date. I hope that will change and that Rhizome may be asked to be part of that change.