Reporting back from Peace News

Over the course of Sunday and Monday I facilitated 3 two-hour workshops at the Peace News Summer Camp. I also grabbed the opportunity to pin down Milan Rai and Gabriel Carlyle, of the Peace News editorial team as well as long-term activists and movement builders, to interview them about strategy. More of that when I’ve found time to work through all 27 minutes of the recording and edit it for your delectation.

Back to the workshops… all three were well received. Inevitably there are small changes I’ll make next time round but I’d be worried if there weren’t.

What’s strategy ever done for us, co-facilitated with Rich of Seeds for Change and which I blogged about in The values of strategy, was an interesting collision of people. They included those for whom meeting the aim of a campaign is everything even if it leads us towards tactics that we don’t feel comfortable with, and those for whom the language of building strategy on the back of our existing values really resonated. To an extent it also felt like a collision of 2 agendas. We explored the question of how our values influence our strategy and then played with a couple of tools. Both could have been a 2 hour workshop in themselves. My favourite evaluation comment was that “it challenged me in the way I wanted to be challenged”. The improvements suggested included wanting to hear  strategy success stories from the facilitators’ experience of campaign groups around the UK.

Advanced facilitation was a bit of a departure for me, and one I very much enjoyed. I left the agenda open and roped in the group to facilitating all stages of it. They decided what needed to be done to set the scene, facilitating introductions and an icebreaker. They decided whether they wanted a group agreement and discussed the best ways to facilitate one, and then they listed and prioritised the facilitation issues they wanted to cover. I merely held the space for them, providing some of the pieces of the process jigsaw and chipping in with ideas from time to time. The group expressed a feeling that this approach meant that it took a while to get through the introduction and agenda setting and get to the heart of the workshop, but there was lots of learning along the way.

Public speaking brought together a spectrum of would be speakers from the quietly confident to the terrified. We spent 2 hours working on techniques to build confidence and structure an effective talk. The participants then delivered a small part of their talk to the group. Everyone felt able to engage with the practice and the energy of the group at the end was good. I split the group up for the final practice session in order to allow everyone to have a turn in the time we had. One criticism was that this reduced audience size and that some people would very much have liked to have practiced in front of the whole group. Noted.

“I found both of your workshops (advanced facilitation and public speaking) very useful, and shall endeavour to put the ideas and techniques that emerged into practice. Many thanks for coming to do the workshops” Dan – workshop participant

Peace News folk collected the evaluation forms, which included scoring the workshop as well as room for comments. They’ll crunch the numbers and send me the results in good time at which point I’ll share them with you.

Westmill Co-operative Windfarm in the distance behind the main marquee