Taking Time to Reflect and Reorient

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“We have exactly enough time – starting now.” - Dana Meadows

After a year of working together, we’re taking Oct-Nov 2014 to reflect on the past year and plan for the years ahead. As our summer program came to a close, we wanted to take significant time to make longer-term plans based on our assessment of this political moment and the role we think we’re equipped to play in it. Many organizations struggle to make time for this because there is so much work to do! But ultimately we think we will amplify our impact by taking the time to plan our next moves with care.

We have a (long) list of questions guiding us – ranging from questions about the mechanics of our dual climate and economic crises to threats to Philadelphia’s watershed to the role affinity groups play in social movements. We know there isn’t just one way to learn, so we’re exploring these strategic questions through multiple channels.

We’re open for feedback and would love to hear your thoughts about our process and this moment in history. We’ll be sharing pieces of our reflection process here. Please add comments or reach out directly.

Elements of our practice:

We have spent the past year learning from as many movement organizers and actors as we can. We have intentionally connected with different social justice forces and pushed our understanding of what social change work looks like.

Synthesis meetings: We are now in a period of synthesizing and honing what we’ve learned. Each week, we gather for “synthesis meetings” around a central theme and set of questions, making time for both collective study and experiential ways of learning.

Study: Each week we select readings from authors across time and geographies, who speak directly to our guiding questions. We engage with different activities to sift through the readings, and more importantly to articulate its implications for our work in Philadelphia. We learn volumes from listening to those who have come before us.

Experiential: We can lose ourselves in books and theory while forgetting ours and others’ lived experiences. Our bodies, senses, creative selves can show us things our intellect cannot. In the experiential portions of our synthesis meetings, we not only read about our current political moment, but we put ourselves in it. For instance, we accompanied our study of the climate and economic crises with meditation on our despair and anger. We will learn about the Philadelphia watershed through books and maps, as well as a canoe outing down the Schuylkill River, past the largest oil refinery on the Eastern Seaboard.

“We are the only living things that have conversations, as far as we know. When you have conversation you never know what’s going to come out of your mouth or someone else’s mouth.” –Grace Lee Boggs

Mentorship Listening Project: In Maypop we owe a great deal of our political and spiritual development to countless mentors, young and old. A central pillar of our two month reflection period is our Mentor Listening Project. Over an eight week period, the six of us plan to have a total of about 50 conversations with movement mentors and peers. At the heart of all of this is a belief in the transformative potential of conversation and an insistence on human connection. Through these conversations we hope to deeply engage with some of our guiding strategic questions and central challenges, while drawing on the experiences of our movement mentors.

Mentorship takes many forms across identity, experience, organizing traditions, and communities. We have reached out to spiritual leaders, student activists, academics, unions organizers, and more. We believe that each of our mentors holds specific wisdom in what it means to build political power and hold community together.

Writing: Each Friday we engage in a free-writing process. Sometimes it is hard to find personal clarity until you sit down and just start writing. In the process of study it is easy to slip into habits of just consuming ideas without making time for reflection or mapping these ideas on to our political context. Our free-writes are focused on processing the week’s readings and experiences, but it also leaves room for each of us to spend time writing about whatever questions, ideas, or conversations are most pressing to us on a personal level.

Ongoing organizing: We’re taking a big step back from many of our engagements to make room for reflection. However, we’re still maintaining commitments to ongoing organizing and part-time paid work in some capacity, including the fight for Philly public schools, New Economies Coalition, the Divestment Student Network, Responsible Endowments Coalition, and Media Mobilizing Project.

Sharing our process: We want to share pieces of our conversations, feedback and advice from mentors, and great resources and readings we come across. We’ll be posting links, writing, and other tidbits from our process on this blog.

Power and peace,
Alexa, Dinah, Hannah, Sachie, Will, and Zein
Maypop Collective