Section 1: Sowing the Seeds

This section looks at the groups I am involved in and audits my energy investment in them.

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Overview

Food issues have always been close to my heart through my interest in veganism and in recent years permaculture, however in prison I was sent a book called Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture. Its impact was deep and on release I’ve dived in to organizing around the food system:

 Transition Glastonbury Food Groupsmall group of 2-5 people focused on local food issues in a positive, transition framework.

 

Somerset Community Food a local charity that I volunteered with and now work for, on a land and food project that aims to bring more land into community food production.

Reclaim the Fieldsa European network spearheaded by young people to create alternatives to capitalism through cooperative, collective, autonomous, real needs oriented small-scale production and initiatives. Linked to global struggles for land reform. See a recent presentation I created here.



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Effective organising: Catch & Store Energy

I am pro-actively involved in all of the above at fairly engaged levels. Therefore I have aimed to evaluate the benefits of this work in relation to the energy I invest, with the aim of identifying ‘drainers’ and positive uses of time. You can see the table I am analyzing in appendix 3 with my observations below:

  • Highest energy projects are those with medium to large size working groups. The least stressful have been those organized singly or with 1-3 people. Smaller, focused groups are desirable to me.
  • Public events such as film showings are simple to organize, non-stressful and can reach wider audiences & numbers.
  • Projects with a limited time span are less work e.g. one off event v. ongoing projects such as Fruit Trees for All.
  • Local events are less draining & easier to organize.
  • Events not involving money are less energy intensive and pressured.
  • Online only publicity is easier and less time consuming than flyering/postering.
  • National Gatherings or events longer than 1 day should have a larger organizing team with responsibilities spread. Outsourcing food is beneficial. 

I have also analysed my involvement in these networks using the SWOC tool. It is in this format that I can see the benefits of all of these projects and I can also see how well they compliment each other. However, limitations such as the lack of political analysis in the transition movement, do affect me. It is very important work but I ask myself, can others do this work? Should I focus my energy on more radical areas such as Reclaim the Fields to enhance the leverage of my efforts? Or is the local work the real building blocks of community resilience? Is there a way to make my work more effective overall to allow for heightened benefits on all levels? I can understand the importance of it all; the challenge is deciding my role.

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SWOC Analysis

Area of Work Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Challenges

Transition Glastonbury Food Group

(Grassroots, volunteers)

Local

Transition approaches have positive reputation

Focus on positive solutions

Totally dependent on volunteer energy, skills & time within the group

Can be disorganised/lacking in direction

Total focus on the positive - is lack of political analysis a failing point?

Relationship building at local level

Way of building local resilience

Can all the work that needs doing really be achieved by this group of people?

Overcomign time, energy & skill constraints

Lack of political analysis & action

Mainly local effect

 Somerset Community Food

(Charity, paid staff)

 Local history

Paid, dedicated, trained staff

Great for public contact

Acceptable budget

Developed network & contacts database

Dependent on grant funding to continue

Charity status disallows campaigning or political action

Workload reliant on small staff team and rare volunteer energy

Dependent on Trustee support

Reputation is a brilliant resource for general awareness raising &  press work

Grants scheme can offer useful service to local projects

Dedicated staff means things can get done

Continuity - how can the project be continued post-funding?

How can resources gained be shared?

Mainly local in effect

 Reclaim the Fields

(Grassroots, volunteer, national network)

 Horizontal decision making

European history & connection to La Via Campesina

Radical edge/Libertarian politics

Freedom to decide strategies/focuses

Lack of responsibility/defined roles within network

Dependent on people's energy, time & skils

'Self-sacrificing' in terms of time/demanding of volunteer organising energy

Connection to international peasant movement

Ability to achieve social & political change

Making decisions by consensus/ remaining true to democractic routes

Political repression

Time, energy & skill constraints of those involved

         
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