Please find the dedicated page called 'Resources for Readers' that serves as my resource review: http://portfolios.gaiauniversity.org/view/view.php?id=10055
Evidence of Outcomes
My brilliant advisor Jennifer Morgan gave me feedback to better assess my own impact in my fields. The suggestion was to map the different outcomes of my work and add some qualitative commentary and quantitative data. Then to share some analysis of these patterns. Below is my first attempt at this task. Please note there is a big personal barrier for me in a) identifying or celebrating my achievements (more likely minimising my role in making things happen) b) not articulating publicly my involvement in projects due to fear of state repression.
- Wrote a series of articles about overcoming burnout, having identified I was burning out in February 2016: http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/category/radical-community-organising/self-carecommunity-care/ I have received overwhelming feedback and support for my radical honesty and writing.
Commentary: 2015 was a tough year. My best friend died in January and the rest of the year was spent blocking out the grief and trying to cope with everything the best I could. I feel I did remarkably well given the circumstances to keep delivering professionally and politically through my organising. In 2016 I made huge gains in addressing underlying emotional issues and wounds that have accumulated in my life. This was in response to burning out and developing a chronic illness called 'costochondritis', where the cartilage in my rib cage has been inflamed for months.
Quantitative data: see section below titled 'Self Care Gains'
Professional - Empty Cages Design
Courses & Learning Pathway
- Completed a three-day Keyline Design course with Owen Hablutzel http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/keyline-design-course-with-owen-hablutzel/
- Completed a five-day agroecology course with Miguel Altieri and Clara Nicholls, leaders in the field. http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/agroecology-course-with-miguel-a-altieri-and-clara-nicholls/
Media & Platform
- Interviewed on Healing Agriculture website - http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/interview-on-healing-agriculture/
- Gave a talk as part of the People’s Harvest Forum in San Francisco (via skype) about animal liberation and food sovereignty http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/talk-for-the-peoples-harvest-forum/
- Interviewed by Rob Hopkins for the Transition News Podcast about permaculture and prisons: http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/interview-on-transition-network/
- Spoke at the Permaculture Picturehouse in London about permaculture and prison abolition: http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/permaculture-prisons-talk-at-the-permaculture-picturehouse/
- Facilitated sessions at both the International Permaculture Conference and Convergence in September 2015.
Teaching & Workshop Facilitation
- Undertook a successful design consultancy project for a peri-urban smallholding in Gloucestershire.
Commentary: 2015 was definitely a significant year for professional outreach. My website 'Empty Cages Design' has received increasing hits. I am being contacted at an increasing rate to give talks, lead workshops and so forth. I have also been approached by Maddy Harland from Permanent Publications who is interested in supporting me to produce a book on Liberation Permaculture.
Professional - Feed Avalon
- Became a subcontractor with Somerset Skills and Learning, a local adult education provider. We now deliver community adult education around food production. We have hosted courses in soil care, growing to sell, planting for pollinators, mushroom cultivation, food sovereignty and beginners food growing.
- Secured a new piece of land from the Town Council, secured £4000 of funding from the Grow Wild Project and launched Avalon Wildflower Park in April 2016, as a community project to support people to connect with the land and biodiversity.
- Continued to support the development of Brook End LAND Centre where I live. See our new website here: http://www.brookend.org.uk/
- Organised a Seed Swap, Community Food Forum and Harvest Show to support local food production.
- Supported the Growing Glastonbury Project which involves monthly skillshares and weekly community gardening clubs.
- Secured a grant to run a community cooking project
Self Care Gains
As part of my tracking commitments using my 'daily tracker forms'. I have recorded several areas of my life that I have wanted to improve on.
These goals were to:
- Increase the amount of sleep I have
- Reduce the amount of time I spend sleeping away from home
- Reduce the amount of time spent traveling
- Reduce the amount of time spent on emails
- Reduce the amount of time on the computer (only tracked since OP5/LIPD and Capstone OP2)
- Feel happier, or at least understand the reasons for unhappiness/depression/stress or anger
- Track my energy and capacity to feel exhausted
Below are various graphs illustrating the results.
- My average sleep has increased since 2013/14 however I am still not achieving my goal of 8 hours per night. Likewise my sleep is averaged between nights where I catch up and those that are significantly short and causing me harm.
- My time spent sleeping at home has increased significantly since identifying this as an important intervention in my life. It may also be because of being single last year.
- I have managed to reduce the number of hours spent traveling but this is still a large use of my energy.
- I have been very successful in reducing time spent on email due to various improvements in managing my time and promises and implementing inbox interventions.
- Unfortunately the number of hours on my computer increased between OP5/LIPD (4.62 hours) and my Capstone OP2 (5.35 hours) which I suspect is due to my organising interests.
- In my capstone output two I also tracked the time I had spent on conscious learning (reading, output work, courses and so forth) which averaged 1.5 hours a day, which I thought was great in the context of my life and the number of responsibilities I have.
In terms of feelings there are some illuminating trends:
- My happiness has reduced since last year, which I associate with my best friend dying. However there have been more occasions where I have felt joy.
- My anxiety has increased since last year, which I believe is related to my winter burnout 2015/16.
- I also became more irritable and angry.
- Likewise the number of times I recorded being exhausted increased.
- According to my data, I have felt less depressed. I think this is because depressive feelings were highly associated to my bereavements, and now my feelings are shifting into more anxiety related states due to unprocessed grief.
- There is a dramatic reduction in energy and an increase in tiredness.
PoDaPo Skill Flex Gains
I track the skill flexes I am gaining through output work in my google spreadsheet the Skill Flex Assessment Tracker. You can view the tracker here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/12FsF3TbpYqc3JrRbDa2DyYpN3kEAGUVxmOxwGoy52jo/edit?usp=sharing
In summary, the main skills I have cultivated during this Output Period, specifically relating this this output are:
- Knowledge of local economic systems & financial permaculture
- Understanding of current dominant economic systems & paradigms
- Economic relocalization (Regenerative economics)
- Cooperative working
- Social enterprise design
- Crowdsource fundraising
- Grassroots fundraising strategies/alternatives to NPIC
- Understanding of solidarity economies, bioregional economics & alternative systems
- Business model generation & enterprise planning
- Financial forecasting
- Abundant frugality
- Right livelihood/livelihood design
- Self employment systems e.g. tax, compliance
- Consultancy administration
- Design consultancy processes
- Network understanding (capacity to curate/influence networks)
- System interventions (appropriate timing & points)
- Worldview literacy
- Group design processes
- Conflict resolution/mediation/managing challenging behaviour
- Delegation/workload sharing
- Leadership/supporting leaderful groups
- Active following
- Repression resilience
- Burnout strategies/group self-care support
- Group visioning/goal setting
- Group communication
- Group decision making processes
- Collective reflection & action learning support
- Open space technologies
- Group facilitation
- Collaborative visioning e.g. dragondreaming
- Participatory/group design processes
- World cafe
- Patrix understanding & deconstruction
- Sexuality, class, gender, race awareness
- Skilled event design & management
- Social change/struggle history & awareness
- Strategic thinking, strategy analysis & planning
- Working with diverse groups of people
- Authentic influence
- Active listening
- Operating on the edge/radical organising
- Skilled social media usage
- Article writing
- Advanced website design
- Grammar/spelling/technical english language ability
- Graphic design: zines, journals
- Graphic design software skill flexes: gimp, photoshop, indesign
- Project design/proposal writing
- Creating, crafting & utilising support systems
- Tracking learning & activity
- Active journaling/reflective observation
- Time/promise management
- Personal GTD system design
- Strategic planning
- Prioritisation & Decision making processes
- Event management
- Giving & accepting feedback
- Pedagogies congruent with permaculture
- Gaia U Advising
- Creative teaching
- Facilitating action learning
- Popular education methodologies
- Course design & curricula
- Competency in Permaculture Diploma Tutoring
- Course convening
- Critical thinking
- Literature review
- Self observation/awareness
- Dealing with emotions
- Understanding trauma & designing for healing
- Crisis management & personal resilience
- Menstruation/cycle awareness
- Energy systems understanding & healing
- Cultivating mindfulness
Project Design Elements
Original Output Design Mindmap
MSc Tracker Spreadsheet
I designed a 'master tracker' spreadsheet last year to help me me manage my pathway more skillfully, as I have been working on different outputs simultaneously.
Challenge of 'experts' and men leading courses. Like a monologue carried by charisma. Exhausting for everyone.
See notebook ideas for radical programme - supporting design professionals/educators/organisers to spread practices.
The actual understanding of agroecology needs to be massively increased in the UK. What is an agroecologist? How is it different to being a grower?
Role of pop ed - explored today briefly. Still challenging how much everyone is stuck in a consumer/producer/capitalist model. Role of pop ed = creating community of resistance, movement, transformational!
At the start of the Food Sovereignty Course...
Mama D saying "Imagine if all the dispossessed people had access to this [Brook End]/an acre to create their dreams and grow". We should be struggling for the landless/urban/working class.
Talking with Lisa, catching up on movement. She called me a 'steam engine'. Feel like I am playing a huge role in building this movement. I think back to people that must have organised against slavery or for suffrage. How they must have shared characters e.g. workaholics that would tour constantly, build relationships. I love it. Why? Sense of creation/building. Depth of relationship and sense of power.
Role of pop ed. Did workshops with women from women's health project. Ex-prisoners and detainees. Very moving. People engaged and reflecting. Then did talk with Brighton ABC. Harder crowd but people interested. Helped by presentation.
2015 was a year I won’t forget. It was the best of times and the worst of times. This blog post is a brief reflection of what went well & what was challenging.
I’m going to start with the challenges so I can end on a positive.
What was challenging?
- I lost my closest friend in the world, Gilly, on the 11th January. Having spent three months caring for her after she broke her pelvis, she passed away with pneumonia. It was a total, utter shock and loosing her has changed everything.
- In the midst of organising the funeral, my great-Uncle was diagnosed with Cancer and passed away a few weeks later. Another close friend from my local town then also died, making it the third funeral in 6 weeks. The whole of spring felt like a haze of grief.
- To cope with the grief I worked, and worked, and worked. I didn’t want to feel so I through myself into campaign work & organising. On days when I’d let myself breathe, I’d feel overcome with sadness and so I avoided feeling and just went full throttle on all my projects.
- My Nan who I have lived with for four years, has been ill since the summer with rapid dementia, its been so hard for the family that she is now going into professional care.
What went well?
- I set a new years resolution for myself to not get into any relationships. It helped me set a boundary in my life and allowed me to deeply reflect on what I want from a relationship. I met some incredible people this year, learnt SO much about myself and have finished the year actually breaking my resolution and falling for one of my best friends.
- I had some amazing times away. I have barely travelled the last 6 years due to the state repression. This year I had several short trips to mainland Europe for speaking tours and loved the feeling of adventure, meeting new comrades and having time away from prison island UK.
- My worker’s co-operative, Feed Avalon, has gone from strength to strength. There is now 5 of us on the payroll and we are increasingly getting known locally. We are building relationships and initiating new projects, as well as learning loads about each other and cooperative working.
- The anti-prison organising I’ve been involved with has escalated massively, taking up more of my life in a good-way. I’m feeling energised & focused and feel like the groundwork is paying off as a movement is emerging.
- I’m going to be an aunty!
- I wrapped up my first year of my MSc Political Agoecology with Gaia University (only took me 2.5 years..!) I also started a Diploma in Education and Training and am really enjoying exploring critical pedagogy and my role as an educator.
I can’t do it. I simply can’t be part of this system. I don’t want to be part of the ‘prevent’ programme or uphold british values. I detest the state & this society.
Ten years ago I walked out of this college. I have tried for 6 months to adapt to mainstream education, but have failed again. Failed to fit in to an oppressive model, is that a failure or a success? Failed to want to be a ‘professional’ in a sector so pivotal to pacifying generations. There is no place for critical thinking, for deviance from the social norms. Nothing about current education is directed towards any level of social change. I have had a fresh reminder of the role of education in maintaining the status quo.
Doubts in myself>>>
Or have I failed in managing my time and promises? Have I failed in prioritising time for my own professional development? Is once again my organising work bulldozing everything out of my life?
Exploring these doubts>>
- See this decision in an empowering light - a commitment to my anarchism, my dedication to radical social change
- That I am choosing to invest energy in social change rather than achieving qualifications that help me ‘professionally’. I don’t want to adapt better to this world of oppression. I want to transform it. I don’t think this course is helping me do that.
- I’m basically unable to do anything I’m not 100% passionate about.
- Unable to commit to external deadlines, don’t do this again! Cross off any idea of working in mainstream education. Look at how to strengthen my organiser skill set & as a grower.
- Focus on developing Feed Avalon. How to strengthen liberating structures internally.
Actions from here >>
- Next OP thoroughly critiquing education (not just looking at pop ed/alternatives). Also critiquing professionalism/power-over/role of middle class people in maintaining oppression
- Focus on finishing MSc. Stretch my time/energy management edges (so that its the first and not the second reason why I dropped this course).
- Evidence I’m an educator & critically reflecting on my work on my website. Design my own pathway, models of evaluation & feedback. Design a support web for myself. Connect with other radical educators.
I’m currently travelling through France as part of the Learning from SHAC Winter European Speaking Tour. I never imagined when I was a kid in the campaign that one day it would all end. I had never thought we would be so battered we would never recover.
I lost everything. The campaign that made my heart beat, that was my purpose for living. I lost my closest friends. I thought I had my life-long partner in crime, but now I don’t even know where he lives or if he thinks of the campaign or me at all. I sit every day with the feeling of failure, that the lab is still open and the animals still being tortured. I grieve for a movement in decline, a loss of dignity and a loss of power as we lick our wounds in retreat. I grieve for my friends who have died, whose physical loss haunts me, as I ache for their guidance and wisdom.
There is no one else to rebuilt this movement but us. We can learn from the repression, we can complain about the state of the movement, we can say we are not strong enough for this or that project or initiative, but we can no longer keep looking back. We have to learn, grow and struggle again.
I feel overwhelmed like people are looking to me for answers. It’s like this crazy fairytale of fighting the demons and the monsters, dying and being reborn, taking every last piece of courage from inside myself to keep going. A dark shadow follows me of self doubt and fear. That I’m not ready. That I don’t really know what I’m doing. It’s not my time. I’m not strong/smart/brave/experienced enough. But in this dark forest that I’ve just travelled through for 6 years I don’t know who else there is. There is no one by my side who was there at the start of the journey. There is not even myself. I look in the mirror some days and I’m unsure of who this person is. This young girl with big brown eyes, now older. Tired skin and aching shoulders. This young girl who spent too many hours in prison visitor waiting rooms, who screamed her lungs out on demos, who was handcuffed naked, thrown into cells in police stations and prisons. Who fought off sexually aggressive officers, saw her friends try to kill themselves and others get beaten, who healed her own broken heart, destroyed of trust and empty of hope. Who faced her license alone away from everything and anyone she had known.
Sometimes I don’t give that young girl credit. Sometimes I don’t forgive her for making mistakes. Sometimes I don’t acknowledge everything she has been through. Sometimes I think how the fuck is she still here, how is she still fighting.
Stories of struggle and repression. Late nights. Early mornings. Sunrises. Train stations. Strangers. Graffiti. Prison. Pain. Despair. Depth. Loss. Memories. Grief. Fear. Resistance. Solidarity. Van dashboards. Skyline. Mountains. Ocean. Silver birch. Magpies. Lungs. Fever. Sweat. Adventure. Strength. Freedom. Responsibility. Missing home. Heartache. Unending change. Sadness. Inspiration. Courage. Hope. Joy.
Viva belgrado cancer, capricorno
I think freedom is the biggest thing that my heart desires, in the sense of my calling. Working for the freedom of all - animals, prisoners. It's my thread. Yes other values are important to me like reducing suffering, or addressing inequality, but ultimately freedom, and fighting to win it is what makes my heart beat.
In my own personal life I think it means looking at makes me feel trapped. I am very confident in taking on responsibilities but I don't like to feel trapped if that makes sense.
How can I integrate this observation into my life?
Sometimes I feel like there are different versions of myself. Different archetypes fighting with each other for air time. In an attempt to feel whole I’m trying to please them all. And I’m stretching myself so thinly, overwhelmed with responsibilities and placing energy in so many different directions.
There’s the Nicole Vosper who wants to fight. She relishes late nights, driving, public speaking and facilitation, research, using her cunning. And simply organising, organising, organising and getting results. She is a risk taker. She has limited attachments and is fearless in her actions. She is completely focused and dedicated. She lives for today, in the moment, always knowing freedom could be taken.
Then there’s the Nicole who is desperate to create. Who just wants to build movements and systems but at a slower pace. She is deeply connected to the land. She likes to make medicine and grow food. She likes to study and learn and develop professionally. She wants stability and security. She likes to organise in her community, at the grassroots. She wants a stable long term partner and to be able to regularly connect with friends, lovers and family.
The last year or two I have been desperately and unsustainably trying to express these archetypes at the same time. As well as other archetypes in my life (like being a carer). Its led to resentment, and frustration, and ultimately burnout. When I’ve been doing one thing I’ve felt like I should be doing something else. And then I’ve felt ineffective in every area, not quite having the impact I desire.
But I also question, maybe these archetypes are complimentary?? Maybe my focus should be on making my collectives more leaderful so I don’t have to be filling that gap all the time? Surely more people organising who are whole are better? If I am more boundaried with Feed Avalon then Empty Cages work will feel like my dominant focus? Because that is what my heart is desiring, and that is why there is resistance and tension in me, and building resentment.
It may not be possible to have it all, all the time. Different archetypes will be expressed at different times, but perhaps I can find some healing in trying to bring wholeness? What will bring wholeness to me?
Or do we need to accept that we can’t express all these different sides to ourselves? And maybe the loss of an archetype is a wound but a source of healing, a source of freedom? A source of power because we have finally embraced a path and are giving our all to it?
There’s no easy answers. I’m still trying to listen to my heart.