autonomous futures

Minutes from Glasgow gathering
April 21, 2008, 3:16 pm
Filed under: implementation

Minutes have been prepared and sent out. Here are the key decisions:

(Find full minutes attached)

That the mass action group can begin research and reccying, and will bring
proposals about their role and remit to the next gathering in May (in
advance of the meeting)

Postgraduate student from York University requests permission to carry out
research at the camp, on the basis that he won’t record discussions or
meetings without explicit permission from participants.

Process Budget of £750

The Caravan Group will fundraise and generate income, which will be added
to the Climate Camp’s funds. The net cost to the Climate Camp at any point
in time will not exceed 1200.

Networking budget will be 7050 until they present a coherent strategy.
Networking will not be allowed to spend more than 40% of available Camp

Contract with the Activist Tat Collective (see minutes for full text).

Biofuels Group to be given provisional budget of £500 pending detailed


media with Mick Fuzz
April 15, 2008, 11:52 am
Filed under: reflective log

Today we learned how to post (embedded) videos! Like this:

[ ?posts_id=181332&dest=-1]

link to original file

– go to blip tv
– click share, embed with wordpress
– write link to original, highlight it
– go to blip tv, click files and links, cut and paaste the .mov file

This was a really good session, but like most of the sessions, it’s really hard to get into this stuff with so little time. Especially when people are coming in with such different levels of experience. Still, I feel like slightly less of a techno-dolt than I did this morning.

Climate Camp gathering evaluation forms
April 13, 2008, 7:15 pm
Filed under: implementation

The results are in. I just finished collating the evaluation forms from the gathering and here they are:

Evaluation Forms – National Climate Camp Gathering, April 5-6 2008 Glasgow

What did you enjoy most about this gathering?
1 party – yes!, the kids, food, meetings
2 Discussion and consensus decision-making very empowering, exciting to meet people who have been on direct action
3 the party!!, I sorted out what I am going to organise and now know what I’m going away and doing
4 Parties are fun. Dangerous, but fun. Both more and less parties. Less in number but more in volume.
5 Loadsa food, pretty chilled vibe, great party, good dancing
6 kids space time, starting to get my head around what we need to do to make the camp happen, working group meetings, food!
7 social networking
8 Saturday morning
9 Really nice welcome, good food, good kids space, mostly really good and friendly facilitation, really good social on Saturday night
10 The party on Saturday – top venue and music, the lovely organised facilitation team
11 Welcoming, spacious, fun, we accomplished stuff, kids were well looked after
12 the beautiful venue
13 site handover and working group time
14 nice venue, amazing food, stuck to time limits more or less, brilliant music at the party
15 company, party the venue, space, warmth, excellent food
16 Excellent venue, good agenda plan, good bar and party
17 Consensus, meeting people, seeing Glasgow, party

What did you enjoy least?
1 the bus
2 feeling tired!
3 the afternoon of DOOM and never ending meetings (Sat.) – have mercy!
4 Floors are rubbish beds.
5 Got tired out
6 missing my train on the way here, Saturday afternoon discussion of mass action group
7 Saturday afternoon was a complete waste of air. Lots of aimless talking. Poorly facilitated/managed – need a facilitation group. Lack of quiet sleep space – music till 3am.
8 Finance in the big group never a good idea.
9 I would get rid of this box
10 The meetings were long and not diverse models. We should not plan meetings to run past 5.30m – only go past 6pm if essential. It’s too much for people.
11 frustration of long tiring discussions, lack of cake!
12 no outside area connected to the space
13 venue – lack of daylight/break out space
14 hearing the same people speak in meetings and repeating thigns over and over, group contract was not stuck to!
15 Unfortunate process – clarification failures
17 A few more open space sessions rather than open discussions as some of them allowed people to get over critical.

For each of the following statements please mark which is the most appropriate description:

I understood the issues being discussed.
– strongly agree: 12
– agree: 4
– disagree: 1
– strongly disagree:

I felt able to contribute.
– strongly agree: 8
– agree: 8
– disagree: 1
– strongly disagree:

The facilitators did a good job.
– strongly agree: 10

– agree: 6
– disagree: 1
– strongly disagree:

What could we have done better?
1 welcoming, in a broader sense, to newcomers (ie: where we are, how we work, name round, etc)
3 quicker decisions = less repetition of points
4 A display on the wall of agenda for reference (maybe you had one, must didn’t see it)
5 Some lovely Zapatista coffee and salt and pepper!
6 Working group meetings could have been scheduled better (ie: which were meeting after lunch, which before, which parallel, etc)
7 It is not fair on hosts to have to manage facilitation! More beer at the bar!
8 Small side group for ALL finance questions.
9 Perhaps 2am curfew on noise (dj), less stairs (tehehe)
10 We could have planned to stop at 5.30pm. We could have broken out more.
11 More cake and get Westons Cider!
14 Even though I knew it would be loud and partying on Saturday night – would have been better if music could have been a little lower after say 2am? Just because the wall was so thin. Being an organiser meant that I had to sleep here but am now knackered from 2 sleepless nights.
15 Facilitators (emphasis on WE)

Any other comments?
1 We don’t want to lose the enthusiasm we’ve worked so hard to attract
3 Good venue
5 Get evaluation forms done before everyone is walking out the door
6 Really great – thanks so much!
7 Event was clearly put on by hard working committed people who did a great job. Facilitation was a problem that the camp gatherings need to deal with.
8 Most excellent!
9 Thank you for a really lovely gathering
10 We thought there was a trip for Monday, but we don’t seem to be going now. Scotland did really really well to take such good care of us. Thanks!
14 Facilitators’ job made harder because only provided with info 15 minutes beforehand. Good work me and you! We should do this again sometime!
16 Thank you!

Feedback from 17 out of 80 isn’t ideal, but about par for the course. Most comments are in line with how I felt things went. For example, there were problems with facilitation on Saturday afternoon, but this was mainly due to not receiving proposals in advance and the stress of having to organise and logistics and all the facilitation.

It turns out we know how to throw a good party but not when to turn the volume down!

A couple more thoughts on the gathering
April 13, 2008, 12:41 pm
Filed under: reflective log

I would really like to put together some sort of Scottish ‘how to organise a gathering’ document from this experience.

For example: We must have checked out almost every possibly suitable venue in Glasgow. We know how much time to set aside for agenda planning, how many meal coordinators are needed to avoid anyone going crazy, and what time time to turn the music off to prevent folks from getting cranky. We spent loads of time trying to sort out entertainment when everyone was more than happy with a few people playing records. Trying to plan an action for the day after the gathering is not a good idea – it won’t happen unless the recky and organising is being done by people not involved in other aspects of the gathering. Don’t buy bread – you can skip everything you need in a couple of hours and save at least £100. Parents will love you forever if you make the kids space a priority. Et cetera.

We need to get this stuff on paper and collate it while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind. Hopefully this blog will be a good start.

I am still feeling frustrated by how the facilitation worked out. It wasn’t horrible by any means, but I feel like we would have done so much better if we were given the information and support that we asked for. It seems like people have taken this problem on board, but it’s something that comes up at almost every gathering, every camp, and so on. I watched the core person in the meeting team spectacularly burnout last year at the camp and it wasn’t very nice. No one seems to notice the countless, thankless hours put in arranging facilitators, trainings, meetings and agendas, but everyone is there to jump on you when they think you haven’t handled an emergency spokescouncil properly. Every so often some kind soul will speak up and remind us that it’s everyone’s job to facilitate, people nod their heads in agreement, and then it’s promptly forgotten when the next contentious point is raised.

On a positive note, I am really proud of how well the kitchen coped. We transported people and food between venues, on different sides of the city, for five meals, feeding about 80 people at a time, and each meal was tasty and pretty much on schedule. The quantities of food I ordered worked out almost perfectly and donations far surpassed the bills. Five Edinburgh people even signed up to help with central kitchen coordination for the camp – we have a functioning working group!

Money from the gathering
April 11, 2008, 10:30 am
Filed under: implementation

Most of the bills are paid and it looks like we made clost to £700 at the gathering – much better than initially fearing that we might not break even!! The bar was responsible for a lot of this, but managing to get our entire deposit back helped too. Maybe we will finally get a proper marquee…

Glasgow gathering reflections
April 10, 2008, 7:13 pm
Filed under: reflective log

Ten top tips:

1. You can cook for 80 without proper use of your good hand so long as you recruit enough people to chop. Also needed is someone to carry the heavy pots between venues.

2. Transporting food between venues, on the other side of the city, is ridiculous. Never agree to take on a gathering until you know you have secured a venue which allows for meetings and cooking to happen in the same place!

3. A venue with computers and printing facilities is a good thing. Especially if most of the organisers live in another city and no one seems to live nearby.

4. Remember to print evaluation forms before 10pm on Saturday night. Easyinternet cafes are horrible and expensive.

5. Do not get drunk Saturday night in an effort to relieve stress. It will only make things worse in the morning – especially when you need to be up to facilitate!

6. Tighten deadlines for proposed agenda items. Don’t allow a closed group to finally hand you the information needed to facilitate a large, contentious session 20 minutes before it starts.

7. Likewise, you can’t always accommodate last minute agenda additions. Can the facilitation team go on strike?

8. The group organising the gathering should not have to take on all the logistics as well as agenda and facilitation. When no one outwith the group answers your plea for facilitators, contact the process group and don’t just accept that it means you’ll have to do it yourself.

9. Listen to people who tell you what a great job you’ve been doing. Stop worrying about what could have gone better.

10. Always buy more beer and more coffee than you think you’ll need.

Stuck in the middle of institutional medicine & schooling
April 8, 2008, 4:53 pm
Filed under: reflective log

It started on Wednesday March 27th when I went for a haircut.  The hairdresser found two bald patches that I had failed to notice.  He said it looked like alopecia and was probably due to stress.  I knew I was stressed, but I thought I’d been doing quite a good job of keeping up with everything – so long as nothing in my schedule was thrown out of whack it would all work out.  Apparently my body didn’t agree and had decided to try physically manifesting the stress so I’d notice.  Still, things needed to get done so I made an appointment to see a doctor and kept on going.

The next evening completely destroyed my tenuous hold on things.  Playing a game at a drumming rehearsal, a friend fell on me and we both fell on my left wrist.  Swollen, bruised and sore, I couldn’t even hold a pen properly.  Xrays were done and I was assured it was only soft tissue damage.  Just give it time, ice it and take ibuprofen regularly.

But I didn’t have time.  The pain was making it difficult to sleep, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t write and I could only type one handed.  Suddenly everything was overwhelming and seemed completely impossible.  I was angry at myself for getting hurt and didn’t know what I was going to do about the essays I was supposed to be writing or the gathering I was supposed to be organising.  And then there was my rent…

I wrote an email to Paul letting him know that I thought I would need an extension.  He told me that would be fine with a doctor’s note.

Meanwhile, there was the doctor.  First I told him about my bald patches and he told me about a barrage of tests he would run, though it was unlikely anything would turn up.  It could be one other thing, but he didn’t think I was the type to have it: syphilis.  The man delegated to get to the bottom of this mystery didn’t think I looked like the kind of girl to contract syphilis so he wasn’t going to test me!  Even though he was already sending my blood work to the lab!

Next it was my hand.  I told him I hadn’t been able to write or type and had essays due.  I’d been to Accident and Emergency, but it was just soft tissue.  Ibuprofen, he declared, and told me to keep using it despite the pain.

Still without the doctor’s note needed and having lost almost a week of work on my essay, I broke down.  What the hell was I supposed to do?  Here I was trying to write an essay about the many failures of institutional schooling and the potential of alternatives, filling my brain with the likes of Ivan Illich and Paulo Friere, whilst simultaneously trying to adhere to rigid university deadlines.  I wanted to be doing the work.  I was trying.  But unless I could convince some random doctor to declare me ill, I would be punished with late penalties.  It was very different than the DIY health message promoted by Becs a few weeks earlier.  Autonomy?  Self-empowerment?  Self-management?  Not so much.

A few days later I went back to the office to get the results of the blood work.  First, my hand.   I had done what he said and tried to keep working, but after a day taking notes in the library the bruising along the side of my arm had increased and my range of motion had lessened.  He looked surprised, as if he thought I had been exaggerating or something, admitting it must be worse than it seemed.  Are you sure you’re taking the ibuprofen?  Yes.

And then onto the bald patches.  The tests came back fine.  No thyroid problem, not anemic, et cetera.  “You think it could be stress? ” he asks, and I start crying tears of frustration.  Finally he’s prompted to write a letter:

Miss Stephens has asked me to write to you to confirm that she has been attending the University Health Service here in Edinburgh as a result of a stress related condition.

Clearly you will have an overview of this student’s academic performance but if it has fallen below that expected I am sure you would wish to take the above into consideration.

I wonder how much my stress levels increased due to this whole debacle?