"Uniformity is not nature's way; diversity is nature's way."
Vandana Shiva (Indian scientist, activist, ecofeminist, and author)
This day is about you. And me. And us. And them.
People. We are all so diverse and yet there is a deep human desire to connect, to belong, and to be together. We are social beings. We seek out attachments. We meet in groups. We look for community.
- Have you ever been in a group where you have felt invisible to the facilitator, to your peers, or even to yourself?
- Have you facilitated a group and worried that you have inadvertently excluded someone, or been concerned that your own social and cultural background limited your capacity to connect with others?
- Have you ever been in a group where you’ve felt more influenced by group dynamics and peer pressure and facilitator expectations than your own inner knowing and needs?
- Have you ever facilitated a group and in hindsight wondered about how consensual or ethical your practice was?
This day is for you.
We will start by discussing the underlying problem of how to effectively hold space for everyone within a group, which means diving into some issues connected to power, patriarchy and social injustice. We will not, however, spend too long marinading in the problem as we want to focus our attention on exploring some radical and transformative ways of positively disrupting the status quo. For this, we will turn our attention to the natural world.
Human beings are part of the natural world. Can we assume, therefore, that the way that we organise ourselves is also ‘natural’. Can we assume that the patriarchal, hierarchical, and competitive cultures that we have created are somehow mirroring the wild? We cannot.
These assumptions are biased and inaccurate. They are – in themselves – framed by the very people who cannot see the world in any other way. Penguins, seahorses, clown fish, scarab beetles, spider monkeys, deer, bats … these creatures all exhibit queer and gender non-conforming behaviour. In fact, there is evidence of same-sex behaviour, including co-parenting, in over 1000 species. Similarly, there is evidence of dozens of ways of leading and organising social and survival dynamics within the wild which are not hierarchical or male dominated. As queer facilitators, this is interesting to us and inspires us to find non-normative examples as ways of understanding the world differently.
What then, for you? What does this mean for who you are and how you see the world?
Gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, age, social class and background, health status, family constellation, identity … areas of life where we might feel alienated at one time or another. It does not have to be that way, and in our work in the wild we can influence this.
By using the wild world as a backdrop, we will explore some liberatory and inclusive ways of leading and facilitating groups. We will talk about consent-based practice as a way of overcoming patriarchal power dynamics and advancing social justice. We will ‘queer our work’ by looking to new networks of elders, teachers, and guides. We will find ways to counter our own fears and prejudices and to work from a place of pride in all that we are and all that we bring. We will invite you to bring your experiences from your own lives and work to these discussions.
Max Hope (she/her) is a facilitator, educator, researcher, activist, and writer. She is passionate about social injustice and has been working to create radical change in the education system for many years. Her decade as a university academic gave her the opportunity to travel the world to seek radical and socially just alternatives to mainstream education which, in her experience, is designed in a way which inevitably alienates and excludes a large proportion of children and young people. She has spent many years as a grassroots activist, primarily focusing on challenging queer and gender-based inequalities and providing innovative alternative spaces for marginalized young people and adults. Max is co-facilitator of Call of The Wild, Director of Rewilding Education and co-lead of The Lodge, a self-directed and consent-based setting for young people aged 11-16. She is also the creator of Write On Changemakers, a writing space for changemakers and activists. For more info on Max, including a full list of publications, go to https://maxhope.co.uk/
Sophie Christophy (she/her) is the co-founder and co-lead facilitator of two consent-based, self-directed education settings. With more than ten years’ experience in grass roots education activism, outside of the mainstream education system, she is a seasoned community organiser, leader, facilitator and change maker. Often found working in outdoor spaces, whether in London woodland, country orchard or forest, she’s found these spaces out of necessity, and an inner knowing of the importance and benefits of being outside and connected to nature. Having worked with people of all ages on change-maker projects, from 2018-2021 she was a Trustee and then CEO for Phoenix Education, a charity dedicated to transforming the education system to be more democratic, collaborative and in-line with the human rights of young people. Since 2017 she has been running cycles of the Consent-Based Education Course, working with people wanting to ‘deschool’ and transition from patriarchal, dominator culture to consent-based ways to relate, live and learn, for themselves and with the children in their lives. Sophie is an unschooling parent of two children, a fangirl of bell hooks, and loves bats and seahorses. You can find out more at www.sophiechristophy.com, FB: @schristophy or Insta: @sophiechristophy
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