The World Transformed is a culture and politics festival which has been held alongside the Labour Party Conference for the last three years. Attendees to Labour conference have described it as invigorating the weekend, adding a festival atmosphere and bringing life to the host city.
I made a last minute decision to join Labour comrades from Reading for four days in Liverpool to attend The World Transformed and I had a fantastic time taking part in practical sessions. I was able to learn from the experiences of a multitude of people on topics such as culture, housing and the economy as well as hearing rousing speeches from John McDonnell, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and of course Jeremy Corbyn. The whole thing was rounded off with a night dancing at the closing party, surrounded by fellow Momentum members, several well known journalists and even John Lansman himself, resplendent in a bright red suit.
There was a huge variety of sessions on offer, from 9am until late in the evening and usually multiple sessions at any one time. The big name speakers often had long queues so I focused mainly on practical sessions which would provide ideas or skills which would be useful for my work with Reading Momentum.
Group Dynamics and Movement Building
One of the first sessions was with Talk Socialism on Group Dynamics and Movement Building. The session used group psychology to illustrate how best to organise groups and be effective at organising.
The session started off with a “Spectrum Exercise”, which is a useful activity for canvassing opinions in a meeting. We were asked to stand somewhere between the sides of the room, depending on how much we agreed with certain statements. This gave context to the session, with the questions being used to gauge the group’s opinions on questions such as “Does every group require a chair” and “Is a social more important than an AGM”. This is a fantastic technique for getting to know where everyone else in the room stands, literally, on specific topics without a lengthy discussion.
We went on to discuss what makes groups stay together, looking at three specific elements: Autonomy; Relationships and Competency.
Autonomy means nobody is forced to turn up, everyone is there because they want to be and is choosing to be there.
An obvious one, but good relationships with the other people in the group, a friendly welcoming atmosphere and enjoying time spent together helps a group stay together.
Everyone wants to feel that they know what they are doing, and that they are doing it well. Having a role to play in the group and feeling competent at that role helps people stay part of the group for longer.
The next exercise split the large group into several groups of four people. We discussed our own experiences of being in groups where we had all three elements for a short period, before two people moved onto the group to our left and two people joined us from the group on the right.
By having these discussions in small groups, everyone was given an opportunity to speak which they might not have had in a larger group. We got through far more discussion that we might have if only one person in the room was speaking at a time. This made the small time we spent talking feel much more useful, and I felt I was able to speak to far more people. Because this method was so interactive, when I saw people from this session over the weekend, I knew a little bit about each of them and could say hello – I’d love to see this method used in our local meetings.
Finally, the group took part in a game of hats. A role play session which was thoroughly entertaining, with each hat representing a different stereotype of group members who were all too familiar! From the “Experienced Canvasser” to the “Social Media Millennial”
In the hat game everyone took on their role and tried to come up with a plan within a set time limit. The characters all had different motivations and as everyone got into their roles they obstructed the groups efforts to work together and pushed for their own agenda. The game was repeated several times with each new group getting closer and closer to forming a plan. The final group succeeded in unlocking the secret to a cohesive organisation, by establishing everyone’s expectations at the start of the meeting.
- What do you want to achieve
- What can you offer to help us achieve it
Together they made plans, formed groups to carry them out and assigned their individual skills to manageable tasks which would allow them to feel Autonomy and Competency, while forming Relationships with those who had similar expectations from the group.
By creating interdependent goals group were able to use the individual skills and experience of each member to work towards common aims, rather than pulling in separate directions and never getting past the discussion stage.
This session was a brief taster of the methods set out in Talk Socialism’s book “Way of the Activist“.
As I find time I will be updating this blog with reports from other sessions. The next update will focus on the experiences of Manchester Momentum in putting together a program of cultural events to compliment their political activity and to help build relationships amongst local members and the wider public.