Friday, September 9, 2016
PHIL WILMOT - New activist toolkit arrives in beautiful fashion
Men wielding helium balloons stepped out of a car in Kampala’s bustling downtown on the morning of August 1, releasing them one by one into the open sky. Onlookers watched and wondered what the colorful display was all about. A few hours later, a video emerged online of another activist releasing balloons atop Naguru Hill, the highest point in Uganda’s capital city. In the video, the activist explained that the balloons carry a message announcing the launch of a new activist toolkit, Beautiful Rising, aimed at helping people put an end to injustices like militarism and dictatorship.
Beautiful Rising’s reach, however, extends far beyond Uganda. Comprised of community organizers, trainers, tech gurus and writers across six continents, the Beautiful Rising team is working to broaden the relatively thin library of resources on creative nonviolence and social change strategy. What’s more, they’ve done it in a way that takes into consideration the concerns of activists in the global south: security, accessibility and usability.
Contributions from the global south: While working with ActionAid International—a global civil society federation devoted to issues of corruption, poverty and human rights—Danish activist Søren Warburg noticed a very significant shortcoming within the global community of nonviolent activists: a lack of idea and resource sharing.
“There has been very little cross-movement learning from successes and failures,” said Warburg, who then got the idea to spearhead Beautiful Rising. “A lot of resources in the nonviolent direct action catalogue come from the global north, yet courageous activists in the global south are living a whole other political life.”
Warburg realized that—beyond using his professional position to network across more than 40 countries—he would need to take an external look to social and political movements on the ground. This led to a deepening of his past connection with Beautiful Trouble, a group aimed at codifying the innovations of activists in various forms, including a book that offered a starting point for the toolkit. “The idea was to merge the Beautiful Trouble analytical framework of creative activism to the lived realities of activists in the global south,” Warburg noted.
The partnership still recognized the short length of their tentacles in global south networks, so an advisory board consisting of members throughout the world was convened. (Full disclosure: My wife Suzan and I were among those invited).The advisory network helped the team roll out regional collaborative workshops over the past two years in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Jordan, where content for the toolkit was gathered and pocket versions of the “Beautiful Trouble” book were distributed.
These workshops included many components of a standard nonviolence workshop with modules on nonviolent discipline and power analysis, but also included sessions on content writing — something many participants cited as the most useful session to their own learning. Completed contributions were added to the toolkit’s various modules under headings of principles, tactics, methodologies, stories and theories.
Some of Warburg’s favorite tactics included in the toolkit are “panty power” from Myanmar, clandestine leafleting with ping-pong balls from Syria, grandmothers stripping naked and unemployed youth releasing yellow pigs — both from Uganda. “One of the things that cuts across these stories is ‘burn bright, but don’t burn out,’” Warburg explained, referring to the need for self-care and momentum building within movements. “It’s a tiresome job and a risky job.”.. read on: