Since the very start we have tried to experiment with alternative ways of relating to each other and the work we do. Although some experiments have been more significant than others, we do not qualify them as either failures or successes, but rather, meaningful moments as part of our ever-evolving trajectory.
Our group meets on a voluntary basis at least once a week. So far we have been gathering on Monday evenings for about four hours. Whenever there are specific topics, tasks or needs to take care of, we form smaller sub-groups in addition to that. Contributors can come and go as long as they commit to their self-defined level of engagement.
For these meetings, every participant can propose formats of experimental learning. We are an open group and pay attention to how individual behaviour affects the group and vice versa. Reciprocity, horizontality, and self-organisation are in constant flux.
Since we aim for non-hierarchical relationships we came up with a number of patterns for meaningful engagement which we try to exercise in constructive ways. These patterns are open to alternations if we feel the need for it and unfold their meaning depending on the contexts they are practised in.
● Keeping in mind what the previous person said - cultivate a culture of active listening.
● Be critical, avoid saying nice things for the sake of being nice.
● Make clear statements = strong statements.
● Go from the general ideas to specific, concrete, workable proposals.
● Throwing out too many arguments can be counterintuitive to reaching a shared understanding. However, defining when something 'does not work' is part of the experience.
● Keep in mind the main goal/aim of the conversation.
● A valuable exercise is talking and positioning yourself in space. Moving closer to the person who just voiced an opinion you agree with, for example.
● Try to be constantly open to getting to know each other more.
● One should always feel encouraged to remind and suggest. Try not to be afraid to critique and disagree.
● Be mindful of each other – with word choice, tone of voice, expression of emotions, awareness of body position, time allocation, etc...
● Approach confrontation and conflict in a productive and constructive way.
● Don‘t worry about how much you contribute, but about the way you do it.
● Only make commitments you can meet
Inspired by Evening Class and our own experience, self-organised education has enabled us:
● to discuss practice and theory of social practices and relationality in a more expansive way
● to be in an environment where our performance is not assessed by others and vulnerability is acknowledged
● to access and reflect the agency associated with being an active participant in a learning process
● to build cooperative support structures outside academic institutions
● to reflect and determine one’s own commitment and responsibility towards a voluntary group
● to pool, mutualise, potentialise, and/or utilise the resources, knowledge and experiences of others
● to modify the structure of the group according to our needs
● to be sensitive and address mutual care and co-responsibility
● to exercise and create a shared understanding towards a politics of listening