The organisers of the gathering note that
1. Food – Food was done exceptionally well. However in future a clear idea of how many people are coming must be ascertained prior to the gathering as it causes huge difficulties in stock buying, cooking to time and in providing utensils
2. Venue – Again number of participants is important for venue use. Thankfully it was around the right size and the venue were very helpful. However spare batteries for mics, good tech people all weekend and working lights (they only broke the day before and we couldn’t fix them!) are hugely important. As are tons of flip chart paper, pens and a projector (in focus!) if possible.
3. Agenda – the Agenda was too rigid and once changed on the Saturday was not easy to facilitate. Pre-prepared sessions changing times made it difficult to cover topics in depth with the participants who wanted to cover them – or were too long for those who didn’t want to be in them. Rushed facilitators were also unable to cover the safe spaces policy and consensus (more below) in their sessions as was originally planned. We think that an open space session at the beginning to plan the agenda together – whilst difficult (which is why we originally avoided it) – would be the most participatory and satisfying for all.
4. Consensus – We didn’t cover consensus properly because we had planned not to pre-suppose that that would be the form of decision making used. In fact we were unsure whether there would be any decisions made at all. This was to have been covered in the three hour session on organisation, but the inflexible agenda failed to allow for this discussion to come forward with proposals. Facilitators were left in the unenviable position of trying to facilitate decisions with no pre-arranged decision making procedure, and eventually helped an inclusive decision making process come forward. The discussion on making decisions at all, and what procedure should be used should also be at the beginning of the next gathering. Apologies.
5. Workshops – It would be good to have these pre-booked for all weekend, so that whatever’s going on people can involve themselves, get skills and network with people of similar interests regardless of the main agenda. Also we would like to see really useful and challenging workshops based around discussion, not just skills – such as Women and the cuts, and Racism and the cuts and so forth.
6. Minute taking – A minute taking workshop or form should be provided at the beginning so that the minutes can be properly utilised and put up on the website. This is also handy for continuing discussions post gathering, or for people to get involved who couldn’t make it.
7. Agenda setting – We only called out for agenda items and announced how to get involved with agenda setting at the end of Saturday in the main session. Again it was the inflexible agenda causing us to rush and a little inexperience that caused this. In future this could be made clearer throughout, with signs and a note in the printed agenda, and reminders in each session on how to get involved.
8. Safer spaces policy – Should be made clear at the beginning and throughout the gathering. This can help people be encouraged to challenge domination and hierarchy of all forms.
9. There was a strong feeling from many people that NX should not be a process that made decisions on behalf of the networks that attend for a number of reasons; not least because it is disempowering, unwieldy, divisory and unproductive. It seemed there was a feeling that we needed to actively resist the tendency for our organising to become managed, rather for NX to be a space where actions can spring from that are unmanageable.
10. High hopes! – The organisers of this gathering had never dreamt that there would be so many people, from so many backgrounds. A vision of around 40 people with shared goals coming together had driven us originally, as we had never done anything like this before and thought few would be interested.
The fact that high expectations are there, that so many, from so many backgrounds, came is reason enough for high hopes – not mention the raft of plans and announcements that came out of it!
We should maybe temper our hopes and expectations with the knowledge that if we engage with a deliberative and participatory process to decide how we come together and for what purpose, it will take time, and there will be disagreements. As long as we are open, we share our reflections and we learn from our mistakes we believe that as movement and as people we will grow.
Network X can be a space for that growth/birth/rebirth and as there is another one in the pipeline, we hope this document, amongst others, can be a springboard for that learning process to be shared.
The most exciting thing was that new friendships were made and there are plans for actions off the back of NX #1, and that people are out there just getting on with it. With NX #2 planned for sometime in April we will have plenty of new experience to bring and share.
P.S. This is not an all encompassing view, but just a few thoughts from some people involved in organising.