Sunday, 18 March 2018

Social Movement Learning and the Intellectual Work of Activism

Dear Colleagues,

Although I have plugged this book before, as I continue to work on writing-up my thesis findings, I need to record my thanks for the output of Aziz Choudry. His edited book (with Dip Kapoor) Learning from the Ground Up, was my early introduction to what my thesis could reflect in examining how my work at Ruskin through the MA ILTUS, could impact upon labour movement renewal.

It was however Choudry's last book, Learning Activism: The Intellectual Life of Contemporary Social Movements, which most influenced my thoughts on the political purpose of my research, not least in championing a greater alliance between the learning that takes place between trade union and other social movements.

I've been grateful to see this happen recently in a number of ways, but am particularly thankful for the work of John Page in enabling this to occur under the umbrella of the Ella Baker School of Transformative Organising:

What I am keen to do once the thesis is submitted is work more closely with John, and others, in realising other forums which allow for a reflection on how activists in progressive movements learn through and from their activism, and how this shapes their political consciousness.

So, back to the writing.

In Solidarity


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Thumbs up for Analytic Memos

Dear Colleagues,

Just a short break from thesis writing to stress how much I have benefitted from adopting a simple, yet profoundly important, stage in the process of critically interpreting and analysis data generated from fieldwork.

The analytic memo (AM) is the simplest device: constantly write short sharp, precise notes to yourself as you review what you have found as you sift through your data, and in particular document those moments, events etc. which are what you feel critical stages in developing an argument, theory etc.

We were introduced to the AM early on in the professional doctorate programme, but as with most part-time programmes you forget a lot, and don't adopt everything which is suggested as making your life easy. As I was fortunate to have a sabbatical from Ruskin College at the time of coding/analysing my data, I had the chance to review those early notes from sessions on how to make this process as easy as possible, but also how to yield the greatest insight from what you've gathered.

There is plenty of material out there on the role of the AM (some links below) and of course the standard textbooks like Alan Bryman's Social Research Methods, provide a solid introduction. What I would say though is, don't get bogged down in thinking there is a right/wrong way to do write these.

My pointers would be:
Write them often and in clear as language as possible. You'll be reading them months/years later and you might not remember certain acronyms, phrases etc you use at the time.
Accurately record date, time etc.
Write statements on why you feel the need to write what you are writing e.g. you have been tired and missed earlier connections between findings.
Don't feel that you are writing comments that will prove unhelpful later - you can decide later on what's helpful/useful or not, but best to have too much to sift through than too little.
Keep the notes regularly backed up. I used Cloud options, but would also email myself a copy of each set of AM at the end of each day.

There is loads of useful material, and sample AM out there:

Right then, back to my writing. It's good to get these thoughts out of your head and posted. Hope they are useful.

In Solidarity


Saturday, 3 March 2018

Still Busy (but focusing on writing thesis)

Dear Colleagues,

I am conscious that I haven't posted anything for far too long, although happy that my time is being spent wisely focused on writing-up my docoral thesis, and getting stuck into the new job at Equity.

To prove that I am up to good things I thought I'd post a brief message, and a small sample of photos from my various travels, not least to emphasise that I am combining travels with a continued focus on activist education, so I am still mining experience for my thesis.

I've been fortunate over the past few months to (a ) start to engage in the unique form of activism which springs from Equity's focus on freelance/gig/self-employed/unemployed activists/members and (b) maintain a link to the more conventional forms of activism in UNISON etc.

This bridge between the conventional and non-conventional forms of activism is fascinating, and is a real plus for some of analysis/thinking in my thesis research.

One particularly interesting experience which relates to the thesis arose during the Ella Baker retreated in Doncaster last month. This episode underlined the inherent tensions and antagonisms which spring from different organising traditions, and perhaps also from the differing appreciations of the politics of organising between community and TU organisers. My thesis is arguing for greater degrees of co-operation between the two - reflecting multiple and over-lapping forms of political mobilisation as a feature of an ecology of movements in capitalist economies.

I'll try and post more over the new few months, but apologies again for what will be period of happy writing/organising/activism, but limited/few posts :)

Sat 24 Feb: Facilitation UNISON SW Black Activist Development Day

Ella Baker School of Transformative Organising: Weekend Retreat
RMT Educational Centre, Doncaster 16-18th Feb

24-25th Nov, Bristol. UNISON Black Activist Development Weekend

14th November. With activists who comprise Equity's D/deaf and Disabled
Member's Committee

22nd November. With the activists who comprise Equity's Women's Committee

In Solidarity