As we come to the end of the first year of the UNPACKED course I wanted to give some reflections on my experience and how it has helped in my organising and campaigning.
Going into the course I didn’t have many expectations. I knew it was a Training for Trainers. Having done a few Training for Trainers shorter courses, I was familiar with its methodology and practice. At the time of signing up I had over five years facilitation experience under my belt, but was craving an opportunity to deepen my understanding of transformative learning, expand my skills and increase my confidence. As someone who works in various spaces and communities as a facilitator it’s important, given the opportunity, I improve my practice in order to hold spaces more responsibly.
In a nutshell, UNPACKED trains folks in how to coach others through experiential learning in a one to one and group context. This approach allows participants to learn through doing, reflection and application. To be frank, it’s an intense method that requires the trainer to encourage participants to reflect deeply about their thoughts, behaviours and bodily responses in order to problem solve and encourage them to find the answers they seek for themselves.
A course that trains you in coaching others requires commitment, as you go through a year of four week-long trainings, monthly three hour workshops, fortnightly peer coaching and bi-monthly sessions with a coach. However, if you are someone who wants space to better understand yourself, interpersonal power dynamics, conflict, and more importantly, how to gain and use the tools to navigate them, then it’s worth it!
One of the most impactful modules for me was ‘Know Yourself’. This module gives you the opportunity to understand how you respond to difficult situations and offers tools to navigate these responses. One of the most interesting deep-dive sessions was centred around understanding our nervous system, and was run by Kat Hobbs. We learned that our nervous system regulates all of our body’s systems and responses, which gives us the ability to feel and know. So when you’re excited, happy, or angry, the sensations underlying these emotions are caused by your nervous system responding to the world around you. As Kat said in one of our workshops it’s also ‘the warm glow of intimacy you feel when you’re feeling in community and connected to others’.
In campaigning and organising spaces, it’s common for emotions to run high – particularly when we are feeling anxious, annoyed, frustrated, or angry. It’s helpful to know what is happening inside of our bodies, to empower us to take ownership of our feelings. It helps us acknowledge and honour the feelings that are present, and cultivate the tools to process and let them go, if needed
‘Know Yourself’ and learning about the nervous system has helped me take responsibility for my emotions. For example, when I’m anxious or frustrated in organising meetings, UNPACKED has built on existing methods I have to manage in a way that can enable me to take part in helpful and non disruptive or damaging ways. Doing this self work means I’m better able to hold space by addressing behaviours and seeking solutions in myself and others, and by designing more inclusive workshops. It also enabled me to design workshops that cultivate connection and community in the group I’m working with, which is essential to building power for change.
When organising around social justice, it’s important we understand how our own trauma from lived experiences are embodied, and how they impact our behaviour in spaces and our work. This becomes essential when working in community with others that live at the blunt end of oppression and marginalisation. Understanding your body in this way empowers you to put boundaries in place which ultimately will make your organising and campaigning work more sustainable, and will help prevent you perpetuating harm to those you work with.
The focus on your nervous system and your physical and emotional reaction to trauma is just one section from the ‘Know Yourself’ module. The rest of the module, along with the rest of the UNPACKED programme, seeks to give you the tools to help you cultivate a deep understanding of teams you work with, the content you’re teaching, and the groups you’ll facilitate – and how these elements can work together cohesively. I would recommend the UNPACKED course to experienced trainers and organisers who want to hone their craft, but don’t apply lightly, it’s a commitment!
To find out about UNPACKED and other training facilitated by Campaign Bootcamp, contact us at [email protected].
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