How would you like to see NatCAN develop? Here are a few ideas.

(1) Free workshops for regional groups

The regional groups are a great idea but they have largely fallen into disuse. A better connection to what is happening offline, in the 'real world', would be of benefit. Therefore the Freire Institute will offer each regional group a free one-day workshop to focus on: (a) where we are at in our region as community activists; (b) what are the key issues?; (c) what do we seek to achieve?; (d) how we can put this into practice.

Here is how it would work:

- a regional group invites us to run a workshop and takes responsibility for its organizing, including finding a suitable venue and recruiting participants (we should aim for a minimum of 10 participants).
- We will provide facilitators for the workshops free of charge, although we would appreciate expenses for travel and accommodation.
- The workshops should ideally be seen as kick-starting a process rather than as one-off events.

(2) A dedicated domain name

Currently the site is hosted on nationalcan.ning.com. We propose moving this to a dedicated domain name and have reserved communityactivists.org for the purpose. Visitors to the old domain name would be redirected automatically.

(3) International members

There are a few international members but the site is mainly for UK activists. Would it make sense to open the site up much more for the exchange of ideas and experiences internationally? Note that we may have to drop the 'National' part of the name though.

(4) Sharing our work

One idea is to feature the work of one member organization (or individual) each month, perhaps through a webinar which can be posted on the site.

(5) A sharper focus

What would you like to see as the main focus of the site? We have posted a lot on national politics but is this the right focus?

Let us know what your views are by joining the discussion.

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Comment by Jez Hall on August 3, 2017 at 11:10

I'm well up for a focus on Friere, and my activism has obvious links to Friere (especially the participatory budgeting (PB) work I'm involved with), but I know from that it has to be spoken in a way that speaks to people and where they come from, not always as importing a model or concept.
For example this recent TED talk (link below), which positions itself within 'anarchism', has lots to like, not least Porto Alegre and PB, but if you said this site was about anarchism, it would make a lot of people jumpy, as that term has a lot of 'baggage' ,... as does, for example, words like pedagogy or educational. So ... go for Friere, but contextualised to the UK if possible?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Hc2_jY4KhY

Comment by Freire Institute on August 3, 2017 at 10:09

Thanks to everyone for their comments - these are really helpful.

(1) It seems that the idea of regional workshops is something that people would like to see (at least from responses so far). Just to answer Matt's question, the workshops would be about looking at the issues that local activists want to see on the agenda, so perhaps exactly what you mention. Thank you to Amanda and Jez who have offered to help get these off the ground in their region.

(2) The domain name: we would still be using the Ning site but the domain name would change. Anyone visiting the existing domain name would be redirected automatically. The Ning site has a lot of tools and options that are perhaps not utilised as much as they can be, so what Jez suggests could all be achieved through one site.

(3) International members. The idea is not to try to be all things to all people but simply to be more open to inputs from international members who may wish to share their experiences. Essentially the regional groups would remain - in fact, be strengthened - and so it would be a UK site but without suggesting that it is just for UK participants.

(4) Sharing our work: this could be one of the strengths of the site.

(5) A sharper focus. Here is where the comments are very interesting. Roger suggests a very specific issue which has been included here on various occasions, and there is nothing to stop that continuing. However, it seems that there would be interest in more Freirean educational approach (Bryan, Matt) and community activism, sharing practice, etc (Amanda, Jez). There have been a few comments about the heavy focus on neoliberalism, national politics, Corbyn and so on. There is nothing to stop people continuing to post on these topics but we perhaps do need to shift the focus a bit.

Just to answer Matt's question about whether this would be a 'Lancaster thing': absolutely not, which is why we are offering to do workshops in every region of the UK in order to help kick-start a better engagement with activists in each area.

There are a few specific suggestions which we can take up, e.g., Matt's suggestion of links with the CD Journal.

Finally, missed off the original post was the need to start posting upcoming events. We will start to look out for events that are relevant to members of the site but it would be helpful if members could post news of events that they know about.

Comment by Amanda Bickerton on August 2, 2017 at 11:56

I have not been active on the site for a long time, largely because there has been a really heavy focus on economics and national politics, which while they are interesting, are not relevant to my particular activism. As far as the ideas are concerned:

1. Free workshops for regional groups: that is a great idea, and I, like Jez, would be happy to assist in facilitating a regional meeting. It would be good to follow up on Jez's idea for an 'activist visitor' bank too.

2. A dedicated domain name: again, I agree with Jez. We need both: a central space where resources and documents can be accessed, linked to an open discussion space.

3. International members: while I am all in favour of internationalism, the site cannot be all things to all people, so sticking with the UK focus and maybe exploring international approaches (or linking with existing international groups) as we go forward.

4. Sharing our work: Absolutely!

5. A sharper focus: please, a focus more on practical activism rather than theoretical stuff on neoliberalism. There is some great stuff out there, ranging from practical guides to academic journals, that would be hugely helpful. I am, like many people, very busy, so I need something that is practically useful, informative, engaging and easy to navigate, with the means to touch base with other activists in my areas of interest. I would like to see a more grass-roots focus, inclusive and supportive, helping new activists to grow in confidence and access the tools they need.

I am keen to see widened participation, and the work of Freire can contribute significantly to that, along with other approaches.

Comment by Matt Scott on August 2, 2017 at 11:26

Great to see Natcan moving onwards

re points 1-5

1.  Yes but what is the purpose?  Workshops for what?  I'd relaly like to see an overall vision whereby there is a Freirean dialogue about where the hell the VCS and wider civil soceity is at and an orgnaising to transform oppressive culture (borrowing from Pedagogy of the O) - so is that what this is about?  Let's name it now

2. Yeah

3. Yeah - can make links with the CD JOurnal which has an international board if useful at some point

4. Yep

5. re my point on #1 yes def. a sharper focus and that prob require sopen dialogue to develop but would strongly suggest we / whoever involved seek to direclty tackle wider constraints of govt and charity culture - not do a more inward looking thing - happy to elaborate furtehr if it is not obvious what I am talking about - in a nutshell addresisng the damage of govt policy - neolib, mktisation, cuts, and also the collusion of senior charity sector both of which entrench and sustain present oppress relations and status quo

Further question - if this is based at Uni of Lancaster - and I am living and working in London - taking the wonders of tech aside for the moment - how can it have much traction in other parts of the country or is it inevitbaly going to be a Lancaster thing?  I guess reading the ref to Corbyn etc, I am not that interested in getting sucked into a Labour Party space, albeit I have an alignment there, I want something that is critical but not defined by party political culture or getting massively into a critque and reformulating of debt - much as I am interested in all of that stuff I'd rather go with an open ended Frierean dialogue and not jump into politcal spaces that are already amply occupied by idelogues - because I think we will lose a wider base of people and not create anything new

Matt

Comment by Jez Hall on August 1, 2017 at 17:45

There is a lot of ideas there... and would love to see Natcan flourish. so below my thoughts against each:

(1) Free workshops for regional groups

I think this is a great idea, and would also potentially offer to help facilitate a regional meeting. It would be great if a bank of such 'activist visitors' could be built up that could support groups in other areas and share good practice or ideas from elsewhere...

(2) A dedicated domain name

I think a dedicated domain linked to a open discussion space like the ning might compliment each other, rather than replace one with the other. I think we want to stimulate debate, not cascade messages  from a central place. But that takes dedication. Of course a good website can host debate if well designed, but  we actually need a 'social media' platform to get people sharing as a network?

(3) International members

I say not, unless we can really be international. Maybe the UKCAN rather than NATCAN, but i thinbk reinventing a brand is another step away from the original intent

(4) Sharing our work

Great idea.

(5) A sharper focus

I think we should do what we 'say on the tin'. Its about community activism and action, not just politics. That might naturally mean we focus on more a 'lefty' agenda, and so we should, but actually its about strategies for community power and development and sticking it to the establishment? That includes mutualism, environmental campaigns, anti-capitalism, refugees, praxis, power, and etc etc.

Comment by Bryan Wilks on July 31, 2017 at 18:21

I suggest that we do not try to expose what Roger is talking about, we should be focusing on how we can re-invent the teachings of Paulo Freire.

In regards to changing the name of the website, I was thinking InterNatCan  may be a better name, as it includes the International audience, who I believe we should be reaching out to.

The focus of the website should be the focus of the Freire Institute. I believe this website currently isn't doing that. The site needs to appeal to a wider audience, not just Jeremy Corbyn fans. One of the main focus' of this website, should be educating people about their own personal circumstances, helping them develop a critical awareness of their own being. Is this not what Freire wanted us to do?

Also, what about the Freire Institute having teams in different areas of the UK, or even abroad. Then we can delegate different projects to each team, or we can work on the same project. Maybe using the website as a place we can share our findings and debate them.

Really, we should all have a face to face meeting so we can properly discuss how we can push forward.

Comment by Roger Alexander on July 31, 2017 at 15:17

I would suggest that we expose the way money is created as debt and how this affects every person in the world.  This can be done using simple arithmetic and a simple spreadsheet based from the bottom of the pyramid of power.  I have uploaded this idea onto my scientific and technical site at the following link ...  http://www.pipeline-corrosion-control.com/Roger-Alexander/money.htm  I have mentioned this to many politicians and high financiers and they are scared shitless of it.

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