Supporting Ourselves as Community Activists

Supporting Ourselves as Community Activists – with the work of Joanna Macy

Based on eco-philosopher Joanna Macy’s books, “The Spiral of the Work that Reconnects” and “Coming back to Life,” Adélàjà Simon and Jen Scott facilitated a session of empowering dyad exercises to help Network members reconnect to their urban forest mission and their own personal sense of empowerment. We broke into groups of two (“dyads”) to talk about the challenges we have been encountering in our line of work. Per Joanna Macy’s model, Adélàjà and Jen provided Open Sentences about urban forest community work and climate change for attendees to complete with a partner. Adélàjà and Jen calmly emphasized letting each partner talk without interruption for the 6 minute timed interval. Six minutes at first seemed very long, however, this quietly receptive method also allowed for space to reflect and share additional thoughts without fear of interruption.  

Joanna’s model start with gratitude, Adélàjà and Jen asked: 

  • –Some things I love about being alive on Earth are… 
  • –Some things I love about the work I do in urban forestry are… 

Then the spiral moves from gratitude to ‘honoring our pain’– 

  • –Living in this time of changing climate, some things that break my heart specifically in urban forestry and in this world… 
  • –Some feelings that come up for me around all this are… 

The next stage moves us towards what Macy calls ‘Seeing with New Eyes’ 

  • –Some ways I can open to, work with and use these feelings are… 

Lastly, Adélàjà  and Jen provided an open sentence for an action that calls to us… 

  • –An action I can take in the next week to integrate this practice… 

When we returned to Circle, Adelaja and Jen lead us into what Joanna Macy calls Group Harvest to share our thoughts about the exercise. We encourage everyone who was not at the retreat to take time with your organization and do this exercise. This can be a great team building or community engagement exercise and it promotes active listening, which is a skill we need to practice and sharpen as community activist. At the end, this exercise reminded everyone when we are in the field planting and caring for trees, we need to respectfully and carefully listen to community members’ concerns and needs in order for true community engagement – as well as for the trees to be cared for and watered.   

See pictures from the Network Retreat here.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on RedditEmail this to someone
© 2014 California ReLeaf | 2115 J Street, Suite 213, Sacramento, CA 95816 | Privacy Policy