What we got up to
Most of the week was spent doing consultancy work. Aside from this, we continued our research into spaces for activists. We’ve had a lot of interesting responses to our survey (thank you!). We’d still love to hear from more people, so please take a few minutes to fill it out, even if you don’t identify as an “activist” specifically.
We’re also excited to be collaborating with STRIKE! on their next issue, where we’ll be exploring the role that digital technology could play in building a commons, enabling resistance and cultivating solidarity. More on this soon.
What we’re learning
We are increasingly confident that a diverse range of groups share similar needs when it comes to finding spaces in London. There are some clear trends emerging that have given us clarity on more granular issues that need to be addressed.
One thing we’ve learned is that there is a huge demand for the right kind of spaces — accessible, low-cost, and aligned with our values.
It seems most people find spaces through word of mouth, and that different people have even created their own spreadsheets to keep track of available spaces. If only someone would consolidate this information into one place!
As part of this, we interviewed Gee from ReSpace Projects. ReSpace aims to reuse waste of all types to rebuild communities and resist gentrification. They find unused spaces, renovate them and offer them to organisations with emergency needs. Their focus is on building a network of diverse individuals and groups, united under a shared ethic and sense of purpose.
We learnt a lot from talking to Gee, and felt a lot of affinity between ReSpace and our aims as Common Knowledge. Both projects are about cultivating networks and collective capacity, looking at social problems in broad, systemic, long-term ways, and giving people the tools to organise themselves.
We started workshopping a prototype for the service, in collaboration with Adam Greenfield, who we discovered has already explored this topic extensively. Our aim for the next few weeks is to roll out these prototypes to activists so we can start gathering feedback and testing what works.
What we’re thinking about
Despite the fact that we spent most of this week doing consulting work outside of the office, we all continued to feel coherent as a group.
We think that the key to this is maintaining a consistent rhythm. Even when working on separate projects, we have two remote stand-ups a day, in the morning and evening.
We also have a longer retrospective every Friday afternoon. These are vital as they allow us to celebrate our successes, understand just how much work we’re all getting done, and look for any puzzles that pop up repeatedly.
With the election looming, it’s easy for established habits and rhythms to go out the window. The amount of work to do can feel urgent and overwhelming. However, we think it is vital to resist this kind of urgency thinking. Instead, it’s better to preserve your mental health and focus on slow, deep work.
We’re going to work on a few in-depth posts this week that explore how we establish and maintain rhythms, both collective and individual.
What we’re reading
New Economics Foundation just launched Change the Rules, which maps different alternative economic structures that are emerging from below. It directly links these projects to the policy changes that are needed to enable similar projects to grow. We were sent a preview of this a few months ago and think it’s really cool.
We also recommend reading The International Institutional Turn by David Adler, which explores the possibility of a united progressive movement that addresses politics at a local scale while coordinating on an international one.