The end of a particular project or phase of organizing is a time when most people want to take a break. This is very important to protect yourself and the people you are mobilizing with against becoming too exhausted to do your work. However, it is extremely important to take time at the end of a project to consolidate and review what you have learned in the process, and to resolve problems that have arisen. Here is Jai Sen, a researcher and activist from India, describing what he learned about the importance of reflection after action.
We rarely looked back on why we lost a specific battle: why was that community evicted, what were the weaknesses in what we were doing? Why weren’t we able to prevent that? Was it that there weren’t enough of a time notice? Was it that there was disagreement among the members of the community? Was it that their leadership had been bought off? What are the things that happen in movements? I found that – and this is why I studied movements that I had not been involved in- that the same thing was happening there. There was not enough time given (to looking back) and there was also extensive power plays at work – competition between and strain of movement- to the point of attacks on each other and attempt to the destroy the ones we disagree with.
In my writings, I’ve tended to focus more on this, and even I my research, I’ve focused on that instead of looking at the simple story.
After an action or project is over, it is also a good time to check in with the people you work with. Rebuild your relationships with them (see the object called “Relationality and Accountability) relationships in learning for community mobilization), and see what you can do to help address problems. In this video, Louai Misleh describes how the team within Bait Byout came together after running a major event to address the challenges they faced. These exchanges can make your group much stronger–but you must leave time for them.
For example, the last issue we had concerning the festival that we had, we faced a few specific problems, and we used to sit down and quickly do a reflection and a small debrief as people who are working on the project and coordinators together. We did a quick reflection asking, “you, what is your problem”, and each person presents their problem that they face with the other side or individual, and we discuss together, giving the topic an hour, but most importantly to reach a solution to the disagreement.
For example, in the festival, there occurred a few disagreements as coordinators, the way they coordinated, and as an organization we felt there were a few problems that were related to us. So we were obliged to set up a quick meeting, and importantly as a group to negotiate the problems that we have, where are the things. So, each one of us presented their problem, and then we began to move towards solving these problems.
After a project is also the time to carry out an evaluation, to ask people more formally their opinions. For some ideas about how to evaluate a highly participatory project, you can read this blog post from the Participatory Budgeting Project. In participatory budgeting, people from a community come together and vote on how to spend some of the municipality’s budget.