The Imperative of Movement Sense-Making

In its raw energetic sense The Future of Occupy is a creative outcome that continues to unfold in the daily life of the global Occupy Movement, from moment to moment. For a couple of months now, in the aftermath of the original mid-October explosion of Occupy camps all over the world both Occupy-ers and onlooking commentators have been asking the same question: “where is this movement heading?” In the presence of this inquiry a rather organic growth of the movement has been naturally unfolding. Its members are learning from each other and formulating proposals, statements and potential solutions to the economic and democratic crises we all face.

All day, evening and night – the General Assemblies and their myriad working groups, passionate and warmly accommodating, explore the diverse sets of ideas and solutions that may or may not create the real democracy and real economic harmony the protest camps were erected for. Alongside the growth of on-site forums, the proliferation of online exchange through Occupy websites, online forums, email lists and the like, provides the potential (at least) for continued unbroken discussion beyond the geographic limitations of where one happens to be.

The Occupy movement has by its very nature been proactive and committed to seizing the winds of change beginning with Wall Street, throughout America and then spreading around the world the same energy of reclamation ~ that we must take back what is inherently ours ~ our democracy, our economy. This same spirit is expressed within the camps, its general assemblies and working groups, creating a strong sense of solidarity.

As this energy is put to use in highly engaging, uplifting and communal ways many positive human qualities are being reclaimed. The restoration of mutual respect, compassion, deep listening and appreciation for all views among peers and newcomers alike, create spaces where a great amount of shared learning is occurring. Yet as time goes by, and complexity increases there is heightened potential for natural tensions to surface alongside disorganization, reproduction of old ways of life including social divides that the movement set out to transcend. It is here that we currently stand, able to produce positive outcomes but also facing divisive tensions that work against us.

As we contemplate the start of a new year, it is perhaps now more than any time in the year that we realise as human beings that we are not only proactive… we are also reflective. As the movement grows there are an increasing number of Occupy websites that focus on the action, what is happening, the breaking news, but few that address the need for collective self-reflection. It’s true that there have been countless workshops given at the camps which encourage reflection especially in regard to how we relate to each other, but they operate in a sea of action and events, much in the same way that life outside the camps continues – action after action, completing our tasks without pause, incessant activity. If we are to bring awareness to our cultural shortcomings (a by-product of the old world) and amplify our impact in the new year it is time to sit down and think together about our ways of relating to each other and managing our affairs together.

We want to serve that kind of thinking at a systemic level and provide an open platform of participation and collaboration for enhancing the movement’s capacity to learn from the future as it unfolds. Currently, we have only an online platform but thanks to an expanding network of collaborators, in 2012 you will see us more engaged in the action-reflection-action cycle on the ground.

The platform serves the cross-fertilization of insights, aspirations and the practices worth replicating that arise within the movement. We also curate the news and views related to the movement’s identity and strategy. Together we call those two functions movement sense-making, which is the identifying and naming of the emergent themes that arise from the collective intelligence of the General Assemblies, direct actions, online exchanges, the Occupy media and sympathizing websites.

One of the tools of that sense-making which we invite you to use, is a series of thematic issues of our newsletter which we’ll launch in January and that we encourage you to reflect and comment on. Their focus is on topics that emerge from our collective sense of what question could help the most in articulating the movement’s next steps. For example, when many of the camps are evicted or face eviction, continuing the General Assemblies anyway, seems more important than ever, hence the focus of our January issue is ‘The Future of Assemblies‘.

We hope that movement sense-making will help shed light on and discover what holds us back and what can propel us forward. We can then choose to act from those insights and give greater leverage to our development as a social movement.

As Occupy begins to Occupy Everywhere, the ever-growing complexity that such an expansion brings will demand also the expansion of our reflective capacity and our platforms enabling it. If our work resonates with you,  bring your talents and energy to it by commenting on and spreading the word about it, responding to the comments of others and getting involved in any of the ways outlined  here. We invite you to truly occupy the Future of Occupy and help us make this an authentic, representative expression of our movement! Help us fulfill our mission:

“To serve the self-organizing collective consciousness, intelligence and wisdom of Occupy, and the co-creativity of Occupy-ers everywhere.”

Tags: awareness, reflection, self-reflection, ,

Categories: Identity & Strategy

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6 Comments on “The Imperative of Movement Sense-Making”

  1. Reply
    Sonia
    December 22, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    What a well written in depth piece on FoO and its emergent themes ‘movement sense-making’. Yes, I concur, we need to reflect upon how we relate to each other and manage our affairs together!

  2. Reply
    December 23, 2011 at 11:13 pm #

    Thank Sonia I hope you have a wonderful holiday and new year. The Future of Occupy site was set up because we feel its important to distinguish between:

    1. the ongoing reflection that takes place as we collaborate to create the future together in the working groups, general assemblies and elsewhere, and,

    2. reflection or movement sense-making – that sheds light on the cultural/collective and individual conditioning or baggage that we unconsciously bring to our relationships, governance and proposas/solutions.

    Once the light has been shed and the radical call of Occupy is ingrained in our hearts i.e. to create and bring into being a society that supports the 100% of us not just the 1% (which has never happened before) – then we can amplify those actions/proposals/solutions that serve to occupy ourselves, our camps and our world in a radical way that truly and directly reflects what we want to bring into being.

  3. Reply
    Bombadil
    January 15, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    The picture reminds me of China/Vietnam. Having been there I am not sure it has the right nuances. It is a troubled land that has had and will continue to have catastrophic upheavals because of its bad history. The scene of tranquility for me belies it suffering and restlessness.
    Occupy needs a bright sunlight landscape with a promise of a new day beginning and a dawn of a new future. Everything is up for renewal rethinking and review. Some traditions will remain and I believe the changes can come peacefully in the English way.

    • Reply
      January 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      Hey there Bombadil! Thank you for the feedback and opening my eyes to the negative connotations in the old picture. You are so right, now I have had the chance to reflect on your words, thank You!

      > Occupy needs a bright sunlight landscape with a promise of a new day beginning and a dawn of a new future. Everything is up for renewal rethinking and review. Some traditions will remain and I believe the changes can come peacefully in the English way.

      Great perspective Bombadil. There is so much cultural heritage and tradition we must honour and protect. What do you think will emerge from the renewal on this bright new day? Also whatever form the renewal takes, do you think it is a one-off event or do we live on the edge of continual renewal in this movement?

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