Event Recap: Introduction to Activism

Last week, in lieu of a traditional General Assembly, Indivisible Berkeley held an Introduction to Activism seminar hosted by the Indivisible Berkeley Training Team.  Targeted at those of us who are new to activism, the goal was to members a basis for understanding the methods and rationality behind different forms of activism.

After reviewing Indivisible Berkeley's mission statement, emcee Kathy Burnett handed the seminar over to Bob Burnett, who dove into a concept that forms the core of IB's methods: nonviolence.  Aside from the traditional nonviolent activist method of civil disobedience, the Trainings Team presented other nonviolent methods, including political action, sit-ins, boycotts, and symbolic public actions, with the ultimate message being that nonviolence is not only demonstrably far more effective than other means, but that there is room in nonviolent activism for even the typically non-confrontational among us.

Edwin Rutsch then discussed the thorny problem of how to communicate effectively with those who hold opposing viewpoints.  Ultimately, demonstrations accomplish little unless dialogue follows, and increasingly productive dialogue is in short supply when there is a perceived lack of common ground.  Thus, affecting real change in our communities will come down to how well we communicate with Trump voters, and how successfully we can do so without alienating, belittling, or baiting them.  The key to this, ultimately, is to develop circles of empathy.  The Trainings Team also presented their upcoming event "Reaching Out to Trump Voters: An Evening with Arlie Hochschild and George Lakoff," in which bestselling author of Strangers in their Own Land Arlie Hochschild and retired Cal professor George Lakoff discuss their research on this topic.  This event will take place Monday, April 17th, 7:00 PM, at the Northbrae Community Church.

However, communication within teams is just as important in building an effective structure for activism, and so Cris Obieta explained the four different communication styles within teams:

  • Thinkers, characterized by low sociability and low assertiveness, but who are insightful, acute, rational, and careful
  • Doers, who are efficient, decisive, controlled, with low sociability but high assertiveness
  • Team Players, of high sociability but low assertiveness, who are helpful, considerate, and non-critical
  • Connectors, who have both high sociability and assertiveness, and who lead in building connections within the group

The key to clear and effective communication within teams, according to Obieta, is to understand your personal style of communication and the styles of those around you, and to work to your strengths.

The presentation closed by asking the audience what their personal style is, and if they could ask their group one thing, what it would be.  There was the reminder that there is no "best" style, and that the most important thing in team-building communication was awareness and empathy.