A group of facilitators (historically mostly United States’ facilitators although more recently a few from countries in Europe have joined) have been meeting since May of 2017 to explore undoing oppression in their Work That Reconnects facilitation.
The group first arose when Belinda Griswold, Sarah Nahar and Aravinda Ananda were preparing for respective June 2017 programs. Sarah was to be on the teaching team at Joanna Macy’s Emerald Earth 10-day intensive and Aravinda was on the co-facilitation team for a fourth Earth Leadership Cohort, an immersion in the Work That Reconnects for young people ages 18-30. What started as an initial call, turned into a weekly call for nearly the first year.
Since then, various people have continued to meet on an ongoing basis sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly. In addition to supporting facilitators in their growth and learning (including both facilitation preparation and processing post-program), the group has also done some work with listening to harms that have occurred from systems of oppression replicating in Work That Reconnects spaces as well as some attempts to share learning with the wider community.
In fall 2016 many members of what became that group convened in person to explore harms happening in Work That Reconnects spaces, expected and unexpected. Various facilitators again convened on that land in February 2018 to test run new and adapted practices that had been created with an anti-oppression approach. The following weekend Mutima Imani and Aravinda Ananda convened a gathering at Canticle Farm in Oakland, California on Ohlone territory to host a community exploration and naming of patterns of harm in Work That Reconnects spaces.
This ongoing group initially struggled to choose a name for itself and the work it is engaged with, due to its breadth and depth. In its nascent stage decolonization was an animating word, and later recognized that intersectionalization felt more accurate. Then being on the evolving edge of the WTR lit up imagination. In July 2020, with nudging from the Work That Reconnects Network staff, the collection of individuals present decided on the name Anti-Oppression Resource Group (at least for the time being) because the group has historically been a place where people have come over the years to get support and be resourced in their ongoing evolution with integrating an undoing oppression approach into their Work That Reconnects facilitation.
Furthermore, members of the group have worked on a number of Anti-Oppression resources for the wider Work That Reconnects community. In addition to the few in-person facilitator gatherings, the group or subgroups within the Anti-Oppression Resource group have worked on a number of projects together including:
- Considerations of how to shift framing in the Work That Reconnects to better include an anti-oppression analysis including input to Molly Brown and Joanna Macy on a revised version of The Three Stories of Our Time
- Considerations of how to shift existing practices that are problematic and create new practices to further an undoing oppression approach within the Work That Reconnects
- Communicating about the history of some of the efforts and intentions to shift the Work That Reconnects with respect to oppression with crafting this statement Toward Greater Solidarity and Inclusion for the WTR Network website
- A list of power, privilege and oppression questions and topics posed to bioregional facilitator gatherings in the later half of 2019
- A glossary of terms for navigating undoing oppression work (not yet finished and made public)
- De-escalating Patterns of Harm in White Dominant Spaces: a guide for the Work That Reconnects facilitators and participants, a document summarizing patterns of harm in WTR spaces (originating from the harms named at the February 2018 gathering at Canticle Farm), that provides examples of what the patterns look like and suggestions for what facilitators can do differently.
- A well-attended webinar called White Supremacy in the Great Turning (see recording below)
Some of the members of this group also asked/encouraged Joanna Macy to write a public letter in fall 2017 to white facilitators in the United States to take certain steps to address oppression in the Work That Reconnects.
The current focus of this group is an effort to review and propose changes with an undoing oppression approach to Coming Back to Life, spearheaded by the efforts of Tzy-Ping Chen.
Some of the people who have provided leadership and shape to the group over the years (while not necessarily active at this time) include: Aravinda Ananda, Sarah Nahar, Belinda Griswold, Mutima Imani, Kurt Kuhwald, Carmen Rumbaut, Molly Brown, Constance Washburn, Rachel Marco-Havens, Kara Bender, Gwen Gordon, Joseph Rotella, Aryeh Shell and Tzy-Ping Chen.
Meetings typically have between 6 and 10 people joining, with a mixed race, intergenerational group of people with varying facilitation experience – some have been facilitating the Work That Reconnects for over a decade, others are quite new to facilitation. While a number of people tend to attend meetings regularly, group membership has also been fluid with some people participating periodically. At some times the group has been open to new members joining as invited by existing members, and in some ways the group has been closed to facilitate cohesiveness of the current group and not overtax the volunteer efforts of existing members and also balance certain demographics within the group. In early 2020 the group created an orientation video for anyone who wants to join to watch.
The group has been somewhat self-organized, with different people facilitating the meetings, although Aravinda Ananda and Sarah Nahar have been most consistent with leadership in this respect. Aravinda has volunteered her zoom account for these meetings, sends out meeting reminders and typically takes notes for meetings. Decisions have tended to be made by whoever shows up for a call by talking things through among those present until a general consensus is reached. More recently the group has started using the consent decision-making process to make decisions together.
Because of the high overlap in membership between this ongoing group and the Work That Reconnects Network weavers (Aravinda is a former Weaver, and Molly and Constance are current Weavers), the group has had some close ties with the WTR Network. Some of the work of this ongoing group appears, at times, on workthatreconnects.org and in Deep Times Journal.