What is your structure, how do you organise?
We are a decentralised organisation – anyone can do things in the name of Extinction Rebellion if they agree with and adhere to our principles and values – people don’t need anyone’s permission on that basis. We have a self-organising system. Power is invested in roles through the use of mandates rather than held by people. It is a creative system that grows in response to the organisations needs. We organise in circles focussed on actions, political strategy and movement support. Teams focus on Media and Messaging, the Citizens Assembly, Finance and Fundraising, Legal, Training, Actions, Art, Tech and Communities, Internationalist Solidarity team and a Guardians team who link to an independent Counsel for support and guidance. An overall anchor circle meets to share information and resolve issues that lack clarity. For the rebellion period a Rapid Response Team was established to make faster decisions on strategy and issues, this include representatives from various UK based teams. We are considering how well a structure works at a UK national level. This structure may be useful to copy in other circumstances, but other countries, local groups and so on, in this way a fractal structure. We are figuring all this out with support of a Self Organising System Team.
Are you democratic?
People have a variety of views of what democracy means – it tends to be associated with voting. We don’t have a system where everyone votes on everything – we haven’t set ourselves up as a consensus based organisation. Our experience is that this clogs things up and can hold back effective action. The self organising system is in principle dynamic and responsive to the needs of a growing and rapidly changing organisation. The development of a feedback system, which we are working on, is integral to our growth in supporting people to be heard.
How do you make decisions?
We use different decision making thresholds that are appropriate and practical and chosen by each area. The co-ordination circles use an integrated decision making process which intends to support collaboration and creativity by needing all proposals to pass with ‘no objection’.
How are these decisions transparent and accountable?
People have access to our organising documents, proposal process, etc through our campaign overview document and through conversations on our organising platform Basecamp. We record some of our meetings and post them in basecamp. As in many areas we believe we need to improve our practice.
Most of your workers are volunteers. Aren’t you just relying on unpaid labour?
Extinction Rebellion has grown very quickly and there are large numbers of people who want to give their time for free because they realise the urgency of the situation. We even have individuals who have given up their paid jobs in order to work for Extinction Rebellion.
However, this is not possible for many and so we are experimenting with a system where we give money to vital members of the team who require assistance to pay living expenses like rent and bills.
This isn’t ideal but hopefully means that we can spread our funds between the work we do and paying people.
We will see how it works and change it if needs be.
Are you really grassroots?
Yes. We are ordinary people who care deeply about the world and want to do whatever we can peacefully to stop the destruction of Life on Earth and the deep injustices we see, and to push for the better, fairer and more beautiful world that we all want to see. No one controls us or tells us what to do.
I don’t believe the welfare of the less experienced people is likely to be very important in your group. What measures have you got in place to protect people?
We have an approach of what we call ‘regenerative culture’ in Extinction Rebellion, where we ask people to look after themselves as part of being involved. We have a team that aims to ensure support is in place, before, during and after actions. We ask affinity groups to assign a well-being person to each group. However, there is limited capacity and we work very hard to make people aware of the risks they are taking. So this is an important issue for us.
What else have you done?
As a network called Rising Up! we have run a number of dynamic campaigns and protests such as Stop Killing Londoners and Toxic Bankers, as well as multiple successful Fossil Fuel Divestment campaigns. You can see some of the things we have done in our youtube channel and the final part of this talk runs through a few of our previous campaigns.