Smart CSOs Conference, November 2015

Re.imagining Activism Logo 2

To effectively support the Great Transition to a truly sustainable and just society, our activism needs to be re.imagined coming from a different level of consciousness. Between November 5–7 2015, social change leaders and activists from a cross-section of NGOs, grassroots, think tanks, academia and grant-making organisations met in Berlin to reflect on their own worldviews and to co-create new, concrete ways for our organisations and networks to advance deep system change.

We were lucky to have with us filmmaker Rui Veras from the International Water Association. He interviewed some participants and filmed impressions and views that participants expressed about the discussions at the conference.

Below, you will see the topics we covered and the questions we asked ourselves during this event, followed by 2-minute interviews with participants from the events, where you can learn more about the ideas we came up with.

Re-imagining our theories of change

  • What do we know about how system change can happen?
  • What are our own theories of (system) change?
  • How do they fit together?
  • What is our own agency in this?


Re-imagining ourselves as activists

  • How can we transcend our current paradigms and think differently as activists?
  • How can we ensure our work is both sustainable and meaningful?


Re-imagining our story

  • In what way are current frames/narratives supportive or unsupportive of the Great Transition?
  • How can we deconstruct old narratives, and which new ones can we create?


Re-imagining our organisations

  • What needs to change in our organisations to be fit for system change?
  • How can we initiate change?


Re-imagining our campaigns

  • What needs to change in our campaigns to make them fit for the Great Transition?
  • How can we start changing our strategies and campaigns?


A plenary debate: Is it a good activist strategy for the Great Transition to reject long-established institutions?

  • Often we hear that the only way to create a sustainable and just future is to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. So should we celebrate that many young, networked grassroots activists fight institutions to make them superfluous?
  • Does it follow that the EU should break up or that small nations are always preferable?

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