Across the world, anti-racist anger and energy has been unleashed by the killing of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 while in police custody in Minneapolis, USA. We grieve the death of George Floyd. We grieve the death of yet another person of colour in police custody and we wholeheartedly condemn this as unacceptable. We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
We know racism is not a new problem, rather it is centuries-old; nor is it unique to the USA, rather it shows up globally; nor is it confined to the personal level of consciously, proudly racist individuals, rather it is a structural problem of which we’re all a part. Nor is it confined to racism: all forms of discrimination and oppression are abuses of human rights, and all should be perpetually named and challenged. However, we believe it is right in this moment to focus primarily on the specifics of racism and its companion, white privilege.
Racism coexists with poverty and inequality. Covid-19 has shone a torch on what we have long known, that BAME people are disproportionately affected in our society on many levels, in their life opportunities and in death – and this cannot be separated from co-existing poverty and exclusion.
We also acknowledge and bear witness to the historical, collective and individual trauma arising from the impact of racism which further intertwines and compounds the effects of deprivation and discrimination – and all underpinned by a capitalist system which innately fosters inequality.
Zebra Collective is and always has been committed to upholding and actively promoting the values of equality and inclusion – indeed, this is our work and function. It is also a journey and process, rather than an end in itself. We recognise that the journey requires hope and openness in order to examine our own values and to challenge others.
As a solution-focused organisation, we believe that the power to change requires us, individually and collectively to build a rich picture of this hoped-for world. Recognising the steps that we and others have already made, we will identify examples of the strengths we can draw upon, including the people who share these values and the resources and opportunities that will facilitate change.
Now is a time to consider how we have all contributed to the current challenges, and how we are all affected by them. So, as we consider what we can do as part of the effort to construct something better, let’s heed the words of indigenous Australian artist and activist Lilla Watson,
“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
We were at the inspiring demonstration in Plymouth on Sunday (7th June, 2020), one of the city’s biggest in living memory. There were thousands of placards and banners, many of them original and brilliant. One stated, “This is a movement, not a moment”. We hope so, and Zebra commits to doing all within its power to contribute to the efforts to ensure that this does indeed become a standing movement. How do we sustain the righteous anger and constructive energy, much of it amongst young people, displayed in recent days here in Plymouth, in many other towns and cities across UK and across the world?
Our commitment is to be the change that we want to see and for everything we do, to ask the questions: how is this promoting equality? how is this challenging the dominant racist hegemony? and how will it make a positive difference?
Therefore, our struggle is aligned with all struggles, if they are struggles towards liberation.
The Zebra Collective, 10th June 2020
Thoughts on a solution-focused response to Covid-19
What’s a solution-focused response to Covid-19? I’ve been asked this question a number of times recently and here are some thoughts. Though please know that they are just thoughts, not intended as a neat answer, an oversimplification or trivialisation of this big challenge. And, as ever, you are the expert in your life, job, role etc… – you’ll know best how to be at your best in this crisis. So:
First, let’s acknowledge the problem, and
the size of it: this touches most of us – loss of loved ones, loss of work,
loss of purpose, loss of security, a personal sense of threat, and fear of the
And, thinking global social justice: its
impact is likely to be greatest in poorer countries with less infrastructure,
and in more unequal countries (such as the USA – and, in some different ways,
the UK too), with huge differentials in health and access to healthcare
Then, let’s recognise and value the role of the
scientists who are investigating the problem and trialling solutions – a
reminder that in some fields, paying attention to the problem is essential.
And then, during lockdown, let’s focus on our future:
let’s build a rich picture of how we hope and intend our lives will be when we
emerge into a post-Covid-19 world (or at least post-lockdown). Recall the
solution-focused idea that, the richer the picture of that future, the more we
can sense ourselves there already; and that can help to maintain the motive
energy to take us in that direction.
We may think we can’t do it – these are
unprecedented challenges. But any of us can identify occasions when we’ve
surprised ourselves in how we’ve coped with unwanted, very difficult
situations. What clues can we find in these instances, when we pay them
really careful attention? Let’s engage with the qualities and abilities – the
resources and resourcefulness – we have but which we may not notice.
How do we maintain a sense of purpose and
meaning? The more individuals and families can recognise that the sacrifice
of their freedom of movement & choice is a direct contribution to a
collective effort to protect the well-being of all, the better we’ll be able to
sustain those sacrifices.
And the more we can find meaningful activity
within the confines of our homes, the better we’ll last. And, given that our
primary need is connection and relationship, this is the time to help
everyone in lockdown to explore and build their options for communicating
virtually: phones are familiar to all, and even smartphones now have wide
reach, but I wonder how many more people will, by the end of this, be
connecting by Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Whatsapp etc.
For those who are continuing to work, your roles are essential, and you deserve the respect and recognition you’re getting for your efforts. I hope that one or two of the thoughts above may be helpful to you in your practice as you get alongside people some of whom will be quite distressed.
Finally, a reflection: it’s tough when our routine is disrupted – but how good was our routine? When we want to make changes in our lives, it tends still to be hard to break established habits.
So, now that many of our habits have been forcibly broken – for good reason – this can be an opportunity for us, individually and as a society, to reconsider our norms and see if there might be better ways to live. I’m thinking, just for example, of travel, consumption and work.
Plymouth City Roller Derby
Zebra are delighted to be part-sponsoring the upcoming match of Plymouth City Roller Derby on Sunday 2nd February at the Marjons sport centre. Come along and enjoy the buzz and excitement.
Plymouth City Roller Derby (PCRD) started in Plymouth in 2010 by a small group of local women interested in joining the growing number of teams across the UK and worldwide.
Roller Derby is a sport started in the late 1920s but had a revival traced back to the Riot Girl movement in Austin, Texas in 2001. It creates a unique space, largely for women to learn and compete. It is a full body contact sport played on quad roller skates. It’s fast paced, embodies athleticism, body positivity, competition, camaraderie and skill. It also has a lot of style, with rock, punk and alternative music inspired dress and attitude throughout.
PCRD is an inclusive place for all gender identities, backgrounds and abilities. Players are supported by many volunteers, supporters and referees (affectionately called zebras ) and safety has a high priority. Every match must comply with the UKRDA standards and involve highly trained referees, paramedics with top equipment and non – skating officials who uphold the rules.
That said, there is a strong DIY punk culture, and a subcultural set of values where leagues are owned and operated by themselves. PCRD self organises, has an active democratic committee and strongly values participation, equality and inclusion of all. It is an incredibly empowering and encouraging sport. It’s more than a sport, for many needing a physical release, experiencing poor mental health or seeking an alternative place to build friendships and support, PCRD itself is a unique space.
PCRD is a CIC has often campaigned and fundraised for local charities as well as attending many plymouth events, often the less mainstream ones such as Plymouth Pride, reclaim the night and local domestic abuse and sexual violence fundraisers.
In the last few years, some of our most experienced players have naturally moved on. We are currently recruiting and we are entering the British Champs and starting back at the bottom to build our team again. To do this, we must host a game and travel to others across the UK. Our first game is coming up really soon on Sunday 2nd February at the Marjons sport centre.
The Zebra learnt a lot from our day with the Irish Association of Social Workers Advocates and Allies Conference in Dublin. We were invited to speak on a topic on the theme of relationship-based social work, and chose to introduce Hilary Cottam’s work as presented in her recent book Radical Help, to provoke thought and see if it contains clues and possibilities for social workers in 2019.
Also speaking were: Michael, a Dublin man who’s benefitted from the work of some of the social workers present, about what he found most helpful; Vasilios Ioakimidis, Prof of Social Work at Essex Uni, on lessons from the history of social work; and Guy Shennan on “radical hope” and the Solution-Focused Collective.
The day was designed such that most of the time the delegates were talking in smaller groups, perhaps stimulated by the presentations, and taking their conversations wherever they went.
The closing plenary discussion was rigorous and balanced awareness of the constraints under which professional social work teams operate in 2019, with plenty of energy for thinking and operating beyond these constraints.
Guy and Zebra are wondering if there might be appetite for us to return offering solution-focused training.
Wellbeing in Nature – a social prescribing project
The WIN project has just completed its first six week programme in partnership with @fotonow and working with participants from @thezoneplymouth’s Insight team. 10 participants took part in a blend of #greenwoodcraft, bushcraft, #forestbathing, photography and sound recording activities in 40-acres of semi-ancient woodland in Cornwall and creative workshops at @fotonow’s Ocean Studios.
Two soundscapes-” Life is Good but the World is Angry” and “Hammock Time”: CLICK HERE
Wellbeing in Natureis a social prescribing project designed to facilitate the opportunity for groups of people to improve their health and wellbeing by coming together on a programme of nature-based activities.
The project is a collaboration between the Zebra Collective, Fotonow CIC and Greenwood Music CIC and funded by the Big Lottery’s Awards for All programme.
There are ten places per programme, with the Spring programme starting in June and the Autumn programme starting in September. Project starts on Thursday 13th June 2019
Wellbeing in Nature is informed by robust and extensive research about factors that can improve wellbeing and the cathartic experience of engaging with and within nature. The project is built around the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice,Keep Learning and Give.
Wellbeing in Natureis looking for participants who want to improve their wellbeing through a progressive programme that will allow them to connect with each other and nature; be active in the outdoors; learn new skills, such as bushcraft. greenwood craft, photography; take notice and practice mindfulness and give through conservation work and supporting each other.
Participants will help design the workshops and the programme will start with an engagement and planning workshop.
The outdoor nature workshops will take place in Caradon Woods, a 40-acre semi-ancient Woodland Trust site managed by Greenwood Music. Running alongside this participants will take part in media and photography workshops with Fotonow CIC at their Ocean Studios facility.
Over the course of the programme, participants will take part in woodland wellbeing workshops whilst capturing their experience using the media skills developed with Fotonow. At the end of the programme, Fotonow will support participants to ‘tell their story’ through video, photography and/or sound.
This is a fantastic opportunity for people to boost their wellbeing and thanks to the Big Lottery funding it will be completely free to all, including transport to the woods and a lunch cooked on the open fire whilst there.
“This project provides people with an opportunity to build their wellbeing and resilience through taking part in experiential workshops in nature and exciting media workshops. They will shape their journey and inform how the project develops to better offer a social prescription to the natural health service.”
Aydin Boyacigiller, Wellbeing in NatureProject Manager, The Zebra Collective
Hilary Cottam’s Radical Help: possibilities and clues for social work
Marc is looking forward to the innovative Advocates and Allies Conference of the Irish Association of Social Workers which is bringing together Radical and Relationship-based Social Work Practices on 30th September in Dublin. He’s a speaker and will be talking about Hilary Cottam’s Radical Help: possibilities and clues for social work?
In 2018, social activist Hilary Cottam published Radical Help, her account of several action research projects conducted around England over a decade seeking answers to the question of how the system can be helpful to people in the 21st century.
Her findings are truly radical, and yet perhaps rather intuitive – even obvious: we humans need meaning and purpose, and a picture of how we’d like our life to be; we all, always, have strengths to draw upon in our efforts to get there – and building our capabilities further is essential too; we want human connection, so excellent relationships – with friends, neighbours, workers – is key; and we engage when we’re in control, setting our own agenda.
Ms Cottam’s projects were tightly evaluated and demonstrated some very encouraging results. So what clues do these projects offer to statutory social work? The duties of the department and the social work role may currently constrain, but here’s an opportunity to see what possibilities we can tease out.