MAN 2016 Tour #2 Report – Brussels


It’s been a very intense, jam-packed 3 weeks. Starting with an overnight flight to Paris, an immediate train trip to Brussels for a 2-day stint there with a full day of MAN workshops followed by an evening house concert, back to Paris for CollabCamp then OuiShare Fest, then to Asilomar CA for my BALLE Fellowship immersion, then Oakland for a Community Connect event where I presented MANs, then Berkeley for a full day of MAN workshops followed by a little house concert at Berkeley Co-Housing.

I’ll start here with a report on Brussels, then will do separate ones on the Paris and California jaunts.

Brussels! I was met at the train by the wonderful Anne Snick, who worked with Flora to study and write about women’s work around the world. We use her work a lot as a frame of reference for MANs.

She and Hugo Wanner of FairFin were wonderful hosts, both at home and at FairFin where I gave a day-long workshop on Mutual Aid Networks. And I was very happy that Kate MacDonald, our MAN pilot steward and timebanking organizer extraordinaire from Hull UK, was able to join us.

Because of the time zone difference I’d had to lead a web learning session that first night at 1am, so it was quite a feat to get up and spend the day leading the Brussels session at FairFin, but the great group energized me.

IMG_7939The first half of the day was an overview of Mutual Aid Networks, where I showed our little video and a basic slide show then we discussed various components in depth. This was a very knowledgeable crowd so we were able to go into some depth about the various tools and applications. As usual, I focused a lot on timebanking because that’s what I know and I believe it can form one of the more solid bases from which to build any other community economic tools.

The second half of the day we did some visioning about desired local applications. This was a fascinating exercise, and one that I think will become fruitful over time. The most IMG_7945fascinating part for me is that, while everyone was so knowledgeable and had such a firm grasp on the concepts of timebanking and other community organizing tools, they had a strong tendency to remain in the framework of the current economy of volunteerism and professionalism. Helping people break out of this mindset might be one of the more rewarding things I get to do in this context, and we ended up some really good insights and next steps.

IMG_7947I’ll give an example. One of the problems that the group was imagining a way to solve was ‘public urination.’ As we conducted the exercise, which involves discussing who needs to be engaged in order to solve the problem, it took quite awhile and some prompting to get IMG_7949people to identify that, if we are to solve the problem of public urination, we need to engage the people who are urinating in public. It also took awhile to identify that we could offer people timebank hours to do the work we were looking for Another goal was to engage refugees in the community, and we had identified a strategy of pairing refugees with locals to go door-to-door to invite people into our project. When I asked how we could compensate them for their work, people went immediately to recognition, then direct service, such as offering language lessons. It took some reminding that we could use the tools we’d discussed in the morning, especially timebanking, to remunerate people in a way that gives them more agency and options in the kinds of services they receive in return. But it was very worthwhile, and I think the fact that these options were missed at first may have made them stick more strongly once they surfaced.

And by the way, it’s very nice to be in a group of people who wish to welcome refugees into their community. This was a recurring them during my time in Europe and I really appreciate it. Not to ‘tolerate’ or even ‘accommodate’ but “WELCOME”. Everyone deserves a good welcome when coming to a new place, especially if they’ve been driven from their home by traumatic events. More especially when our countries’ involvement (including perpetrating the factors leading to climate change and war) has helped to cause that trauma.

But I digress…

Later that evening I played a house concert at Anne’s lovely home. Her son and his friends graciously provided the instruments and sound engineering, and her friends filled the space with warmth. It was a lovely way to end the day. People often express surprise that I have the energy to play a concert after a long day of workshops, but I find it to be the perfect counter-balance. If I were at home doing nothing else I’d most likely be choosing to play my piano. So it’s great to have the opportunity to share that with others who want to listen.

OK, on to the next report and also the the airport gate where I’ll catch the next leg of my way-too-long-with-too-many-connections-and-layovers flight home. (Which reminds me, I’ll soon post a fundraising plea and I’d really love to get enough monetary support, while we continue to build our capacity to exchange things like frequent flyer miles, to stop nickel-and-diming myself to death by going the cheap but difficult route… part of the point of MANs imho)

as always, thanks for paying attention