Consciousness-raising (CR) is a form of activism popularised by second-wave feminists in the late 1960s. It is a group process whereby individual experience is transformed into political awareness.
- Meditative group sessions which can be therapeutic for those involved.
- Helps people externalise their issues, rather than blaming themselves.
- Helps people understand that their struggles are shared, not individual.
- Can be very informal and open-ended.
- Identify a small group to run the session with. CR should always be composed of a self-selecting group. For trust-building purposes, it's best to keep this to a group of workers who already know each other.
- Write a series of open-ended questions or prompts for the session. You might not need to use all of them, but have them prepared if necessary.
- Reassure everyone that everything said in the session remains confidential. It's important to build a culture where participants feel they can be free and open. Don't bring up anything said during the session elsewhere, even to the person themselves.
- Ask for everyone to keep their contribution to one per topic, so that everyone may contribute equally.
- Take turns to speak. Encourage whoever is ready to speak first. When they are finished, the next person can begin when they in turn are ready.
- Allow for silence in between contributions. Give people time to think and pause. It may be tempting to try to fill silence with questions, jokes, prompts, but try to resist that.
- Try not to interrupt someone’s contribution. If someone is saying something you can really empathise with, try nodding or waving your hands. If you happen to speak after that person, say "what X said really resonated with me".
Adapted from Plan C's How to run an online consciousness raising session guide:
TWT Resource Hub // How to run an online consciousness raising session
"Conciousness raising has had a really profound impact on the way I've thought about and felt my way through lockdown. It surprised me in becoming the most open and intimate forum in which I've been able to share experiences of lockdown - more so than with friends or family actually, even though I only knew one other participant at the start."
C is for consciousness raising!
This project comes from a desire to change the way we're thinking about the world and about activism - to start from our experience and emotional states, to foreground issues like anxiety and subjectivity, to make those things a key part of and starting place for our strategy, and to have that inform our actions.
For more on the link between workers' inquiries and consciousness-raising:
Common notions, part 1: workers-inquiry, co-research, consciousness...
Marta Malo de Molina TRANSLATION of "Prologue" by Marta Malo in Nociones Comunes Authored by Marta Malo, Madrid, August 2004 Translated by Maribel Casas-Cortés and Sebastian Cobarrubias, of the Notas Rojas Collective Chapel Hill, August 2005 Edited by other members of Notas Rojas, on line, February 2006 Throughout contemporary history, it is possible to trace a persistent distrust, on the part of movements for social transformation, towards certain forms of knowledge production and distribution.