The work of Feminist Workshop is based on four main principles. These are horizontality, inclusivity, engagement of new members (women, transgender and intersex people), participatory approach to planning and project development. How do we implement these principles?
Our principles are the main cornerstones for our work that we use while searching for the new ways to take action under patriarchal, hierarchical, discriminatory, and complex social order. Everyday we challenge established norms and traditions, as well as our own habits, views and fears. While we strive to build a better world, each of us bears the sign of outdated social rules and practices. That means that none of us is a living embodiment of the ideals that we fight for. That is why we spend a lot of time self-reflecting, analyzing our privileges, evaluating our actions and improving ourselves. This process is an important aspect of our work, since we are responsible to the feminist community, and self-improvement and changes for the better in our lives is what inspires our work. Our informal motto “Let’s unite and create!” serves as a key that helps to understand how we use our principles. We do not try to turn every case into a perfect example of horizontality or inclusivity. Our main goal is collective action, and we aim to implement our principles while acting collectively.
First of all, we are a grassroots. community based organization. That means there is no clear distinction between “workers” and “target audience”. We ARE the audience ourselves, and workers’ needs are just as important as the needs of the volunteers or the participants of the events. Our experience helps us to understand the needs and situations of the target groups. New young feminists with new experience and new optics that come work with us quarterly help us to bridge the gap between “audience” and “workers”. Moreover, as we understand how widely positions and views may differ, we also conduct audience research and involve wider audience in the decision making process when we have resources for that. In our researches we also use feminist optics, preferring interviews and open-ended questions to quantitative methods and close-ended questions.
We make decisions collegially and using consensus methods. Everyone interested in the collective work participates in the decision making process. The way we distribute work provides each member with a sphere of responsibility within which each one of us organizes their work and estimates their progress. There is no leader that tells us what to do. When someone is in need of help, they ask colleagues for advice. Despite the efforts we make, hierarchies still emerge in our work. That is why in the work processes we try to forestall this and share responsibilities even with people that do not demand or expect it. When working with a teenage audience we put stress on the needs and engagement of the participants. In order to protect teenagers from the potential abuse of power coming from us we developed Policies on working with teenagers and pursue it now. We also convey to the power structures and donors that feminists need to play more important roles in the decision making processes, as well as in the allocation of resources. When such an opportunity arises, we also point out the cases that do not engage feminists enough and propose alternative models of the project implementation.
Inclusivity is a global goal, and we contribute to bringing it to life, as far as our resources allow us to. We understand that we can not renovate the building we rent for our office, or make public transport accessible so that everyone would be able to come to our events. However, we still can analyze our audience’s requests. We write down the requests and problems with inclusivity they voice and collegially search for the ways to solve them.
We take courses, study other experiences and share newly acquired knowledge with our colleagues. Such training helped us to start working at inclusivity policy. Main premise of the policy is the fact that there is no comprehensive list of the needs of people that are now excluded. Neither is there a universal list of pieces of advice. Real inclusion needs to stem from the analysis of the situation of the particular group.
That is the reason why during evaluation of our work and planning future projects we try to take into account all the work circumstances of every worker. Nothing should be omitted or ignored. On the contrary, we want to get a sincere evaluation and description of circumstances. We do not rely on the universal work model that imagines work as that done by the able-bodied white cisgender hetero man.
Engagement of new members (women, transgender and intersex people)
We put a lot of effort into encouraging new feminists to join our organization. Getting people to participate in our projects, assigning them paid work responsibilities is an instrument of empowerment and just allocation of resources. Experience of the young feminists both help us to improve our agenda and approaches and to implement the principle “nothing about us without us”. In order to implement this principle, we put efforts into working with the activist community, which is reflected in our Theory of change. Newcomers get to know us because of our public program (events and content). We invite those willing to join us to the activist community and provide them with networking opportunities inside the collective. From time to time we organize schools or events that provide feminists with tools for advocacy.We also provide individualized support, helping feminists to make their first steps in volunteering or implementing their own initiatives, to generate ideas and implement them. Some of these feminists later join us as workers of the Feminist Wokshop.
Participatory approach to planning and project development
When new members join us as described in the paragraph above, they participate in planning and determining priorities as equals. Our strategic plan defines certain borders, obliging us to follow chosen formats and implement previously conceived projects, but our plan is flexible and allows us to implement new ideas.
Each worker is in charge of their own area of responsibility, within which they can implement ideas. For example, if a content creator resigns, new worker uses the work of their predecessor to generate the ideas and create their own content (which is feminist in a broad sense). That motivates workers and contributes to their development.
New people initiate new projects and propose new directions for the activities. For instance, project about beauty standards and body positivity “Бути в тілі” (“To be in a body”) was created by Katya and Anka, two graduates of the feminist activism school. Yosh helped them to turn the concept into a project and to figure out certain aspects of report writing and project coordination. Feminist Workshop began working with teenagers in 2016, when we were joined by Martha and Sophia that were interested in teen audience. They launched our first summer city camp for high school girls . And the website you are now visiting was created by Yulia. She launched the website to publish the entries of one of the first feminist blogs in Ukrainian targeted at the youth audience.
Thus, our activities dynamically reflect the needs and positions of different members of the feminist community.