Building We - for Feminist Democracies is a project of Feminist Hiking Collective with the support of JASS
“it is the collective that is the subject of history, not the individual” [Lauren Jacobs, Partnership for Working Families, m. 2:15]
Capitalism leaves us little energy to reflect, unlearn, critically analyse and learn. In such context, this process was a rebellion aimed to embrace wisdom, to value and honour the analyses coming from the experiences from movements and groups across time and geographies, and from our own experiences. This project does not aim to propose a “new model" or a "vision for the future", but rather to learn from the wisdom emerged and emerging from the multiple practices reviewed.
The project aims to document experiences, elaborate on practice-based tools and learnings of and for ‘what could be called’ feminist democracies. The project includes elaborating on collective feminist leadership and power, collective care, nonextractive learning, decolonisation of knowledge, collective accountability and responsibility. It will elaborate on the meaning and possibility (and necessity) of feminist democratic practices at any ‘scale’ of governance and organising — exploring autonomous feminist governance whilst also exploring the significance of democracy, grounded in our interdependence and belonging to nature. We will also learn from how other beings in nature organise to collectively thrive.
We believe feminist democracies can be applied and embedded everywhere, across informal and formal spaces, governments, institutions, groups, collectives, organisations, movements, etc. (with a note that the divide political vs. civil society, with the consequent de-politicisation of civil society, is questionable in itself). We recognise that the steps and ways to go towards and implement feminist democratic practices and structures are many and we therefore put forward the importance to apply and embed tools and elements of feminist democracies in an adaptive and contextual manner, without losing its core essence. We are still swimming in a sea of neoliberal, capitalist democracies, and their tools are dominant across the vast majority of spaces: it might thus seem un-realistic or un-transformative to “just build” our island of feminist democracy and reject transforming other existing spaces [inspired by analysis found in Marina Sitrin, Dario Azzellini, They Can’t Represent Us! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy (Verso Books, 2014), p. 35. 1]
An important element here is not losing the “how”, not falling into the trap of neoliberal democracy and its tools, culture and co-optation – and that is also why the element of transforming ourselves and our relationships to unlearn the deeply embedded ways of neoliberal democracy is essential. We thus deeply value the efforts and practices that aim to democratise municipalism and public services, and feminist municipalist approaches that aim to radically transform power, state frameworks and practices, localise and build autonomy in the context of governance and public services. At the same time, we centre the core importance of co-creating and sustaining prefigurations of feminist democracies. Even though still within a “sea of neoliberalism”, such prefigurations are deeply important and transformative, to feel and embody the understanding that ‘another world is possible’. We deem it essential to build collective knowledge of feminist democracies structures, tools, ingredients, experiences, practices, including failings, to strengthen the interconnection of the practices and support such experiences in documenting learnings - the seeds for feminist futures.
Elaboration of a publication outlining practices, tools and elements of feminist democracies embedding feminist governance and collective feminist leadership; Creation of a digital tools pot - a multilingual digital toolkit based on the methodology of feminist popular education that would make the knowledge, tools and 'ingredients’ that emerged from the research accessible and easily usable, with a digital model inspired by the WE RISE Toolkit
Research tools for phase three will include desk-based research; feminist popular education; reflection circles; dialogues; feminist participatory research tools; on-site trips; consultations; participation to events and gatherings; embodied knowledge and observation; informal conversations. Through all these approaches, we wish to access several kinds of knowledge to build resources on multi-layered visions. We started with an extensive literature review of existing work. The analysis will focus on the structures and process, on “the how”, but will also analyse the “what for” of feminist democracies. We seek to learn without extracting. We will also seek to learn from observing the way other beings in nature organise themselves, like migratory birds, trees and mycorrhizal fungi, organisms that organise and live interdependently and collectively thrive.
Phase one: review of literature (1 September to 31 December 2021)
Phase two: establish research working group (including activists, academics, feminist researchers, feminist popular educators and more); frame key questions for dialogues; identification and outreach to key informants (2022 - timeline flexible)
Phase three: information gathering and analysis (2023-2024 - timeline flexible)
Phase four: digital toolkit development; elaboration of report (2025 - timeline flexible)