Collective care on the path to building sustainable communities

14 March 2019
Sustainable Concordia
SCPA basement, 2149 Mackay St

What does it mean to build sustainable and holistic communities? How can we care for our whole selves—physical, mental, but also emotional and spiritual—as we organize for social justice?
How can we integrate care in the very way we function as part of our collectives and communities?
How can we transform ourselves and our social relations as we seek to transform the world around us?
How can we avoid reproducing societal oppressions in our activist spaces?

Too many activists experience burnout, which in many cases is not directly linked to the amount of work but to *how* we carry out that work, to the collective dynamics and associated frustrations. This workshop will be a space to reflect upon our practices and level to which they are sustainable, and put together ideas and practices that have potential to center people and their well-being as we carry out social justice work.

Considering self and collective: care in pressing times

(Français ci-dessous)

Fighting against climate change isn’t a sprint but a marathon albeit an urgent one. How do we then organize in a way that takes into account this pressing challenge while recognizing our finite energies and the need for rejuvenating and nurturing ourselves and our communities? This interactive workshop will be a space to reflect on how the well-being of the planet is connected to ours and vice versa, and the kind of caring practices we need to build collective resilience in order to continue our struggles.

This workshop will be bilingual – we’ll do our best to accomodate both anglophones and francophones.

Powershift Young & Rising

February 17, 2019

University of Ottawa, Room: CLX 240

De soi et du collectif : le care en temps troubles

Se battre contre les changements climatiques n’est pas un sprint, mais un marathon, et des plus urgents. Comment s’organise-t-on en prenant en compte ce défis pressant et en reconnaissant nos limites (physiques, psychologiques, etc.) et le besoin de se régénérer et prendre soin de soi et de nos communautés ? Cet atelier interactif servira d’espace de réflexion dans lequel nous explorons, d’une part, comment le bien-être de notre planète est lié au nôtre, vice versa, et, d’autre part, échangerons sur les différentes pratiques du caring essentielles afin de construire des communautés résilientes nous permettant de poursuivre nos luttes.
Cet atelier sera bilingue – nous tenterons d’accommoder autant les anglophones que les francophones.

Be careful with each other: How activist groups can build trust, care, and sustainability in a world of capitalism and oppression

We share an article co-authored by a member of Politics & Care, published in Briarpatch Magazine July/August 2018 issue.
by Rushdia Mehreen and David Gray-Donald
Aug 29, 2018

“I felt exhausted and alone. I didn’t feel like my comrades had any affective relationships with me or each other. The struggle had actually become a job. We rarely wondered what everyone was going through. […] Over time, I found no meaning or value in my activism. I felt emotionally and physically empty. I no longer wanted to move myself to go to the demos or to meetings because it exhausted me instead of leaving me energized.”

This is what Laykü,* who was an organizer with Palestinian solidarity and migrant justice groups in Montreal, told us it felt like at the beginning of their burnout.

Why are activists burning out, and what can be done to stop it? During the 2012 student movement in Quebec, Rushdia contributed to forming the group Politics & Care, a collective of activists and community organizers dedicated to addressing this question. The group’s activities include holding discussion circles and facilitating workshops on integrating care into political work.

Collective care refers to seeing members’ well-being – particularly their emotional health – as a shared responsibility of the group rather than the lone task of an individual.

This article unpacks the most common organizing dynamics that lead to burnout, and explores ways in which collective care can be integrated into organizing politics and practices. It is directed mostly toward anti-authoritarian, non-hierarchical grassroots groups.

Collective care refers to seeing members’ well-being – particularly their emotional health – as a shared responsibility of the group rather than the lone task of an individual. It means that a group commits to addressing interlocking oppressions and reasons for deteriorating well-being within the group while also combatting oppression in society at large. It places an emphasis on joint accountability, with the aim of collective empowerment. These ideas originate from queer and Black feminist organizing, such as the Combahee River Collective, and disability perspectives. It’s encapsulated in the phrase, “Be careful with each other, so we can be dangerous together.”

We build on previous discussions of problematic dynamics, and critiques of neoliberal notions of self-care – notably, an editorial from Upping The Anti, “Who cares?: The politics of care in radical organizing” – to further the conversation about collective-care-oriented solutions.

Power and control
We all know of an activist group that brands itself as “non-hierarchical” but is riddled with unspoken and insidious hierarchies. When some activists organize without sleeping for days or can dedicate all their time to organizing, it puts pressure on other members to match their standards of productivity and output. Those who contribute at extreme levels often gain more knowledge of the group’s goings-on, build more social capital, and claim more decision-making power. The invisible hierarchies that are created are hard to name and harder to dismantle.

Read the article in full online on Briarpatch Magazine:

Féminisme Intersectionnel : Anti-oppression et anti-racisme dans le mouvement étudiant

17 novembre 2018
14h30 à 16h
Camp de formation féministe de l’ASSÉ
Université Laval,
Pavillon DeKoninck, Local 1231,
1030 Avenue des Sciences Humaines, Québec, QC G1V 0A6

(English Below)
Alors que nous développons des espaces de résistance et de résilience face au patriarcat et l'(hétéro)sexisme à travers le féminisme, qu’en est-il des autres oppressions ? Au-delà de l’égalité entre les hommes et les femmes, comment peut-on aller plus loin dans nos analyses des discriminations et de la domination ? À quel point on peut conjuguer au quotidien le féminisme traditionnel, la notion de l’intersectionalité, l’anti-oppression ainsi que l’antiracisme. Comment pouvons-nous transformer nos structures et processus afin de ne pas reproduire des rapports de domination enracinés dans le racisme, le colonialisme, le capacitisme, la suprématie blanche, l’(hétéro)sexisme, la (trans)misogynie, le capitalisme, etc. ? Dans un espace plus sûr (safer space) cet atelier abordera les enjeux de l’inclusion, la discrimination, les privilèges et les oppressions systémiques afin de voir comment l’intersection de toutes ces oppressions et privilèges, y compris le racisme et le patriarcat, ont un effet cumulatif et interagissent ensemble. Également, cet atelier sera un espace où nous partagerons des pistes de réflexion sur comment créer des milieux plus accueillant tout en déconstruisant les oppressions que nous avons intériorisées afin de transformer radicalement nos pratiques !

Intersectional feminism : Anti-oppression and Anti-racism in the student movement

As we develop spaces of resistance and resilience in face of patriarchy and (hetero) sexism through feminism, how do we fare when it comes to other oppressions? Beyond equality between men and women, how can further our analysis of discrimination and domination? To what extent can we combine traditional feminism, the notion of intersectionality, anti-oppression and anti-racism. How can we transform our structures and processes so as not to reproduce relationships of domination rooted in racism, colonialism, capacitism, white supremacy, (hetero) sexism, (trans) misogyny, capitalism, etc.? In a safer space, this workshop will address the issues of inclusion, discrimination, privileges and systemic oppressions to assess how the intersection of these oppressions and privileges, including racism and patriarchy, have a cumulative effect and interact with each other. Additionally, this workshop will be a space to share ideas on how to create more welcoming environments while deconstructing the oppressions we have internalized in order to radically transform our practices!

Animé par/facilitated by Rushdia Mehreen

Collective Care & Sustaining Activism

November 1, 2018
4pm to 7pm
Get Radical! A Seminar in Community Organizing
Concordia Student Union

Collective art-work by members of Politics & Care

Collective Care & Sustaining Activism
As we build social movements, we tend to spend a lot of time on meetings, strategizing, organizing, mobilizing and so on. While the what and why of organizing are often sufficiently covered within the groups, aspects around how we carry out our organizing, the soft side, is frequently overlooked and not enough emphasis is placed on the well-being of the members involved as we pursue the political goals; emotional labour associated with dealing with power dynamics, interpersonal conflicts, various frustrations, internalized oppressions and such is not valued. This labour is often disconnected from the “political” work of what and why, and consequently not enough time and effort are spent on working through such issues, while it should be a collective responsibility. In such environment, so many activists tend to overstretch, burnout and leave the movement while still wanting to bring about social change. This participative workshop will be a space to reflect on our collective practices and brainstorm ideas on how we can inculcate care in various forms in our organizing in order to sustain our activism and build thriving spaces.

Facilitated by Rushdia Mehreen

Community organizing

Our collaboration with community organizations and groups in Montreal over the last few years has been in specific areas of collective care. Examples include: facilitation of (emotional) debriefs, e.g., marche pour la terre mère, after a long and involving project; collective care discussion circle for grassroots groups with a focus on internal dynamics, e.g., climate justice montreal; coaching for and being present at the collective care discussions within organizations.


Dare to care! / Ose prendre soin !

Sunday, July 8, 2 PM – 4 PM
Jarry Park
Near the gazebo

be careful with each other
un cercle de discussion, picnic, relax
pcq il faut oser
pcq seul on y arrivera pas
pcq on est dans un marathon et que sprinting n’est pas durable
pcq on a besoin des espaces pour partager nos vulnerabilités
pcq caring et solidarité vont ensemble
because care matters
because we are not robots
because activism can be more than meetings and tasks
because we want to connect with each other
because building relationships matter
because interconnections between different oppressions matter
because we need to resource, replenish and reenergize ourselves

bring your stories, your poems and your visions !
amenez vos récits, vos poèmes et vos visions !

if possible, thanks for bringing some food for our bodies and souls, and to share.
si possible, amenez de bouffe pour partager

*we’ll meet near the gazebo (south side of the park, near st-laurent and gary carter).
On se rencontre près du gazebo (côté sud du parc, près du st-laurent et gary carter).

some context for this picnic-potluck can be found here:

Animé par/facilitated by Rushdia Mehreen