Liv is a campaigner working with ActionAid International. She is currently working in partnership with the Beautiful Rising Project to gather existing knowledge on creative non-violent direct actions, campaigning, tactics, strategies, and stories to make it accessible for others.
I’m wondering if you could start by just telling me your name for the recording and give me overview of what you do?
I’m from Denmark. I’m a campaigner foremost and I work with ActionAid International. We have a partnership with a project called Beautiful Rising. I am here to do a workshop on a campaign strategy board game that Beautiful Rising and ActionAid have developed using different strategies and tactics for creative non-violent direct actions.
The purpose of the Beautiful Rising Project is to gather existing knowledge on creative non-violent direct actions, campaigning, tactics, strategies and stories and make it accessible for others. Not a lot of people have access to this kind of knowledge because it’s within specific movements in certain countries. We are looking at how you can facilitate a process where those stories gets told and becomes open source for everyone.
There’s a potential for lot of learnings across movements, across activists, across campaigns about different kinds of tactics, reflections on what is not working, and strategic thinking behind choosing different strategies
There is a book coming out of the Beautiful Rising Project soon — in Spanish, English and in Arabic. There is also a website called beautifulrising.org, a board game, and a chatbot. Everything is creative commons so you can access and download whatever you need from the website. You can ask the chatbot, and it will come up with tactical suggestions for you like you could do a banner drop, or a sit-in, or whatever. It’s about fueling the movement, with the knowledge they already have, but trying to make a space and a network around it. We’re also trying to connect activists, both offline and online. We have trainings and jam sessions where all of these stories are told between activists, and then putting it into this universe called Beautiful Rising.
What countries are you working in? Where are you holding the training’s in?
We have hosted jam sessions in Mexico, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Uganda. We also just recently had a regional gathering in South Africa, with people from Congo, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.
The Beautiful Rising project is part of a larger project called Beautiful Trouble. It is a US based project and they have done similar collections of stories and strategies but mostly from northern countries. So the Beautiful Rising Project is an expansion with stories from the global south.
Thinking about this work that you’ve been doing, can you hone in on one specific example where you’ve really felt a sense of success?
Yeah. We had this movement gathering in South Africa, and it was a great experience to be able to bring the experience from the peace movement in Myanmar together with activists from Congo, who are also working under extreme political circumstances. The activists from Congo could learn allot from the experiences from Myanmar but also from other countries.
In Myanmar, the monks have these rice balls that they gather money in. People support the monks by throwing rice or money in those balls. It’s allowed to use that in their campaigns and as a cultural asset. When they meet anyone from the military dictatorship, like the generals, they turned around the balls showing publically that they disregard the dictatorship. I have seen the face of an activist from Congo being like, “Ah, it’s possible to show your disaffection in different creative ways.”
It sometimes seems impossible to resist non-violently, but we need to — we need to be creative and strategic. Learning, thus far, from Myanmar to Congo, has shown that they have similar challenges but also similar opportunities. We want to bring those experience together either through meeting face-to-face, or in these online communities, is really, really valuable.
Have you been able to connect with the person from Congo since then to see what’s come of it?
Yeah, and I think that’s the point in the online community, is that then we have the possibility of following up and connecting people. I know that he’s bringing both the board game, and the examples from South Africa, into his activist group in Congo — trying to see how they can they organize their community. He’s really looking into what tactics and strategies to put pressure on the regime. Obviously, there’s no wins yet, because it’s only two months ago but I know that it refueled their belief in change being possible. It also seemed impossible in Myanmar.
Telling stories of non-violent direct action has twice the success rate than violent movements and has re-energizing him. He has stories to tell others of how it can work — that you need to strategize, and you need to organize.
And sometimes you really need people to notice you. Create attention around your issue. How do you build the attention and sometimes work with the media and how to use the potential of social media.
I’m going to just flip the first question I asked you, or the second question. I asked you to think about an example of a success, how about now a specific example of a challenge, like the hardest, worst one?
I think in Europe what we are facing right now, with the extreme xenophobia, is a huge challenge, because the fight against new liberalism, they are winning and succeeding to set the agenda.
Everyone is fighting their own battle to keep their job and they think they need to battle immigrants because them having a job or not is about whether there will be an immigrant coming or refugee coming into Europe.It’s a structural thing, on creating jobs. I think we’re not winning. We’re not winning the organizing people to resist — not yet at least.
To resist this narrative.
There’s a narrative of it being an individual problem, “It’s my problem that I don’t get a job, and I need to take that job from a refugee,” instead of looking at the bigger picture of “Why are there refugees?” or “Why am I not having a job?”
I think we are fighting a huge narrative around an individual’s own responsibility and that’s complicated to then organize around. If people think, “Oh, it’s just, I’m jobless because it’s my problem and not a structural problem.” I don’t know if that’s the answer.
Again, also coming out of these conversations, I think we lack a better understanding of power. In all the campaign strategies, things I’ve been engaged in, not only here, but people always say “We should overthrow the government, we should write the MP.”
Looking at power in a more holistic perspective saying, “Maybe if we overthrow the President, there will just be another bad President.” What is it actually we want to change and who are the ones we are trying to influence and who can change power, because maybe writing the MP continuously won’t change power. I think within campaign strategy that’s a huge challenge, that there’s not always a good enough analysis of power.
That narrative also around this is an individual problem suggests a very specific remedy. What I hear you saying is that remedy probably won’t fix the issue.
It won’t fix it.
How are you addressing this issue?
Changing narratives takes time and different strategies. But we need to change it from being an individual problem, to addressing it as a structural problem. But it is a challenge that people is getting tired of the anti-capitalism, “Oh, yeah, whatever, you can’t buy anything,” discourse.
On the different strategic takes on this challenge — this is why Beatiful Trouble and Beautiful Rising is being created. We want to take different approaches to analyze power accessibility and learn about different tactics to change narratives — to organise people and to change hegemonic discourses.
I’m going to turn to the broadest issue in the Mozilla universe which is keeping the Web open and free. What for you is the open internet?
I think it’s in different layers. I think it’s extremely important that it’s accessible. We work a lot of in the global south and the internet is far from accessible. That’s the baseline. You need to access. Then you also need access to not only the things the government allows you to access.
Then you need to be able also to, in a secure manner, share your opinions. If it’s three levels, it’s on access to all the content and then being able to use in a secure, free manner.
That harm doesn’t come to you.
Yeah, exactly. Of course you can’t completely prevent harm that comes to you, but I think we can be supportive of codes of conduct and work against the huge surveillance threat.
We were just talking to some movements in Uganda and they had no idea how far their governments were in terms of surveilling their activities because they underestimated the government capabilities. It is also about making sure that people understand the potentials, but also the potential backfires of organizing online. It’s a very powerful tool for the ones you’re working against — and it’s not only your tool. I think all those aspects is extremely important.
Thinking about the internet in a more personal, what are the ways that you have benefited from the internet? How have you used it? A really key example there.
The access to information is key. The possibility of the knowledge you can have. In terms of campaigning there is huge potential in global scale campaigning and the large online communities you have access to.
The possibility of joining forces globally is just expanding tremendously and the potential of international solidarity working in a distance on campaign issues even you’re not in the country. Documenting wrongdoings, putting pressure, giving people a voice by participating one way or the other through social media.It’s a huge potential which I benefited myself.
Getting more specific about Mozilla, how did you get involved with Mozilla and what has that been like?
Aurelia, from the Beautiful Rising advisory board, got us in touch with Mozilla. She has been participating in MozFest for a long time. This is my first MozFest. I think there is a huge potential with the fuel the movement project that Mozilla are starting up. There is so many people that would benefit from collaborating with each other and Mozilla providing a platform for this is great.
How long have you had this interaction with Mozilla?
Me, personally? For a couple of weeks. But the people in Beautiful Rising have talked a lot with Mozilla about potential collaboration.
In ActionAid or your project more broadly?
About the potentials of collaborating around creating a toolbox on digital campaign examples and tactics and strategies. The expertise is there, so we’ve been talking about how could we collaborate around developing that.
Are the conversations still mostly looking through what you’ll do together or would you say you’ve had some early successes or early impacts of having Aurelia on your board or having the two organizations collaborating?
Just being here at Mozfest is an early impact from the collaboration. I’ve been giving a session on the Beautiful Rising and talking to 25 different partners of Mozilla about how we can collaborate around shared agendas and how we can provide strategic guidance on campaigning.
Since you’ve been at MozFest you’ve met people that you’re going to follow up with?
It’s building the network. I got a lot of ideas of what is already out there, who is doing what. Hopefully tomorrow we have a longer session on how to actually convene and how Mozilla can convening that space for us to continuously interact.
That’s very concrete. I know you haven’t been connected with Mozilla for long, but do you have any feedback for Mozilla?What’s not working for you? What are things you think could be better?
I think the advocacy part of Mozilla could work better but I know it’s already a priority. But just having this space and looking into what could be Mozilla’s role in terms of campaigning and advocating is great. Not only developing and supporting the coding and digital tools, but actually putting pressure on governments and companies to respect and fight against monopolies or broaden the free access to internet.
Mozilla is a huge player, having access to different spaces that NGOs don’t have. Then I think back to my previous questions on convening. I think there’s a potential in convening or bringing us together not necessarily only at the MozFest but at different platforms.
Having those shared platforms needs facilitation and who has the capacity to do that.
I think, even though your interaction with Mozilla is a week old, you have naturally hit on an observation that people who have been involved for a long time have also concluded.
I think it’s a huge potential and then I’m curious. Is it convening the space now or is it also ongoing convening that space. There’s technical solutions but there is also the advocacy track. What is Mozilla’s role in the future?
I think it’s a huge battlefield for the coming years — we need campaigns on both digital issues but also becoming better at digital campaigning.
At Story Engine, we’re collecting all these stories, and putting them open on the Web. In what ways if at all might these stories be useful for you?
I think as I said in the beginning, the stories are extremely important and useful. You can read books on a theoretical level, but it can be difficult for people to translate and relate to — the stories will hopefully make those theories more applicable.
I think taking a personal departure, taking stories as aspiration, as a new perspectives or maybe someone will read it that has a similar experience. Maybe someone will read it and go check out Beautiful Rising! Which would be great.
This is just another space for sharing the stories.
Finally, is there anything that you want to ask me more, or tell me that I haven’t covered?
Talking about campaigning, Open Web, organizing, etc., etc., is not every day talks for most people. How do we reach those people who is not the ones going into Story Engine, or Beautiful Rising, or similar things — because they don’t see themselves as organizers, or activists, or campaigners or tech interested.
They’re just ordinary people feeling oppressed. How do we reach all those people with those stories and support them in fighting back? I think we talk to a lot of people who are already organized, or interested in being organized, or come to these kind of events. How do we reach all the other ones?
That’s the open question. I think there’s a huge potential in this more digital entry point because a lot of people will use texting, or Facebook, or the internet for something else and then they will see a potential in raising their voice on something they’re concerned.
It’s a more easy accessible way to have your opinion out there, then go talk to your MP, and make a campaign which can require more.
Exactly. What is the next level of engagement beyond clicktivism? I think that’s one. If we answer that question there is maybe more wins in the future.
Yeah, I think it will be answered, and answered, and answered, and then the answer will change.
Yeah, of course. Definitely, but continuously being curious on that field engagement beyond clicktivism.