Chapter 7: Collective Narrative Practice: working with groups and communities

In this final chapter we provide you a few more examples of collective practice and community work. 

“As counsellors, therapists, psychosocial workers and community workers, stories of hardship find their way to us. In some ways, we are cultural receivers of stories of suffering (Waldegrave, Tamaseses, Tuhaka & Campbell, 2003). And often this suffering is linked to broader injustices: to violence, abuse, racism, poverty, sexism, heterosexual dominance. To be the cultural receivers of these stories brings with it awesome responsibilities; for instance there are responsibilities to comfort and to somehow alleviate hardship. But there is another responsibility that I am hoping we will also engage with. How can we receive these stories and engage with them in ways that not only alleviate individual sorrow, but also enable and sustain local social action to address the broader injustices, violence and abuses in our varying contexts? How can we provide forums for the sorrow, anguish and hardship of the stories that we receive to be transformed into collective actions? I don’t mean grand social actions, I mean local, meaningful, resonant, sustainable, social action or social contributions’

(Denborough, 2008, p. 192)

 


As we have already seen in earlier parts of this course, lateral violence has been known to sneak in and try to pit feminism and the struggle to address gendered violence against justice for sexually and gender expansive folk. These projects are not separate. The Gender Group at Peak House is a program which refuses to go along with exclusion and invites young people of all genders to be part of conversations to address gendered violence. Resisting the binary while acknowledging the binary.

Gender Group at Peak House: Making space beyond inclusion, resisting cis- and heteronormativity — Bhupie Dulay, Graeme Sampson, Stefanie Krasnow and Vikki Reynolds.


Tiffany Sostar (they/them) and Rosie (Zan – they/them) Maeder hosted conversations of non-binary young people on opposite sides of the globe. This narrative collective document was written up by Tiffany capturing rich themes of shared and diverse experience.

Non-binary Superpowers! A collaborative conversation between non-binary youth in Adelaide, South Australia, and non-binary youth in Calgary, Alberta— Rosie Maeder and Tiffany Sostar


This correspondence was created as part of the encyclopedia of young people’s knowledge and life-saving tips between the young women’s muslim association and young people from a Queer Youth Drop-In in Adelaide. These letters capture the spirit of what Victor Turner describes as communitas- a sense of unity and shared experience which preserves and celebrates difference. 

A message from Feast Queer Young people: Part 5: LGBTQA journeys + A message back from Muslim women: We’ve got to work together.


In this interview with Tiffany Sostar about the myriad of collective practice projects they have undertaken, they share about their passion for weaving together voices through iterative processes, the careful collaborations they engage in, the many learnings and challenges they’ve come up against and their willingness and practise of accepting feedback. 

 

Tiffany mentioned a number of collective documents in this interview including:


 

Reflection questions:

  • What are the ways your work creates the possibility of collective action in response to oppressions related to gender, sex, sexuality, bodies and relationships?
  • What opportunities might there be in your work for hosting collective conversations which address the effects of heteronormativity, cisnormativity, transphobia, homophobia, biphobia etc?
  • Who might be invited into those conversations?
  • What does it mean to you to make space beyond inclusion?

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    abbytimmy13@gmail.com

    I feel that the organisation I work for is becoming more open, however more work is still required.

    I would like to see reviewing of documents, referral forms, being able to add pronouns to systems and developing client based groups that can illicit change would be positive steps forward. Organising support groups for people of different genders and sexuality would also be a positive step forward.

  2. Avatar

    sylphillipsayre@yahoo.com.au

    What are the ways your work creates the possibility of collective action in response to oppressions related to gender, sex, sexuality, bodies and relationships?
    My current workplace is in the process of change, however it has a long way to go. Acknowledging workplace cultural change takes time and needs to start from somewhere ( much like a plant usually starts from a seed, and has requirements to enable it to sprout and continue its growth). Though HR have acknowledge the changes that need/ should be changed HR have told me systems make it unable to make necessary changes. (which made my heart feel the emotions associated to continuum of oppression, I had to take a step back, reflect, have follow up conversations with local peers. This has challenged me again in relation to cultural safety and inclusion and expansive sexualities and gender diversities and the constraints / limitations that the dominant middle / upper class, white, cis-gender and heterosexual normativity that still impact of people today.

    What opportunities might there be in your work for hosting collective conversations which address the effects of heteronormativity, cisnormativity, transphobia, homophobia, biphobia etc?
    Reviewing documents, attitudes, behaviours , actions and discussing this with supportive peers and stake holders to advocate for change and workplace safety for all peoples (clients, communities, volunteers and staff).

    Who might be invited into those conversations?
    As mentioned above Human Resources, supportive colleagues / allies, and of course communities that are currently being impacted by current practises (Human Resources person, community collective feedback, supportive staff including allies and other significant supportive stake holders)

    What does it mean to you to make space beyond inclusion?
    This means safe spaces/places for all to exist in, work / study, play, live, breath, sleep, eat in. It means everything!

  3. Avatar

    Megan M. Matthews

    Hi, I’m Megan (say it: MEEgan) Matthews, writing from greater Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

    For most of the years of my agency work as a counselor of adults living with addiction, I have facilitated a group for female-identifying clients of the agency. I consider this group to be a form of collective action in response to oppressions, marginalization, and violence related to the female sex, female gender, female body, and relationships with others who identify as female. Our group’s work was dedicated to creating a sense of community among its members through sharing stories of lived experience; speaking and hearing words of encouragement and “lifting-up” rather than “tearing-down”; and learning to not only say to one another but believe from one another the words, “I’ve got your back”, and “it’s not just you”. For me, this is the way we make space beyond inclusion: by creating for marginalized groups spaces where they can feel safe together, be themselves together, and say freely to one another, “This is A Room Of Our Own.”

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