The Extinction Rebellion (XR) is an international, non-hierarchical movement that fights for climate justice and better policies in response to the climate crisis. They use methods of civil disobedience: protests, blocking traffic and petitions.
They have no leaders and no formal structure. In Extinction Rebellion, every person has an equal say in the decision making process. Anybody can join the movement, no matter their age, nationality or social status. Coordinating roles are more often given to marginalised groups and those in positions of responsibility are rotated to avoid perpetuating power relations and subordination.
They ensure accessibility (i.e. providing childcare, wheelchair access, avoiding technical jargon), both in meetings and actions. Their strategy focuses on doing the work required to forge authentic alliances with grassroots movements of the most marginalised groups.
How does it work?
The non-hierarchical and bottom-up structure of the movement manifests through the distribution of tasks and decision-making. Each person can take the initiative and invite others to contribute. Individuals get involved by deciding what element they take responsibility for and to what extent they want to be involved.
The movement is divided into smaller working subgroups (e.g. media group, regeneration group), and each of these subgroups can decide on their own actions, so that the decision-making process goes smoothly.
Decisions are taken not by voting but by consensus. During the decision-making process, each person has the right to object. If this happens, that person has to explain what they think is wrong with the decision. The group discusses until they come to a consensus. Consensus in XR is that no person expresses a strong objection to the decision being made.
- Video about Extinction Rebellion Poland
- A device on which to watch the video (TV/laptop/projector)
- Participants learn about collective decision making and practice it on a small decision in their group.
- Participants know what is Extinction Rebellion and how they make decisions.
1. Introduction (5 min.)
Teacher asks students to describe how they make decisions, for example at home or with their friends. How do we make decisions more broadly in our society? Using the answers to these questions, introduce the topic of decision making and explain the upcoming activity as a way to make decisions in a very different way.
2. Video and discussion (20 min.)
Watch the video about XR with the group. Initiate the discussion by asking questions:
- What is extraordinary about this group/movement?
- How do they make decisions? Would this way of decision making work in your class/school/youth group? Why or why not?
- Do movements like XR affect political decisions in any way? Why or why not?
3. Making a decision together (45 min.)
- Choose a real decision that you and your group have to make. It should be something simple: what will you do for a celebration day or what movie will you watch in a cinema. It is crucial to pick a topic that is relevant to the group and not a fake construct just for the sake of this activity. It should also be a decision that engages young people and can happen in the near future.
- First, the group has to create criteria for the decision making. See examples of rules in Appendix 1. It is important that the rules are created by the youth. They should propose what is important to them, discuss it and write it down.
- Ask participants to propose rules of good decision making and write it down on a blackboard/flipchart. You can see examples of rules in Appendix 2.
- Ask every person to write their proposal on post-it notes. Emphasise that there are no good or bad ideas. After 5 minutes collect them and put them on a blackboard/flipchart. You can group similar answers together and summarise them.
- Ask students if every proposal follows the rules that they have established. If not, ask the person who made that proposal to change something, if possible.
- Write every proposal on a flipchart/blackboard. Ask students to vote for the proposal that they like the most.
- After counting votes, ask students if there is someone who does not agree with the decision. If so, they can argue what rules are not met by this proposal.
4. Summary (15 min.)
Ask students how they felt about making this decision? Do they feel like it is their decision or is it forced on them? Why? How can they improve the decision making process for the next time? Do they feel like voting is a fair way of making a decision? Would they like to try making a similar decision by consensus, like XR does?
Summarise by saying that groups can always improve how they collectively make decisions. You, as a group, can always come back to rules of decision making and change them to make them more inclusive and democratic.