Reflections of a trainer

IssueSeptember 2005
Comment by Sophie Reynolds

A number of groups offered training for G8 actions. This is the perspective of one trainer from one group: the Action Trainers Group - a loose collective of trainers from around the UK working since DSEi 2003 to provide training for mass actions and to develop direct action training in the long term in the UK.


  • Offering good relevant training to contribute to individual, group and mass actions being as empowering, effective and safe as possible.
  • Training new trainers.
  • Demonstrating the value, bothin doing effective actions and in challenging oppressive power habits, of developing "process" skills ie skills for how we work, communicate and make decisions together.
  • Supporting the formation of affinity groups.


During the year preceding the G8, popular "training for trainers" workshops were held around the UK which resulted in new trainers working with the Action Training Group at the G8. However, the preparation work took much energy and was done by a small core of people. It is hard work trying to be effective trainers while also fulfilling additional roles such as organisers, promoters and mentors.

During the G8, we ran a programme of assorted trainings and also responded to ad hoc requests for training in specific skills. But it was difficult as we didn't know in advance what the demand would be.

We puzzled over how to get across to people that training can be interesting, relevant and empowering. If a training role-playing a blockade is going on visibly people are attracted and ask to join in. Whilst we made info booklets as a method to passon skills and experience, we were unsure how useful these were. It's a challenge at mass gatherings to get feedback and a sense of people's interests and needs.

More people come to trainings about "action" rather than "process". Our opinion is that both are vital and we want to keep providing what people ask for.


One difficulty is that people often want ultra-short trainings or leave it to the very last moment -- a result of our "quick-fix" culture... the protest scene is part of it too! However, even one-hour trainings can make a big difference, so we offer them. Training at mass actions like the G8 can be full of learning because we get the unusual chance to work together over time, so we see people explore and create their action, sometimes see them acting it, and then get to hear about it afterwards.

Those huge meetings...

The G8 convergence centres in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling had daily group meetings involving up to 500 people. The challenge being for the whole, often changing, group of people to learn together - in a few short days - ways to communicate, be inclusive, share power and make collective decisions. Trainers from the G8 Action Trainers Group and the Rant Collective from the States led this process.

At the Stirling eco-village, the large group meeting quickly gotused to tools such as hand signals and the spokescouncil. These require active participation and often active restraint from everyone. The success of large group consensus depends on everyone -- we, the trainers see it as a vital empowering piece in mass actions so we were pleased to contribute to making it work and to growing the skills of the activist community. However, we need more people who want to learn to facilitate large groups.

Training for the future

At the G8 or during any period of mass action, eg DSEi 2005, there are specific and vital roles around training that need fulfilling. Would you like to support training happening by helping with co-ordination, planning and communication? A team of just two people could do a fantastic and invaluable job -- any takers?!

Finally, if you are an individual or group who would like training; if you are interested in training as a trainer in direct action, nonviolence, facilitation, consensus decision making, support issues; or are a trainer who would like to contribute to training at future mass actions in the UK, or you would like to offer us, feedback, requests and suggestions - which we very much need - please contact us at