The Active Citizenship Toolkit: Please help @ClimateEmergMcr with its 11 “absolute gaps”

Last Monday CEM met (online) to discuss how we’re going to close our “absolute gaps” (I know, #livingthedream). This blog post will explain what those are, what they even MEAN, why you should care, and how you can help (and we would really really appreciate your help).

The Active Citizenship Toolkit is a new CEM project, an attempt to answer the question: “how do we make it easier for individuals and groups to figure out what they need for the immediate and long-haul efforts to keep this planet vaguely habitable and much more socially and ecologically just than it currently is?” and the related question of “how do we make it easier for individuals and groups to talk about what skills / knowledge / relationships / materials they have and can share with each other?”

Thanks to Solvi for the logo!

So, we’ve made a long list of (130ish and counting) elements that a group might need – from “writing a press release” to “doing long-term allyship,” from “hosting an online meeting” to “staring into the abyss without it staring back into you”.  Only (!) 70 of the elements made it onto our list of ‘core’ elements (so, we at CEM don’t do non-violent direct action, so those elements are not on our particular list: that doesn’t mean we think NVDA is a bad idea per se).

We then figured out what “level” we need each of these elements at – novice, practitioner, expert or ninja.  We then guesstimated what level each of us in the core group are at. That showed us that while for many elements we have at least two people with the right level (1), there were about 20 where only one person has them (so-called single points of failure- what happens if that person burns out, turns out to be a cop, gets hit by a bus?) )

There were eleven where NONE of us had the element at the level we think we need (sometimes expert, sometimes practitioner). These are what we call “absolute gaps” and, obviously, we’re working hard to plug them as quickly as we can (see footnote 2 for “closure” of an absolute gap might mean).

What we did on Monday 8th June

We went through each of the eleven gaps. For each element we have two people from the core group (and in one case a close supporter) working to produce not just the element  and level descriptions (that work is almost done), but also the “Element Overview Essay” and some development resources.

Please have a look at each of these elements. If you think you have any particular skills or knowledge on one of them, please get in touch. If you’d just be happy to proof-read stuff, get in touch. If you have questions/observations, get in touch… Our email is

Element Core group members  Support needed
1 Social movements Taking feedback (we think we need it at expert level) Marc and Chloe We think we’re getting there with the materials.

But if you have “top tips” for taking feedback when it is delivered badly/with malice/at awkward times etc, then get in touch.
(Two page novice’s guide has been drafted – will go up soon),

2 GDPR FOR SMALL GROUPS WITHOUT A CONSTITUTION  (practitioner level) Adam and Calum We think we have this in hand, thanks to a generous offer of help
3 Local authority – understanding and explaining its budget and budget making processes (expert level) Marc and Adam Novice’s guide is up, working on the practitioner’s guide. 

Tell us what you think of the novice’s guide, what more you’d like to know

4 Local authority – Understanding planning processes

(expert level)

Chloe and Adam Are you a planning nerd? Call us!!
5 Lobbying councillors (we think we need it at expert level) Chloe and Marc If you’ve done some lobbying of councillors, how did it go?

What did you learn? What did you wish you’d known before you started?

(Two page novice’s guide has been drafted – will go up soon),

6 Social movements – enabling legitimate peripheral participation Marc and Chloe Have we let you down? Made it difficult for you to be involved without reading our entire bloody website? Did we give you the wrong sized job, without adequate support? Please tell us!!

(Two page novice’s guide has been drafted – will go up soon),

7 A theory of change, change in practice (i.e. how MCC has been moved in the past) Chloe and Adam  What theories (besides Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan, obvs) do people like?
8 Social movements – Petitions Adam and  Marc Well, obviously sign the petition and get all your friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues to sign it…



9 Social movements – dealing with despair/abyss staring Calum and [a.n.other] If you have some top tips, some favourite resources Despair and Empowerment stuff by Joanna Macey and that crowd.

This is quite good, btw!


10 Information management Calum and [a.n.other]
11 Social movements – beginning and continuing “allyship” Marc and , Chloe or Adam  Novice’s guide – posted

We hope to get a practitioner’s guide up, and also to make a series of firm public commitments by the end of the month about what we will do, as a group, for the long haul. If you have ideas, comments, 


This is going to take a while: the aspiration, which we may miss – is to have some of the absolute gaps closed by the end of June, but on others ‘merely’ to be building momentum to closing.  One useful discussion we had on Monday 1st was that some elements it is possible to get up-to-speed through intense study (e.g. budget processes) but others require much more thought, bedding in of new habits and perspectives (e.g.) abyss-staring, allyship.

The help we are looking for from you guys

  • If you know of good resources for any of the elements we have listed as ‘Absolute Gaps’ for us, please get in touch.
  • If you are up for proof-reading or test-driving materials we produce (at the moment they are as much for us as anyone else), please get in touch.
  • In July (beginning, middle, end – we aren’t sure yet) we will be going more public with the ACT, and inviting various individuals and groups to be guinea pigs on how the toolkit’s effectiveness as a way of constructively provoking thought within a group about its current strengths and weaknesses and its future.

Why go public with our weaknesses? Isn’t that a bad idea, to flag weakness?

  • To get more help
  • Model this behaviour. We believe the climate movement needs to be way more constructively reflective and reflexive, and to make it easier for folks to be involved at “distance.”


All is fuzzy, provisional, contingent, iterative, reflexive  (all the ‘good’ words). And who knows on the NVDA – in six months we may be chaining ourselves to stuff.


(1) A list of elements where we have agreed that for NOW practitioner is okay, but we are aspiring to be better

(2) “Closure” means one of four things

  1. Two people identify as “at the level” of an element we said we needed at that level
  2. ONE person identifies as “at the level” – it becomes therefore a single point of failure
  3. Nobody does, but we have now got processes in place, and momentum with a clear plan over the coming weeks/months – a plan that will be monitored and that we have resources for – so that it is “closing”/in process
  4. We downgrade the level at which we need the element, because we over-estimated what we needed

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