The concept for WOOP emerged as far back 2015, when Guppi and Jamie met at a European civil society workshop entitled “Why are we failing?”. At the time Guppi used to work for the New Economy Organisers Network (NEON) as the European Lead Organiser and Jamie was leading the European Network for People of African Descent. They began to explore the concept of leadership in social movements, and by no surprise were the only two asking the question “How can leadership practice embody anti-oppression principles (rather than taking on oppressive cultures that hold us back from systems change).
They decided to pilot a training with a mixed group in Berlin, inviting ( white) mainstream “leadership” practitioners and marginalised People of Colour racial justice leaders. They learnt a lot from this experience! Working on Our Power ultimately came from the recognition that non-binary, trans and cis women of colour in Europe bring a unique gift to social movements, that is being pushed to the margins and ignored by mainstream movement culture. We are convinced that we can achieve more, faster, if non-binary, trans and cis women of colour are leading the way, especially when oppression is placed at the forefront of our political analysis, enabling us to do deeper, more integral work.
What resulted from this experience was an ongoing conversation for over a year, designing and dreaming about what a space for non-binary, trans and cis women of colour would look like, and how we could make it happen. Throughout this process, we were also growing as organisers and trainers, feeling more confident in ourselves to do this work. And finally, while we are inspired by US organisations such as Movement Generation, and Standing in Our Power, we wish to acknowledge, centre and support the work of non-binary, trans and cis women of colour in Europe who are doing it for themselves.
From existing relationships with Open Society Foundation, and a connection with Yvonne at Ubele, we built the perfect partnership to host and fund the beginning of Working on Our Power. WOOP is currently a one off programme, but we are of course hoping for it to grow into something more substantial, long-lasting and powerful.