aSALT – Nourishment for Change Agents 

Following the 2015-16 aSALT course,the facilitator David Mowat unfortunately does not have the capacity to run it for the 2016-17 intake. Do you feel that the course needs to go ahead regardless? Could you be a facilitator? If you have any further thoughts do  get in touch with David on Meanwhile, the course description as it has been follows.

David Mowat talking about aSALT

Article about aSALT in The Spark Magazine

Who is it for?

Are you working for justice, peace and sustainable co-existence with the natural world? Are you wondering how to sustain your resistance over the next five years? Will you act locally whilst thinking globally? Are you making a transition from working in institutions or firms towards self-supported activity, useful unemployment or active retirement? Do you call yourself an activist volunteer or change-agent?

The collaborative inquiry aSALT course (Spiritual Activist Leadership Training) may help you sustain your efforts. It’s a practical response to the experience of activists and change agents who, being really engaged with their cause, sometimes burn out, lose hope or connection with mainstream society. How do we keep going with joy?

aSALT ran four cohorts from 2007 to 2010 and attracted environmentalists, Somali Elders, anarchists, urban geographers, a sports coach turned stone mason, a GP anti-war peace walker, a budding astrologer, Palestine campaigners, a potter and others. We bring together about ten people each time.

What have people gained from it before?

“aSALT helped me take  a leading role in PSC (Palestine Solidarity Committee) and East Side Roots as I’d learned to create an environment which engaged constructively with conflict” (Marian Connolly).

“aSALT helped me bring the inner and outer aspects of activism together with a model of self-care, community and spiritual practice” (Jenny Smith)

“Great activities, great people and innovative ways to tackle issues” (Sue Walker Green Peace activist)

What will I get out of it?

Everyone is different and will learn different things. In general you will acquire:

  • A balanced approach to activism, including a greater ability to know, and to take care of, yourself through self-care and nature-based practices
  • Skills in leadership ranging from finding your power to facilitating others
  • An enhanced ability to set goals, manage time and stay focussed
  • Insights into the creative use of conflict
  • A sense of group support and mutual learning, translating into other contexts
  • A wide range of participatory tools and approaches

What does it fit with?

A Schumacher Institute learning programme, aSALT stands alone (if this is your first course). It also fits well we think with other courses offered by the Institute, and related offerings like Permaculture Design Certificates and Shift Bristol’s Practical Sustainability Course. If you have taken any of these courses, this might be your next step.

aSALT is being revived because when founder David Mowat was on the Pale Blue Dot workshop in 2013 he noticed a fit. He sees the course as an outworking of systems thinking. The Sustainability Tool Kit itself had some of its genesis in the first aSALT course when a participant went on to work for the Schumacher Institute. If theory interests you, this course takes an ‘action reflection’ approach to education (A term coined by the great Brazilian educator Paolo Freire).

When will it happen?

aSALT will next run for nine months from September 2015. The exact format will be discussed with participants, but the current plan is to hold ten monthly meetings, each on a consecutive Sunday and Monday.

In the past, we have found that various factors have held people back from converting interest into commitment: poor weather keeping people ‘in hibernation’, cost if bursaries are not available, lack of time due to existing commitments, doubts about whether they were ‘activist’ enough to qualify. If you are interested but unsure about your ability to commit, please anyway contact David Mowat (details below) to discuss how the course can be set up to suit your needs.

What happens in a typical workshop?

Initially we will set the agenda based on the particular needs, engagement and skills of participants. The description below is only as guide:

“The Sunday evening (6pm to 9.30pm approx.) will begin at our base (tbc). We’ll share food we have all prepared. After the meal each person will have time to tell what’s going on for them. We hope to listen deeply without interruption or discussion, framing what we say with a little silence. We’ll look at the programme for the following day. We will end with a spiritual practice (which kind will depend on who offers what) for instance meditation. The purpose of this format is to build community and a sense of arrival ready for a fresh start on the Monday.”

“9.30 on Monday morning we’ll gather. Typically the day will consist of five sessions. The morning will have three ‘slots’ of an hour, with energizers in between. Participants and I will have prepared each hour-long slot. This is the chance to share about your activism, help unravel an issue for instance, explore a conflict, or how and why something went well or badly. You may have a particular skill or piece of knowledge to offer. You may want to experiment with an approach. I might offer a ‘key note’ activity relevant to impactful activism in a systems context.”

We’ll then have a’ bring and share’ lunch (outside if fine) and work part of the afternoon on an allotment. Early in the year there’ll be beds to prepare, compost to spread, seeds to sow. I have my allotment in Redfield to share (obviously great for me but then we all share the produce later). The point is to interact with each other with nature, to be reminded of natural cycle and tempo, to be reconnected with soil and more than human life-and relax psychologically.

We may end the day with a creative or calming activity, painting or story-telling, meditation or chanting. It all depends on what people want to offer. The day ends at about 5pm”

How much is it?

The Cost for the year is £200 for engaged activists with no income and £600 for others. It’s payable in installments. Commitment for the year is necessary (80% attendance).

Bursaries may be available through the Richard St. George Scholarship Fund.

How can I find out more?

It’s necessary to have a conversation with David first. You can email or ring/text 07804363170 to arrange a meet up, or message facebook (david.mowat.752). There may be a taster day this summer. Watch this space for details.

The aSALT course base

To be confirmed. We will spend time on an allotment in Redfield during the afternoons.

Who is behind it?

Diane Warner (GP and recently a Green Parliamentary candidate) and Marian Connolly (of East Side Roots and Palestine Solidarity Campaign), two members of the first aSALT cohort, replenishing their activist juices on a Redfield allotment, with course facilitator David Mowat.

Diane Warner (GP and recently a Green Parliamentary candidate) and Marian Connolly (of East Side Roots and Palestine Solidarity Campaign), two members of the first aSALT cohort, replenishing their activist juices on a Redfield allotment, with course facilitator David Mowat.

The facilitator, David Mowat says “I started thinking about the aSALT model while on a walking pilgrimage from Bristol to Jerusalem. I thought how, in the great turmoil of shifts humanity faces, we need lots of small cells of self-supporting, reflective and compassionate change agents.”

David’s been a human rights worker in the West Bank (where a bout of anger made him very ill!) and has trained people in international development and conflict transformation. He’s a jazz musician, Quaker and Barton Hill community worker. He’s run the Saint Stephens Reconciliation Laboratory to address Bristol’s deep seated social divisions and supports ‘Abolish Empty Office Blocks, House People’ which came out of a Rec Lab last year. He was a community activist who trained in community development work in 1987, often veering back to activism since. He has an MSc in Human Ecology, from the Centre for Human Ecology (CHE) in Scotland where Alastair McIntosh was one of his tutors. He taught Education For Sustainable Development at UWE in 2013.