I’m hoping to write a few posts on power in grassroots organising. This first one is about rules, how we use them and why they might not be as helpful as we think they are.
I’ve met a lot of people in grassroots groups and projects who like rules about how to behave and relate with each other. Including me! A safe space looks like this but not that. You should put your hand up like this if you want to speak in a meeting. You can eat this but not that. Some rules are written down and formalised in the shape of safer spaces agreements, ground rules, or methods of making decisions.
There’s an issue here that doesn’t get talked about much. Sometimes, the very people who have more power in the group are the ones who have most influence in making the rules. And, these same people can gain most benefit from the existence of the rules. This means that sometimes rules can actually make power less equal in a group even though the stated intention of rules in grassroots groups is to make power more equal.