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Building Social Movements and Organising for Change

October 3 – 7, 2011

Teachers: Bill McKibben, Daniel Vockins and Claire Milne

This course is open for bookings.

In the last few years, author Bill McKibben has devoted his time to the founding and development of, an impressive international campaign that’s building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis. During this course, Bill will step back from his activist life to reflect on what makes for successful social organising. Bill will be joined by two of the UK’s leading campaigners to deliver a course that will inspire and empower in equal parts.

Course detail

In 2007, ran a campaign called Step It Up that organized over 2,000 rallies at iconic places in all 50 of the United States. These creative actions – from skiers descending a melting glacier to divers hosting an underwater action – helped convince many political leaders, including then Senator Barack Obama, to adopt the organisation’s common call to action: cutting carbon 80% by 2050. Since then, has managed to start building a grassroots global movement about climate change. CNN described their last big event, with 7400 rallies in 188 countries, as ‘the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.’

Participants will explore the history of some social movements, including the civil rights movement in the U.S. They will then talk about how to organise in the present age. With participants, Bill will look at what has and hasn’t worked in recent environmental efforts, and focus especially on the use of the internet to rally support. What are the particular challenges of working effectively at the local level in an era when technology has transformed how we relate to those closest to us as well as those on the other side of the world?

Discussions and teaching will focus in particular on:
• The dynamics and politics of non-violent action
• How local and global activism can reinforce each other
• The connections between climate activism and building local economies
• Future directions in activism.

The final full day of the course will involve two UK activists whose work is in climate activism (10:10) and building the local food economy (Stop Tesco campaign). They will reflect on their own experiences and approaches, compare them with Bill’s work in the US and globally, and discuss with each other and the course participants how a truly inclusive movement for social change can be built and nurtured within the kind of time frame we all know is needed. We cannot guarantee to give all the answers, but we can guarantee a stimulating and thought-provoking level of engagement with these vital questions.

The course is intended for: people who are passionate and committed to doing the work of local and national organising and who want to get their hands dirty in their own communities and countries.

The name ‘350’ is based on the fact that 350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

Bill McKibben talks about climate change and


Bill McKibben is a well known environmental author and activist, and the founder of When he’s not busy organizing, Bill is an active writer on the climate crisis and other environmental issues. His 1989 book The End of Nature was the first book to warn the general public about the threat of global warming.

Bill is a frequent contributor to The Guardian and various magazines including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He is also a board member and contributor to Grist Magazine. He has been awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, and won the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. He is currently a Scholar in Residence at Middlebury College and lives in Ripton, Vermont with his wife, author Sue Halpern, and daughter Sophie.

Bill McKibben: “…What economists have failed to realize from the beginning, the economy is a subset of something else, and that something else is the natural world. There comes a point in which infinite growth no longer works. This is the moment finally when those limits are at hand…. It’s true that we’ve taken the sweet earth on which we were born and degraded it in pretty powerful ways. There’s already damage. There will be more. So we better figure out how to live on the planet we have left…”
An Extract from talks with Kai Ryssdal about his book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet“:

Bill’s Guardian Profile:

Daniel Vockins, Campaign Manager for 10:10
Over the last 8 years Dan has used innovative tactics to build movements, influence politics, engage unusual suspects, assemble coalitions and kick start powerful new campaigns with international reach. Before setting-up 10:10 as part of the initial team of three way back in May 2009, Daniel coordinated the Not Stupid campaign where he launched a brand new film distribution system, he was also president of the students’ union at Sussex and has spent time at various UN climate negotiations in one guise or another.

“I’m most interested in the capacity building side of things because ultimately we’ve got to build a movement that lives beyond individual campaigns and particular policy.”

Daniel Vockins explaining 10:10

Claire Milne – coordinator of ‘Bristol Stop Tesco’ campaign, local food activist Bristol Food hub

She has worked as a consultant for Bristol City Council, recently completing the Sustainable Food Strategy for Bristol: a ground-breaking policy that seeks to revolutionise the city’s food chain by identifying how the Bristol Food Network can support projects, organisations, businesses and individuals in developing sustainable food practices.

Claire’s work draws on her Masters in Social Anthropology of Development, BSc in Psychology, and professional background in global social justice. At a national level, she previously worked for the Transition Network helping shape their food and farming programme. She was Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer at the World Development Movement, where she campaigned on global social justice issues and was shortlisted for the Sheila Mckechnie national campaigner awards. She is also an Adviser and Assessor to the Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund and previously worked in London for Sustain: the Alliance for Better Food and Farming.

Claire Milne talking at Transition Town Brixton

Course Fees

All course fees include accommodation, food, field trips and all teaching sessions.

A limited number of bursaries are also available for this course. We are particularly seeking applications from the following groups of people:
• Individuals involved in sustainability and/or education projects in the global South..
• Passionate individuals working with ground breaking initiatives and alternative lifestyles.
• Those in any sector considering a career change or facing redundancy and who are keen to move into the area of sustainability, ecology, environmental responsibility or education.

Click here for more information on how to apply for a bursary .

For further information about Schumacher College please see About the College


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We will hold the place for five working days for reservations – three weeks before a course or earlier. After five days we will automatically offer your place to someone else if we have not received your application.

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