How online meetings can be done brilliantly. Ro Randall on #climate anxiety, for @centre_alt_tech

Organisations get stale. People get old, and even if they used to walk the walk, now just talk the talk. It happens. TV Smith sings “all my heroes died, while they were still alive. They were dragged down to the hole, where the blood and money flows.”

Not. Yesterday. Not with Rosemary Randall bringing her A-game, as ever.

Ro Randall is a psychotherapist. I first met her in Manchester, in 2009, when a “festival of climate solutions” was organised by Manchester City Council. Amidst the batshit crazy technophiliac posturing, she stood out. Tiny, calm, softly-spoken, clearly extremely (I mean, off the scale) astute. And she spoke of things the men (and it was mostly men, of course) didn’t even acknowledge- feelings, the need for social change. Tricky emotions.

I found out that she had been lead author on a book in the 1970s with the brilliant title “Collective and Community Group Dynamics… or your meetings needn’t be so appalling.” By this time I had become convinced that one of the (many) reasons activist groups failed was they were so bad at both public and ‘business’ meetings. I got hold of the book, scanned it, built a website, and interviewed her about the book

We stayed in touch, and in 2013 she did an interview for Manchester Climate Monthly about psychoanalysis and climate change.

She did another interview last year, and a review of her (brilliant) novel about climate activism, Transgression, is reviewed on Climate Emergency Manchester by my wife, Dr Sarah Irving.

Last night Ro Randall gave a webinar at the Centre for Alternative Technology (they’re great, and they’ve done loads of seminars), on the subject of climate anxiety (here’s her blog from January 2021).

I don’t intend to give a blow-by-blow (I live-tweeted it if you’re interested) because the footage will soon be up, and you should watch it. There was heaps of good stuff about Wordern’s four tasks around grief, climate journeys, the need to turn towards rather than away from difficult emotions.

I want to instead pick out some things that should be so unremarkable as not to need praise, but, well, are not.

First, there was a meaningful short demographic poll at the outset, so Ro could see who was attending, and their thoughts/actions on the topic at hand.

Secondly, she acknowledged the difference responses, and made people know they were “seen”.

(I mean, it’s Ro Randall; of course she isn’t going to talk for 45 minutes about her research and how cool she is, and then answer three or four easy questions at interminable length (i.e. the standard way these events go). But still, it’s good to see.)

She then had the chat function as a kind of “instant polling”, and was able to run through the answers that folks gave (we will come back to that).

While she mentioned her own research, it was in context, and she was careful to give credit to other people for their intellectual creativity and work.

She made sure that the talk didn’t end on a down-beat note (“things that don’t work”).

In the Q and A she gave honest, compassionate answers to some quite thorny questions.

Mine didn’t get a run though – it was “Do you encounter people who feel let down not just by the government/corporations but also by protest groups that go up like a rocket and come down like a stick?  What do you say to those people?”

I came away with the realisation that much of what I try to do within Climate Emergency Manchester – the emphasis on morale, good group processes etc – is in response to things I’ve seen or read of Ro’s.

Watch the video. Even if you think you don’t need to. No, scrub that, especially if you think you don’t need to.

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