Listening to what people say is both a discipline and a political act. CLP’s approach is founded on this discipline as a way of ‘being the change you want to see’. Listening is an affirmation of people’s dignity and intelligence, of their right and responsibility to speak for themselves, and of CLP’s need to learn from them. Speaking is thus the original political act that CLP affirms by listening. The discipline of listening is rigorously maintained throughout the process of animation and is thus reiteratively at work throughout the cycle of CLP’s activities.
Dialogue works through questioning as a way of drawing on and affirming people’s own knowledge of their situation. It is further conducted under the discipline of respecting people’s choices on the understanding that they are responsible for their own decisions. This does not imply that CLP must always agree with those choices. Where it disagrees, it will say so but it remains committed to walking with people through the choices that they make. Dialogue includes bringing information identified in dialogue with the group as useful to their struggle.
Making connections works on two levels. The first is pragmatic and concerned with connecting people to resources and resource providers. Such resources may be spiritual and/or material, for example:
– drawing on the resources of local churches in support of people’s struggles;
– facilitating access to organisations providing legal advice, training (including organic food production and livelihood skills such as beading), emergency relief or other services;
– supporting direct media access for local activists.
The second level is political and involves connecting people with other locals where people face similar problems, with movements in other countries and with international people’s movements. This includes exchange visits between groups in and beyond KwaZulu-Natal and participation in seminars and local, national and international meetings and conferences.
Understanding of the situation is built, for CLP staff and for local activists, through listening and dialogue and it creates the basis for deciding and planning action. The decision for action is the responsibility of the group and CLP’s role is to support the decision-making process. Such support may include encouraging open participation; the facilitation of space for critical and properly-democratic reflection; information; advice requested by the group; facilitating access to specific skills or services; etc.