So you’ve decided to set up a local GAF group! Amazing! This is how the movement spreads and how we create a vibrant, linked up international movement. The first GAF group, in London, was set up by just a few people – it may seem like an intimidating task, and it takes work, but it’s very doable and the rewards for both yourself, your community, and our planet will be huge.
The first thing to do is read our Aims & Principles and Points of Unity. These are the only things that link all GAF groups – in every other sense they are networked but autonomous, but any GAF group or member who does not adhere to and believe in these principles has no place organising under the GAF banner. Any questions or concerns, get in touch and we can talk about it!
Capacity and what you already have
Assess your capacities (skills, time, resources, mental energies to put into organising), what you already have, and the base you’re working from. Ask yourself:
– Do you have any friends who’d be interested in this?
– Do you know any pre-existing leftist/environmental groups whose members may be interested in getting involved?
– Are there any good meeting spaces or social centres in your area? If the answer is no, keep looking! Libraries, community centres, squats, and even pubs often have spaces you can meet in. In summer, parks and green spaces can be nice.
– Are there platforms you can spread your message on? Anything from local physical noticeboards (think supermarkets, corner shops, community centres, libraries) to local digital spaces. Even the smallest communities tend to have a local Facebook group or page.
These are the big ones – there’s no need to start thinking too big yet. If the answer to any of these is ‘no’, don’t be discouraged. It’s a surmountable obstacle. Pop us an email/Facebook message and we can help.
Security and safety
It’s a fact that if you are fighting for climate justice, you are eventually going to be the target of repression by the state and private entities. To resist it, you need to start thinking about security culture as soon as possible. Any mistake you make early on will haunt you later down the line. Even if right now you are not doing anything that may attract heavy surveillance, maybe in the future you will. And then you will regret not getting your security right from the beginning.
First of all, you should consider what personal information you are going to share with the people you are going to organise with. Using an activist alias or “nom de guerre” as opposed to your real name is a good idea. Also avoid sharing personal information that can be used to identify you, such as where you live or work.
For any online communication, you should use accounts not linked to your personal identity. Ideally you should delete your social media or create fake accounts only used for activism. Wherever possible, use secure services and software. Applications like Signal or Element or services like Protonmail or Riseup are worth looking into. If you upload any file to online platforms or share around, make sure to delete any metadata they it may contain; as some types of documents store sensitive information without you knowing it. Take advantage of VPN and the TOR network when using the internet, but always keep them separated from your personal browsing. Use encryption in your devices and strong passwords everywhere. If you have trouble keeping track of your passwords, use an open source password manager such as Keepass. There are many other things to keep in mind and tools to use, so try to keep up to date with the latest developments in computer security and strive to find a balance between ease of use and security that works for your group.
But ultimately, none of these will offer complete protection if a state-level actor is really putting all their resources trying to gain access to your data. It’s important to still follow this advice, as you still need to defend from more run of the mill threats. But in the end the best and most important advice is that if you don’t want the state to find out about something, never say it on or near any electronic device. And never, ever write anything that could be construed as evidence of a crime on any online platform; no matter how secure they are. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways: let your phones at home and go for a walk in the park or a forest. Enjoy nature while you plot the downfall of capitalism.
Finally, always remember the most important principle of Security Culture: people should never be privy to any sensitive information they do not need to know. This may seem harsh and you may feel the need to share confidential information with your comrades, specially once you get to know them a bit. This is just part of our nature as social beings. But keep in mind that restricting the information you share is not about not trusting your comrades, but rather about wanting to keep them, and yourself, safe.
Creating an online presence
One of the best ways to establish a basic presence online is to use Facebook. As much as we resent having to use capitalist platforms at the moment, it’s the fastest way to reach a lot of people in a local area on a short time scale. We can send over things like the image files for the logo that you can then edit if you want, to personalise. Take a look at the other GAF pages for inspiration! It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate – just a simple page with the logo, your name, and a short description of what GAF is. The first step is to follow this link: facebook.com/pages/create. From here you will be guided through the basic steps.
You may also want to create a Twitter/Instagram account if you have capacity for this at the moment, however this isn’t essential.
You will also want an email address. We recommend Riseup. We can sort you out with a Riseup invite. Protonmail is also a good alternative. Do not use mainstream, insecure email services like Outlook, Gmail, etc. Although you can never be certain an email server is entirely secure, anything that goes through a non-encrypted email service (Outlook, Gmail, etc.) can be read by the authorities. For more information on digital security, get in touch and we can send some stuff over.
Working towards your first assembly
The best way to kick start a new group is to hold a public assembly. This is an event where you invite people to come, talk about GAF, find out who’s up for putting in the work to be an organiser, and hopefully come out the other side with some next steps. These next steps will often be your first action, but not necessarily. We recommend sticking to safer, less risky actions at first while you get to know your new comrades and build trust. The key to any successful group is genuine trust, affinity, and friendship.
Who to contact
Before ‘going public’ with your event, it’s a good idea to see which existing groups might be interested. Local anti-fascists, environmental groups, anarchist groups and other leftist groups are a good start. One thing to be aware of is that some groups might be interested who do not organise in a bottom up, horizontal manner as laid out in GAF’s aims & principles. It should be made clear to these groups that should their members begin to organise under the GAF banner, that they will have to organise in a different way than they are used to.
It’s a good idea to pop us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask who we know in the area, as we may be able to point you in the right direction. Likewise if you are unsure of any groups, let us know. Be cautious of Extinction Rebellion groups and established hierarchical communist groups – they often have great members but sometimes their ideals and styles of organising do not sit well with GAF’s aims & principles.
You should also get any friends or acquaintances you think might be interested involved. It’s easier to set up and run a successful assembly with friends and comrades than alone, but that doesn’t mean that going solo isn’t a very doable option!
Planning and promoting your assembly
The following is adapted from our Assembly Checklist, which is available on request.
You should decide amongst yourselves the date, time and venue. Community centres, libraries, social centres, squats, parks (in nice weather), and even pubs can provide good spaces for an assembly. Be sure to consider accessibility. Venues with stairs, or that are difficult to get to via public transport, are not ideal. If you can’t decide on a venue right now, that’s okay, it can be announced closer to the time.
The next thing to do is to write an invitation text. This should include:
- What GAF is, why the assembly is being held, what you want to talk about and what you want to get out of it.
- Whether food will be offered.
- Whether childcare will be available.
- The accessibility details of the venue, including acknowledgement that people can get in touch to ask about accessibility needs that haven’t already been addressed.
Don’t worry if you don’t know all this yet. You can amend the invite text later, but it’s good to at least show that all of this stuff is being thought about.
Next, promote the event. Send the invite text to any organisations you identified earlier who may be interested – usually email is the best route here. If possible, it can be a good idea to print posters and flyers to stick up around your community.
If nothing else, you should create a Facebook event on the page you created earlier. To do this, go to your page, go to Events, and find the button to create a new event. Then just make a title, copy your invite text into the description, set the date/time and location if available, and you’re good to go! Let us know when you’ve done this and we’ll share your event on the main GAF social media accounts, our website, to our mailing list, and to anywhere else we can think of!
Childcare and food
If possible, it’s good to offer food and childcare. Assemblies tend to last between 3 and 5 hours in total, including breaks, so people get hungry! This can be anything from snacks (hummus and dips are a firm favourite) to a hot meal if you have capacity/kitchen space.
If possible, childcare should be made available too in order that the event is accessible to parents. If this isn’t possible, don’t worry.
If possible, challenge the men in your group to take on these responsibilities. GAF groups should always try to destroy social hierarchies, and as these roles are often pushed onto women, men should try to take them on for a change.
Creating the agenda
Now that you’ve got your event up and there will hopefully be a few people turning up, it’s time to decide what you’re actually going to do. To do this you should know the goal of the assembly. A good goal for a new group could be just to get to know each other, get some commitment from people, create private channels to communicate (we use an app called Signal, mostly – it’s like WhatsApp but a little more secure. Remember not to ever write anything down you wouldn’t want read out in a court of law, even on ‘secure’ apps and email servers), and plan your first action. It is also wise to include a safer spaces policy, that can be immediately outlined so that people understand that GAF spaces are supposed to be inclusive, and bigotry/intolerance will not be tolerated. We can send over our safer spaces policy in advance. Below is a sample agenda.
1. Safer spaces policy
2. Introductions – go round and get everyone to tell you their name (or whatever name they like to use), their pro-nouns (they/them, she/her, he/him etc.), and why they came to the assembly.
3. A short introduction to GAF. Read out the aims and principles and maybe talk a bit about what got you interested in GAF and why you called this assembly.
4. What are some of the biggest issues in your area? Are there any nearby major polluters, companies who invest in fossil fuels? Think outside the box – remember it doesn’t have to directly relate to ecological destruction. Capitalism as a whole is destructive, anything that contributes to it is by default.
20 MINUTE BREAK
5. Brainstorm ideas for a first action. This could be something that symbolically or practically disrupts capital, or something that helps people while spreading the messaging. It can be good to split into breakout groups for this! Examples of previous actions from assemblies include: guerrilla gardening with seed-bombs, banner drops, postering sessions, and much much more. Use the skills and experiences of your group, and look at what’s relevant to your area!
6. Decide when you’ll next meet, and what next steps need to be taken for your action. It’s also smart to set up a communication channel – we recommend the app Signal. It’s like WhatsApp but with more secure encryption. IMPORTANT: Do NOT write anything on even a secure app like Signal that you wouldn’t want read out in a court of law.
7. Go round and reflect on the assembly as a group, and find out who wants to be further involved. GAF may not be for everyone so it’s good to see who really wants to get involved, and who’s just going to sit in a long-forgotten group chat.
8. Go to the pub! Or cafe, or park, or anywhere. It’s important to get to know each other though.
Remember that this is just a sample agenda, and will not fit the needs of every (any?!) specific group. If you come out of this first assembly with an idea for a first action, a few solid comrades you like and think you can come to trust, a next meeting date and a way to communicate, you’ve done well.
Keep meeting, keep agitating. Aim to help people, hurt the system, or convincingly spread the message with every action you take. Your anger at the system will get things going, but trust and care for your comrades make sure they endure. Never hesitate to reach out to other GAF groups for inspiration or help. Solidarity always.