Freelance activists train for free

FREELANCE NUJ members who feel they want to do more and become more involved, but do not know where to start, should take a serious look at the free NUJ Training course for freelance officers scheduled for two days in early in 2009. I went to its first outing in Birmingham in November.

Freelances on the course
Freelances on the course

It was very well organised and brought together a group of people from all the professional areas that make up the NUJ. Experience levels ranged from practically none - me - to considerable - everyone else. From the start, it was the clear that everyone was ready to communicate, which broke down any barriers that might have existed.

At times we were divided into smaller, ad hoc groups, in which we were given situations to solve. We got to know what our role as a freelance officer (or activist) was; what facilities and support were available, how to answer members' questions, and how to develop our networks and approach legal, contractual and personal problems. We tried to establish where we felt more help and information was needed. We were encouraged to identify our own problem areas and, through the diversity of the group, were helped to evaluate and understand the needs of the people we represented. It was a great lesson in listening.

Our discussions throughout the course work gave each one of us the chance to listen to new ideas and different viewpoints on what problems confronted other people, how they resolved situations and what their hopes were for the future.

What I gained from the course was an exchange of ideas, an openness and a readiness to share. My colleagues, now friends, encouraged me and I was able to discuss ideas and needs openly with those members with more experience. It left me feeling I had learned a lot and wanting more.

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