Organise a Conversation to Rethink Security

Our sense of security matters to us. Feeling safe and secure in ourselves, in our communities, and thinking clearly about our response to national and global events helps us to thrive and contribute to society. But when we feel under threat it is easy to become overwhelmed. And today, there many overwhelming global, national and local problems that affect our sense of security.

This section of the website gives you some ideas about how you could organise a conversation or event in your community, whatever shape that takes, to begin to address some of the issues we face together.

Read through the suggestions below or download a pdf version

Why organise a conversation/event?

The different forms of insecurity that we see around us - whether to do with money, health, housing, loneliness, seemingly endless wars, climate breakdown or the state of things to come for future generations - suggest that current approaches to security are not working. Part of the reason for this is that they do not adequately reflect the needs, concerns and hopes of a broad range of people.

 

We all have a stake in the task of building security, both within the UK and in the wider world.

Talking about this with others is the first step to finding solutions. Most of us are not included in the development of security policy and that’s part of the problem. We need to hear from as many people as possible about what their needs, concerns and hopes are.

Who could be part of the conversation?

This conversation could be with anyone whom you would like to bring together – perhaps different groups in your local community, or a specific group you are part of, colleagues, or even a group of friends.

It could be a conversation that brings together people who share similar concerns about security, or it could be a conversation between people who have a range of different perspectives.

How to go about it?

This guide contains various ideas for introducing issues of security and has been compiled by members of the Rethinking Security network who have hosted discussions and given talks. There are links to reports from conversations hosted in 2016, recordings of webinars and discussions that took place online during the Covid lockdown of 2020-21, and other helpful resources from Rethinking Security’s members that you can find on the Rethinking Security website.

However, please feel encouraged to take a conversation or event in a direction that is most applicable for those you invite. You are encouraged to devise your own approaches and methods, to best suit the people you will be speaking with and listening to.

Finally, if you do decide to organise a conversation, we would love to hear how it goes.

Contributing to the Alternative Security Review

Throughout 2021-2024, Rethinking Security is carrying out an Alternative Security Review. This is a civil society-led review of the UK’s security needs that will draw on the concerns and opinions of a wide cross-section of UK society. It proceeds from principles of human and ecological security and the outcomes of the review will help us develop a Human Security Strategy for the UK.

By organising conversations in your local area you could contribute to the results of the Alternative Security Review. Have a look at the dedicated project web page to find out how.

Clarify your aims

When you start planning a conversation or event, it’s important to know what you’re aiming for.

Is it a talk or panel discussion with a large audience? Is it a more in-depth conversation with a smaller group? Do you want to talk with a particular group who have specific concerns about security, or do you want a wider cross-section of your local community to be part of it?

Think about what you want to happen as a result of your conversation or event. Do you want to build local networks? Or do you want to encourage those who attend to get involved in a national action or campaign, like the Alternative Security Review?  See the section on follow up below for more info.

Facilitating a Conversation

When we talk about security, we can touch on issues that create a lot of anxiety and stress for people so don’t rush this! We have recently come through a global pandemic where people lost loved ones. Our physical and mental health were challenged, our job security threatened, and even our food security. Many of us are also anxious about climate change and ecological breakdown. Poverty, migration, Brexit and the war in Ukraine are current and contentious political topics.

Insecurity is felt deeply by many and it is important that opening up issues in a group is done with care and good communication. It’s really important that you take some time to think about how you facilitate the conversation, especially if you know people will have different perspectives and need to take time to listen well to each other.

If you don’t have time, or don’t feel confident in creating an environment where people are enabled and supported to talk about difficult issues, think about getting someone on board to help you with your planning who has those skills.

We suggest you read more on good facilitation from Seeds for Change, who have many resources that can help but also specific guides to facilitating meetings.

What you include is up to you so the ideas below are simply suggestions based on others’ experiences. As you’ll see in the reports from conversations in 2016, the group in Bradford used a film showing, while in Bath the conversations were split over several meetings – there is no single format that works best so it’s up to you to think about what is most appropriate.

Use the menu below to navigate this section

Introducing the issues - Defining Security

There can be all sorts of different understandings of security and it can help to hear what everyone thinks. Developing a shared understanding of different meanings of security is helpful for going forward in your discussion. This will make it clear what version of 'security' Rethinking Security seeks to challenge and what the alternative approaches to security are. It is also a good way to encourage participation at the outset.

To do this, others have found it helpful to begin by asking open questions, or using images that speak to different kinds of security. For example:

  • ‘what do you think of when you hear the word security?’
  • ‘what makes you feel safe and secure?’
  • Use different images to help explore those questions.

This recording of a webinar by QPSW might give you some ideas (from 6.30 mins in)

Or, you could ask participants to draw out (providing paper and pens) a vision of a safe and secure world/locality.

Acknowledging that security often means things like militarism, policing, surveillance and borders will help those present to redefine it over the course of your conversation.  You can use these contrasting definitions to emphasise the need for a ‘rethink’.

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Setting out the need for a rethink

Rethinking Security exists to challenge current approaches to national security, so early on it could be helpful to introduce what the UK’s national security policy is and why we think this is a hindrance to sustainable human and ecological security, and peace and justice.

You can use some of Rethinking Security’s resources to help you set out the headlines about what this means. The original Discussion Paper covers the principles of human security, as does this TEDx Talk.

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Going deeper

To help illustrate the need for change in how security is perceived, you might want to go in to more depth on one, or some issues, depending on how much time you have.

 

There are so many ways you could approach this and it really depends on who you invite and what your event is for.

 

Here are a few examples, with links to information from Rethinking Security and some of its members:

 

If you want to give more detail on the dangers of military security, you could….

  • Explain some of the priorities of the Integrated Review (the government’s 2021 paper on its ‘security’ priorities) and the dangers it poses to global peace and security.
  • Talk about the failure of western security policy in the Middle East, and especially in Afghanistan. For example, regarding Afghanistan, Paul Rogers discusses the impact on civilians of western withdrawal after 20 years of little securitising of the country, and CAAT and the Global Campaign on Military Spending UK (GCOMS) look at how much has been spent on failed military solutions.
  • Make the connections between the climate crisis and militarism. More groups are making the links explicit, such as Northern Friends Peace Board and GCOMS.

 

If you want to go in to more depth on what human security is….

If you want to go in to more depth on a human security issue in the UK….

  • You could outline some of the main concerns in your local area.
  • Invite someone to speak on a particular local issue related to human security.
  • Use national statistics on issues such as poverty, racism, health inequalities, or background on immigration, climate breakdown and work for peace in our society. These links to background information are to RS members and friends but there are many more organisations that you can look up for what you particularly want to focus on.
  • You could choose something topical that is in the news that links to human security issues.

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Time for discussion

As we said at the beginning, time for discussion is crucial when we raise these difficult issues. People need time to process information and listen well to each other about what really matters to them. So make this a sizeable part of your time together and remember to think carefully about facilitation.

You will know your participants best so you will know what will work, but here are some ideas that have been used before:

Suggestions for discussion

  • What are the most pressing security needs we face globally/nationally/locally?
  • Do you think the government’s approach adequately addresses our most pressing security needs?

Suggestions for group activities

  • What policies would you implement to address a particular issue?
  • Can you create a human security manifesto for your neighbourhood/university/country?

Suggestions for personal reflection

  • What do you worry about most for your future?
  • What feelings do global security problems bring up for you? What personal practices or changes can you make in your life to address those feelings?

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Next steps

One of Rethinking Security’s aims is to build a broad movement for change – a strong, collective, voice for change to approaches to national security.

And no doubt you will have got people thinking about what changes they can make either to the issues you have discussed or in their local area, so there will be energy to ‘do something’.

Therefore as part of your planning, it’s important to think about how you will follow up the meeting. This relates to facilitation too. You want to make sure people feel that they can take their concerns forward positively, when they have engaged in, what will hopefully have been, some stimulating discussion.

What kind of follow up is needed will depend on the aims of your meeting. But at a minimum collect attendees contact details so you can share relevant follow up information (remember to be clear about what you will and won’t use this information for).

If you’ve focussed on global security issues, you might want to

  • Keep people informed about relevant national campaigns, such as those of Rethinking Security members like CAAT, MedAct or QPSW
  • Invite people to a local MP lobby, vigil or protest.

If you’ve brought people together over shared local concerns, you might want to…

  • Find out and share what relevant support people can continue to give to the issue
  • Set up a follow up meeting

If there is energy, why not…

  • Think about setting up a regular discussion group to explore issues of human security
  • Set up a core group across your locality to continue supporting each other to rethink security. This could be for sharing national or local info to support relevant causes, or contributing to the Alternative Security Review

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Keep in touch

We are always keen to hear how your events and conversations have gone, or if you want any further resources and information in your planning, please do get in touch.

It’s a difficult time for many people in the UK, and around the world, and our security and well-being is in the forefront of many people’s minds. Hearing from you about what works locally will help us support others to keep developing and deepening conversations about security and encouraging people to vocalise their fears and hopes for the future.

One of Rethinking Security’s aims is to build a broad movement for change – a strong, collective, voice for change to approaches to national security.

No doubt you will have got people thinking about what changes they can make either to the issues you have discussed or in their local area, so there will be energy to ‘do something’.

Therefore as part of your planning, think about how you will follow up the meeting. This relates to facilitation too. It’s important to make sure people feel that they can take their concerns forward positively, when they have engaged in what will hopefully have been some stimulating discussion.

The most appropriate follow up will depend on the aims of your meeting. At a minimum collect attendees’ contact details so you can share relevant follow-up information (remember to be clear about what you will and won’t use this information for).

If you’ve focussed on global security issues, you might want to…

  • Keep people informed about relevant national campaigns, such as those of Rethinking Security members like CAAT, MedAct or QPSW.
  • Invite people to a local MP lobby, vigil or protest.

If you’ve brought people together over shared local concerns, you might want to…

  • Find out and share what relevant support people can continue to give to the issue.
  • Set up a follow up meeting.

If there is energy, why not…

  • Think about setting up a regular discussion group to explore issues of human security.
  • Set up a core group across your locality to continue supporting each other to rethink security. This could be for sharing national or local info to support relevant causes, or contributing to the Alternative Security Review

We are always keen to hear how your events and conversations have gone. Or, if you want any further resources and information in your planning, please do get in touch.

It is a difficult time for many people in the UK and around the world and our security and well-being is at the forefront of many people’s minds. Hearing from you about what works locally will help us support others to keep developing and deepening conversations about security and encouraging people to vocalise their fears and hopes for the future.

Reports from previous local events

Some of our Supporters held local events and you can find out how they went about it and what happened by downloading the reports:

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