Holistic security - Collective Memory

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Title of the tutorial Protecting memory, protecting ourselves: collective memory as a Gateway to understand holistic security
Kind of learning session Holistic
Tutorial category Discussion
Duration (hours) Minimum 1h 30m
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Learning objectives - Understand the significance of collective memory and the steps that can be taken to secure it.

- Provide means to think about security from a holistic perspective, both personally and within a movement.

Prerequisites None
Methodology [[Methodology::Methodology:


Option I. Walking through our personal journey

In this activity, participants individually create their own 'path' (represented on the floor by materials such as seeds, flour, sand, masking tape, etc) as a narrative of their journey in activism and their personal lives until this point, and perhaps also where they want to go. After 15 minutes they present it to the rest of the group. The key is that this session is self reflective and allows people to review both what influences and events have led them to where they are now (particularly with reference to their activism), and also to reflect on where their path may lead them next.

Option II. Drawing our collective memory

This is a group activity where all participants collectively create a mural to represent their own shared history. Step 1. On a large area of wall or floor space, spread out a number of sheets of flipchart paper. Step 2. Instruct participants that they will collectively create a mural to represent their shared journey together. It can be a narrative (with a clear timeline) or structured differently. Step 3. In the centre, they could put a representation of what they are fighting for, what they stand for and who they are. On either side of this, they can map out their collective memory and the events, positive and negative, that have led them to establish and fight for this vision. Step 4. Give participants time, at least 10 minutes, to discuss what to put in the centre and after 30-45 minutes to draw together and assemble the drawing on the wall.


The discussion should take place between the whole group, first reflecting on the experience of the activity, any themes which emerged and feelings about this experience. It should also touch upon what collective memory means to us. Here are some themes which may be useful for guiding the discussion:

  • How HRDs establish an official narrative - historical truth
  • Lived experience vs. official “truths” and who creates these
  • Structural influence on the way official “truths” are retold (e.g. victim blaming/shaming, gendered violence)
  • The power of our narrative to influence who we are, how we got here and where we want to go
  • The political, economic, social and technological trends and how they have affected our work (see also: Situation Monitoring and Analysis)
  • Identifying trends, threats, vulnerable groups, methods of repression, and our capacities within this
  • Considering the role of justice within our movement, especially when this is not delivered through the judicial system
  • Making space for our difficult memories and experiences (group or individual)
  • The role of physical space within our collective memory and our activism or the way in which control of the physical space has been taken away
  • The importance of naming perpetrators
  • How we preserve and protect our collective memory


The inputs in this exercise, like the discussion above, will depend greatly on what you are using the exercise as a vehicle for (i.e., the overall purpose of the training). Some themes and topics to highlight in almost any case would include:

  • Security is personal, and like our objectives as human rights defenders and activists, we define it for ourselves. We build security together just as we build our movement together, and when we protect ourselves and each other, we protect the movement and what we believe in.
  • Speaking our truth from our lived experience is political and sometimes subversive. Our truth is to be protected, and sharing and celebrating it, strengthens it.
  • Evidence of our experiences – documentation, videos, pictures, news articles, files, and so on – are therefore vital and need to be protected (link to information security).


The deepening, like the input, will depend largely on what your objective for the training is. The question of how we preserve and protect our collective memory is incredibly important. It is this realisation that can be very useful in opening the door to conversations about physical and digital security which may otherwise seem abstract or low in importance. Some ideas for deepenings may include:

I. Situational Analysis Participants could use this visualisation as a platform for mapping the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental trends around them, and thinking about how they collect this data, and from which sources. (see: Situational Monitoring and Analysis)

II. Actor Mapping Participants could use this visualisation as a means of identifying their allies, adversaries and neutral parties relative to their work and their ideals, and then analysing them in terms of their interests and resources (see: Actor Mapping)

III. Information Mapping Particularly in groups working with evidence of human rights abuses, conflicts and so on, this exercise could be used as a platform for mapping the sensitive information which they are managing, where it is stored and under what conditions. (see: Information Mapping)

IV. Documenting and Reporting Violations (Gender perspective) This exercise could be used to highlight the contrasting narratives of a patriarchal State/society and Women & LGBTIQ human rights defenders, and the ways in which injustice is hidden behind patriarchal discourses. Then, participants could use this exercise in order to come up with strategies on how to document, preserve and articulate their truth.

Additional Considerations

Confidentiality; Psychologically sensitive space; Awareness of emotion; Know some good sources if you need to offer referals for people suffering seriously from trauma; Gender framing of personal and collective history; Small groups better for trust & sharing; Respecting the plurality of perceptions; Awareness of homogeneous/ multiple backgrounds or conflicting identities; Guide the conversation to identify trends and methods of repression, especially with vulnerable groups.]]

Number of facilitators involved 2
Technical needs To be as creative as possible: large space (indoors or outdoors), something to mark a pathway (either in a spiral, or maze shape) e.g. masking tape, seeds, flour, sand, pens & paper coloured markers, photographs, news clippings, nuts, seeds, stones, etc.
Theoretical and on line resources xx