Common Ground and the Patriarchy

We live in a patriarchal society. This means that our social structures and systems are set up in a way that gives men greater power, opportunity and respect.

As an organisation that believes in creating a fairer, more just and equal society, we recognise it is our responsibility to challenge the patriarchy and work to actively dismantle it.

We also recognise that although we hold these beliefs, we don’t exist outside of the patriarchy ourselves. Even when we’re together at camp in a world of our creation, we aren’t free of the effects that patriarchy has. 

As the Common Ground Board, we are setting out our intention to live by our beliefs and actively challenge patriarchy where we see it show up in our organising. We are committed to creating spaces to think about how we can address other structures of discrimination and oppression at Common Ground – including race, class, sexuality, age, ability and nationality.

Why now? Why this?

This statement has been written by the Common Ground Board following observations from previous camps that patriarchy negatively impacted the experiences of female participants / volunteers. We are taking these observations seriously, and want to thank the people who contacted us – their reflections have been so valuable in helping us as a Board recognise and start to address where we think problems may arise.

How is this relevant to Common Ground?

At our September 2019 Board meeting, we discussed many of the issues raised, reflected on our experiences so far, and came up with ideas for how we wanted to organise together for the coming year.

We want to actively encourage:

  • The creation of diverse teams in each area, in terms of gender and other characteristics.
  • The appreciation of every kind of work for the benefit of camp, with childcare, emotional labour and cleaning receiving the same prestige and value as finance, programme or technical roles.

Villages are encouraged to reflect how they can play a part in creating better gender equity. The most powerful way to change our thinking may be to offer non-typical role models and to make the invisible work visible.

How do we plan to address this?

As an organisation and camp with ‘education for social change’ at its heart, we think it’s crucial that we organise and run Common Ground in a way that embodies the change we want to see in the wider world, and sets an example for young people.

We acknowledge that gender has played a role in how labour, both formal and informal, is currently divided on the Board and in the organisation of previous camps. This will be a conscious consideration in the recruitment of all further central roles on Common Ground. 

We will work to support and enable people of all genders to step into volunteering positions they are interested in and passionate about, with a particular focus on supporting women and non-binary people to take leading roles to find out how you can get involve visit our get involved page where you will also find some case studies to support this work.

Some specific measures we are committing to take as a Board include:

  • Seeking wherever possible to build in training and mentoring to volunteer roles, especially in support of young people learning skills that go beyond what’s typically expected from their gender.
  • Creating spaces at camp and at meetings before camp for men in key organising roles to reflect and recognise any behaviours they want to change, and support each other to do this.
  • Creating a ‘caucus’ space at camp for women and non-binary volunteers to meet and share any issues they have encountered, to support each other, and to give recommendations to the central team for any action to be taken.
  • Working with the Feminism, Rainbow and Training centres, as well as the IFM-SEI Feminism network to create spaces within the camp programme for discussion of these issues.
  • Having robust policies with clear accountability processes on gender discrimination and misogyny, as well as sexual harrassment and violence on camp.
  • Ensuring our communications before and during Common Ground don’t reinforce gendered stereotypes, and encourage women and non-binary young people in particular to step into spokespeople roles.
  • Evaluating our successes and failures on gender roles and how we recognise the work of our volunteers including creating recommendations for  future camps.
  • Creating spaces at further meetings to think about how we can address other structures of discrimination and oppression at Common Ground – including race, class, sexuality, age, ability and nationality.

If you have any questions or additional suggestions, email

Written by Ellen (Board member for Communications) on behalf of the Board