Grease Rag is a collective group of FTWs, and we organize and make decisions in our Google Group. Any FTW with some connection to Grease Rag is able to join, but we got feedback that it can be intimidating to “step up” if you’re new.
In response to that, Open Shop facilitators and all around awesome folks Casey W and Anne S put together a training for new members and facilitators! They did a tremendous job, and their effort was matched by the enthusiasm of Shruthi, Emily D, Cyndi, Elizabeth, Joy, Ali, and Lucy. It is our intention to hold at least two of these “trainings” a year.
Training in new volunteers and facilitators
At the beginning of the evening, we went around and shared our names, pronouns, and asked people, “What kind of things have you done with Grease Rag?”
We discovered that we all have different experiences with Grease Rag. As a social rider, volunteering at events, space facilitators, skill share leaders, trip leader, ride leader, bike camping, bike mechanics. And that is the very BEST thing about Grease Rag! Our perspectives and differences.
Our goals for the evening were to get to know each other, give people some tools and confidence to lead events, facilitate open shops, and to become designated safety folks.
We asked people to consider the following…
Why are you interested in facilitating/volunteering with GR?
What do you want to contribute to GR?
What do you want to take away from this training?
How can we help each other?
How do you want to grow?
Resources for volunteers, facilitators, and designated safety folks
Brief history of Grease Rag
We started as a monthly open shop with a very slow group ride. We started to put in a lot of work to get people to come and to organize ourselves and develop our mission. We work toward safer spaces for “WTF- women/trans/femme,” and have recently changed to “FTW- femmes/trans/women” to decenter cis-women. We hosted a Winter Skill Share that first year, and have continued to hold “skill shares” as our favorite way of sharing knowledge and expertise. Grease Rag Open Shops are FTW-only, do-it-yourself, facilitated bike repair events and happen multiple times a month in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. We have expanded to a number of shops in partnership. We keep changing to adapt to the needs and desires of our community. We are 100% volunteer.
What is a facilitator?
A facilitator is the point of contact for an open shop location/leader of a group ride/person making a Grease Rag space. We like to have at least two facilitators for each event.
- Set the VIBE and FORMAT for a space- Does an event have one hour of instruction and then one hour of open shop? Do we ask people to bring snacks, etc.?
- GREET everyone coming in and make them feel comfy in the space
- ENFORCE safer space rules- We try hard not to police bodies or allow sexist, racist, or transphobic behaviors. If you see something, speak to a facilitator!
- Facilitate a GO-AROUND to give people an opportunity to share their names, pronouns, and maybe answer an icebreaker question
- COMMUNICATE with other facilitators and volunteers as needed
- ASK FOR HELP or resources when needed
Despite the responsibility that the facilitator has, we don’t want to create too much of a hierarchy between the “facilitator” and the rest of the team/volunteers. The title mostly means this person is a leader.
Safer spaces and pronouns
Our job is to be welcoming and respectful of all of our identities, and to facilitate a safer space.
“Hi! Thank you all so much for coming to Grease Rag! We are so happy you are here…
A safer space is an agreement between all of us that we are not going to perpetuate oppressions like sexism, racism, transphobia, ableism, classism, etc. And if we do experience these things, we will do our best to call them out, and when called out we will apologize and not continue that behavior because we all have to work together to keep this space safe.
Sharing names and pronouns is the first thing we do to create a space where all of our identities are being seen and respected.
Let’s go around and share our names, and, if you feel comfortable, your pronouns. Examples of pronouns are she/her, he/him, they/them, and there are others too.”
- These are learning spaces, above all
- Don’t assume people’s skills or needs
- Instead of, “What’s wrong with your bike? What kind of bike is that?” Try, “Nice bike! How long have you had it? What brings you in today?”
- Ask people where they’re at! Do they need to be talked through something, or need to be shown, or have they been to the shop before?
- Be in agreement about what’s going to go down before you touch someone or their equipment- Is it okay if I shift through your gears?
- Ask people if things work for them, rather than telling people how it “should” be- does that saddle position work for you?
- Ask people if they want advice or feedback before you jump in
- Don’t take tools from people’s hands without their consent
- Constructive criticism
- When someone corrects you or tells you they don’t want you to do something, accept that it takes courage from that person to speak out and say something, and we need to learn from it and move on
- Take a minute. “I’m sorry for doing that thing. I won’t do that again.” And then don’t do it again!
- If we can’t admit to not knowing something, our ego is getting in the way of safety
- Ask each other, the internet, books, ask the mechanic. Refer them to a local bike shop if we can’t do something for them.
- Be clear about expectations- how far, how fast, etc.
Managing the space
- Brush up on your safety training (link above)
- Have a safety plan/know the safety plan for your space
- Always designate and identify the safety person
- Physical safety is number one, but there are other kinds of safety, too
- Buddy system
- Stay sober, stay alert
- Identifying yourself as a person that people can come to, and if there is a conflict
- Let people work out interpersonal stuff. Unless there is an abuser or something that is making people unsafe.
- Offer a conversation, offer to mediate
Grease Rag Open Shops are FTW-only, do-it-yourself, facilitated bike repair events and happen multiple times a month in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. Events calendar Open shop nights were the first events that Grease Rag put on, starting July 7, 2009. An open shop night is a free event where all FTW cyclists, regardless of knowledge or experience, can bring in their bike and learn how to do their own mechanical work. We have one or two professional mechanics on site, but most of the learning is done by helping each other out. It can be surprising how much we collectively know, even if we aren’t individually experts. Each location dictates the exact format of the open shop, so if you try one location and it isn’t your style, try another! Or better yet… start your own! All you need is a space, some tools, and enthusiasm!
- Help assess problems, do what you can!
- Bike parts/vocabulary
- Fix a flat
- Replacing brake pads and recabling… shift vs brake
- Connecting the parts
And then we role played “open shop” and Anne lead us through the parts of a bike, and how things connect. Brilliant!
Things we want to learn in the future
- More bike mechanics stuff
- More space facilitation stuff
- How to welcome people
- How to wrap my handlebars
- Bike vocabulary in Spanish
- Train the trainer- “how do I teach…?”