So what IS Cahoots?

The Concept

Cahoots is a place and time for connection, learning and growth, skill-sharing and scheming, nurturing spirits, minds, bodies and relationships, and having some fun!

Cahoots began as a collaboration between the Beansprout Collective and the Student Christian Movement of Canada. We wanted to gather as Jesus-following, justice-focused, hands-on people, in a space that honours creativity and spirituality, and empowering individuals to imagine and implement this community.

Cahoots is about creating the world that we wish to inhabit

Our vision involves three terms: Faith, Justice, and DIY:

Faith provides our motivation and purpose. We gather in shared worship of God and in celebration of the Christian story. We are inspired by the teaching of Jesus and the examples of the saints and forebears.

Justice is our goal. We raise voices that have been silenced by patriarchy and oppression, we look inward to explore our social relations and outwards to make a positive impact in the world. We acknowledge the role that Christianity has played (and continues to play) in colonization and oppression, and we actively seek to untangle the faith from this legacy of violence. We believe that all people have a place in the community that God has called into being.

DIY is our methodology. We empower each other to take direct action – organizing and strategizing to create the community we wish to become. We value creativity, art, and beauty and strive to include everyone’s gifts

Practically speaking, though…

It is important to have clear principles! These interconnected principles both form and inform the culture of Cahoots:

Anti-Oppression – Cahoots opposes racism, sexism, cissexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, queerphobia, ableism, colonialism, imperialism and other forms of violence and oppression. These dynamics are present in the societies we are a part of, including our faith communities. Our organizing must be explicitly anti-oppressive to challenge and counter, and we believe we are following Jesus in doing this. We seek out facilitators and programming from this anti-oppressive framework, and we work with session facilitators to help them think through their material.

Inclusive/Affirming – we believe that Cahoots needs to be an accessible, feminist, queer and trans-inclusive, decolonizing event that welcomes people inclusive of racial and ethnic diversity. We know that there are many possible barriers – from physical barriers like inaccessible facilities or hard to reach locations, to economic barriers like ticket cost and vacation time, to social and cultural barriers which marginalize and exclude people from full participation. We know that these barriers are only overcome through directed, thoughtful action taken in consultation.

Christian – our vision and organizing experiences are based in the international and ecumenical Christian traditions of overcoming borders and divisions to seek our common humanity. We understand that Jesus is a figure of liberation and restoration, and that advancing these goals is part of sharing ‘Good News’. We have many different ways of understanding God and relating our spirituality, and we are open to the wisdom and challenge of other faith traditions and those who are not part of faith traditions. Prayer and worship from many traditions form part of our time together as a community.

Consensus – in our organizing we seek to work in consensus, finding the best solutions rather than prioritizing speed of decisionmaking or a uniformity of opinion. Listening for the wisdom of all, not the voice of the majority, and carefully sharing disagreements and processing difference can create better outcomes.

Collective organizing – Anyone who has attended Cahoots is invited to share their organizing skills and experiences. Our ‘Core Organizing Group’ meets throughout the year and convenes other groups to facilitate or plan elements. Through this we learn valuable skills for organizing and communicating, everything from setting a budget to coordinating a carpool! We also carefully analyse feedback each year to set future goals and intentions.

Intentional – While Cahoots always has space for some creative chaos, we are intentional about creating a safe and inclusive culture that takes seriously the important challenges of our times. We intentionally seek out and support the participation of session facilitators who can offer perspectives that might otherwise not be present in the space, but who we have a lot to learn from. We are grateful for the generosity of people willing to share with our community.

Skill-share – we value learning practical skills. We ask people to design sessions so that people will learn how to do something and have a skill to practice. We give the bulk of our time to this grassroots skill sharing approach, rather than listening to speakers talk about their experiences. We believe that everyone has skills to share and we all can benefit from learning! A better world is not just imagined – it is built. Let’s share the skills we need to build it.

Ecumenical – the form of Christianity that we practice is ecumenical and invitational. When we worship together we know that not everyone will find everything personally meaningful, but hope that everyone will find something that they can connect with. As social justice-focused, LGBTQ2+ inclusive believers we know that many people who claim the name ‘Christian’ would try to deny us that name. In the face of that, we affirm that God has called us to be part of the ecumenical family, and we hope that the people who deny us will hear that call as well.

Safer Space – we want our festival to be a safer space for those who experience oppression. Through clear communication of our expectations before and during, through setting up community norms, and through the work of the Safer Space/Chaplaincy Committee we wish to make Cahoots a good experience for everyone. The Committee also creates specific ‘Safer Space’ (Caucus) meetings where people of a particular identity group can gather for discussion and mutual support during the festival – for example, People with Disabilities; Queer and Trans People, and Black, Indigenous & People of Colour.

No-Money Space – we know that this festival costs money to book space, arrange food, and subsidize participation – and everyone buys a ticket. But once you’re on site you shouldn’t ever need to exchange money at Cahoots. All the meals, accommodation and programming are covered. If you want to bring crafts to share, swap or sell you’re welcome to do that, just let us know so we can work out table space.

Everyone Volunteers – this is a collaborative event. Everyone helps to create the space, in dozens of different ways. Some people organize the festival throughout the year. Others design and offer sessions. Some volunteer in the kitchen or to clean up. Some look after babies, take on driving shifts, coordinate games, offer music, act as chaplains, or support other festival-goers.

Everyone Buys a Ticket – we ask everyone to buy a ticket – from the people who work all year long to organize the festival to people visiting for the day. To try to minimize barriers to participation we have a range of ticket prices and supports for people to attend. We also invite those who have an abundance of resources to share generously and support the participation of others (tax receipts available through Student Christian Movement).

All Ages/Inter-generational – Cahoots has something for everyone because everyone has something for Cahoots. We learn from the wisdom of elders and the presence of children. Young families and multi-generational communities all help to create this festival! We know that sleeping on camp mattresses and in shared spaces isn’t for everyone, so we do our best to accommodate and work out with you and your family what will be best. We ask our workshop facilitators to consider how they can make their materials accessible and meaningful to people of different ages, and we make sure that there is an ‘all-ages’ session in each timeslot.

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