The Citizens Handbook
Work Bees

A bee is an ad hoc assembly of people created to get something done. Bees used to be common on farms; farmers would get together to build a neighbors barn, bring in the hay, or saw logs for the winter. Once an essential part of farm life, the bee has all but disappeared. Instead of relying on neighbours people now turn to the marketplace. This delivers the goods but eliminates the most important contribution of the bee, the excuse and opportunity for social exchange.

Women in some Ukrainian communities get together on a regular basis to make hundreds of pierogies that will be eaten at community dinners. These could easily be purchased, but this would eliminate the social interaction that occurs amongst the women who take part.

Bees can serve as a vehicle for bringing people together in contemporary society. We don't have to be pawns of the marketplace. Instead of buying a product, we can organize a bee to make it.

Consider this example from Vancouver. Every year on a Sunday afternoon in the first week of December, a group of women get together to make Christmas crackers. They could easily go out and buy Christmas crackers but this provides an excuse to spend time seeing friends, meeting friends of friends, and sharing stories. The first time the event was held a few women were skeptical and made fun of the project, but they attended anyway and quickly became engaged in the intricacies of cracker manufacture. The event has become surprisingly popular. Everyone who is invited shows up, even those without a shred of craftiness, and everyone wants to do it again next year.

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The Troublemaker's Teaparty is a print version of The Citizen's Handbook published in 2003. It contains all of The Handbook plus additional material on preventing grassroots rot, strategic action, direct action and media advocacy. You can get a copy of The Teaparty from bookstores, Amazon or New Society Publishers.