A new year with new hopes for the Emerging Futures Fund — an email from the heart ❤️

Yesterday evening I sent out an email to our 52 Emerging Futures Fund grantees. I thought I’d share it here too, because it talks to some of the ways we’re thinking about growing the work this year.

You can read about all the Emerging Futures initiatives here. And this blog post gives a helpful overview of the programme and its intent.

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Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Hello all

I hope that you are doing as well as possible in these times ❤️

This is a personal email from me, and sits alongside the other emails you may be getting from the wider team about sharing what you are doing and where the work is at.

It’s personal because it’s a call from the heart. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Emerging Futures Fund over the holiday’s — about the potential, the possibilities that are held within it. Now really is a time when we need as much hope as we can muster and I really believe we will find that in our connections, our relationships with one another — in the collective. There is so much more we can do together, and be together.

When we designed this funding programme we did it because we really believed it could start to seed new narratives and draw on the imagination of communities to shape our collective futures.

We didn’t design it to be one-off, individual projects. For those of you that came to the event before Christmas, where I held the space for journeying into a future imagining, it was because I hoped through embodying the potential of the programme we could seed the possibilities even deeper into the soil.

We’ve always talked about the Emerging Futures Fund as seeding an Imagination Infrastructure — the start of resourcing community sense-making, community foresight, new narratives and collective imagination. A generative infrastructure through which many things become possible, like a mycelium network. As your work from the grants emerges, we will continue responding to what is needed, to strengthen the work, to connect it with others, to tend to it and ensure it grows.

“The new narrative must be catalysed, birthed, voiced, annealed and recorded.” — Narrative Initiative

We brought in Catherine to start noticing the common threads and to start paying attention to (and preparing) the wider contexts in which we hope ideas can land, take root, be oriented towards. We know that linking the work into decision-making power will be vital. You can read more about the work Catherine is doing with us here.

“How do we create ‘policy-designing environments’ which are vehicles for actively constructing policy within, in real-time, and with complete engagement and participation?” — Dan Hill, Slow Down Papers

We brought in George to do the work of reflecting the ‘system’ back to itself — sharing the collective activity as it emerges, (which is why your updates are so important) layering what you are all doing over time, and archiving it — taking care of the work as it grows. George built this site, and is gathering things here. Soon we’ll also be adding different ways of building up narrative threads through qualitative data over time.

We brought Will in to actively weave the community together, to tend to the community.

We brought in Scott and Susan to share futures practices with those that wanted to bring a different rigour to the work of imagining. We’ve some other workshops coming up to, with a variety of other relevant practices.

I share all this again because I want to keep bringing into your consciousness the possibility of this work and because we want to hear from you about what else you think we can be doing. How else can we ensure we’re collectively growing something that can really be part of communities shaping our collective futures.

At the Fund we are committed to being in this for the long haul. What will it take to grow all these initiatives? To connect them to others? To grow community power through the narratives that are weaved and the futures you and your communities dream up?

We are really committed to gathering more interest around them, supporting more communities to join in, and to scaffolding all of this collective effort with the resources, capacity and care it needs.

We know people have very little left in them at the moment, so this may be slow work, but please do let us know how else we can support you, both to realise the dreams of your own projects but also so you can contribute to, and build the power of the collective dream.

Below I am sharing some quotes that really resonated in describing the potential of the Emerging Futures Fund. I really hope that we can realise its potential together.

Take care ❤️

Cassie

The first 3 quotes are from Dan Hill’s Slow Down Papers. The last 3 are quotes from the Narrative Initiative.

“And thus, the design of these infrastructures must be extended beyond form and function to include care and culture. The former implies its relational aspects, and a sense of ongoing attention, maintenance, and adaptation over time. The latter implies its expression of deeper values, assessing and articulating what it says about us and what we stand for, as well as our sense of being.”

“In contrast to the ‘evidence-based paradigm’, I read in Greenhalgh a preference for ‘down to earth’ engagement with context, locality, culture, and complexity, which can only be pursued with care, with genuine engagement, with practice, and with agility and openness to unforeseen outcomes and uncertainty, set ideally within a context of deep participation (what muf architects might call “mutual knowledge”).”

“This may be the biggest mental model challenge of all. How do we tune our cultures of decision-making such that they benefit from actively incorporating uncertainty about fundamental assumptions, and prepare the ground for systemic change? There suggests a different culture of decision-making, predicated on active and direct engagement and interaction with systems, rather than indirect planning, abstract modelling, ‘evidence-based’ and data-driven prediction.”

— — — — — — — — -

“There’s a habit in the nonprofit advocacy sector to look only at how your campaign is doing. This way of working turns allied efforts into separate projects with distinct goals, stories and metrics. What if we used a bigger lens to look at the currents of change? Would we see the different but allied people and voices in those currents?”

“Durable narrative change is woven with networks, stories and structures that sense, speak with, and are able to be held by many voices. Polyvocal approaches are part of the process of narrative embodiment. A narrative flows through a society when many people share their stories in their own words. People come to embody, live in, and own a narrative.”

“In coalitions working on narrative projects, this can shift the range of possibilities. New alignments create a new common sense. Narratives that endure and make an impact are, like the communities in which they seek to thrive, living things produced and cared for by many hands.”

Run UK Portfolio at National Lottery Community Fund, Co-founder of the Point People, Policy Fellow IIPP, Founder Stewarding Loss, International Futures Forum.

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