Becoming 2023 – some of the things I’ll be doing this year.
My previous blog, where I reflected back on my work in 2022 was so long it became a good reminder of why I should begin writing more regularly again, rather than a huge download at the end of the year. It felt helpful to do that splurge for me, but this post is hopefully more concise* and a bit more of the — so what? Having done all that work in 2022, where am I now?
The idea of transitions is not new to me, or I expect, to you. It’s at the heart of IFF’s work (Transformative Innovation), Rob Hopkin’s recently wrote a blog about the word ‘transition’ having been a co-founder of Transition Towns, and I’ve long been a fan of, and connected into the Transition Design community. I also appreciate Alex Steffen’s push back about the word ‘transition’ if it conjures up “a sense of change from one long-term state to another” or that transitions are “of a gradual, controlled pace of change.” I know transition pathways aren’t linear or orderly but it is this space between worlds, in the entanglement of ‘what-is-and-what-could-be’, that I really feel I’m in — we’re in. And that feels like the site or situations for all my current practices.
“Practice is the art of building capacity to attain and deepen a skill. “ — Brian Stout
The image in my head currently looks like the sketch below. The reality is much messier than that, because they all bleed into each other, but my work in 2023 (and I expect beyond) sits within these 4 areas.
- Composting work — the practices of hospicing what’s no longer needed.
- Moving resources — the practices that ensure wealth, resources and other assets flow through regenerative, reparative and distributive economic principles.
- Staying with the trouble — the practices of living together in a never-ending transition.
- Tending to new soil — the practices of seeding, illuminating and creating pathways of possibility.
For each one I’ll share a bit about what I’m especially interested in, the work I’m already doing or will be doing in relation to this area, and what I hope to learn more about and develop greater skills in so that I can deepen and extend my practice in that area.
Composting and Hospicing
Areas of Interest
At the moment there are 3 contexts that I’m especially interested in and a set of practices that are relevant to all of them-
- The first context is that of organisations in civil society. It’s where Stewarding Loss first started out — with the Farewell Fund provocation — and it’s not just about when organisations need to die, it’s also about growing the capacity for much healthier cycles of endings and renewal across civil society. 4 years on from that initial blog post and it’s still a hugely underdeveloped area of work. Natural systems of adaptation require “release” for balance and renewal and I don’t think we can build community and ecological wealth without finding ways to hospice — with care and compassion — that which needs to collapse and die. That requires some parts of civil society shifting from a preservation mindset to a transformational one.
- The second context I’m interested in is hospicing the in-perpetuity mindset of foundations in relation to their endowments and accumulated wealth.
- The third context is the stewardship of land and working with land-holders. A 5th generation land-owner recently reached out to me who’s actively trying to redistribute his wealth into the stewardship of local communities.
- And within all 3 of these contexts there’s a need to develop the capacity and practices for — intentional discontinuation, composting, redistribution, leaving behind, dismantling, system abandonment, preparedness for loss.
The work I’ll be doing
Some of this builds on the work that I first initiated at Stewarding Loss. Over the last few years, when I’ve been much less involved, Iona and Louise have continued to grow that field of work and practice. The interest and demand in the work has only increased and they’ve published some great reports and blogs about what they’ve been doing. We each plan to take forward different aspects of the work. Iona has been developing a really exciting ‘De-accelerator’ programme idea and Louise and I are both working with a few different foundations who are exploring questions that range from what this means for grant-making practice, through to what this means for their endowments. We are all interested in, and exploring together, what the wider infrastructure is that’s needed to support this work across civil society.
I’m also going to start hosting a monthly Community of Practice for people who are doing this work. If you’d like to come along then please sign-up here.
What I hope to learn and develop
- Practices that develop and build on those we initially created in these canvases and toolkits, and that are specifically useful for the contexts I mention above.
- In terms of organisational endings, I want to better understand which practices help to create the most fertile soil or most possibility-giving compost.
- I’m also interested in the mindset aspects of this work — and the unlearning— it’s not just organisations we need to compost but, to quote bell hooks — it’s the “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal” way of being too. Or as adrienne maree brown says in this article on Accountable Endings — “notice where dying ideas show up in your life.”
Areas of interest
A lot of my work in the funding ecology now links up around the economy and wealth redistribution— whether with Partners for a New Economy, JRF, or the work with Stefan and Active Philanthropy. The specific areas I am interested in include —
- Where extreme wealth is held and concentrated, and the impacts of this.
- Linking excessive private wealth accumulation and extraction to different issues — for example, with JRF it is very clearly linked to poverty. At Partners for a New Economy it’s inextricably linked to the climate crisis and our natural world (as Florence Miller wrote about here).
- The practices that ensure wealth, resources and other assets flow through regenerative, reparative and distributive economic principles and how to transform our relationship to capital through doing so.
- How to move resources out of the ‘old system’ — the status quo — and into the new, and the alternatives — in non-extractive ways. Patterning us away from “imperialist, white supremacist, patriarchal culture.” I’d add capitalist too. And ensuring that the narrative for where resources need moving too, includes more than ‘movements.’ We need to resource new institutions, infrastructures and effective mechanisms for creating structural shifts as well.
- How to identify more transformative work — there’s always a hard distinction to make between Horizon 2 ‘innovations’ (often getting subsumed back into the existing system as incremental improvements) and the work of Horizon 3 which is truly transformative. I try to give an example of that distinction here — but am interested in how we develop our capacities to be Third Horizon Scouts.
- Linked to the above — what are the capacities and competencies we need more broadly for this work — both in organisations involved in moving resources (e.g this work is not about ‘good grant-making’) as well as in communities (e.g how to be ready for long-term, unrestricted integrated capital investments, or practice commons stewardship)
“We need people who can traverse the whole finance ecology — who can both see when it’s useful to make a distinction between different kinds of capital and when it’s better to blur the lines.” — Civic Square essay.
The work I’ll be doing
- Through my work with JRF and Stefan/Active Philanthropy practicing how to resource the third horizon and more transformative work by distributing money.
- At JRF we will also be exploring and experimenting with other instruments and models for investment and distribution of resources — ranging from pooled funds, collective ownership and cooperatives, to energy endowments and perpetual smart bonds. We imagine some of what we might want to try doesn’t even exist yet and we’ll work with partners to create it.
- An ‘infrastructure mindset’ is now a core part of JRF’s new strategy which means ‘commons building’ in how we work as well as in what we look to invest in externally — resourcing shared infrastructures and the commons. I’m really excited about this as it builds on some of the shared infrastructures work I was trying to do at TNLCF.
- And at both Partners for a New Economy and JRF exploring how to support the spread of frameworks and related practices like Doughnut Economics (DEAL is a P4NE grantee) to increase its adoption.
- Working in real-time to understand the kinds of capacities and competencies we need for this work. For example one of the ways we are building our own knowledge at JRF is to commission a ‘Learning Journey’ — initially with a US, Canada and Latin American focus, to hear how they work with restorative economics, Indigenous wealth stewardship, the solidarity economy, real estate co-ops, economic sovereignty and more. We’re also inviting other UK funders to join us. Let me know if you are interested.
What I hope to learn and develop
- I have so much to technically learn about financial instruments, investment approaches, asset classes, non-monetary exchange, non-extractive lending, revenue sharing agreements, perpetual smart bonds, micro-endowments, integrated capital etc etc. I’m grateful for people like Nwamaka Agbo and Nikishka Iyengar who have already given me their time and taught me a lot — and always Indy Johar..but I know there’s much more to learn.
- As I mentioned in the interests section, I’m really keen to develop more skill in how to recognise the transformative, third horizon work. This matters to me because I worry that even if we untangle more resources for redistribution, it may just end up going towards amelioration efforts. Over the next few months I’m working with Gemma and Graham to see if we can develop a ‘framework’ for this. I’m calling it Third Horizon Scouting for now, or a more poetic version might be attuning to the glimmers of the new systems trying to emerge. If we manage to create something useful then we will definitely open it up to others and if you are interested in getting involved, let me know.
- A lot of this work feels experimental and new territory — I mean who knows how to operate with capital in a post-capitalist world?! So I’m also hoping to learn more about who can absorb the risk of any work as we try new things.
Staying With The Trouble
At the moment, this idea of ‘staying with the trouble’ from Donna Haraway is one I’m thinking about in relation to space and sanctuary. And we have a new space we’ve taken on in Greenwich which is local to where I live. In my original notes about this idea back in 2019, I listed all kinds of ways we might describe it, and on the holding website we’ve summarised it, but I still find myself playing with words.
I love these quotes I recently came across as resonant with what the space could be —
The space is a place to“listen for new ways of being that can give an answer to a time that is searching for itself. “
“Where new cultures are composed and where we are inviting the unfamiliar.”
The space is where “the mycelial threads that connect people, place, planetary processes and more-than-human beings” come together.
How we currently talk about the space on the holding site is below.
Areas of interest
The space will encompass many things — especially as it’s not just my space and we hope the culture-making will come from many people curating and contributing. The practices that I’m especially interested in the space being an exploration for are linked to —
- Care — In its more expansive sense across generations and species. Care is in the name of the space because we hope to foreground care in everything we do.
- Repair —Which could mean the repair of material things, such as the work of repair cafes etc, but I’m also interested in what it means to practice repair in a relational sense. This year I’ve been in relationship therapy with a close friend and colleague, and in a mediation process with a previous work colleague — and both of these have felt like a commitment to active repair work. This for me feels like part of the work of ‘staying with the trouble.’ When there’s more overwhelm, more exhaustion, more anxiety, more grief, more pain, more stress, more blame — it can harm our relationships at a time when the work and the world need us healed. I recently met Esther at a Good Ancestor Movement event, who’s a Scholar in reparations and whom I know really cares about the precision by which we use that term. Hopefully through working with Esther, I’m also wondering how the space might become somewhere for people to learn more about reparatory work.
- Hospitality — The phrase ‘radical hospitality’ keeps coming up — at the Point People Christmas gathering several people referred to it, someone shared a quote about it the other day — and I’m interested to explore what it means. I used to do a lot of hosting and convening and gathering but with a Global pandemic and lots of work commitments that’s been virtually impossible these last few years. I’m hoping to do more of it again, in a Covid-safe way, and the space invites that. Everyone I have seen in the last few months has commented on how isolated they feel or how small their world has become. I’ve certainly felt that many have withdrawn back to their family units. What might draw people back out? How might we be together again?
- Curation — It feels very timely to have a blank canvas on which to curate — people, ideas, content etc — when people are feeling disorientated. I’ve always felt like the practice of curation (in its broadest sense — selecting, assembling, story-telling, sequencing etc) is really under-rated. It’s a powerful way to influence, to seed, to signal, to orient.
- Rest — It might be odd to invite people out of their homes to rest but I’m interested in what a sanctuary space might feel like beyond that. And how people might collectively rest and lounge in the space. I’m interested in how we might curate the space around the cycle of the seasons and what we might offer during periods of hibernation or ‘wintering’ for example.
- Moving “down to earth” — I’m interested in how the space can help us practice deep listening and attunement, where we can sink into embodied ways of knowing at a time “calling to us like never before to slow down, to breathe deeper, to see with widened eyes and sharpened senses, to walk with gentleness and care alongside our human and more-than-human kin.” **
- Entanglement — Linked to the above, what might be the practices we can develop that connect us not only to the depths of who we are but help us see and sense our common ground, shared humanity and interdependence.
- The Cosmo-local — I’m still not sure about this as a term, but I am interested in the space being used for exploring the planetary scale as much as the local. I’ve been concerned by what we might lose sight of when we all focus down on place-based communities — about our role and responsibility as global citizens, and in takes care of things like planetary governance and global commons building. Indy’s Twitter thread brings this to life and I’ve really appreciated Jayne sharing resources with me so I can learn more.
- Queer Ecology and the Queer Cosmos — Over the last few years I’ve found so much resonance and connection with the queer ecology community. Despite connecting into many different communities over the years I’d never quite found people who expressed their queerness in the ways I experienced mine, so this interest is both deeply personal in as well as important for the wider world (in my view!). There’s so much to share and also still to discover, but this was a recent find that I loved. “Fungi are such a direct doorway to mystery, to liminality, to queerness. They offer such a direct invitation to sit in the uncomfortability of liminality and question.” — Symbiiotica.
- Mystery — I love that feeling of not knowing and to sense that there are things in existence that I could never know or even perceive. And what does it even mean to “know” in a world that is ever changing and impermanent? That’s why spaces left open for mystery are so important and instead of being shy about my long-standing interests, rituals and practices in working with mystery and mysticism, I want the space to openly encourage them.
The work I’ll be doing
- Mostly my work will be programming and hosting! And working out how to do this around all the other things I’m doing. We’ve got so many different things planned for the space — talks and interviews with authors and artists, community dreaming sessions, thematic events, capacity-building sessions related to climate-altered worlds, rest and restoration nights and more. I’ll also be Co-hosting a regular dinner series with various co-hosts and my Step-cousin Matt, a local chef, providing the food.
- Another focus for me is to continue connecting and building relationships with other local cultural spaces around the world. Last year I was lucky to visit the Institute for Post-Natural Studies in Madrid and the Feminist Centre for Creative Work in LA. Part of what we want to do is offer global content locally and to connect up as an ecology of spaces.
What I hope to learn and develop
- I hope to learn and develop practices in relation to all the things I listed in the interests section —curation, care, repair, hospitality, rest, deep listening, mystery, entanglement — and not only have others run sessions, but commit to offering more from and of myself.
- I hope to learn more about what it means to build capacity for transformation so people become more ready for change and able to respond in new ways. And how a space in a community can support that.
- I want to practice what it means to create a space that can generate warmth and care in the community, and also open people to new possibilities.
“Be not the one who debunks but the one who assembles, not the one who lifts the rugs from under the feet of naive believers but the one who offers arenas in which to gather.” — Bruno Latour
Tending to new soils
This is the work around Imagination Infrastructures and collective imagination practices. If we make fertile compost through doing the hospicing work well, then we also need to pay attention to both the seeds that get planted, and to the soil itself. I’ve written quite a lot about this — Change happens if our collective imagination changes and on the website for all things Imagination Infrastructures, as well as commissioning many others to write about it too.
Areas of interest
My specific areas of interest are —
- How to grow the field of collective imagination and to do this through seeding and growing imagination infrastructures.
- How to offer this work as a way to unsettle the present as much as being about rich visions and a widening aperture of what else is possible in the future.
- Our current discourse is moored to the existing notions of logic. We are attached to familiar language. And so many people find it hard to believe that other worlds are possible — stuck in ‘this is the way things are’ or ‘there’s nothing we can do’…there is a loss of conviction and will for change. This work feels like a way to say ‘things don’t have to be this way.’
- That’s why part of this work is about growing the capacity in people and communities — so they can embody a sense of something alternative being possible — of plural possibilities that feel unimaginable to us now.
- And it’s it’s not just about being able to imagine and sense what’s possible in the future — it’s about recognising where the seeds of new economic possibilities are existing in the present — looking at what already is as if it were new.
- I’m especially interested in how the work can grow in places — from New Constellations in Barrow, Sheffield and now York — to the Imaginal Transitions work happening in Toronto — and all those initiatives that were seeded through the Emerging Futures Fund whilst I was at TNLCF. The brilliant CreaturesEu have also been looking at practical applications of this kind of work with this place-based report.
The work I’ll be doing
- At the moment a lot of this work is happening with and through JRF, which I have summarised here. This work includes funding programmes (one specifically with young people), resourcing a Community of Practice, narrative work, mainstream content creation, events and more.
- A lot of the above is about me supporting others’ practice but at the Centre for Collective Imagination (housed in the Care + Climate space) I will be exploring my own practices and hosting others to explore theirs too.
What I hope to learn and develop
Some of the questions that we are holding through this work with JRF and that are in quite a few of the presentations I have done over the last year are —
- What are the most effective conditions for this work to emerge from? And most effective containers for this work to be practiced within?
- How can we connect community-generated imagination most effectively into policy design and decision-making?
- What happens over time? If imagination is a practice what are the cumulative effects of having a more imaginative society?
- I would like to link this work up with some of the democracy experiments taking place — it was interesting to see this blog from DemSoc which had echoes for me of imagination infrastructure ideas — and with some of the global commons experiments too. For me the collective imagination work is the soil, the pre-conditions, that come further upstream, and that gets practiced over time (which is where the infrastructures and the commons building come in).
- Lastly, who gets to imagine is at the core of all of this — the soil through which the new and the alternatives grow — needs to be different.
And Finally -
All that’s shared above are ways I’m thinking about my practices — the work that I do. I also wanted to share a few other things on my mind.
- Co-leadership — I can’t believe that there are still so few good examples of co-leadership at CEO and Director level in organisations. And that it’s still not very commonplace to recruit job shares into senior roles. Given the turbulence we are in and that we will have a lot more of ahead — why would anyone want to do a senior role on their own? And for organisations, I find it so hard to understand why they wouldn’t encourage this model of working more? I love this piece of work on Feminist Co-leadership by Ruby (who I am lucky to be working with this year) and others and would love to talk with organisations and recruiters about what they think the barriers are.
- Ideas and advice needed — If I am going to continue working across so many things are there better ways I could be making sense of the landscape and sharing it? And who else could I be doing that with?
- Collectives — I’ve long been a collective obsessive, and that hasn’t waned — whether that is collective intelligence, collective wisdom, collective design, collective imagination etc. Yet I still feel like the practices that start from the unit of a collective, where we perceive our interconnectedness, and create outwardly from there, are underdeveloped. I’d love to hear from people who are de-centring practices that pay attention to the individual self.
“The intelligence that I’m interested in is really not an intelligence that just happens inside the head. It’s an intelligence that’s situated in the world.”
— James Bridle
Lastly, I don’t know where you’ll find me most consistently online — I am still working out where to be. Twitter and LinkedIn just feel wrong. I’m on Mastadon, but it doesn’t feel right either. So I don’t know. Maybe I don’t need to be anywhere for a while. You can always email me if any of the above resonates.
*Having finished the blog down, it’s definitely not concise!