Help us to design our new Visionaries programme and fund.

Cassie Robinson.
4 min readDec 20, 2022
Leah Penniman’s new book.

A few weeks back we (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) shared an update about the work we’re continuing to grow and invest in, in relation to collective imagination — creating the capacity in communities to practice, draw on, and shape futures with their collective imaginations.

Much of this work is happening on the ground, in places and we’ve previously talked about this as tending to the soil. Tending to, so that new and different kinds of worlds can begin to flourish, and giving attention to, so we notice seeds of that are already there, waiting for the right conditions to germinate and grow.

This work, a new funding programme to find and resource Visionaries, is perhaps more like looking upwards and outwards to the night sky and beyond, into the vast expanse of the cosmos, for those stars, constellations and galaxies that orient us towards somewhere different.

Whilst we broadly believe that some of the most important theory comes through practice, we also know there is a real need for a new wave of ‘public scholars’ — people who can open up different and unfamiliar ways of seeing, and draw us away from the status quo with the contours of new ideas. As Maurice Mitchel says in this truly stunning piece of analysis “…there is a very real intellectual component to this work” or as the brilliant tamara.k.hopper tweeted recently “Ideas matter. Serious scholarship matters.”

With this Visionaries programme we are in search of those ideas, and culture-makers. We hope to find UK-based visionaries and a next generation of public scholars who could sit alongside the people we list below, who we have looked to as sources of inspiration and orientation, as well as the amazing practitioners we are also planning to support through our Emerging Futures work.

In late spring of 2023 we will be doing a call out to find and then resource a group of visionaries. To do this well, we want to work with a partner who can help us do the following:

  • Design the right framing for the programme
  • Find the right partners for the programme
  • Design the programme — criteria etc.

If you are interested in working with us then more information is in the tender document. The deadline for Expressions of Interest is Monday 23rd January.

Here are some of the people we already see as visionaries — some of whom have been inspiring us for many years, and some of whom have been more recent sources of hope. As we head into a couple of weeks of rest and recuperation, we wanted to share their work for you to explore.

  • Alexis Pauline Gumbs who describes herself as a Queer Black Troublemaker and an aspirational cousin to all sentient beings
  • Sophie Strand who believes that all thinking happens interstitially — between beings, ideas, differences and, mythical gradients.
  • Vanessa Andreotti and her work of Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures — who talks about ‘the pre-natal care needed for what is coming, to be present for it, without getting in front of it.’
  • The ideas of Leah Penniman, a Black Kreyol farmer, who’s books — Farming While Black and Black Earth Wisdom (2023) she describes as “love songs for the land and her people.”
  • We could quote bell hooks over and over, but this gem deeply resonates — “Queer’ not as being about who you’re having sex with (though that can be a dimension of it); but ‘queer’ as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and that has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”
  • Audrey Lorde whose words “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” are so important in this work of building towards futures that live outside of dominant oppressive structures.
  • Bayo Akomolafe in his now infamous essay talks of “Oh, the times are urgent, let us slow down.”
  • The effervescent Adrienne Maree Brown who talks about how “we need to be vision oriented. We need to not just be a ‘no’ telling people what we don’t want when we’re tired of what we’re beyond. We need to be articulating ourselves in the form of a yes. What is it that we deeply believe in? What is it that we deeply long for and love? And how do we want to organise ourselves to practice that every day right now?”
  • There’s Walidah Imarisha Black sci-fi work and its vital role in redefining the present and imagining the future.
  • Shayda Kafai and her work on Crip Kinship where she talks of “moving us toward generating our collective liberation from our bodyminds outward”
  • Zena Sharman who in the Care We Dream Of offers an invitation to demand more for ourselves and our communities and to dream differently about what’s possible.”
  • Aurora Levins Morales who says “If we are to live audaciously, we need to step into the calm eye of the storm and steer by the stars, to imagine in rich detail the biggest, most delicious, satisfying, inclusive future that we can.”
  • And Robin Wall Kimmerer a scholar in Traditional Ecological Knowledge who is “exploring the ways that the collective, intergenerational brilliance of Indigenous science and wisdom can help us reimagine our relationship with the natural world.” She dreams of a time “when the land will be thankful for us.”



Cassie Robinson.

Working with Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, P4NE, Arising Quo & Stewarding Loss -