The fruits of our first harvest

We feel things are changing faster than usual, both outside in the beautiful world, and inside ourselves and our communities. What a year ago would have looked impossible  is happening right now. Awareness of the impact of plastic and fossil fuels is no longer a well kept secret. We have the information; we have the power to take action.

So with winds of change and hope we brought climate change and climate justice conversations to everyday communities, where people think locally, just about day to day basic needs, or at least, that is what we thought.

After setting aside my what if’s, I took a deep breath and began to explain “Future Conversations,” a programme developed to look at our hopes and fears for the future, for our lives and our planet and to learn tools to help us to become more resilient and to be more connected as a community. We talked through the current situation of our planet and the evidence of impacts we see caused by climate change, and right at that moment I began to see how engaged the participants were. Not only were they engaged, but they had lots to say about it! One mentioned “this big business is what is causing a lot of the problems.”  And “back home there is not enough water to grow the crops, or there is flooding.” I realised that my assumptions were just that, and this group was being offered something they felt was important to them.

Facilitators from the Future Conversations core team supported three pilots:  HighTrees Community Development Trust in London, Sneinton Community in Nottingham and Belville Community Garden Development Trust in Greenock.  

In the first few sessions, we aimed at creating a safe container for the group to merge, for people to build trust and explore what it means to be part of a group, to be part of something bigger than yourself. Later on, we brought in the resilience tools, using nature as our collaborator and inviting people to sense our relationship to our planet, the connections and the dependency that we have with all that is around us. Then, with the group  having built their resilience, we brought in the hard scientific data about the state of the world, shook things up but held the group with nature connection tools. We finished with sessions oriented to acknowledge our power and creativity to bring projects forward to create a more beautiful community.

“It is good to hear people care.  I am used to people rolling their eyes everytime I open my mouth.  The conversation needs to be had, no matter how hard it is.”  

We have created a conversation that threads through people and their stories, a link that brings hope to communities and makes people realise their potential. We have built groups and activated community spaces, with all of this energy and enthusiasm of a few local people. These are some of the projects that people were passionate about:

  • A community growing and cooking project which welcomes everyone, no matter their capabilities, and finds a role suited to each. 
  • A project to help young people understand why destroying things, especially in parks and wild spaces, is harmful   
  • The group committing to helping one member with a personal difficulty 
  • Community cafe 
  • Market ability stall to support people with diverse functionalities

The outcomes for the pilot groups clearly show the value of this process as a way to surface awareness about people’s power, their capacity to act together and the potential that such organised action has on local communities. Another outcome is a clearer understanding on hopes and concerns for the future, enabling further self-awareness and community awareness. In addition, we have seen participants build individual and group-work skills to cope with impacts, adding an element of resilience.Our absolute joy is to see people empowered for positive change, and this programme does exactly that, about real issues that will inevitably affect us all. I was grateful to have been on that journey with them, and anticipated out “what’s next?”

Watch video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ytnSopjFfw&t=14s

Small steps, big changes

When we open ourselves to the world we start acknowledging the possibilities and abundance that surround us. Suddenly we are not alone anymore, we are not deprived and we can feel the support of walking together, hand by hand, heart by heart, head by head.

We are starting to see the groups in Greenock & Nottingham evolving and transforming through their group dynamics each day, becoming little by little a new being ready to emerge in this complex world.

And so it happened. On the last session in Nottingham while we were introducing each other, a spontaneous participant hugged another saying “I welcome you today”. We were all softened by the kindness and many of us stood and up and started hugging each other, welcoming each other into our space.

The Future Conversations programme continues to be inspired by many, either everyday participants or long-term activists, all bringing the collective wisdom through the process.

Up in Greenock, while “Honouring our pain”, people said they felt able to express their fears for the future whilst at the same time being supported and buoyed up by the others in their groups. We are stepping into the collective creation of a new emergent culture, so a poem by Looby Mcnamara about cultural emergence was shared. Below, just a fragment:

The Tulse Hill group in London started recently to gather and experience the joy of sharing feelings of fear and hope about the future ahead. They are a group of ESOL students that normally would focus on grammar, vocabulary and phrasal verbs; now they are learning English by exploring the topics that matter to them in life, bringing their passion to learn a new language with their life passions together. No wonder they are loving the session even more now.

And these are some of the actions that are emerging along the country:

●        a garden in a concrete area in a church yard where nothing is going on

●     a conversation with a church that is in decline to use their space for community actions

●        a community growing and cooking project which welcomes everyone, no matter their capabilities, and finds a role to suit each member

●        a project to help young people understand why destroying things, especially in parks and wild spaces, is harmful  (this from a former “yout”)

●        the group committing to helping one member with a personal difficulty

Some final words from Future Conversations participants about the sessions…

“ It was beautiful! “

“ It is who turns up and what they bring that make it..these sessions are at a different level to other community sessions that I have been part of….”

” I love it; I don’t want to ever miss it “

Once the conversations emerge…

As the days become longer and our eyes start to open, we are getting ready to embrace spring.  We have been preparing the soil for Future Conversations programmes to be delivered in England in Tulse Hill and Grenfell (London), Nottingham and in Scotland in Greenock, aiming at building local resilience to respond to future challenges.

A few months ago, back in January, a group of 12 participants from different sides of the country were trained to facilitate conversations about what is important to us, to our communities and to our planet earth, our mother. We created a safe space for people to bring their fears, to express their hopes and to explore together how the relationships that we have with ourselves, with each other and with the ecosystem we are part of are crucial to determine our capacity to adapt to changes.

We acknowledged the difficulties of starting conversations about the future of the planet while people’s self-interest might be focused on employment, health or education. This is the story of separation of our times, where we have stopped seeing our relational existence with every tree, river and bird, and see life as an individual journey where if  ‘I provide for myself, I will be alright.’

What if the purpose of our lives was to express our gifts with each other?
What if those gifts were aimed at uniting our human tribe towards the wellbeing and development of the whole?

Our friends in Greenock & Nottingham have already started experiencing the programme:

“We have come to realise that we need to start with a conversation, one that shows we care for what is going on” Nottingham participant
“I have become aware that the issues that we explore today are for real, not just something that happen in social media. I am keen to learn more about the issues and how to plan our next steps” Greenock participant

The four groups will continue to work through the sessions over the next few months when we will have the opportunity to learn how this process is influencing people’s beliefs and capacity to act in their communities for a better future.