From where we are, to where we want to be: Building sustainable enterprises to support social change in the sharing age

“The prevailing wisdom is that talk is cheap and that it’s a poor, timid substitute for action…conversation is action, because it is the wellspring from which relationships and trust are generated and informed decisions grow.” Thomas F Beech

This week I have had the good fortune to happen upon a great online conversation with social entrepreneur, Pete Lawrence. Pete is founder of Campfire Convention, ‘a co-operative network based on the empowerment of collaboration and shaping the future for the better.’ Building a new social network and a co-produced news platform are the key aims. Yet there’s something different. The thing that interests me is the business model, it is funded by membership subscriptions, and self-supporting, using crowd-funding for larger investments.

For a long time now I have been pondering the question ‘how can we create sustainable enterprises that are built on values that are good for people and the Earth?’ I have been watching and noticing.

Of the many socially minded enterprises we explored over the course of delivering the British Council’s Active Citizens programme here in Cardiff last year, the ones that thrive are the ones that have capital, a physical object or service which people pay for – a building with space to rent (Indycube, Little Man Coffee Co.), bikes to hire and a cafe (Pedal Power), a product to sell, and the skills to sell it (Science Made Simple).

Other social enterprises offer services that are free at the point of delivery. They can do this because they are grant funded, or raise funds through sponsorship or charitable giving and the like. Surviving as a financially stable organisation underpinned by this model is becoming more difficult and treacherous as pots shrink and competition rises. In addition, the locus of support for social enterprises in Wales, the Wales Cooperative Centre, has benefitted from a significant investment from the Welsh Government with the aim of encouraging growth.

Yet this model, where we are funded through grants and aiming to grow enterprises too quickly as a means to offer employment to others is failing, fast. Our pernicious favour for growth is leading us up a blind alley. The pattern of growth followed by collapse demonstrated by the systems models Dana Meadows and other systems thinkers espouse indicates that we are in a precarious place.

There is another effect that interests me. In the context of Cardiff, where we have benefitted from years of grant funding, offering products and services where there is an expectation that people will pay provides a challenge.

People have become so used to accessing free things, particularly in the arena of events, training and community development, that getting them to pay, whether they are an individual or an organisation or institution, is hard. It requires skills in relationship building and negotiation and good marketing.

If grant funding is diminishing as an option, and we want to provide products and services that are free at the point of delivery, how do we fund that? There will always be a monetary cost involved in production of the things we offer (whilst current monetary system persists at any rate). And there will always be value generated from the gift of people’s time through volunteering and sharing.

The work I enjoy most, making art (Sensory Labyrinth Theatre) with The Republic of the Imagination, is work I do for free, it is my gift to the world and the well-being it creates far surpasses that which I would get from any paid work. I don’t even know what the words are for beginning to understand this. Perhaps the word is love.

And, much as we try, money just cannot buy love. Although it can pay for us to make more art, which leads to more love. It can also enable us to buy our way into communities where we can find love.

There is no doubt we have a thriving gift economy, sharing is on the rise here in the city and the benefits of volunteering in regard to well-being are clear. But we can all run out of the capacity to give eventually (take burnout as an example) and reciprocal exchange is vital for maintaining motivation.

It is therefore important, where appropriate, that the people involved in enterprises which have social change as their aim are paid at least a living wage for the contributions that they make (I am referring to business structures here, rather than voluntary community groups, and I’m just not sure about art..).

This is hard to say, because anyone who has set up a business or programme or applied for a grant to make art, knows that the first stages require a massive amount of energy and input that is given for free. Many of us even fund our start-ups with our own savings or loans we take out, forcing us into precarious debt (no doubt, micro-lending has been a force for good in the world).

But, just how many taster sessions can we offer to draw in our crowd? How many evenings can we spend away from our families to attend networking events to build our networks before we get tired? There is no doubt that in our present reality, money offers a form of energy that helps us continue.

Alongside this, anyone who has ever filled in a grant application will know that the time and energy to do all the research to demonstrate community need and to actually fill in the form itself, is never included in the pot that you may, or may not, win.

This is draining for new enterprises. It also means that often the larger entities, like big charities, because they are resourced with Funding Officers, gain a competitive advantage. The success to the successful archetype is at work here. The time for collaboration is upon us if the small fish are to survive, let alone thrive.

One option is to work with corporates as part of CSR and social impact programmes, redistributing their profits for social benefit. I feel confused around the morality of this, but I know it is a successful strategy for some.

We can also gain financial support from building relationships with sponsors, who we then endorse as part of our marketing. This seems like a good option as you can choose businesses that have values similar to your own. And in many ways it puts you in the heart of a community where businesses support each other. GovCamp Cymru do this well.

Crowdfunding is making an impact, HiSbe foods in Brighton did it and it was successful for them. Amanda Palmer successfully changed the landscape of the music industry with her kickstarter and is now utilising the Patreon platform to support her artistic endeavours, she’s written a great book about her experiences. In Cardiff, we have Spacehive for crowdfunding projects in community spaces.  

Another option is to charge people to access the products and services, the model Pete chose. The difficulty with that for me is that it can exclude people who can’t pay, and if we want to create social value and cultural change with our offerings, they have to be available to everyone. We are seeing a rise in the fashion for people to pay what they can, which is great. However, it doesn’t always work to cover costs and sometimes organisers can be out of pocket personally as a result. It is a careful balancing act.

I find it hard to be a realist about this. I prefer to imagine an alternative future in which money is not our key driver. A future where money, value and worth become disentangled. A future where all people have their needs met and have space to flourish, to self-actualise and to come to know their own potential and to feel part of a community, with a collective mindset. A future where people embrace sustainable living because it is affordable, and because they recognise the true cost and true impact of their actions on the Earth.

We are so far away from this in Cardiff, even more so in Penarth where I live, to think of it is nothing more than a work of fiction. There are some people in our city who have the power to decide how things will be, and charge ahead with little consultation, which makes it hard for grassroots voices to be heard. But I believe it is possible for us to build this better future, together. There are signs that it is possible.

There are places around the world where people are putting the principles of sharing into practice in a city-wide integrated way. Places exist where people are re-building their democracies, taking back ownership of the commons, and redefining economics with local currency, like in Bristol. The Transition Movement has made waves here in the UK, and our local group, Cardiff Transition run projects in the city to move us closer to our sustainability goals, all run by a group of committed volunteers who offer the gift of their time. I have to believe this is possible for us here in Wales, or all hope is lost.

We are seeing a number of movements emerging that are seeking to rebalance how we live on this planet. I feel that the sharing transformation movement is part of that trend. I see sharing as a tool, a whole gamut of principles that can move us from where we are to where we want to be. Many of the principles that underpin this movement can help us to build sustainable enterprises, worker cooperatives, for example.

The problem is convincing people who are driven by profit and individualism that there are alternatives. After all, for equality to flourish, some people are going to have to give things up, and there will be a struggle. What’s at risk is our planet and the future of humanity. But that’s not headline news, so not many people know they should care. And if they do care, they are constricted by the choices available to them, only some people can afford the financial cost of choosing sustainably produced products and services.

To come back to Campfire Convention then. Membership to this new community cost £20 a year at the moment. Pete convincingly makes his justification for this here. The ability to purchase passage into a thriving and wonderful community of like-minded folk who all want to make the world a better place offers me a conundrum.

Money, value and worth have become so inextricably tied up together, it’s all got very sticky. As The Minimalists would say ‘if I pay for this thing will it bring value to my life?’. I think it would. But it’s more complicated than that.

I feel the success to the successful archetype is at work here as well. If things have gone well for me to this point and I have enough money left over at the end of the month to afford the £1.66 a month membership fee, then fine. However, this affordance puts me in a better position than someone who doesn’t have that means to pay, because I can purchase my way into this thriving community where I can learn and grow and benefit from the networks and connections I make.

In fact, this ability to grow connections to grow businesses and collaborate is a key feature of the Convention product, from Pete’s point of view. He goes as far as describing it in similar terms to a private members club. He also discusses the issues of exclusivity.

Of course this scenario is commonplace, and Campfire Convention is my point of reference here only because it has come into my field of experience this week. There are plenty of other examples I could use. To an extent, even the ability to pay for a yoga class or to go swimming offers some people an advantage for their health. And there are of course many ways in which ‘public services’ are made accessible for all (as long as you can demonstrate with ‘official’ paperwork that you are indeed as poor as you say you are).

The problem for me is, our endeavours to create social change with our enterprises depend on us engaging now with all people. Views and voices from the whole system need to be heard if we are even to begin building a better future, especially the voices of people at the margins.

“We need many eyes and ears and hearts engaged in sharing perspectives. How can we create an accurate picture of the whole if we don’t honour the fact that we each see something different because of who we are and where we sit in the system? Only when we have many different perspectives do we have enough information to make good decisions. And exploring our differing perspectives always brings us closer together.” Juanita Brown & David Isaacs, The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations that Matter

Not all people have the means to pay to take part in these conversations, so, for me, they have to be free at the point of delivery if they are to be inclusive.

It is true for us today that money buys access to ideas. This excludes people who don’t have money from participating. There are good people with great ideas who make a valuable contribution to the dialogue around building alternative futures who don’t have money.

To counter this, there is a perception that ideas, courses, opportunities that are ‘free’ don’t have the same value as those we pay for. How can we create business models that include all, but still offer the opportunity for the necessary financial stability and hold their value if offered for free? It seems simple really, have a tiered structure, so those who can pay do, and those who can’t don’t have to. Easy to say, hard to get it to work in practice.

What then does this mean for our endeavours to create sustainable enterprises? We need small-scale experiments. We need to work together to define our goals, then tentatively and intuitively take steps towards them. We need to learn to co-operate. And we need a bold vision.

The challenge of our moment is to reconnect, to ourselves, others and the Earth through all our endeavours. To create truly sustainable enterprises we have to consider all aspects of sustainability: the environment, economics and social equity and we have to include as many people and voices as we can so that the decisions we make as we move forward are really able to lever systemic change.

To begin we need to be building trust and understanding with the communities we will serve through conversation and dialogue. That is how we will begin to build Share Cardiff. We can really only learn how to build a sustainable enterprise by doing it.

Let’s begin..

Join the Share Cardiff conversation on Facebook here and on Twitter here


Art, Creativity and an Imaginary Beyond Ourselves

Recently the winner of the Artes Mundi 7 art prize was announced as John Akomfrah. I had the pleasure of attending the artists talks the day before the announcement and found I was left with many questions about my own artistic/creative practice. Whether what I do is really art at all? What is art anyway? What happens at the border crossing between art and creativity? Is creativity merely a tool for art production. Art seems to be so much more than just the outcome of the creative process. What follows is an experiment in the appropriation of artists words. It may appear as a rambling right now. In time it will forma and shift and change, and something of meaning will emerge.

Hearing and seeing the artists talk about their practice helped define and give shape to my understanding. I made notes of some the things they said and overheard conversations, and I thought they were poetic, so I weaved them with my own observations to make poems/prose/groupsofwords. Here’s one:

          Quite a playful human being

          Thinking about the world

          Alternative futures

          Spending time, standing in circles

Amy Franceschini from FutureFarmers had many wise words. As a group they were an inspiration. I’d like to make work like this.

Amy described a ‘Collective’ as a constellation of people, places, projects. She explained that the work was about how we might Deconstruct systems and Situational intelligence.

She said that an Archivist is someone who records things.

This made me wonder about my photos, what are they a record of? Humanity? I must

Attend to them…


She talked of

Making a collective skill set,

Activated through spoken word.

And the need to acknowledge

What’s important to be done in this particular place and time.


What feels urgent to me now.

Learning to grow food.


The work is Reacting to the spontaneity of everyday life.

What are you questioning? How are you questioning it?

It is a Demonstration of another way, a transition to a more sustainable future.

When asked how they find the people to take part she said the ‘Journey provokes and imaginary beyond ourselves’.



Seed ceremony ritualises the process

We need ritual to hold us together, now we have gathered.

We have our own ritual of Gwledd Lleuad Llawn/Full Moon Feast.

It’s such a rarity to experience presence


A persistence that measures the presence

(I have been present to this City and other places, taking photographs for many years)


Art Resensitises

    Sublime and contradictory

    Unmake our assumpions


What is your response? When challenged to talk about it the work is art, Amy said

Where does the art exist anyway?

She recognises the benefit of being involved in an art prize because Working in cultural institutions amplifies the work on the ground.


Neil Beloufa

Inbetween situations

Doing what they like doing and spending time with people they like being with

Pushing and adding layers + layers + layers + layers of complexity

(The simplest thing is making food together. Sharing food and standing in circles. Moving + singing + learning + sharing + telling stories)

Position: system + self-awareness

Art, Social Change, Placemaking

Creative process, drawing, well-being


Lamia Joreige

What questions does your art explore?

Narrating a personal lived experience

(Life is wonderful: being entangled at the growing edge)

Thought, thought, writing down feelings

Use of object as a device for unlocking personal stories

Located at the intersection of the personal and collective

The work only exists if it is shared. Actual work exists when it confronts itself with the other, that sharing makes the artwork complete

What is arts role in building community? (#getcreative is a good way to find out…)



Co-arising PLACES

Co-llaborative SHADOWS

Co-llective DANCERS


[connect, communicate, collaborate, community, compassion, creativity]


(Start making art now, so then when you are 60 you can say you’ve been doing it for 3 decades).


Which artists write about/explore ‘visual pleasure’ in their work?



What is that?

Aesthetics – what’s that philosophy?

What is this image communicating?

What is the image saying to me?

What impact does the image have on the viewer?

Link between art making and expression of the psyche


(Grow your network in a new direction now)


Bedywr Williams

Performing normality

Telling a story about the way art is going

Artist as storyteller

Narrative, image, vision – artists role in society is to do that

Questions about how your work works in the world

Reinterpreting + seeing differently because of things that have transformed me over time

Amy – Understand social, political + economic ecology, spending time in a place

Futurefarmers – work is about trying to be present + not representing

When you’re sailing, you can’t be anywhere else but now


        FUTURE NOW


What very specific thing do you want to communicate with the world: stories of the new way. Maps to the future.


How do you define your art practice? (would you rather be talking about how you define your creative practice anyway?)

Interest in creative process and link to well-being


What is ART for me?


Subjective response

  • don’t ever underestimate the value of just having conversation
  • Complex conversation
  • Many ways of viewing the world
  • Gathering divergent voices


The artist, how they might be present in the work

Form & Gesture


What feels urgent?

*building community

*learning how to grow food

*using art to wake people up

(contribute to building CoArts)

How can arts be used to stimulate dialogue?

None of the artists were keen to discuss the ‘money’ side of the prize. Perhaps they were all just in it for the prestige. Doubtful. Bedwyr Williams gave what I thought was an open and honest response when an audience member asked what they would do with the money. He said that it would enable him to make the big work he wanted to, because money buys time and things like big projections. He actually said this without any irony or wit. Just an honest response to the question no one wanted to answer.

Why does this interest me?

I am a firm believer in basic income as the next phase for our economy. It appears to offer a wide ranging solution to a plethora of social problems and has proved to bring people out of poverty in places where it has been piloted.* It would also re-frame our relationship to money in some way. My vision is for a future based on skills sharing, barter and collaborative, local, community based food production. For most of my life I have believed that ‘money is the root of all evil’. For all of my life I have had enough money to be comfortable.

Until now. I sense there could be an art project waiting to happen here.

*See Basic Income Wales on Twitter for evidence

Creativity, Complexity & Change – Towards a New Way

We are on the brink of a seismic shift. It is in the air, like electricity. It is in the spaces between people and it is shaping our relationships. We are at the ‘edge of chaos’ (in Complexity Theory, the place between order and chaos where synchronicity thrives). And some of us are dancing.

Dancing on the edge is a precarious place to be. We are pushing at the boundaries of what is possible. We are learning and growing together. We are seeing that collaboration is the only way forward. We are seeing that challenging the old ways as a means to create change leaves us feeling unfulfilled, exhausted and usually has little effect.

We are seeing. We are seeing better through the haze, and things are becoming clearer.

Many of us are gathering. In cities we see the emergence of multiple groups of folks coming together through shared interest, mostly mediated by the potential that technology offers. We are experiencing an awakening. Of mind and heart. Of connection, of our interdependence, to each other and the Earth.

What I notice is the energy that life on the edge of chaos offers. A clear playing out of the raw creative process. An idea expands, fills with energy, goes out of the self into the world, grows, forms, mutates, and moves on. And then the cycle repeats. On and on. A never-ending loop of intuition, sparking of impressions, generative patterns, expansion of energy, all full force into it. And then, collapse.

How does one hope to comprehend this experience? Our understanding is surely limited if we view ourselves as a separate entity. It is only in relation to the other we truly know. What is knowing anyway? What it is it to be?

How do I know where I end and you begin?

Life is rich and full of wonder and serendipity. There is a feeling of having torn through a veil, my body peaking into a new realm. Awareness, expanding. Compassion, connection. But the words don’t come easily. It’s as if the brain cannot settle on a theme to explore. Neurons are messy and jazzy. Something has changed. I’m dancing on the wave of the ripple.

I’m resting and exploring creatively in the gaps in between. I am dreaming big about what is possible. I am sitting with ideas and seeing if they have resonance. At some points I am directionless. I need something to push off. Something to resist against to aide motivation.Or perhaps it’s inspiration I need.

And so it is that I have time to write now. Right now. I often think that if I just had the time and space I could write something good. Here’s my chance to share with the world my following of the new way. Here’s a chance to look for examples of the New Story in the city. What comes next is up to me I suppose. 

Bardo. Where we are, our time. Charles Eisenstein talks about how we are in between stories. Otto Scharmer knowingly recapitulates ‘what’s dying, what’s waiting to be born’. His use of repetition clever and a sign of him being one who has a following. Repetition is important then, in the telling of the new story.

We are in a world of dreams, illusions and mystery. The magic that bubbles beneath the surface goes unnoticed mostly. We are too distracted by the screens. We aren’t headed for the war of the worlds, well perhaps we are. More likely though, we are headed for the war with the screens. The battle to call people back to the reality of the real world that we have all been so disconnected from will be a difficult one. Difficult because what is there to offer in exchange? What’s the deal? Meditation may be the thing we all need, but how do you convince a 20 yr old screen junkie to stop, put it down and just breathe?

Feeling is hard because we are distracted. Feeling is hard because we are addicted. We are protected because feeling is hard. We are cloaked in caffeine, coca-cola, crisps, crap and wine that slows our senses. Because, to feel is too much. It hurts. And it’s happening to us all. The system is letting us down.

~The system is broken beyond repair.

For a long time I tried to understand why equality and diversity policy in organisations doesn’t work. I know now. It’s targeting the individual and assuming behavioural change through policy directives is a lever. For 30 years we have tried to change the women to fit the system. We have built a culture of victim blaming. ‘If you don’t want to get raped, don’t wear a short skirt’ has to be one of the greatest insults of our time. But the victim blaming is everywhere. Don’t want to get killed by a person driving a car, wait for the green man. Don’t want to be fat, don’t eat the sugary fatty delicacy pushed in your face at every single waking moment.

The system is broken beyond repair, and it’s not my fault. It’s not your fault either, it’s not our fault, it’s not their fault. Blame cannot be ascribed to individuals in this system game. The beast is too big. The beast has become more than the sum of its parts.

The last year has been a journey that started with Marie Kondo, moved to Minimalism, onto Theory U and then a big dive into the world of Systems and Complexity, activated by experience of delivering the British Councils Active Citizens programme with Career Women Wales and then a falling into The Republic of the Imagination.

What then is a systems and complexity approach to social change? For me it is about learning and personal development. It’s about gift, and it’s about purpose. It’s about helping my self and others to grow empathy, listening, flexibility, creativity and innovation.

By empathy I am referring to having a sense of the other, authentic communication, compassion, a leaving behind of egocentric individualism, return to a whole sense of self through a move from ‘I’ to ‘we’,  and awareness. How can we cultivate empathy? My feeling is that it is about spending time in circles connecting with people who live in our communities. It is also about how we grow our own self-awareness through meditation or some other such practice.

Listening is about deep listening, really listening. To our internal selves, our intuition. To others. To the world around us and our environment, including all of nature and the living things we share this beautiful Earth with. Listening means stopping, noticing, feeling. Listening to our feelings. Understanding our emotions. Being guided by our intuition.

Flexibility, learnt through movement of the body is about loosening up ideas, being open to what’s possible and freedom from a fixed or set way of doing things. Managing when unexpected things happen, dealing with complex situations. It’s about developing the confidence to act in ways that challenge the status quo, but from a heart place, with compassion, love and non-violence. It’s about awareness of the bigger picture, the wider context we are working in, achieved through communication with folks outside of our echo chambers and via real reporting of the news, which is perhaps a myth of our time. Who says what’s real anyway.

Creativity is vital for human beings. As we move forward into the new story, creative skills are going to be the ones we need most as we guide ourselves through this bardo. We have to be developing creative skills in all people now, especially young people. And we need to get back to ourselves by getting back to the wild. 

Innovation is about doing things differently, moving out of your comfort zone, taking a different route. Making different choices. Following new paths. Building new paths. Having adventures, taking risks. Sharing love. Allowing your self to feel the connection to others and the world around you.

Share the story of the change you want to see in the world with others, in conversation, often. 

I like this peace-ful approach to how to respond when it is unclear, I found it on the internet.


  • Pause and take a few deep breaths
  • Experience the moment
  • Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
  • Choose what you feel is the best for you to do
  • Enjoy the choice

Let’s dance.

Connect, Communicate, Collaborate, Build Community

On 7th September 2016, I was delighted to be invited by visual artist Rabab Ghazoul to present a Pecha Kucha style talk at the Cardiff With Culture symposium at G39. It was an amazing day of sharing and connecting. I’m still feeling the resonance of the space and look forward to seeing all the beautiful people involved again very soon.

Here’s the talk…

In May this year, I went to lecture about sharing cities. There I happened upon Mark Hooper, founder of Indycube, and we got talking. Then we started a conversation and invited others to join in. We are allowing something to grow in its own way. We are calling it Cardiff Coalition. We see that coming together to have conversations is worthwhile, and fun. As things progress, we are meeting new people. We are connecting.


During the Cardiff Without Culture campaign we identified a challenge, galvanized, mobilised, organized using online tools, came together, became visible, and we created change. It showed that it is possible to affect change from the grassroots. The internet played an important role in the campaign.


And now, we are together, in this room, with each other.

The thing for me that feels urgent is to find a way to address our current challenge to sustain a thriving arts and cultural sector in our city in an age of austerity


How can we create sustainable organisations and enterprises that do not rely on grant funding and which are built on and encourage values that are good for people and the environment?

One way of understanding our current reality is that we apply for funds to carry out our work. We are constrained by our funders and one of our key drivers is the need to survive.


We also facilitate all the benefits of arts and culture to society through this work, but often it comes back to our need to pay the bills.

Now, think for a moment what we would do if we didn’t have to generate an income for ourselves? What if our basic needs were covered, what would we do then?



It’s come out of the experience I’ve had over the past few days whilst I have been in Ukraine learning to facilitate the British Council’s Active Citizens programme and from conversations with Mark, and with the other people I have met in recent months through Cardiff Coalition.

Here’s the idea….

What if you had enough money to live comfortably, what would you do? How would your projects and endeavours be different?

What if we got together to explore our answers to these questions (call it our vision perhaps), and worked out what our first tentative steps towards this might be…Could this be a way to work out how to be sustainable?


To explore how we might create a sustainable future for arts and culture in the city, my feeling is that we should be asking ourselves how we can do things differently.



We need to be asking how everyone can be involved in this innovation, addressing issues of access and inclusion. We must remember who all our online organising excludes. We need to be finding ways to communicate beyond our echo chambers. We need to listen.


We need embodied thinking, we need to grow the possibilities in our bellies. We need to learn to be flexible through movement.

We need to reawaken the creative spark inside all of us, because to be ready to build a sustainable future, we need to be well, we need to take care of ourselves and others, we’re aware of the link between creativity and wellbeing, let’s harness that.

To be well we need to be connected. To be connected we can harness the power of the internet, which is an effective tool for bringing us together.


We need to get to know each other. To get to know each other we need activities to do together to build community, to grow and solidify that which bonds us, our social capital.



Here’s the caveat – our current model of leadership is not fit for purpose, one person with a vision charging ahead into the future hasn’t served us so well.

We are living with complexity, uncertainty and unpredictability, we need to reassess what it means to be a leader and we need to find ways to work in a world that’s constantly changing.


I’d like to share a story that I learnt from Daniel Smith of the London based The Change Collective and designer of the Active Citizens programme.

It’s about how we negotiate our way through the challenges we face, how we look for leverage points and how we learn to be emergent leaders. It’s about learning to be flexible and learning to be present with what is, it’s about awareness.


Imagine a river. Your challenge is to use a boat travel as a group from the mountains, down to the sea. Now, you could all get in the boat and get in the middle of the river and paddle with all your energy, ploughing a straight course through.


You’re going to run out of steam pretty quickly. You’re not going to be taking account of the conditions, the weather, the ecosystem, the needs of the people in the boat. It’s going to be hard, there will be conflict and you’ll likely capsize.


You notice that on some days the water runs smooth. When you drop a branch in you see the currents. You feel the wind, and acknowledge the trees, mountains and wildlife. You work together and you feel solidarity. After plenty of time watching, observing and learning, you all tentatively get in your boat.


You feel the weight of your bodies and feel the movement of the water. You let the current take you. The wind picks up and moves you to the edge, so you use a little energy to correct your path. As you move along the river the conditions change, you paddle fast, you paddle slow. You rest. You use oars to push away from the banks and you hold tight and support each other in the rapids. You listen to each other’s ideas, all voices are valued, no one voice is louder.

The journey is different because you have spent time being aware of what is happening, making small interventions when necessary, trying lots of things to see how they work and you have done it together.


This is how emergent leadership works, it’s about empathy, listening, being flexible and innovating. It’s about being present. This is a story about living with uncertainty, complexity and unpredictability. This is our story.

I’m really interested in learning how we can create a sustainable future for arts and culture in the city because I recognise the value for us as human beings.

But I cannot do it alone.

I can have a crazy idea that if we get together and talk about what we’d do if we didn’t need to worry about our income it could help us create sustainable projects that are good for people and the earth. But, if I have an idea in isolation, it means nothing.


I have learnt from my experience over the past few days and weeks and months that our capacity to create the change we want to see in the world comes from our ability to connect, communicate, collaborate and build community.

We are in it together.

@CardiffCoaltn #CardiffCoalition

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