Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer

Erich Fromm (1900-1980) was a social psychologist and humanist philosopher who concluded that love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.

A person who has not been completely alienated, who has remained sensitive and able to feel, who has not lost the sense of dignity, who is not yet “for sale”, who can still suffer over the suffering of others, who has not acquired fully the having mode of existence – briefly, a person who has remained a person and not become a thing – cannot help feeling lonely, powerless, isolated in present-day society. He cannot help doubting himself and his own convictions, if not his sanity.

[via the ever excellent SENScot Bulletin]

Some field notes on Natural Change Hungary

Natural Change Hungary at Kisújbánya – September 2105.
Natural Change Hungary at Kisújbánya – September 2105.

It was an honour and a joy to co-facilitate a week-long Natural Change course in Hungary in September. Dave has already written about this:

A few weeks ago, Richard, Osbert, Rob and I spent a week leading a Natural Change course in the forests of southern Hungary. The course was part of a project organised by the Pandora Association in Hungary, with partners from Romania, Italy, Spain, Liechtenstein, Germany and the Czech Republic. It was funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme. There were 22 participants from the partner nations and the course took place at Kisújbánya, in a vast area of woodland about three hours drive due south of Budapest.


Don’t give me that middle class bull$h!t

In the absence of men we could trust to guide us from boyhood to adulthood, we initiated ourselves. And that was only ever going to end badly

Despite having been hunted all my life and in turn hunted others for what I needed, I had never actually hunted a living creature for food.

Environmentalism, tree hugging and all that middle class, hippie crap. Yes, I suppose I am middle class, but it’s not, absolutely not, a middle class thing. Read Casper Walsh who believes that by taking a life he saved his own.

The state of the climate movement

A long, but interesting perspective on the emergence, and necessary next steps, of the climate movement by Alex Evans of Global Dashboard:

Climate activists are now speaking with a strong, morally grounded voice that’s totally different from the old, leaden, technocratic language we used to hear. But it’s still what George Marshall calls an “enemy narrative”.

We need epiphanies – possibly, but by no means necessarily, of the religious variety – that create the sense of being part of a larger us, of living in a longer now, and of wanting a different good life to the one that’s been sold to us.

Climate campaigners can sometimes seem to believe that if they can just make everyone feel guilty enough about climate change, results will follow. But people already feel guilty about climate change – and it’s a big part of why they don’t want to think about it. Guilt is only helpful if we can do something with it; otherwise it turns toxic and ultimately debilitates us.

So we need ways of recognising and expressing where we’ve screwed up, and of being forgiven.

…and much more: The state of the climate movement

What is ‘systems thinking’ anyway?

I’ve read a lot about systems thinking over the years and I can confidently say my ways of working are strongly influenced by this approach. But when someone asks what actually is systems thinking, I find it difficult to give a succinct and useful definition. And much of what’s written on the subject is pretty impenetrable at first sight.

This short video from Peter Senge, from MIT and the Society for Organisational Learning, is, I think, a pretty good introduction:

“[The fundamental rationale of systems thinking] is to understand how it is that the problems that we all deal with, which are the most vexing, difficult and intransigent, come about, and to give us some perspective on those problems [in order to] give us some leverage and insight as to what we might do differently.”

One of the leading advocates and thinkers on systems thinking is Fritjof Capra. I’ve tended to be wary of the parallels that he has long drawn between eastern mysticism and quantum physics, but I’ve been bowled over by his more recent book (with biochemist Pier Luigi Luisi) The Systems View of Life, which focusses on systems biology to explore:

…how modern biology, in trying to understand the self-organising, adaptive and creative aspects of life in all its forms, has by necessity turned to a holistic, systems view emphasising pattern and organisation.

Continue reading “What is ‘systems thinking’ anyway?”

The role of values in transformational change

Cover ImageIn June 2015 I helped organise a roundtable with Tom Crompton, founder of the Common Cause Foundation. With around 30 participants we had to drop our original plan for a literal round-a-table-discussion, and designed a more structured approach which created a powerful mix of strategic input, stimulating discussion and deep personal reflection.

Participants decided that:

The Role of Values in Transformational Change is…

  • Fundamental and complex
  • Important to understand
  • Relevant to meaning and narratives
  • Provides a framework for reflection
  • Provides a framework for engagement

And said they would therefore like to…

  • Understand more about values and how they work
  • Open up meaningful conversations
  • Explore and use narratives
  • Work with organisational values
  • Bring values into what they do

You can download a note of the event: The-Role-of-Values-in-Transformational-Change-Final

Natural Change Outdoor Education: Turning Personal Transformation into Social Action, Leadership and Sustainability


As an Associate Natural Change Facilitator I’ll be helping run this week long workshop in Hungary for youth workers and group facilitators from across Europe. This is an ERASMUS+ programme and a few funded places are available for eligible participants from Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Romania, Spain.

Despite what the website (below) says, the closing date is 19 July. And if you aren’t from one of the eligible countries or miss the deadline by a few days, I’d say there’s no harm in contacting the organiser Krisztina Pásztor to discuss possibilities.

Find out more here…

Of course, if Hungary is too far away, you can also find Introduction to Facilitating Natural Change courses slightly closer to home here…

Shifting Normal: How to use the Four Questions & Four Zones framework with your team


Paired discussion at my workshop on the Shifting Normal guide at the CCF Gathering in Glasgow.
Paired discussion at my workshop on the Shifting Normal guide at the CCF Gathering in Glasgow.

Earlier this year I was commissioned by the Scottish Government to develop a guide for community groups based on the ISM model. The guide – Shifting Normal – was launched at the CCF Gathering in June, where I ran two workshops introducing the Four Questions, Four Zones framework.

Shifting Normal

Feedback was extremely positive and many people took away multiple copies to use with their groups. The guide and accompanying material is available here.

On Thursday 16th July I’ll be running a day long workshop at KSB offices in Stirling:

Shifting Normal: How to use the Four Questions & Four Zones framework with your team

The Four Questions and Four Zones framework is designed to help community groups tackling climate change maximise their success by taking account of how change happens. Based on the Individual Social and Material (ISM) Tool developed for the Scottish Government, it also draws on the experience of community groups.

In this workshop you will learn how the framework can be used when planning, carrying out and reviewing your projects activities. You will develop your skills and confidence as a facilitator to run workshops using the framework with your staff and volunteer team, and also with members of the wider community.

Booking here…

The role of values in transformational change


I’m helping organise a round table discussion with Tom Crompton at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation on 25th June:

The role of values in transformational change: Implications for action on climate change, resilience and sustainability

How can we achieve the transformational change many see as essential to solve some of our time’s knotty issues?
What is the role of our values in creating this change?
Can we use a values framework to initiate and consolidate transformational change?

These are some of the questions we are inviting you to discuss with a group of practitioners also interested in transformational change in relation to climate change, resilience and sustainability.

This round table will be introduced by Tom Crompton, author of Common Cause. He will challenge the group to create an ongoing dialogue about values as the basis for transformational change, beyond the role of communication campaigns.

About Tom Crompton

177272Tom Crompton, Ph.D. has worked for nearly a decade with some of the UK’s best known charities – including NSPCC, Oxfam, Scope and WWF – on values and social change.

He has advised the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments on issues related to cultural values, has collaborated in research with some of the world’s foremost academics working in this area, and has published numerous articles on cultural values in both academic and popular journals.

He holds a first degree in Natural Sciences (University of Cambridge, UK) and a doctorate on the evolution of altruism (University of Leicester, UK).

Places are strictly limited. Please register here…