A Review of A Wholehearted Approach to Change –

For five weeks I spent two inspiring hours every Wednesday evening with staff and volunteers of the RADIAL Project at the Glasgow School of Art. Project coordinator Eilidh Sinclair has written a review of the programme.

The course took us on a journey. By introducing us to the theory and models, which attempt to explain change, we were then able to apply these and devise coping strategies for our own work/practice/life. In doing so we are able to look at the world through different eyes, from a different lens, and ultimately effect change within ourselves and others around us.

“I thought this was a great workshop and exactly the type of strategic thinking we all need to integrate into our work if we want to bring about real change.”

Source: A Wholehearted Approach to Change – The Review | R A D I A L

Sound good? I’d love to do something similar with other groups and organisations.

“I’m compassionate, they’re selfish” Why this misconception matters so much 

As this spiral gathers energy, people are left tragically and needlessly less civically engaged and more socially alienated. Your misperceptions of others, in other words, may hold you back in helping to mount collective responses to the major challenges that confront UK society today like child poverty, care for the elderly and climate change.

Source: Values, voting and volunteering | Common Cause

Do you know what the world is to me?

I’ve just finished reading A World of Becoming by political theorist William E Connolly. I’m very grateful to whoever recommended the book – if I could remember who you were, I’d thank you!

I’ve found the book illuminating and re-assuring as Connolly explores some complex relationships between systems theory, philosophy and spirituality. That said, it is so rich, so dense, so multilayered, so exact and so nuanced, I believe I’ll need to return several times to not just ‘make sense’ of it, but to also tune in to the feel of it, the intuition of it.

But in the meantime, I feel moved to share the postlude which resonates strongly with me…


Do you know what the world is to me?

A colossus of diverse energies, without beginning or end, with each flowing over, through, and around others, generating new currents and eddies.

A play of waves, forces, and perceptions on different scales of complexity, endurance, and time, with some swelling as others subside, with perhaps long cycles of repetition, but none that simply repeats those preceding.

You and I are drops in the sea of flows, feelings, and surges, my friend. So, if you die before you wake, well I pray your God your soul to take.

And Yahweh, Hesiod, Jesus, Moses, Sankara, and Buddha? They send out ripples of passion that persist, sometimes flowing into each other, before melting into larger waves.

And that mosquito buzzing around, sensing you as heat, movement, and food? Are you a god to it? A demon?

It, too, perceives, hopes and acts, living long and intensely on its temporal scale and briefly on yours. It too makes a difference, as when it alters your DNA while feeding, or deposits a virus.

As does the the yeast fermenting into the dough.

And those bursts of laughter, bouts of sensual heat, workers’ movements, consumption habits, hurricanes, geological formations, climate patterns, contending gods, electrical fields, spiritual upheavals, civilizational times, species changes, and planetary rotations–they, too, participate in this veritable monster of energies, making a difference before melting down, to be drawn again into new currents, and again.

And the monster itself? It never completes itself, always rolling out and rolling in, with no outside or end-times, like a Möbius strip or Möbius current, never simply repeating, eternally evolving, and dissipating.

A monster that feeds on its own excretions, that knows no joy, existential resentment, weariness, or horror, even as it houses all these, and more.

Many strive and connect to others in such a world, seeking to amplify existential gratitude for the world as they comprehend it.

Others resent either this world or the different account of it they embrace.

That is the world to me. And you, my friend and rival?

What is it to you?

Climate Change Public Conversations Series

Talking Climate Change


A research project, managed by ClimateXchange for the Scottish Government, to develop and pilot a framework for a Climate Change Public Conversations Series.

The framework will include materials and a guide for community groups and others to run conversations about climate change with the public.

The Conversations Series will explore public knowledge of, attitudes towards and engagement with:

  • climate change;
  • policies to address climate change; and
  • the future transition to a sustainable low carbon society.

I’m working on this project as an associate of Surefoot. Very interesting!

More: ClimateXChange :: Climate Change Public Conversations Series

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?”