I’m interested in social institutions and the different ways they can be relevant in the 21st Century.
I'm head of research at Wiser, a new organisation that provides clear spiritual teaching unencumbered by complex belief systems and informed by many traditions, most especially the Western enlightenment tradition found within Neoplatonist thought. This is the institution I'm throwing my extra energy into at the moment, and I'm beyond excited about its prospects.
Here are some of the previous projects I’ve been involved in, now either resting or thriving in my absence. I describe them as an indication of my experiences and interests. Let me know if you are seeking people for a like-minded venture: a co-production initiative, an unusual learning institution, collaboration project, or some other kind with a similar flavour.
The Time Bank in Paxton Green
In a time banking scheme, ’participants “deposit” their time in the bank by giving practical help and support to others and are able to “withdraw” their time when they need something done themselves. In a time bank, everyone becomes both a giver and a receiver, and we pay attention to all the different ways we can give. ’ It is a way for a community to create its own form of value outside of the formal economy. Like local currencies, it is a way to develop resilience within communities by developing ties between members and surfacing their intrinsic assets, encouraging people to depend more on one another and less on formal systems that may not always be around.
As a trustee of Paxton Green, I was involved in ongoing management and governance and in particular
- Co-producing the annual trustee report
- Conducting staff appraisals • Recruitment of new staff
- Formation of three-year strategy
- Research role including liaison with a Bristol University project
Five years was a good run, and my increasing commitments outside of London made it a good time to bow out of what is necessarily a local-scale project. I remain as a friend and member of the time bank.
The University Project
The University Project is an initiative belonging to Dougald Hine - a not infrequent co-conspirator - which reached its clearest expression in a three-day unconference hosted by myself, Dougald, and Liane Fredericks. It explored alternatives to the existing mainstream model of higher education, from freeschooling to wikified accreditation.
The unconference itself was extremely fertile, and has led to a number of collaborations; for me, it followed on to workshops on leadership with the Free University of Liverpool, and to the improvising mathematics course described here.
The project itself - if it can be called such a thing, as it was always fissioning from the beginning - is currently ticking away below the surface, but is one of these things that has an energy that will make it last.
Projects related to this include the Dark Mountain Project and Edgeryders, described below. Both also deal with responses to living in a disrupted age.
Edgeryders/Council of Europe
In 2012–2013 I became involved with the Edgeryders, an initiative aimed at how young people could engage with the world during a time of extreme precarity. I was part of a team that began putting flesh onto @benvickers’ unMonastery concept, which is now being prototyped in Matera, Italy.
The Dark Mountain Project
Dark Mountain is a project, a movement, that can be tricky to describe without experiencing directly. For me, it begins with the acknowledgement that we are living through a time of disruption, and that many features of society that we take for granted will be unrecognisable within our lifetimes. Dark Mountain gives a space for people to associate, get a handle on what that means, and examine the narratives - grand and personal - that will be overturned whether we like it or not.
Through my involvement in the project, especially in its once-annual Uncivilisation festival held at the Sustainability Centre, I've been 'knighted' as a Mountaineer.
The kind of things I've gotten up to with them include
- Talks on improvising the future, unciv2010
- Using improvisation as a tool for Living with Uncertainty unciv2010/11 & 2013
- Taking Floris Kloot's kids council to unciv 2011, 2012 and 2013
- Children's storytelling unciv2011/2012
- Part of the ensemble producing the art happenings Liminal (2011) and Mearcstapa (2012). You'd have to have been there...
- Trance mask improvisation session 2010