Returning

ReturningI sat on this spot yesterday on a short walk to a familiar place and returned there on my way back an hour or so later.  By this time, all the colours had left the world and all the edges were starting to blur (my favourite time of day).  It was clearly the same place, yet also very different. There’s a comfort and reassurance in returning to places even when we and they, are very changed.

I was reminded of this fragment that I wrote in a notebook 35 years ago:

‘I always re-trace old steps

Old movements, recapture old moods…’

It seems I am not alone in this.

I read yesterday that WH Hudson would ride out into the wilderness for hours each day and always stop at the same spot in a particular copse of trees. I also read that Martin Heidegger would visit a particular bench in a wood. He would even picture the bench in his head and return to it whenever he had a particularly difficult problem to solve.

  • Why do you think we like to return?
  • Do you have a place that you return to regularly, either in reality or in your head?

It seems very natural to connect a  place to a feeling, thought or experience. This has become a key part of the experience of a ‘walk in development’.  In my walks with Stephen certain spaces have gained a particular and a shared meaning.

We try to tackle the things that bother us at a ‘grappling gate’.  Often we get stuck on a ‘story track’, where we forget to listen and have to bring ourselves back over a ‘bridge of simplicity’ which we only allow ourselves to cross when we have reminded ourselves of the beauty that lies in simplicity and we have a ‘“why don’t you?” bench’  where we encourage ourselves to take a next step we may have been fearful of.

  • Do you have spaces that have a similar meaning?
  • If you could transport yourself instantly to a particular space, where would you choose?

I think I’d choose this spot that happens to be a mile or so from yesterday’s wall:

feet

I don’t know how often I came to this spot in the years that I grew up in the valley beneath these hills but the place has become important to my sense of self. Indeed it has so much significance to me that I’ve not been back that often.  It felt a bit self-indulgent wanting to relive moments from a very distant time. However, I remembered on this last visit that part of the experience of growing up is beginning to feel the passing of time. I recalled that I was acutely aware of this as I watched the sun set over the sea in my teenage years.

I’ve realised that, for me, part of the attraction of returning has to do with sitting still with continuity and change. I feel more than a little reassured that I can still connect with the young, barefoot version of myself that walked through these woods and over these hills years ago. I’d like to think that, if we were able to step through the veil of time, we might still recognise each other.

——

This is our moment is a practical enquiry into the nature of authentic creative development. It is a record of a journey in development  and a resource to inspire further development.  I hope it will help us find our moments and allow them to shape our future selves.

  • Do you have places that have a similar significance for you?
  • Can you describe the moments when that significance became apparent?
  • Is there a particular moment you would like to connect to?

Please feel free to share

  • What are your moments?

The search for authentic development

Change and uncertainty is as inevitable as life itself. We cannot stop the world from turning. Whether we like it or not, we are all in constant interaction with each other and with the wider world. It is the cumulative effect of these interactions that shape our identity, form our relationships and make the world we live in.  Recognising our interconnectedness may be the first step towards a more authentic development.

What I’m proposing is that, we cannot control change, but we can try  to align our individual, interpersonal and collective development. Put simply, I think that the least we can do is  try to live in ways that do minimal harm to others or the world around us and that the  best we can hope for is to have a positive affect on each other and the wider world.

This is not as easy as it sounds.  Understanding our interconnectedness increases uncertainty (it means, for example, that we cannot accurately predict the impact of our actions on others) and we don’t generally like to admit uncertainty yet alone engage with it.  Yet, surely this is a more realistic, helpful and authentic perspective? However much we claim certainty, we experience life as process and change. We all crave security but without uncertainty there can be no improvement – yet alone any of the diversity,  hope, wonder and excitement that gives life it’s true richness. Despite all my personal insecurities, I recognise that is only ‘in development‘ that we can be fully ourselves.

A more authentic development would recognise that we all have different starting points, tread different journeys and have had different experiences on the way.  It might help us learn to value ourselves – and each other –  for who we are rather than for what we might have done (or who we may become).

Accepting the changing, non-linear, nature of development may mean that we have to keep reflecting and adapting  but this is both authentic and rewarding. Also, since we are involved with each other, the more clearly and honestly we can articulate our vision, the more effective our relationships will be – it is only when we are fully ourselves that we can truly support each other.

I’d also like to think that recognising our connectedness may  draw us out of simplistic, dualistic (and inherently dependent) relationships into more genuine collaborations that emerge from a ‘ third space‘ where we can be at ease with ourselves, each other and the world – a  welcoming, nurturing space, but also an uncertain, disruptive, critical space where variety, nuance and error are accepted and embraced as necessary constituents of learning and development.  It may help us recognise that positive, authentic development is something we build together over time – it is only  when we support each other that we can create positive, meaningful and lasting change.

So, where should we start? I suggest we start in a moment.  Can you think of a moment when everything came together for you? When you felt most fully alive, engaged and in the world? Perhaps you have recognised that experience in others? Or, found a person or a space that seems to draw the very best out of us? Maybe, just for a moment, you’ve had a clear sense of meaning, connection and purpose and perhaps a glimpse of the possibility of a better world?

I think these moments matter, they are our most authentic, human moments.  My hope is that if we could follow these moments they might lead us to a more authentic, collaborative, meaningful development. I have no idea where they will take us, authentic development cannot be a prescriptive process, but I think we might have some fun finding out – and we’ll certainly learn a lot on the way.  I’d be delighted if you would like to join me on the journey!

 

If you’d like to get involved please join me for a walk in development or join our community at patreon.com/walks.

So, farewell then, 2016

During 2016 the forces of division have grown much stronger but they have not won and they will not prevail. There are plenty of reasons to be positive…

We are all reasons to be positive. Whether we like it or not,  no one of us is an island,  all our choices and decisions affect each other, we are one.  We will build a better world in 2017 if we are positive, engage with our creative potential and find ways to build our capabilities together.  It will not be easy, but it will be worth it. 

The challenge is clear – in a society characterised by inequality far too many  of us have been dis-engaged and left without the capability to fulfil our potential.   When the opportunities for engagement are so limited it should be no surprise if many of us choose  to use our one vote to protest. Nor should we be surprised that we’ve been trumped by the return of the big lie

Whilst it is easy to understand the appeal of simple slogans and comforting certainties they can bring no lasting solutions.  Nor are protests and petitions any substitute for genuine engagement,  modern life is  complex and nuanced. There no simple answers, but then that is the beauty of life!

In 2017 we don’t need answers, we need questions and we need creativity. We need leaders who are brave enough to tell us that they don’t know and are open enough to engage us in all in exploring life’s questions together. 

Our individual and collective challenge is to find more effective ways to engage with our creative potential.  

It will not be easy.  All meaningful development is long-term and incremental. It involves frustrations, risk, and vulnerability. Yet it also involves  excitement,  possibility and wonder and we will not have to do it alone – creative development is a collaborative process

Whilst every aspect of our working and everyday life is changing rapidly, we must unlearn and re-learn how we will live with each other. We will have to leave behind our certainties, to stop pretending to be the finished article and allow ourselves to be in development,  to stay open to the possibility of learning and development, open to question and open to each other.

The forces of negativity and division cannot prevail if we are able to engage with our best,  most creative selves. If we are prepared to become the best we can be,  we can build communities we can all be proud to live in.

2016 was a year of negativity, death and division. Let’s make 2017 a year  positivity, creativity and collaboration.

 Let’s make 2017 the year we really begin to engage  with our extraordinary creative potential.

Happy New Year!

An invitation to engage with our creative potential.

We may differ in our understanding of what needs to be done about the state of our world but it is hard to disagree that we are failing to achieve our full potential either as individuals or as communities. Each and every one of us has the potential to achieve extraordinary things, but too much of this talent is wasted and when any potential is unfulfilled we are all the poorer.

People face a host of social, financial, political,  psychological and environmental barriers to realising our potential. As inequality continues to grow these barriers get harder and, despite our best efforts, people are increasingly becoming caught up in a self-fulfilling cycle of low expectations, poor quality opportunities and increasing dependency.

The alternative to dependency is capability.  Capability development can break this dependency cycle and replace it with a positive cycle of increasing possibility, opportunity and achievement. Capabilities are the building blocks of all human development – every thing we do either builds or restricts our capabilities. We can fulfil our potential as individuals and communities if we build our capabilities together.

This is not a zero-sum process where supporting others requires charity or sacrifice. Nor is it a bolt-on afterthought  to soften the negative effects of our actions. It is a positive sum process of mutual development that helps us all  become more creative, inclusive and sustainable as individuals, organisations and communities.

A capability approach insists that we can change the world, that each and every one of us has an unique contribution to make. When our focus is on realising our creative potential, no one is an island. We’re all included.  Every thing we do, or don’t do, changes the world, either for better or for worse and we change the world, for the better, when we allow our  stories to unfold.

If we are to allow all our stories to unfold and realise our collective creative potential there are three things we all need: creativity, collaboration and context.

Creativity:  Creativity is the key to unlocking all our potential. Development is a creative process, it can’t be imposed, only unleashed. It is by being creative that we become the people we want to be and build the communities we choose to live in. We all need to live fulfilling, creative and purposeful lives.

Collaboration: Creative development is not something we can do to, for, or without each other. We can only create change together and there is only so much any of us can do. We all need fellow travellers to support us on our journey.

Context: We need a context for sustainable social change.  Without a personal context we can feel battered by a storm of misfortune and struggle to learn from our experience.  Without a collective context our actions are merely a series of  disconnected initiatives and short-term projects that have no lasting legacy. However, when everything we do is in the context then every contribution matters. We all need to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

We create the context for sustainable social change when we engage with our creative potential as both individuals and communities. To facilitate this I have developed a simple development framework that any individual, group or community can use to foster creative, inclusive and sustainable development.

In the (post) modern world creating our own development framework may be all we need to realise our potential. No-one else can know what is best for us. We are the only real expert in our own lives. We certainly don’t need anyone to give us the answers.  We have access to all the information we could ever need.  We just need to ask each other the right questions.

The Arts in Development Framework  uses questions as a practical planning tool; an aid to collaboration and to develop an on-going enquiry and growing resource for individual and collective development.

The framework enables a wide range of activities to take place in the context of our personal and collective development. I have used it to write a range of simple ‘create your own’ development programmes so that we can all:

Each programme consists of a wide range of reflections, examples, questions, suggestions and practical ‘next steps’ all of which are designed to help us realise our potential as individuals and communities and every time we use the programmes we will generate more resources for further development, for ourselves and others.

However, I do need some initial investment to get the ball rolling and I’m looking for people to test the programmes so if you, your group or community would like to engage with your creative potential do get in touch and let’s see if we can build our capabilities together.

Four barriers to sustainable social change: creativity, collaboration, capability and context.

To create sustainable social change we need to ensure that everyone is able to create lasting change in our lives and communities. It seems to me that there are at least four key problems that need to be resolved to bring this about:

The Creativity Problem

To create sustainable social change we need everyone to have the means to achieve their potential. art is the means. It is the key to unlocking all human potential.

In my opinion too much time has been spent trying to justify the value of the arts and not enough in trying to realise its potential. The value of art is simply that it builds social justice – It is by being creative that we understand who we are, become the people we want to be and build the communities we want to live in. What we need to ask ourselves is whether the things we do make it easier or harder for everyone to achieve their creative potential.

If access to the arts is important, access to our creativity is essential. Art is far too important to be treated as a short term distraction or a luxury to be enjoyed only by the privileged few. We are all born creative, art is our universal birthright. We all need to access our creativity if we are to realise the creative potential that is our own unique contribution to society.

Art is so central to the business of living that restricting anyones access to the arts is to undermine our humanity and when any one persons creativity is stifled everyone suffers – ensuring that we all have the freedom to create should be the ultimate measure of any healthy society.

Fortunately creativity is more than just an indicator, it is not just the problem it also has the potential to be the solution. We all learn by doing, by being positive, by being creative, if any of us really want to build sustainable social change we need to learn: How can everyone become empowered by art?

The collaboration problem.

We can’t create sustainable social change by doing things to, for, or without each other we can only create it together, but how?

One thing is certain. We will never create sustainable social change if we continue to act as if there are two different kinds of people: those that know what is best for others and those that can be treated as problems to be solved. No one can know what is best for any other person. Nor can any of us can create change by ourselves.

Too often our relationships are defined in a dependent or hierarchical form that ultimately undermine social justice by assuming an inequality of value between, for example, teacher and student, venue and audience or community; service provider and service user. We need to find a way to create genuine collaborations that tackle the dependency that is is entrenched in many of our relationships.

This sense of dependency is fed by an assumption that we compete over limited resources and can only achieve our goals at the expense of others. Unfortunately many well-intentioned activities reinforce this view (it’s not just the big charities that request re-distribution of un-needed surplus wealth with a tug at the heart strings). This assumption underpins the majority of our relationships and undermines the possibility of long-term change, locking us all in dependent relationships in which none of us can fully prosper.

The search for genuine collaboration sees development as a positive sum process in which our personal and collective development are deeply intertwined. We all benefit from more equal, creative and inclusive communities. It is a big challenge, but we need to find a way to build sustainable social change together, to discover how we can build genuine collaborations.

The Capability Problem

Our society faces a crisis of capability. Too few of us have the capability to fulfil our potential.

We will only be able to build social justice if we can find a way to structure our society, our organisations and our projects so that they make it easier, not harder, for us all to fulfil our potential. This won’t be easy as, just as we all have a unique creative contribution to make, so we all face a particular blend of barriers and challenges.

We need to find a collaborative process that can be adapted by any individual and group and can tackle a vast range of political, social, environmental and psychological barriers to our creative development.

Since, social justice is something we can only create together and we all fulfil our potential by building our capabilities, we need to learn how to build our capabilities together. But to do this we will need to recognise that we we are all ‘in development; to engage with our own vulnerability and accept that we can all learn from each other.

And what about those of us who don’t yet know what we want to do? How can we even know what we want to do if we don’t know what is possible? Can a focus on building capabilities together increase the possibilities available to us and enable us all to live increasingly independent, purposeful and creative lives?

The context problem.

Often, life can feel like something that happens to us, a series of unassociated events that we have no control of. When we try and deal with things nothing seems to work for long. Whenever we take one step forward we seem to find ourselves knocked back two. It can be really hard to find any sense of progress in our lives. However, events are less likely to overwhelm us if we remember that we have been through similar, or worse, before. If we can learn from our experience we may discover our own voice become an active subject in our own lives.

When we understand our lives in a long-term context things can change dramatically, for the better. It doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to us but that we are better able to deal with them when they do.

If we are to create sustainable change in our lives we need to find our own context, our own voice. The problem is: how can we do this? This is a particularly thorny problem for those of us that have not yet discovered our voice for the first time – as how can we seek or even value something that we have not yet experienced?

Just as our individual actions can seem meaningless in the face of overwhelming odds so it is with our collective actions. Even though many of us recognise that most meaningful change is long-term and incremental there is pressure to focus on short-term projects that may initially provide pleasing results but can even end up producing greater dependency in the very communities they seek to help.

The long-term impact of even the most inspirational projects can be questionable if they raise expectations that cannot be sustained, throw light on additional problems and stimulate a hidden demand for additional services that are not forthcoming.

The problem with trying to create lasting change is that there is only so much any of us can do.
Difficult social problems require a broader, more concerted approach than any one project, individual or organisation can provide. I’m actually a fan of projects, projects can be great but the problem with projects is their lack of context.

Without a context for our actions we can easily become stuck in vicious cycle of increasing dependency in which nothing really changes as we continually develop individual projects each of which has a questionable legacy.

However, if we were able to see our collective actions in the context of a long-term plan that we could genuinely say that every little helps. If we could provide such a context then about the best thing we could do would be to encourage a spirit of creative experimentation. The problem is – how can we build the context of sustainable social change?

Please share your thoughts or better still,  join the discussion at Arts in Development – An invitation to explore.   One of a series of  ‘Arts in Development’ programmes that aim to create the context for sustainable social change by ensuring that all our activities contribute to our long-term development.

 

 

Some reflections on how we can fulfil our potential…

We may differ in our understanding of what needs to be done about the state of our world but it is hard to disagree that we are failing to achieve our full potential as individuals or as communities.

 

Each and every one us has the potential to achieve extraordinary things, but too much of this talent is wasted and when any potential is unfulfilled we are all the poorer.

 

It is disappointing when we don’t make the most of the opportunities presented to us. It is unacceptable that far too many of us do not have the opportunities in the first place.

 

Addressing inequality of opportunity is a central challenge for any progressive individual, group, community or society.

 

There are a host of social, financial, political, environmental barriers to overcome before we can all fulfil our potential but approaching these barriers – and the people that face them – as problems only entrenches dependency and reinforces the very barriers we are trying to tackle.

 

 

The social justice problem is that too few people have the capability to fulfil our potential.   The social justice solution is to recognise that we all fulfil our potential by building our capabilities.

 

Development is a creative process, it can’t be imposed, only unleashed. Creativity  is the key to unlocking all our potential. We are all born creative, art is not the privilege of the few but our universal birth-right, it is so central to the business of living that restricting anyone’s creativity undermines our humanity.

 

Cultural exclusion affects us all.  When any one person’s creativity is stifled all society suffers. The creative potential we all have is our unique contribution to society.  It is by being creative that we become the people we want to be and build the communities we choose to live in.

 

None of us can know what is best for any other person. In the long run we cannot create change by doing things to, for, or without each other. We can only create change together.

 

You can change the world. No-one else can know what is best for you. You are the only real expert in your own life. You certainly don’t need anyone to give you the answers – finding answers is the easy bit.  You have access to all the information you could ever need.  In all likelihood you carry the whole history of human thought in your pocket and have in your head the world’s most powerful processor to make sense of that information.

 

Creating lasting change in our lives and communities is not as easy as it might seem.  It is common to experience life as a series of events and misfortunes and it can be hard to make sense of what happens in life yet alone to navigate those waters in a coherent and concerted manner.   Tackling problems at a more general, social level can be equally difficult. We can never guarantee our actions will have the desired effect and the unintended consequences of our actions are often less than favourable. It seems that, when it comes to creating lasting change, the only certainty is that there are no certainties!

Surely, the least we can do is find an approach that leaves us open to the possibility of change and development?
What would such an approach look like for you?
What can, or do you do to stay open in your approach?
What can increase the possibilities available to ourselves, and those around us?
How might a development approach help us?

 

Do let me know what you think – or join the conversation and help us explore: Strategic Approaches to Creative Development.

You can change the world

My favourite story for ‘children of all ages’ has always been the Bald Twit Lion by Spike Milligan. It starts like this:

“Once, twice and thrice upon a time there lived a Jungle. It started at the bottom and went upwards till it reached the monkeys, who had been waiting years for the trees to reach them, and as soon as they did the monkeys invented climbing down.”

I’ve always loved that image of the monkeys waiting for the trees to reach them.  The story reminds me that people are capable of extraordinary things but that too often that talent goes unfulfilled –  there are too many people still waiting for the trees to reach them.

Now, I’m not one of those clever monkeys,  if I was in the story I’d be one of those trees.  I want to think that I can help other people to do amazing things, but I can only do that if I remember that the story is not really about the jungle, the trees are pretty irrelevant  – they don’t say much “well one did say ‘much’ once but no-one believed him” –  If the trees have a role it’s simply to allow the monkeys to be themselves. So, if I could say one thing it would be ‘stop waiting, you can change the world’.

People are awesome – each and everyone of us has an important and unique contribution that needs to be made – but we tend to spend too long waiting around. This might be because we don’t realise how amazing we are and don’t think we can make a difference, or because  we just don’t know where to start but we really shouldn’t  need to wait for anyone else’s permission.

You can change the world. No-one else can know what is best for you. You are the only real expert in your own life. You certainly don’t need anyone to give you the answers – finding answers is the easy bit.  You have access to all the information you could ever need.  In all likelihood you carry the whole history of human thought in your pocket and have in your head the world’s most powerful processor to make sense of that information.

Perhaps you’re thinking that  you don’t know where to start? Well, I’ve got news for you  – you’ve already started. We can change the world and we do change the world. No one is an island we are all involved with each other, everything we do, every choice we make, affects who we are and the world we live in.  Every day we make choices based on the values, preferences and opinions that we have developed over the years. We may not be great at articulating what we think, but we are all philosophers,  we are all the authors of our own lives and of our shared society.

We do have a decision to make: we have to decide if we want the kind of people we will become and the communities we live in to be imposed mechanically upon us from outside, or do we want to ‘work out our own conception of the world’ and ‘play an active part in the history of the creation of the world’?  We have to choose whether to wait for, or blame, others, or to engage with our potential and try to stay open to our development and the development of all those around us?

I have thought long and hard about how we can do this and  I’d like to share what I’ve learnt by inviting you to explore ‘Strategic Approaches to Creative Development‘ – and see how we can apply long-term development approaches to our practice.

If you do want to change the world, I’d like to help.  I’d like to help because I love seeing how amazing people are, because I want to live in a world where more people can fulfil their potential and because I’m convinced this is the only way we create lasting social change. Do get in touch if you’d like to know more,  I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

Getting it all in context.

This week, more than any week I can remember, we are faced with the question: ‘How can we make sense  of events?’ Whether we are concerned with events, with global and social problems or the everyday realities of life, we need to put things into context, to make sense of what happens to us before we can begin to decide how to react.

The question I want to ask is ‘can we create a context for sustainable social change? –  Sounds like a job for a philosopher.

Fortunately, as Antonio Gramsci wrote, we are all philosophers –  like it or not, everything we say and do is informed by the conception of the world that we have already acquired.  So, whether  we know it or not we all have a philosophy of life.

When I read this I found it reassuring to realise that having philosophy is not about preparing a clever answer in case someone wants to test me but is an evolving process that I have been engaged in for a long time.

Of course, as Gramsci suggests,  it’s better ‘to work out consciously and critically one’s own conception of the world and thus to  take an active part in the creation of the history of the world, to be one’s own guide’

These two things (our personal and collective development) go together –  just as you can’t not have a philosophy, so you can’t not change the world.

As PJ Harvey reminded us this week – no one is an island. We’re all included, a part of the main.  Every thing we do, or don’t do, changes the world, for better or worse.   –  I believe we will change the world, for the better, if we will allow our  stories to unfold.

To do this we need to create our own context for change but it doesn’t have to be a complex affair – is is simply about starting to explore who we are and who we want to be

We can start to collect things our likes, dislikes, values, memories, inspirations – and to identify the capabilities  that make it easier for ourselves to fulfil our potential – the behaviours, attitudes, the way we relate to others or express our ideas etc .

Once we start to understand things in this development context each step, each capability, opens up new opportunities for ourselves. We can also use the same process to open up possibilities for others – we can all fulfil our potential by building our capabilities together.

Imagine if we could  apply this process to our collective development – if we could learn from all our experience – imagine a national grid with built-in inclusion where we all feed off each other’s energy and pump it directly to our homes and communities!

This is my goal to create a context for sustainable social change. I believe I contribute best by striving to be my best and I’d like to invite you to do the same and join me on the search for a context for sustainable social change.  Everything I learn on my journey is in this context – as will everything you contribute.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, examples, questions, suggestions and responses – please share anything that can help us learn about sustainable social change – no contribution is too small because when everything is in context, every contribution matters.

Reflection: How can we create a context for change?

Unprecedented events illustrate how much context matters.

After the EU referendum result the BBC World Service described Britain as sailing into a storm with no-one at the wheel. It may be shocking to hear that there is no plan, but it is not entirely surprising.

This event is unprecedented in scale and nature and it is hard to grasp the sheer scale of events like this yet alone to know what to do about them. When we can’t find a way to put things into context, we all feel vulnerable – we’re all working without a net.

Normally, we can expect our leaders to help us find a context for events but on this occasion it seems that they too are either overwhelmed or pre-occupied and of course that only increases our own sense of helplessness and insecurity. At times like this we need to create our own context.

How might we go about doing that? What are the things that we use to help us make sense of life and navigate the stormy waters ahead? In bygone days people who found themselves sailing into uncharted territory might use a lodestone, or look for patterns in the stars to help guide their way. What can we turn to now when we begin to feel lost in the modern world? How can we shake off that sense of helplessness that we are all familiar with?

It might not be global events, that leave us feeling like this – it could be the sheer scale of global, social and environmental problems – or the urgent proximity of our own personal problems but at some point we will all feel confused and overwhelmed. What do we do then? Whether our strategy is simply to cope or to create positive change we need to put things into context.

Without a personal context we can feel battered by a storm of misfortune and struggle to make sense of events and learn from our experience. Without a collective context, we have no collective memory, our actions are merely a series of disconnected initiatives and short-term projects that can have no lasting legacy.

The fact that there are thousands of amazing projects out there and millions of talented, committed and creative people all making a difference in their own way should not disguise the inescapable reality that there really is only so much we can do.

All projects end and when they do the likelihood is that the same problems will re-emerge again and again. Sooner or later this cycle will get the better of all of us.  We can’t keep having our expectations raised and rebuffed, we can’t keep working harder for diminishing returns and we can’t  keep investing when we see no legacy of lasting change.

We need to create a context for sustainable social change so that we can stop sailing into the wind. If we cannot stem the tide of inequality, injustice and division then let’s start building on the successes we have had. Who knows? –  We may even build up some  momentum and eventually the tide might even turn in our favour so that inclusion, creativity and sustainability can become part of the very fabric of our lives and communities.

So, I’d like to invite you to reflect on what we can do to ensure all our actions can have a lasting impact?

What do you turn to when you need to make sense of things? What is your lodestone that shows you the way when you are feeling uncertain? How can we gain – and maintain – a sense of progress in our lives and communities?

I’d like to hear your ideas about how can we create a context for sustainable social change because when everything is in context, every contribution matters.

Let’s explore: strategic approaches to creative development.

I’d like to invite you to explore how development approaches can help us change the world.

The first thing that strikes me about development is that it is a long-term and incremental process that is as concerned with how we do things as it is with what we do.

When it comes to personal development we are in it for the long-run – personal development lasts the entirety of our human experience – yet we only have this present moment in which we can make a difference and even this is greatly influenced by the values we have already acquired and the choices we have already made.

To change our own worlds requires patience and fortitude and a recognition that every individual step on our own long march matters.

The reality is that development is never going to be a linear progression. It is simply not possible to keep going forward relentlessly with out ever putting a foot wrong or even stopping for a rest.  Human experience is cyclical in nature – it is natural to feel like we are taking one step forward and two back – a development approach helps us understand that and take a long-term view, to see how each step fits into the bigger picture.

Put simply, a development approach is about trying to remain positive, and learn from our experience.

This is just as true of collective development as it is of individuals.  Development is a positive, strategic process that is about making the best use of our resources to fulfil our long-term potential – and  our best resources are each other.

I just don’t see how a negative approach – one that sees people as problems – can ever create positive change.  In fact, I don’t even think it makes sense to separate personal development from organisational or community development.  There are not different kinds of development any more than there are different kinds of people.

We are all engaged in development and we are all engaged with each other. Development is self-organised and it is social and any attempt at creating social change  that does not recognise this is both meaningless and futile.

It is simply not possible to change others. However, everything we do does either make it easier – or harder for people to create change themselves.

We can look at everything we do and ask ourselves: are we making it easier or harder for people to fulfil their potential? Are we opening up possibilities? Or closing them down?

We should do this because this choice affects us, We adopt a development approach, not because we feel we ought to, but because we want to, because it is in our own interest to live in an inclusive, diverse and creative community.

Every choice matters. just as we create our own worlds, we also create our own society, every choice we make, every decision we take helps to shape our own development and our collective community.

We choose what kind of society we’re going to live in, everyday.

A development approach then is about making positive choices, it is about  understanding and removing the barriers to development, doing what ever we can to make it easier for us all to fulfil our potential, as individuals, organisations and as communities.

A development approach recognises that we all need to live creative lives, to collaborate with others and to contribute to something bigger than ourselves  – and that our individual and collective development needs are interdependent.

This is why I’d like to invite you to explore strategic approaches to creative development and see if we can apply them to mutual, collaborative creative development –  because if we can stay in development we can support each other to change the world.