Colette is a cheerful and energetic woman in her forties. Her face lights up when she talks about her New-Bees projects. It’s the idea of setting up a community allotment in the village of Newbiggin, just north of Newcastle. Once a thriving fishing and mining village, Newbiggin has fallen on hard times and now has some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK.
Colette’s plan is to rent an allotment from the local association and work with a school to bring children onto the patch to learn about growing, food and nature. She has been impressed by the knowledge and expertise of the older allotment-keepers and wants to harness this to teach the youngsters – and so bring the whole community together.
She’s new to the world of social activism and is keen to learn how best to get people on side and influence those who have the power to help her vision become reality.
David on the other hand is a hardened environmental activist. He’s spent many years building connections and networks across Yorkshire to make a difference to the way we see and relate to the planet.
Recently, David has been impressed by the work of US economist Jeremy Rifkin, author of a book entitled The Third Industrial Revolution. Rifkin argues that whole regions can transition their economies to renewable energies as a way to regenerate the area and have a positive impact on the environment. Encouraged by this vision, David has launched a series of consultation and engagement events across Yorkshire so that various parts of the community can have an input into planning a more sustainable economy.
Colette and David have very different backgrounds and are involved in very different responses to the issues they see in their local communities. What they have in common is that both are linked to Oasis.
Over recent months we have been working through a range of initiatives to create a Social Change Hub in Oasis. This will be a focus for our work on bringing the Oasis approach to social and environmental challenges.
At Oasis we have a long tradition of supporting the move towards social justice and global citizenship. One of the frameworks we sometimes use to conceptualise this is “I, We, All of Us” – the notion that change comes from personal growth, from the relationships I am intimately connected to, and from an understanding of how I am shaped by and can shape the whole, the entire global eco-system that I am part of.
I, We, All of Us framework
To reflect the “I, We, All” framework, the Oasis Social Change Hub has started to develop three strands of activity:
• I: support for activists – for example through developmental programmes for activists like the one Colette has recently been part of
• We: Capacity building for social change organisations – building peer-based models of leadership, supporting succession planning and making the transition from pioneering leader to distributed leadership
• All of Us: working on collaboration between organisations and social sectors to build movements for change – like the Zero Carbon Yorkshire initiative that we are building with David and his connections at Schumacher North.
What unites all three realms is a focus upon “being the change” – operating in a manner that embodies the change we want to see in the world. How do I become the person? How does my organisation act? How does my community or movement behave, so that it IS the future?
If our actions now are not consistent with the future we envision, then we will not create it.
Much of our recent organisational work has been shaped by our research into the Workplace of Tomorrow. Similarly with our social change work, we will be exploring what we mean by and what can contribute to creating the Community of Tomorrow.