When we first heard Kate say "the new economy will be practised first and theorised later", we knew deeply our neighbourhoods were brimming with the creativity, imagination, energy and vision to steward a safe, just and equitable transition together. As we have been experimenting, crafting and building momentum around how we move our neighbourhood into the doughnut, how to embody the 7 Ways To Think Like A 21st Century Economist in the smallest and biggest actions has been a core design question. As we learn, grow, and experiment, we are asking ourselves: how do we do this in a way that is inherently regenerative and distributive by design as early as possible? This is where the idea to nurture a distributive network of neighbourhoods, learners, peers and practitioners focusing on the scale of the home, street and neighbourhood began.
"Peer groups have the potential to help people scale the steep learning curves that stand between us and the future. Peer groups can unlock potential that individuals can't unlock alone." — Enrol Yourself
On Saturday 12th — Sunday 13th February 2022 the Doughnut Economics Peer-To-Peer Learning Journeys Kick Off weekend took place in the neighbourhood we are honoured to call home: Ladywood, Birmingham UK. This marked the start of over 150 budding renegade economists committing to a 6 month expedition in peer learning; going deeper into the ideas of Doughnut Economics at the scale of the household, street and neighbourhood to share practice, inspiration, ideas and tools for how we craft new economic possibilities in the commons.
These Peer-To-Peer Learning Journeys were created with Enrol Yourself and DEAL to delve deeply into re-imagining economic possibility and interrogating, experimenting, downscaling and crafting with the ideas of Doughnut Economics within a scale and context that we can touch and feel in our daily lives. 12 peer-led groups are now active in collaborating, learning, unlearning and taking action to unlock the collective potential that none of us can do alone, whilst creating the conditions for learning journeys within their neighbourhood that are connected to a global community, therefore holding the potential to generate new pathways for economic transformation.
The early learning questions posed by hosts to gather their peers are plural, relational and grounded in neighbourhoods across the UK and the world, from "How might a sharing neighbourhood contribute to a regenerative economy?" to "How do we capture and share the stories we need to shape a regenerative future?", and we were so excited to create the conditions for hosts and peers to meet, gather resources and interconnected ideas, and prepare for the journeys ahead with a range of inspiring and grounding sessions throughout the course of what we hoped would be an unforgettable weekend together to kick things off. You can explore the different Learning Journeys in more detail and meet all of the amazing hosts here.
As with all emergent work, there were plenty of beautiful, unexpected things that happened through the Kick Off; many things that most of us there will never know about or won't truly land within us for many years, but here were some of our intentions when creating and sharing the Kick Off:
Connecting to the big picture of the learning journeys, the necessity of this work, and the possibilities ahead.
Building relationships and connections between partners, the larger all-peer cohort, as well specific peer groups.
A first taste of taking the ideas of Doughnut Economics off the page, reflecting on ways to do that, in nature and in the neighbourhood.
To provide an inspiring, provocative, nurturing, supportive backbone to the year ahead for peers and their wider communities of practice.
Designing an inspiring, uplifting and connected space for the peers that recognised the many plural ways forward are important in this movement.
Make this key moment feel irresistible, encouraging and welcoming to be part of, but creating many different ways to engage with it.
Consider broader networks and their ability to follow along the journey and make use of tools openly, beyond the parameters of the Learning Journeys cohorts, in order to design for multiple benefits and set our systems up accordingly to contribute to the wider commons.
The approach to the weekend was designed from the perspective of believing our peers were as excited as we were, and able to engage with a whole range of ideas, scales, challenges and opportunities ahead. As we prepared for the weekend to kick-start what we hope will be the opportunity of a lifetime for us all, for those able to join us in person here in Birmingham we invited the beautiful chance to see the emerging vision of CIVIC SQUARE take early shape and connect with the neighbourhood where we are so proud to be building with many people near and far, in order to create change across the world, whilst absolutely acknowledging the limitations (and opportunities for creativity and imagination) of our current industrial space in practice and access so folks could have a shared sense of that reality as they planned their visit. You can find the Kick Off Weekend invitation that we shared with peers here, in addition to lighter neighbourly invitations at The Floating Front Room and The Front Room Key facebook group.
We were also crafting multiple experiences simultaneously, inviting peers to join us in person for an immersive weekend and sessions in person, or tune in digitally for online spaces and tools to recreate the Kick Off where they were live or at a later time, or through a hybrid approach for peer groups where there was a mixture of those attending in person and online. This included setting up a Zoom room for those joining virtually from where they were in the world and live streaming all talks for remote peers (but also to be useful and open with neighbours and wider audiences), ensuring hosts were taking a self-directed approach to organising with their peers rather than something we held centrally. Whilst holding all of the tensions of COVID-19 and other factors, we prioritised collective care and safety, all whilst promising that we know it will be really special to be together here, on the same soil, and it was mesmerising to watch as peers heeded our call and arrived, open minded and hearted, to our little part of the planet.
The first day's activity took place at The Signing Tree, an amazing local venue located in the B16 neighbourhood that is part of the Deaf Cultural Centre and a social enterprise for the sensory impairment charity BID Services. We invited anyone to visit The Floating Front Room and CIVIC SQUARE Studio sites beforehand to get a feel for our work in practice, place, and meet and chat to neighbours, before the day opened up with a range of talks (recordings of which can be found here), making activities such as name badges with Soofiya, interactive check ins, and a chance to settle in and make yourself at home with people, in place, and with the big ideas behind the work ahead.
Peers also took part in a book share, writing a note to pass on books to those who weren't able to join or their wider neighbours and friends, with titles such as Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake, Beautiful Economics by Howard Collinge, The Nutmeg's Curse by Amitav Ghosh and more alongside Doughnut Economics. We heard from Kate (with a helping hand from Jeevan), Zahra Davison of Enrol Yourself and Cassie Robinson, built cardboard models of our ideal future cities, and walked around the doughnut to relate to the principles spatially and in an embodied way, before continuing with an evening dinner at Birmingham Open Media; here exchanging ideas about the new stories we need for safe and just futures, with further provocations from Dan Burgess of Stories for Life as we ate together and began to process the day's head and heart work; with the mood in the room a mixture of practically tired and full of food, information, ideas, but simultaneously energised, hopeful and full of possibility.
"21st-century economics will be practiced first and theorised later." — Kate Raworth
The second day was designed for more time to be spent outdoors, with Alastair Parvin of WikiHouse sharing with us on the back of the amazing Skylark launch earlier in the week, and Dan Burgess treating us to a breakfast talk in the CIVIC SQUARE studio, followed by an exploration of the 4 Lenses Framework as a way to bring some of the ideas of Doughnut Economics off the pages. Peer groups ventured to their bases for the day at different venues distributed across our local neighbourhood, including EAT MAKE PLAY, The Big Red Shed, YARD, Ladywood Leisure Centre, and Midland Sailing Club, with the purpose of exploring the neighbourhood and learning about the ideas in relationship to place, the land and the local wildlands closest to us, including the beautiful, locally defended Edgbaston Reservoir.
Many peers tried out the walkshop canvas, despite the wet weather (kudos, intrepid ones!), and explored alongside other peer groups in different combinations and places around the neighbourhood, whilst also creating more sacred space in the afternoon to be with those they will be travelling with the deepest; their cohorts. This was a proud moment in celebrating, not only complex operations around spacial practice whilst not currently having a building to call home, but also the distributed, generous networks of incredible partners, organisations, spaces and people coming together across the neighbourhood ecosystem that we are one small part, and being able to share those relationships and gems of spaces and organisers with speakers, hosts and peers from near and far that are a key part of our everyday, and why it feels so extraordinary. Tools were shared in both printed packs for those in person, and a virtual bundle for use by others or in follow up, with the invitation to use whichever tools you are drawn to or support what you need right now as a group. This included the Personal Doughnut v1.2 Canvas outlined below, a range of tools from Enrol Yourself, the Manual of Me, and the prosocial ACT matrix, all of which can be found in the online kit for the session here.
We hope throughout telling the story of our work, we will also share the v1 tools we have been using, and give some context as to why they were designed and how they have been used so far. This is as an invitation to download, use, hack, and improve in your context, even at these very early iterations of which the possible developments are limitless. Our only ask is a culture of continuous learning, where we are able to learn together, iterate tools and continue to share, so please do share back any learnings or iterations you can, and we will endeavour to do the same.
Personal Doughnut Canvas v1.2
This(early) Personal Doughnut Canvas v1.2 is for getting up close and personal with what foundations we need to thrive, without taking more out of the ecosystems that we are part of than we put back in, in a reflective but also practical way; to exchange with others. Co-developed by Byng, Daniel Blyden, Emily Gambles + Rach Bromfield, building on the work of DEAL, Zoe Gilbertson, Cassie Robinson and others, so far the CIVIC SQUARE team have tested this tool out as a first prototype to bridge from the Manual of Me towards a Manual of We (a we beyond humans and far beyond our team and geographic locality - see Dark Matter Labs' The Human(e) Revolution work for more), and shared back our findings during our strategy month in January 2022, before inviting Doughnut Economics Learning Journey peers to try it out as part of their space to align, get to know each other, and set the way forward for how they will come together.
We found that keeping the central social foundations segments of the doughnut blank led to interesting explorations of what matters to us and what we personally need to show up at our best, whereas engaging with our collective resources, the limitations of these and the responsibilities that come with stewarding them needed a bit more agreement or parameter setting as groups, but the conversations being had in order to do that helped balance out and connect the multiple viewpoints, going from considering personal wellbeing in isolation or at odds with our wider purpose and work, to what it allows us to do in our communities; become the embodiment of a regenerative force of nature.
This tool was created as a companion to taking the doughnut on an unrolling walk, and the walkshop approach Kavita Purohit and Alice Hindson-Matthews are developing is an invitation to explore learning live in our place, from nature, infrastructure and our neighbours. The canvas can be used to go on a journey through your neighbourhood, bringing your curiosities, using the Four Lenses framework as a means to relate to and make sense of what comes up in the form of insights and questions connected to wider dimensions of our ecologies and social fabric across different scales, but make them more practical and tangible.
"On our walkshop we noticed the lichen and sticky weed, the high fences and denied access, and loved drawing the ‘porous’ connections between local and global, ecological and social. The conversations flowed across birth(ing new ideas) and justice (or lack of), cycling, gender and loads more all held in the gorgeous Eat Make Play space. We can’t wait to bring the resources and ideas back to the rest of our group and try to give them a sense of the journey we’ve been on this weekend." — Rachel
We've already noticed that this means conversations can traverse many things with ease whilst being connected to different important viewpoints and the bigger picture, from learning about lichen, reimagining how we might (re)common sites of land, to broader effects of air pollution around the globe and the new financial instruments required for different systems of value to be practiced on our balance sheets.
This freshly developed (and printed!) Four Lenses Walkshop canvas v1.0 was trialled for the first time during the Peer-To-Peer Kick Off Weekend, both by peers walking together in (rainy!) Ladywood, and remotely with the International Neighbourhoods cohort and other peers taking it out where they were. That means there are lots of learnings for us to gather and put into practice for a next version very soon with further insights from the DEAL team too for us to implement as how they communicate the lenses evolves too, but in the meantime, here's the tool we started with, as we prepare to take it with us on lots of walkshops in Co-creation Week #3 next week. Information is at the bottom of this story if you'd like to join us.
A Renegade Economists Miro World is being designed and co-built by visual facilitator and host of the International Neighbourhoods Learning Journey Mona Ebdrup, and CIVIC SQUARE Dream Matter Designer Magda Petford. The Miro World is an organic, playful home to an abundance of resources, inspiration, and spaces for collaboration, reflection and cross-pollination between peer groups. Within it, hosting and facilitation support can be found; chapter resources for Doughnut Economics are currently loading, and it is a space to document processes, build collective intelligence over a longer period of time and open up for a space where asynchronous work and thinking can happen between meet-ups and showcases, but also across groups.
"The Miro World is a dreamscape - a space for imagination. It's a relief from the endless documents and linearity of online spaces, instead offering an interactive playground for collaborative working.
Miro also allows us for host resources in different mediums (video, images, articles, etc.) in a visual way that helps us navigate lots of information. In our learning journeys, we are working on complex matters, striving to find a balance between overwhelm and oversimplification, which we believe the Miro World can support to achieve.
It's an invitation to play; to dream, connect and reflect in a joyful setting."
We can't wait to open up more and more of what is found to be useful or develops and gets better from here with the Renegade Economists Miro World into the commons, as the Miro World was shared with peers today for the first time, in follow up from the Kick Off. We've been so inspired by all of Mona and Suzy Glass' Miro magic, including the Civil Society Open Enquiries work, and are deeply grateful for Mona and Magda's design leadership in creating this multi-dimensional wonderland for us to exist within and tend to online, from which we are all excited to see what grows.
"It’s soothing and uplifting to meet other people who want to put their energy to change this sick system. I’m going away with a lot of joy, positive vibes and love. I’m thrilled to see what is going to come out this amazing group of people!" —Andrea
"It has been so amazing to meet people who are interested in reimagining the structures of the future." —Olly
"One word that stands out is connection. Loved spending time with my peers. Loved trying out the tools. Loved the feeling of welcome. Loved conducting a walkshop in my own space on a more rainy than usual day in Pontypridd!"—Hayley
"Grateful for the mindsets of experiment + play that infused the whole weekend, for learning engaging the whole person, and the invitation to ask and imagine what if? about our collective futures." —Naomi
"Such a welcoming, flexible and accessible space for thinking and feeling these ideas." —John
"It was great that you could be bluntly honest with strangers and realise that you actually had common hopes and fears. It was good to be comfortable being vulnerable, and from that share your hopes." — Sal
"One idea that really stood out for me is the one about memory and imagination going hand in hand. That imagining a new emergent future is as much about paying attention to our current reality as it is about dreaming up an entirely different future." —Mona
Co-creation Week #3 21st — 27th February 2022
Join us Monday 21st - Sunday 27th February 2022 to get out in the field and use your creativity to explore how we take on the curious, playful role of neighbourhood scientists in our places, discovering together how we can use our superpowers to defend the planetary boundaries. bit.ly/NeighbourhoodScience
Neighbourhood Festival 11th — 28th July 2022
Would you like to immerse yourself in this work, the ideas of a circular, regenerative, creative neighbourhood? As we start to understood how to move past measures such as GDP, we need better directions, better measures, different goals. During the festival we will bring together much of the work of the last few years into a new compass for our neighbourhood, a set of ambitious goals, and 100s of ways to explore and play with the ideas around how we bring our neighbourhoods into the doughnut. Save the date, and join us in Birmingham!
As part of the festival, there will be an open weekend showcase for you to discover what has been happening through all of the Peer-To-Peer Learning Journeys throughout this year, and we'd love to invite you to come along if this story, and all the interconnected stories within it that hosts, peers and partners are writing proverbially and also literally right now on their own platforms and networks, has piqued your interest.
Also look out for further details of a lighter touch Doughnut Economics reading group coming soon! In the meantime, take a look at DEAL's Doughnut Economics Book Club Guide to set up your own.
For now, we'll say thanks for reading, and catch you soon! All of us at CIVIC SQUARE incl. our wonderful peers and partners