The Leeds Doughnut started up in 2021, to bring integrated thinking and doing to the movement for city scale change. It was born out of the National Lottery funded Climate Action Leeds programme, which works for a zero carbon, nature friendly, socially just Leeds by the 2030s. Within that, the Leeds Doughnut's vision is of a city where people and planet thrive.
April 2022 saw the publication of the first Leeds Doughnut City Portrait, a full research report and summary document setting out a sketch portrait of how Leeds is doing against the various dimensions of the Doughnut's 4 lenses. The report was launched at a packed-out full day event, with a diverse audience taking part in discussion, workshops and activities exploring what the findings mean for Leeds. Find the reports here:
One year on from the launch of our City Data Portrait, the collaborators in the Leeds Doughnut Coalition are channelling the wise words of Bayo Akomolfe "The times are urgent; we must slow down."
Avoiding the temptation to rush into solutions, we have been listening to and learning from each other. That's not to say we've not been busy doing good stuff, but we're also discovering how to connect with each other and our callings and work together collaboratively.
Whenever possible, we have been holding our monthly meetings in person. These began as nomadic gatherings, perching in various venues around the city. But thanks to our parent organisation, Climate Action Leeds, securing meanwhile use of the top floor of a city centre office block, we now meet regularly in the new city hub 'Imagine Leeds'. This radical new space provides co-working, meeting and events space for the Leeds climate change community.
The check-in at the start of each monthly meeting has extended into a Listening Circle exercise, a practice introduced to us by new collaborator but established Leeds activist Mike Chitty, where through successive rounds of sharing, we discuss and reflect on topics of interest. We have really benefited from taking this time to reflect together.
We have secured a modest amount of funding, £25,000, from the UKRI Community Research Network Fund to pilot Community Led Research in two very different Leeds communities; Seacroft and Otley. Already we're generating a huge amount of learning about how to redistribute knowledge and power to people in local communities.
We hope to take this forward by securing further funding to expand this approach across the city. But, we have already attracted interest and the promise of support from civic institutions like Leeds City Council, keen to put the lived experience of residents at the forefront of designing services and initiatives. It's a great example of the growing appetite for rethinking the power relations in the city.
One of the key ways we're tying our work together has been through a six month development process facilitated by our friendly local Regenerative Designer, Tim Frenneaux. This resulted in the first iteration of our Handbook, a living document that defines our vision, mission, aims, method and most importantly, our values.
Our Aims echo those of many other Doughnut Coalitions we have taken inspiration from:
Our Method for achieving these aims is to:
Redistribute resources, knowledge and power to regenerate systems that support a safe, just and thriving future.
And the Values which run throughout our work, are to be:
The development process catalysed new actions, particularly around narrative, storytelling and sharing knowledge. One way we’ve made a start with this is by publishing a short animated video to describe our work (at the top of this page)
We are still learning what it means to work collaboratively and in a decentralised manner, or perhaps we're unlearning the traditional hierarchical approach! For the moment, it means enabling collaborators to follow their energy and develop the work they are drawn to.
Founding collaborator Irena Bauman is leading a programme of work to demonstrate the great examples of Doughnut thinking already present in the city by telling the stories of businesses and organisations that are already working in a regenerative and redistributive fashion. This work will create a living Leeds Doughnut Portrait to complement the bare bones of the data that describe the City Data Portrait.
In March 2023, we took part in a community research collaboration and knowledge sharing day with Cambridge Doughnut Economics Action Group (CamDEAG), CIVIC SQUARE and Birmingham University, exploring the possibilities of bringing together Community Research and the Community Portrait of Place methodology.
Tim Frenneaux has been building bridges to draw the business community into regenerative approaches that go beyond simple sustainability or Net Zero. He has launched a programme of monthly introductory workshops called Future Business Now, which act as a stepping stone to hosting in-house Doughnut Design for Business workshops.
We are particularly excited about discussions of new events called Doughnut Debates, which help grow the community by providing a public platform for debating ideas and action inspired by Doughnut Economics. Plans for these are still emerging whilst we unpack the power relations implied by events and notions such as speakers and audience members, informed by the wonderful work and insight of collaborator Martina Ricci.
Martina has joined us from the University of Leeds. She is also leading work to engage with Leeds City Council and understand how their policy narrative of transformation and innovation translates into action, which helps us move towards a safe and just space for humanity to thrive.
This decisive year has seen momentum return to the transformation agenda after a slight stall during the pandemic. We are learning to go with the ebb and flow and match our respiration and growth rates with the natural world's cycles as we shift from a relentless industrial society towards an ecological civilisation.
Get inspired, connect with others and become part of the movement. No matter how big or small your contribution is, you’re welcome to join!