• How can we be good ancestors?

    Some provocations for embedding climate activism into your practice
    By Adam Cooper | Director, Threads in the Ground. Associate, people make it work.

    What emotion do you feel when you read “climate crisis”?

    If you’re a UK resident there’s a roughly 75% chance you feel (very) worried, accompanied with feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and shame.

    Perhaps you worry about your carbon footprint? And that of your clients’? Are you switching off your lights, buying a Tesla, using a Bag for Life?

    Please just notice whatever you’re feeling and put it to the side for the moment.

    I think it’s important we remember that the phrase “Carbon Footprint” was coined by British Petroleum – part of a brilliantly successful PR campaign designed to shift responsibility on to the individual. It has deeply embedded the idea in our collective psyche that this is all our fault.

    That feeling you set aside earlier, it has been done to you. If you feel hopeless, powerless, guilty. If climate action feels intimidating, overwhelming, onerous, that is by design.

    The scale of our guilt and sadness are not measures of how well we live the responsibility and privilege of being ancestors to all who will follow. So, can we make some changes please?

    Which brings me to art and culture.

    The Paris climate agreement takes us to 2030, by which time we need to have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45%. There is scientific consensus that for us to achieve that goal requires a total renaissance of all global systems, policies, technology, and society.

    You and I are about to live through perhaps the most dramatic period of change in human history – it touches EVERYTHING. It doesn’t matter what your cultural practice is, where or how you work – the climate crisis offers us an incredible lens for prompting our best, most expansive, most energetic and optimistic work. Social justice is climate justice, and there is no more fertile creative ground than these ideas and changes reshaping our world.

    So, I want to offer you 3 provocations which I hope will open new avenues for your practice. I hope that by reflecting on these, we can help softly embed climate activism in our every-day work, and that of our clients and communities.

    Here are my thoughts for you…

    1. We happen to be alive during the 7-year window that will shape the lives of all future generations. What does that mean for our ideas of privilege, heritage, and justice?
    2. The scale of change needed globally requires a fully human, democratic response. What do our organisations and institutions need to look and be like, to facilitate such change?
    3. Surely, soon, almost all people will be experiencing their own individual climate anxiety? What does that mean for our work in understanding and serving our communities? 

    We are unknowably powerful and privileged to be alive in this moment. My personal way of honouring that privilege is to embrace climate hope, to immerse myself in the possibilities of climate justice and the creative excitement that brings me. The result of my immersion has been Threads in the Ground, the new climate hope organisation. I will wait in anticipation of what yours will be.

  • Fundraising Options: Beyond NPO support

    Written by Kirsty Falconer | Head of Fundraising and Programme Development

    Future-defining decisions are being made on how – and if – many NPO disappointed organisations across England can viably continue with a funding model untethered by ACE NPO support.  I wanted to share therefore, a few considerations I’ve been talking through with organisations facing this decision to help in understanding if replacing NPO with other fundraising offers a realistic alternative for your financial model.  

    Firstly and fundamentally, there are thousands of funding options out there and with some level of certainty I feel able to say that if you have previously successfully made your case to ACE, whatever the scale of your current turnover or the percentage NPO historically contributed to this, there will be alternative funding options out there for your work. However, while for some organisations this will be a case of upscaling or expanding an existing funding base, for others it will require a more fundamental repositioning that embeds new processes and new priorities into the heart of how you plan, position and resource your work. 

    Phase 1: Research and Realism

    Taking time to scope the landscape of alternative funding opportunities and practicing realism in identifying which are right for your work sits at the foundation of any achievable fundraising plan. 

    Depending on what you do, who you work with, and its scale and impact, striving to quickly realise a fully diversified fundraising model including philanthropy, grants, and sponsorship may not be right for you. Understanding which income streams will have the highest chance of success for your work will allow you to focus your energies and resources in areas where returns are most likely. A researched review can also point you in the direction of the handful of funders who are beginning to think about accessibility in fundraising processes, opening out more equitable application pathways geared to smaller, lower-resourced, and/or diverse-led organisations.

    Initially, prioritising best fit quick-wins and building your base of support rather than trying to meet all opportunities at once or channeling resources into high value, high competition funders will ensure your transition is lower-risk and can sustainably support a longer-term turnaround. 

    Different approaches require different timelines. Individuals and some Corporates can make decisions quickly, however, building networks to make these asks is likely to take longer, and returns are often initially lower. Trusts and Foundations have (mostly!) clearer routes to connect to the funder, but the application process can be resource intensive and long – while all trusts are different, allowing 6-9 months as a guide (depending on a 1 or 2 stage process) from application to decision helps understand how long it might take to see results from fundraising in this area.

    Phase 2: Reflection and Regrouping

    Once you have defined who your “Case for Support” is best made to, it is essential to review how you articulate what you do in alignment to a new (or optimise to an existing) set of priorities. This requires strength and relevance of vision and mission and evidenced articulation of some key points – consider how you are consistently communicating these points in all funding conversations and applications even if the questions you are answering do not directly ask them .

    Why is your work needed? Why is your programme or approach the best response? Why are you best placed to deliver? Why now? Who are you reaching? At what scale? What is the journey with or through your work? How do you use data to tell this story? What are the short and long term impacts and legacies?

    Keep in mind that not all funding decision-makers have expertise or interest in arts or culture – thinking about how your work intersects wider social issues or outcomes is important in broadening the scope of who might feel compelled to support.

    Phase 3: Resourcing and Embedding

    Developing an internal culture of fundraising is essential to effective and efficient delivery of a fundraising strategy but can mean a realignment in the way your team thinks individually and collectively about fundraising. 

    Giving clear and defined roles to everyone in your organisation – including your Board – that integrate fundraising processes as part of every team member’s priority shares the resource requirement and energises fundraising activities. This doesn’t mean that everyone needs to start working to income targets, writing applications, or going out and making approaches to their networks (although, in some cases, broadening out the above to members of your team and Board might make sense!). 

    For some teams, this might mean sharing the ability to articulate your 3-5 top organisational priorities to anyone they’re in a relevant conversation with – from members of the public to local councilors. This instantly amplifies your key fundraising messages to a much broader network of potential supporters and possible funders. 

    All of this can feel like a lot to quickly adapt to and get right in the timeline of the NPO transition – with or without the 7 months of ACE transition support. Hopefully the above phases give a sense of what the task and timeline of this process could look like and help sharpen prioritisation. 

    People Make it Work are offering free support sessions for organisations facing this challenge – do get in touch if you’d like further support in thinking through how these phases might relate to the specifics of your organisation.

  • What is a ‘well’ workplace?

    Written by Zara Rush and Becca Pelly-Fry | Co-Founders of IMPRINT

    If you google the definition of wellness you get:

    “Wellness is the act of practising healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving.”

    This definition places emphasis on the individual but what if we could support each other in wellness and thriving? How could workplaces build healthy habits to better support their people to feel well and bring their vital, unique energy to fuel a thriving work ecology. 

    To update the famous 17th century John Donne poem, “No human is an island, entire of itself; every human is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Despite the currently pervasive Western cult of individualism, the scientific reality is that we are not bounded, separated entities; we are porous. Molecules and microbial beings pass in and out of our systems all the time, through the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat; everything breathes everything else. We exist in a living ecosystem, where all life depends on all other life to survive and to thrive. Human beings exist in community, in relation to our surroundings, our society, our colleagues, our inner and outer worlds. When we take this interconnected mindset, we become more aware of the impact of our actions on others, and their actions on us. 

     Diagram: S. Lehmann, 2010

    The holistic view of wellness encourages an awareness of this interdependence, citing eight dimensions, or pillars, of health and well-being: physical, occupational, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, financial, and environmental. As this diagram below suggests, all the pillars overlap like the petals of a flower, influencing each other and the sense of the whole:

    The challenge is that we are currently living in a set of intersecting systems that are in crisis (economic, ecological, societal and philosophical); constant exposure to these stressors forces our nervous system to dysregulate, making one feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. Ever more people are recognising the fight, flight or freeze response in themselves and others; we are almost having to work against all odds to retain balance and to thrive. The outcome, as Matt Haig puts it, is that we are living on a ‘Nervous Planet.’ We know from psychologists and scientists that frequent exposure to stress has adverse effects on our mental health and causes an overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol which in turn can hinder important bodily functions; lack of focus, disturbed sleep, frequent headaches, weakened immunity, memory loss – to name a few.

    In the ancient Indian modality of the Vedas there is the principle of Sattva, the quality of goodness, positivity, truth, serenity and balance. In nervous system language we call this the ‘green zone’, and in this zone a person can communicate well in their truth, be present, feel resourced, connected to others, engaged, curious, at ease, grounded, safe and able to cope with complexity; in other words…. THRIVING. In this zone all the petals of the diagram above work smoothly together as a whole, and the wonderful thing is that we can actually co-regulate each other to be in the green thriving space by tending to and befriending aspects of wellbeing which are being diminished or often get neglected. 

    It’s important to remember that everyone responds to situations and challenges differently; not all brains or all bodies are the same. While one person might have a set of responses that follow a typical pattern (such as the Kubler-Ross Curve that Richard Watts talks about in his blog here), others might have a different set of responses. Being aware of our differences and being compassionate towards each other’s needs helps build trust and a sense of togetherness; co-regulating to survive and thrive. 

    So how can we build healthy, supportive practices into our workplaces that make it easy for the Sattvic, green, thrive zone to exist?

    Today for the purposes of this blog we are offering a top 10 of tips and tools to support building a well work ecology, but the call goes much deeper than this. At IMPRINT we are dedicated to supporting organisations to integrate holistic wellbeing into workplace culture. We believe it is people that make organisations and that collective care goes a long way to creating happy, sustainable and ‘well’ workplaces for the people that work in them. The key is practice, practice, practice, so it becomes integral.

    10 tips for a well workplace:

    1. Start each meeting with sharing something from your life beyond work, opening a space for everyone to be truly human, e.g.:
      • Talk about your name, the meaning of it, how you feel about it 
      • What was the best/worst thing that happened in your life last week?
    2. Take your meetings on a walk (no phones, no pens, no notebooks)
    3. Create space for just BEING (without the DOING): 
    4. Bring plants into the office – share your space with non-human beings; they will rely on you to care for them, and in return they will take care of the air quality and the environment for you.
    5. How are you creative in your working day? What space can be made for creative (non – ‘productive’) meandering? Away from your desk? 
    6. Have a dedicated quiet space with soft furnishings, blankets, warm low lighting, tissues, a set of headphones. Anything that supports comfort and calm. 
    7. Offer incentives for mindful and physical practice (ie link up with gym / fitness offers, regular wellbeing workshops, a company Headspace subscription)
    8. Put up visual or written prompts around the workspaces that encourage mindful, heautiful practice 
    9. Create a shared community board – to share titles of podcasts, articles, books and more 
    10. Leaders within the organisation can find ways to creatively involve all staff in early stage plans, proposals and organisational direction, creating a listening and responsive environment. This toolkit provides guidance and a framework.

    As a team, come up with your own list of ideas to make your workplace a well place to be.

    And here is a free well-being resource from us to you:

    Click here for five freely available hour-long well-being sessions, curated and produced by IMPRINT for people make it work and Freelance : Futures.

    The sessions include sound healing, meditation, yoga and astrology. 

    Zara and Becca are working in partnership with people make it work to develop bespoke holistic programmes for the cultural sector. Get in touch with us if you’d like to know more: https://www.peoplemakeitwork.com/holistic-programmes/

  • Feeling Empowered During Turbulent Times

    Written by Vicki Igbokwe | Director of Empowerment

    What a time to be alive! The last few years globally have seen us collectively experience some of the most earth-shattering moments that I for one could have only imagined would form the foundation of a Hollywood movie script. The knock-on effect of this today is still being felt globally and of course closer to home for each of us.

    As you continue to experience this rollercoaster ride of turbulence, your confidence and ability to make decisions and lead can feel compromised. You begin to doubt every single thought, idea, and choice that you make, because your foundation (quite rightly) feels rocky and unstable.

    When you reach this stage, it is important to hit pause, so you can take a moment to be still and silent. In doing this you create much needed space, time, and distance for you to breathe, ground yourself, explore what it is you need and take the steps necessary to get these things for you.

    Feeling (and being) empowered is a spiritual daily act of kindness to you…Yes, YOU. It is about giving yourself permission to care for yourself daily BEFORE you show up for those around you. I know this can sometimes feel like a luxury, even more so during turbulent times. Please, with love, hear me when I say to you… it is not. In fact, it is a necessity. It is a must for you to nourish your mind, body, and spirit as you experience this temporary turbulence.

    It is important that you understand this too, this turbulent time you are currently experiencing will not last forever, it is temporary, just like the other turbulent times you have more than likely faced in the past. And if you take 10 mins to reflect on that right now, you will be reminded that you were able to come out of those previous times to see another day, stronger, wiser, and better equipped to continue living your life.

    If you need some support with checking in with yourself, invest time in actioning the following.

    Focus on YOU… take the time to explore and identify what it is you need DAILY to ensure you feel as good as you can. This could look like, a morning walk, exercise, journaling, cooking a meal from scratch, listening to music or a podcast.

    What is your daily gift to you?

    Gather your support team… know the people in your life that make you smile, that you can turn to when things get a little rough, that you can be your true authentic self with, that you can receive encouraging words and support with helping you make decisions that your are faced with.  This could be your partner, best friend, a family member, colleague, coach, or therapist.

    Who are those amazing people in your life that bring joy, peace, love, and clarity to you?

    Continue to trust your gut… practice listening to you again. Practice trusting yourself, your thoughts, your ideas, and the choices you make. Know that you have the best interest of those around you (and you) at heart. Your amazing ability to listen to you has got you to this point in your life and it will continue to do so.

    What does it look, feel, taste, sound, and smell like when you trust you again?

    Whatever happens you are covered… in this thing called life you will either win or learn. So, knowing that whatever choices you make you are covered is key. Even if you make a choice that doesn’t go the way you expected 100% you will learn so much from that experience it informs and positively influences your next move. This is where you restore and rebuild your empowerment muscles.

    How do you ensure you are empowered to be the best YOU; you can be? What is it you need?

    Ultimately feeling empowered during turbulent times is about coming back to you and asking yourself what and who do I need to be the best ME?

    When you have figured this out:

    • prioritise you and your needs daily
    • practice gifting yourself daily
    • and give yourself permission to receive all you need daily too.

    When you feel good, you do good for you and those around you. You are empowered to continue, even through the most turbulent of times.

    How has this resonated with you? It would be great to read your comments below and do share any of your own tips too.

    Remember if you feel like you need support with any of this people make it work are here to help… Contact us to book a complimentary 1:1 call to explore what it is you need and how we can become part of your support team to ensure you get there.

     By Vicki Igbokwe | Director of Empowerment at people make it work

  • Our principles to shape positive engagement with change and transformation

    Hi, it’s Richard from people make it work. 

    In this video blog I am sharing people make it work’s change principles – ideas we have learned are essential to create organisational change that feels owned, driven and easeful.

    The principles that I am sharing and talking about in the video include;

    • Successful, owned and motivated change is a SOCIAL process (explore, imagine, decide, act) not a PROJECT process (define, implement and enforce)
    • People don’t resist change, they resist being changed
    • People are amazing
    • Change is done BY people, not TO people
    • Change happens in a context – it’s more like a GARDEN and less like a FACTORY.
    • Love resisters, they make you strong, cause you to expand your reach and give your ideas definition
    • Change Management is about creating a context in which change is INEVITABLE. Releasing the forces for change rather than driving them

    Hear me expanding on these ideas and their importance for collaborative, effective organisational change and transformation in the video below.

    At people make it work our mission is your mission. We are committed to everyone’s culture being made for and by everyone. That means that we are also committed to supporting cultural organisations, leaders and groups in communities, regardless of the ability to pay.  Across our website, you’ll find a range of free resources as well as ways to arrange free individual surgeries if that would be useful. We’ve also got a load of programmes and associate colleagues who can support you professionally, if if that’s what you need. 

    Sending you strength and positivity!

  • Responding to negative changes

    Hi, it’s Richard from people make it work. 

    We support cultural organisations through lots of challenging situations, and witness teams and individuals managing through complex external and internal events… In this blog I’m sharing some strategies that we can all use to support colleagues, communities and family members through the experience of navigating change that is feeling negative.

    In the video link below I am sharing some models and ideas that you might want to explore;

    The Kubler-Ross curve and how this might help us understand our own reactions and those of others, as well as suggesting some helpful responses we might consider

    The Transitions curve and the implications of this insight for the process we might be going through

    The thresholds model and the steps we might take to build appetite for change

    At people make it work our mission is your mission. We are committed to everyone’s culture being made for and by everyone. That means that we are also committed to supporting cultural organisations, leaders and groups in communities, regardless of the ability to pay.  Across our website, you’ll find a range of free resources as well as ways to arrange free individual surgeries if that would be useful. We’ve also got a load of programmes and associate colleagues who can support you professionally, if if that’s what you need. 

    Sending you strength and positivity!

  • Strategies to help navigate challenging and uncertain times

    Hi, it’s Richard from people make it work. 

    With this being a particularly difficult time for us all in the cultural sector and beyond, I have created this latest video and blog entry to share some of my thoughts, learnings and experiences, which may be useful to you, your teams, organisations and the wider sector in general during these turbulent and uncertain times.  While I don’t imagine all of these will be universal and may not take in to account your individual circumstances, they nonetheless may provide some insight and tips, which you may want to embrace and consider as you begin to navigate through the changes and challenges you might be facing.

    At people make it work, we are a broad group of 65 cultural workers, who work together to support the cultural sector to change, develop and transform. The following strategies and characteristics therefore, Control, Options, Support, Well-being, Debate and Me-Shaped Change, are ones that we have identified as key to our working practice, and which have proven useful and applicable on an individual level in other areas of our lives and may be useful for you too:

    • Control:  For lots of us, creating a sense of control, even in situations which are beyond our individual action is really helpful. That doesn’t mean that we are going to seek to control the wider economy, organisational decisions, or amount of money that is coming in to our own households, but what we might do is think about what we might be able to control on one hand, and on the other what can’t we control and need to therefore adopt an attitude of flow and acceptance. For those elements we can control however, we might want to develop some personal strategies.  For instance, I might be able to think about ways of reducing my outgoings, increasing my personal resilience, getting fitter, getting better sleep.  I might be able to offer solutions or ideas in to a situation rather than wait for them to be delivered in my direction. In that way, I am creating a level of control that is healthy while navigating the change that is happening around me.  So, one of the things you may wish to do independently or with your colleagues, is have a think about the places where you can take some actions and create control, and the places where you may need to accept the lack of control. In those places where you can create control, map out what actions you can take.
    • Options:  For many of us, when we were placed in a situation where difficult things are happening, it can feel like our only job is to sit and let it all happen, but actually it can be really helpful for us to think about what are our options are and how we can affect the situation.  Many of those options might be really unpleasant and really difficult, but exploring and choosing them can still be a really useful act, even choosing amongst negative options. So for instance, if my income is reducing, which of the places am I going to decide to reduce my outgoings? It doesn’t mean that these are happy decisions, but by exploring options, setting those options out, and then making choices within those, it is a way of helping us to create a little bit of control, and that can be settling.  Some of us will need support to explore those options and for others it might be an easy action. Either way, having a think about what your options are is a good practice to have a go at. 
    • Support: Support is the third area that is really important at times when we are working within an unsettled environment.  During challenging times, it is important to identify what support we have around us: Who our support network is?  Who are those that we can call upon? What resource do we have around us? Who else can support us and is interested in our wellbeing?   It might also be helpful to think about what kinds of situations and thinking can be helpful to increase our awareness of the level of support around us, and to have started to signpost where we might want to go for what kinds of support.  So for instance, when do I have a conversation with my manager? When do I reach out to my professional network? When might I speak to my spouse or siblings? When might I think about having a conversation with my parents? My children? When might I think about reaching out to faith groups or other community groups that I’m connected with? For many of us, support networks are very often under-utilised, particularly if we feel under pressure, our reaction can often be to isolate or to hunker down rather than to reach out. So, I really recommend that we think a little bit about that in order to manage our own wellbeing in this context.
    • Wellbeing: Often, when we are feeling under pressure and when circumstances are difficult around us, strategies to support our own physical and emotional wellbeing can get ignored or under-resourced. So in these times,  we might want to increasingly think about eating well; about managing how much we drinking or other using substances that might feel useful at first, but can actually deplete our resourcefulness; about our sleep; exercise and activity; our relationships and how we maintain those in healthy ways to make sure that we are addressing tensions and bringing empathy and compassion to each other.  Thinking about connection to others during this time is also beneficial.  It is important to recognise that that we aren’t alone and that for most people of being part of a community is useful at times of challenge.
    • Debate and discussion support. For most of us, having a conversation about the challenges around us will be really fruitful, and that means creating an opportunity for people to speak, listen and think.  For lots of people, the ability to digest implications, think about those options, be supported through a process of exploration, identify their support network, unpack implications and ideas will be a social process.  It won’t happen in one bite, but it will be a series of conversations and activities over a period of time. So creating opportunities for debate and discussion, about the hardships and context that we’re working in, is useful in itself and doesn’t need to come with answers on a plate.  It can be a space where we acknowledge that each of us will have our own solutions, many of them will be unpalatable, but better than not addressing the challenges at all.  For many of us, supported discussion, structured, semi structured, regular discussion will be useful in terms of moving beyond the situation and enabling us to find answers that suit us and that are tailored to meet our own circumstances.  
    • Me-shaped change: This is about the transition from hearing about something to working out what is my version of that. For instance, how I might move from hearing that we need to work differently with communities in our cultural organisation to what does that mean for how I will work on that, how I will have conversations,  who I will reach out to, and how I will divide my time up and my resources? Me-shaped change is about accommodating, digesting and integrating the external change into something that I’m now able to drive and move forward. It doesn’t necessarily mean that these are all good things, but they are accommodations and ways of absorbing the circumstance that we’re working within.

    In discussing these above strategies, I hopefully have created a language and set of interventions and support for individuals who may consider themselves to be neurodivergent, as well as those who are neurotypical, while also of course, acknowledging that the best way to support individuals is to listen and connect with what they individually need. Some of the things that I have suggested here may not be applicable to you. If that is the case and you would like to chat about more tailored, individual support and advice, please get in touch, as I and the rest of the team would love to help!  

    At people make it work our mission is your mission. We are committed to everyone’s culture being made for and by everyone. That means that we are also committed to supporting cultural organisations, leaders and groups in communities, regardless of the ability to pay.  Across our website, you’ll find a range of free resources as well as ways to arrange free individual surgeries if that would be useful. We’ve also got a load of programmes and associate colleagues who can support you professionally, if if that’s what you need. 

    Sending you strength and positivity!

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