I call it magic when a group of people sets off to create something bigger than they thought is possible; something that holds a deep purpose for each individual, and, most importantly, far beyond.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has’. Margaret Mead

The mix & its purpose

“THIS THING” combines education for aspiring change makers*, obsolete spaces and resources** and community entrepreneurship *** to create resilient and sustainable learning, culture and enterprise hubs – for building local economies, healthy communities and global social change.

* aspiring change makers are creatively inquiring minds who want to make a difference in their communities, organisations and society; who want an education that provides them the skills and opportunities to do this; and who want to unfold their creative potential!

** obsolete spaces and resources are un- or under-used due to economic and social shifts, i.e.1 million shipping containers becoming obsolete because of reductions in global trade; office blocks or industrial estates that are available due to businesses closing down; overgrown derelict buildings; an old ferry that is afloat yet not sea-going anymore.

***at the heart of community entrepreneurship sits the belief that a community ~ and small groups of people ~ can make an incredible difference, and that they have everything needed to create the reality they wish to see, combined with an entrepreneurial spirit and capacity to actually make it happen.

What “THIS THING” tackles:

THE I: Education crisis & unemployment

Education at large no longer does its job – to prepare people to flourish in society. We are experimenting with innovative ‘creative commons’ and experimental education that provides greater meaning, relevant knowledge and skills, and the capacity to get into or create sustainable employment.

THE WE: Crisis of community & economy

In times of economic downturn and changes, most people do not have a community to support them through difficult times. We stimulate a sense of community and a local economy to enable people to build more sustainable, fulfilling and resilient livelihoods.

THE IT: Life on earth beyond the means

Declining ecosystems and climate change are the result of people, at large, using more resources than the planet can sustain long term. We are experimenting with creating spaces and livelihoods ‘as if we had only one planet’ to play with.

How “THIS THING” goes about it:

It provides ‘an experimental education’ for creatively inquiring minds, for aspiring change makers and social entrepreneurs. The training is centred on “learning by doing”. The ‘doing’ part involves running the learning, culture and enterprise hub, and supporting or creating community enterprises, using obsolete spaces and resources. This is “learning by making a difference”.

The evolution of “THIS THING” 

As a learning organisation, it grows organically mirrored on the principles of nature. Once a group of changemakers spend 10 months on their learning journey, their ‘examination challenge’ begins. Collaboratively, they spend two months in a different community to establish another hub that will then host another group of learners, who at the end of their learning journey will establish another hub e.g.

Over time, a global network of “THESE THINGS” emerges. Learning and community processes are refined in online learning spaces. An open source cornerstone curriculum is developed by and for creatively enquiring minds. A new paradigm of education and community businesses evolve.

A few more words on…

…the education programme.

I don’t imagine it to be a ‘taught’ programme in the traditional sense. At the heart is ‘learning by making a difference’ – this may include running (and creating) the hub; living sustainably and in community; supporting or co-creating community projects or local social enterprises. Reflections and opportunities to ‘try it again’ will bring forth learning.

“Learning by making a difference” will be embedded in a corner-stone curriculum that is facilitated rather than taught, and other learning processes such as mentoring, authentic enquiry (self-directed learning journey), leadership development, action learning sets, adventures or coaching. All processes and content will be open sourced, and used / developed by its users over time, manifesting into a free online learning platform.  

…the spaces.

Each space that hosts the ‘learning change makers’ and the learning, culture and enterprise hubs will unfold in different ways, depending on the dreams and needs of each community. The space may host workshops and making spaces, an urban agriculture project, incubator hubs, a café, residential facilities for the learners, a youth club…

Overtime, some principles will evolve that these places will be built around, such as creating real value for individuals, community and planet; creating beautiful & quality spaces…

…community entrepreneurship.

The intention of “THIS THING” is to empower and support members of the local community to create sustainable, fulfilling and fair livelihoods, and to contribute to building the local and global community they would love to live in.

Ways in which this may manifest could be in providing cheap spaces – i.e. for incubating, making, producing, playing, growing or meeting; or in ‘learning change makers’ working alongside start-ups or catalysing community projects, such as local currencies, an alternative pension fund, cultural events, tool share schemes…

Financial & Organisational Model – First Thoughts

Organisational models

Each of “These Things” is owned by the community it intends to serve. A multi-stakeholder co-operative model could work here. Members can invest through labour / resources or money. Different membership levels can ensure that the local community members have at least 51% of the voice.

An umbrella body, constituted as a company limited by guarantee and charity could be set up to support the creation and running of “these things”. This may include facilitating the evolution of the cornerstone curriculum, to manage the application process, to provide training for people running ‘the thing’, to receive donated property, e.g.

“This Thing” should always be able to choose its affiliation with the umbrella body. 

Income streams

Tuition fees…

Initially, the learners pay for / raise money / find sponsors for their experience, yet have the potential to earn (some) of this money back (to start up their life, project or business after the experience). Once “the thing” is established, the vision is that the learners are paid (i.e., the apprenticeship model).

Another idea is that participants have to raise at least £1000 to participate, and this money will go directly into ‘an investment fund’ that will be spent that year in the community. With 20 people participating, this could provide £1000 start-up capital!

Social enterprise…

In essence, the learners provide real value to the community (because you can only really learn experientially if you also create something real), which yield financial returns. At the heart is the principle of transforming undervalued resources and space into something that has greater value ~ stimulated by creativity, and the energy released by the community creating something meaningful.

Space…

The spaces are provided / donated by local councils, property management companies e.g. in exchange for the value the organisation will add to the community and property.

Membership…

Investment from the community.