Reviving our connectedness

This week our very own Ellie Osborne, wrote some words for U.K. political platform The Alternative UK, on how we can revive our connectedness, and how the Deepr Learning Marathon could help us become ready for action in a time of crisis.

Inspired by and associated with Alternativet in Denmark, they are trying to bring about “a friendly revolution”, aiming to transform the language and practice of politics on these islands.

The original post was featured as part of their Alter Natives series — some fascinating reads. We recommend checking them out.

Read on for more about the Deepr Learning Marathon starting at the end of November too.


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Another in our Alter Natives series, where we invite activists, practitioners and advocates of a more integrated and meaningful politics, to share the concrete methods and tools they use in forging their paths, and the stories that come with them.

alter+natives+-2.gifThis week, ethnographic researcher, facilitator and experimenter Ellie Osborne reports on (and invites participation in) a “learning marathon”, whose topic is the restoration of human connection, in service of climate radicalism.

ELLIE OSBORNE: HOW CAN WE EMBED MORE HUMAN CONNECTION IN SERVICES AND SYSTEMS?

If 40% of the world’s population live in cities right now, and that will grow to 70% by 2050, the culture – and the way we live alongside each other – needs to change.

We live in closer proximity and higher density.  We work longer hours. We communicate differently; more and more, we inhabit digital spaces and worlds. Our efforts to be more efficient and productive diminish moments for human connection.  We are not interacting in the same ways anymore.

This creates a painful rift as we unknowingly find ourselves turning away from cohesion, connection and collaboration. I’ve felt it myself.

My 7 years in London have not made me a stranger to the feeling of loneliness. It’s always baffled me how it’s possible to feel so alone in a city of over 8 million people. Yet it’s a well-reported fact that loneliness is on the rise.

Over 9 million adults in the UK are often or always lonely, and research has found that loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

It’s not only a problem that affects our own individual and collective health and wellbeing, but one that we inflict and have inflicted, consciously and unconsciously upon the planet we live on.

We are blasted with news of a collapsing world – political chaos ripping apart nations and dividing populations, while the climate emergency alarms are louder than ever.

The warnings that have been there for decades seem to have had little effect on making progress to stop the meltdown of the planet.

Yet from the grass roots Fridays for Future youth strikes, and self organised XR actions, to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, there are signs that some are beginning to listen to the warnings. We are beginning to build an understanding of the impossible problems we have to solve, and even attempt to do something about it.

As this movement grows, how we work and live together seems important. Well, more than important – fundamental and crucial. Not just to humans, but to life on the earth.

(WWF’s latest Living Planet Report shows that wildlife populations have declined by over half in less than 50 years, and a report from IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) found that 1 in 4 species are at risk of extinction as a result of our expansion as a human race.)

It’s not hard to join the dots. Human connection, deep and collective collaboration are needed for a more harmonious, sustainable, flourishing planet.

The lack of human connection, our reported rates of loneliness and isolation, is a problem to solve in itself. But its depletion is making it harder for humans and nature to thrive together.

And here lies a nexus in which to intervene. A fertile soil that might nurture a stronger, more cohesive culture. A sustainable crop of compassion, empathy, equality and autonomy; one that isn’t fed by fake fertilisers that that greedily accelerate yields of ego. Or by promises that technology will solve all our problems single-handedly.

In November Enrol Yourself, Deepr and Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking are launching the Deepr Learning Marathon, a dedicated space where this relationship centred culture, still in its infancy, can grow.

A dozen co-learners will have the chance to be part of a unique cross-sector peer group of professionals. They will work on the challenge of embedding human connection into services and systems.

This is a 6 month learning journey, where the participants are expected to be curious, to explore and experiment, to develop and grow projects. They will have the chance to live and embody truly meaningful human connection, while exploring learning questions based around this core theme.

These three organisations have connection and human spirit at their core. I’ve experienced it first hand.

They create a space full of trust, equality and creativity. This sparks transformation, while cultivating the confidence to experiment and try safely—in the knowledge that failure is not failure, but learning. This isn’t the kind of learning that happens with isolated individuals, the arrangement that so many of our learning institutions favour.

It’s a deep, adaptive type of learning that is peer-powered, self-directed and design-led; where the collective outcome is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a chance to grow together, to nurture interpersonal relationships, to truly learn without the damaging pressure of a type of competition that feeds egos and fear in equal measure.

I recently learnt that the word compete has taken on a new meaning in the growth of the 20th and 21st century markets. To “compete” today is to “strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.”

However, the term has evolved from the late Latin competere, meaning ‘‘to strive in common, strive after something in company with or together”. Another derivation, from the classical Latin, is “to meet or come together; agree or coincide”.

Somewhere along the way, our dominant culture has twisted its meaning. I love that the Deepr Learning Marathon rests on an alternative to the current capitalist concept of “competition”. It gives me hope.

We will be exploring the potential of what 12 people might co-create together, in community. We will begin to sense the infinite ways that human connection can be spread through our services and systems. A humane and cohesive “competition”.

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Enrol Yourself participants

Applications for the Deepr Learning Marathon are currently open until 9am on Monday 14th October. To find out more and apply visit: www.enrolyourself.com/deepr. Get in touch with Ellie directly by dropping her a line: ellie@enrolyourself.com

Enrol Yourself, Deepr and Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking kick started their inquiry with an open night of participatory discussion featuring several practitioners experienced in promoting human connection, and a wonderful audience. To hear more, listen to the conversation.

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