East London Innovators Ride Again

6heads group Bootyard shot small

On Tuesday 28th May a team of curious and committed changemakers from 6heads came on another iteration of the Hackney Tours ‘East London Innovators’ sustainability and social enterprise walk. This time there was a whole new level to this journey into new ways of doing business – a journey into ourselves.

The first part of the evening was a walk where I (Simon Cole AKA Hackney Tours) led the group around some of the iniatives that make Hackney an exciting place to be in ‘Business 2.0’, or whatever you want to call the next generation of enterprises that are responding to societal and environmental challenges in the era of Extinction Rebellion.

There were energy projects, food waste ideas, ways of addressing inequality and more. I’ve been exploring the area for a decade now and enjoy sharing the thrill of discovery – especially when it’s something that offers a much needed element right now: hope.

Within a small area of geography and inside a short space of time we’d covered everything from global supply lines to local activism, seeing how people can and do make a difference in East London. And then it was time for the next phase.

I’ve thought before about events where you leave fired up and excited, but then where do you channel that energy? Perhaps we could take it and do something with it, rather than just let it dissipate as the everyday reasserts itself over us?

Sunflower framed on side of Hub 67 Hackney Wick oblong Ah Sunflower BYOB HT

And now this where it got really interesting. If I was the Mary Wollstonecraft element – interested in how rational post-Enlightenment thinking and social justice principles can help us build a better world – lifecoach Shaun Higgins was the spirit of her contemporary William Blake. Tapping into our intuition and the mystical*,

* mystical can refer simply to “the belief that direct knowledge of… ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (such as intuition or insight)”

coach Shaun used the skills he’d learned at the celebrated environmental centre Embercombe to bring us together in a way that most of us rarely get to experience in our workaday lives. Gathered in a circle we came together to share…

“In an over-rationalised world, we see ‘reality’ through a limited frame. By accessing our deeper intuition, we can receive information from other channels that are often left out of the picture,” says Shaun. These pathways are obscured or drowned out by the noise of city and the demands of fast-paced 21st Century life.

If we use the idea of Nature’s rhizomes as a metaphor, then our attempt to impose simplistic hierarchical ways of thinking on the complexity of our surroundings leads us to us ignoring all sorts of interconnected ways of intuiting the world around us.

“The shape of the world we create around us, is a reflection of the shape of our thoughts,” says Shaun. Metaphorically and literally, in our head we know the fastest way from A to B, but we’ve forgotten how rich a route the backroads are. “Our intuition is asking us to think outside the map, maybe not even walk on the roads at all?” he suggests.

The map is indeed not the territory. William Blake probably didn’t think of himself as an alternative lifestyle guru, but he was suggesting – with his own distinct brand of mysticism expressed through art and poetry – different ways of being in the world.

In the intimacy of the circle on the floor, Shaun enabled us to open up and asked us to listen to our inner wisdom to share something of our own journeys as changemakers. This was done using an ancient technique used worldwide by many different indigenous cultures, the Way of Council.

Only an hour earlier, we’d spent time in a vital community green space enjoying a connection to the very earth that sustains us, hearing about the need for farming techniques that don’t rinse it of all its nutrients (see here for a shocking food statistic almost ignored by our own media).

Being a changemaker often means taking the road less travelled. It can be lonely. The conventional societal rewards of status and material wealth are often not on offer in this environment. Social Entrepreneurs have to be more self-reliant. Which is why a “beautiful oasis” – as one participant described this safe space where changemakers could come together and reinvigorate themselves – like this was so welcome. “We just don’t do enough of this,” said a veteran of the social enterprise sector.

If the world of work often involves a lot of ‘business-speak’, this was an opportunity to speak purely and unashamedly from the heart. At a breakaway session I hosted in November at the ‘Hackney: A Social Enterprise Borough’ conference (thank you Hackney Cooperative Developments), I heard myself how amid the air-punching of events that understandably need to fire up the crowd, individuals are concerned that they may not have unlimited personal resources to keep pushing for a better world.

Sustainable movements need sustainable individuals. And self-care cropped up here too. If we are to put the oxygen mask on society at large, we have to make sure we’re wearing one first. When you are involved in something that’s bigger than all of us, you can neglect and lose yourself in the mission.

From my own experience in any form of socially progressive movement, it seems people are always grateful for an opportunity to come together – something 6heads specialise in facilitating – in what can be an isolating landscape where the currency is still ‘how much?’ and ‘how fast?’.

Shaun: “Indigenous people know that we are all already of one tribe. But contemporary life hides this birthright from us. Our circle was an opportunity for us to come together again as family and be nurtured by one another.”

And it did feel like family. Social Enterprise Borough Hackney is about creating a sustainable eco-system where we support each other in the collective pursuit of change that unites our individual efforts towards a better world.

Come be part of the movement?

Thanks to Shaun, 6heads and also Hackney Cooperative Developments for hosting us.

Hackney Tours uses the context of the borough’s radical past and present to explore the future of East London through things like social enterprise and activism. From the impact of gentrification in Hackney Wick to the legacy of dissenters like Mary Wollstonecraft and the social enterprise phenomenon, organisations like LSE, Goldsmith’s University and more come to get a little East London inspiration. Sign up here to know more or explore the site. Or hire Hackney Tours for your group/family/organisation.

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