Reflections on the 2016 Festival
So the first Festival of Human Organising is over. Here’s a selection of comments from participants:
“what a great festival it was! Congratulations! And thank you for the inspiration.”
“Well done on organising an inspiring gathering.”
“Thanks so much for this extraordinary festival.”
“I think there is a huge need and such rich value for what you created.”
At first I didn’t know what to write about the Festival. It was, in a way, nothing special. A number of workshop-type gatherings. Walks. Reflective time. People connecting with each other. People exploring how we can come together in groups in ways that make us all feel more whole.
On reflection, perhaps it is that “nothing special” quality that made it so precious and unusual. Human organising is too often characterised by struggle and conflict, politics and intrigue, hidden agendas and confused aims. This is particularly so when we bring diverse people together. At the Festival we had plenty of diversity, in age, gender, backgrounds, ways of thinking and more, and yet everything flowed very harmoniously. We explored complex, challenging subjects (values, emotions, human potential, food, creativity, civil society, even Brexit) in ways that allowed us to transcend differences and find what connected us as humans rather than what divides us.
As chief coordinator (which meant effectively I did what ever I thought needed to be done and wasn’t being done), I can say that organising the festival felt very easy. Since nobody was in charge, everybody took responsibility for their bit. Some things that we had planned didn’t happen – other things happened that hadn’t been planned. We pulled it off with minimal cost and minimum effort. It is not that there was nothing to do – but that what there was to do felt relatively effortless and fun.
I never felt that I, or anyone else, “owned” the festival. Rather I was in service to it, and to the participants and organisers. And in serving it, and others, I served myself. I was inspired, encouraged, humbled and had a lot of fun.
In terms of numbers, over the three days of the Festival we had 20 events in the core programme, with a total of over 125 participants, plus a further 6 affiliated events. Nearly all the events took place in London but there was one in Spain. I am particularly pleased to have had the connection with Spain, given the UK’s decision a few days after the festival to leave the EU. I feel the need to build alternative bridges across to our European friends.
The ending of it was in keeping with the whole. We had a closing gathering in Green Park in central London – a quiet corner in a noisy city. There was no particular theme, we just let the conversation flow. We talked of Brexit, of diversity, of nature and many other things. Then, when we felt the conversation had run its course, we went our separate ways. Nothing special…
So what’s next? A group of us, what I have termed the “steering group”, will meet in the next few weeks and de-brief. What worked, what didn’t, what might we do next time, if we will do it again and so on. If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or comments, do get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org.