For millennia, across cultures and continents, we have looked to the stars to navigate when we are lost. In this era of transformation, in which everything is in flux, we are locked onto old stars that are pulling us in a perilous direction. We need to discover new possibilities, and reset our course.
New Constellations exists to help people imagine and create better, more beautiful futures.
We created New Constellations to hold and grow new, experimental spaces for people to examine the moment of upheaval we are living through, and to imagine and begin shaping the better futures we believe can emerge from it; futures in which humanity and the planet flourish together.
We take people and communities on immersive journeys of reflection and discovery, to examine the reality of the status quo, explore expansive possibilities for the future, and consider what true transformation will take at the levels of self, group and system.
We work with communities of place (for example in Sheffield and Barrow-in-Furness), with communities of shared interest, with organisations and companies, and with thinkers, makers and doers at the cutting edge of their field (for example with the Yale World Fellows and our Bold Dreams for Our Future cohort of transformational leaders across the UK).
Our research finds and maps new constellations of hope and possibility – ideas, people and communities that shine light on the way ahead – and illuminates them through audio, writing, and other creative content and experiences. We are working to build and nurture our growing community, and to connect people within it.
New Constellations is a non-profit company limited by guarantee. We are located across the UK but working beyond our borders, and actively exploring new forms of organisation and governance. We are not seeking to build a new institution; we see this as a time-bound initiative, stepping in at this moment, and ready to step out when we are no longer needed.
We invite you to journey, listen, read, and connect with us as we explore what it takes to turn away from old stars and discover new constellations.
We are a small team with a background in running organisations with a social purpose. We work with a constellation of many other people and networks who inform and inspire our thinking and practice.
Gemma Mortensen connects people, ideas and possibilities to meet the challenges of our times. An award winning social entrepreneur, she has a track record of making big ideas happen, and draws on her experience in media, international politics, civic participation and technology to stretch established thinking. Holder of our vision and strategy at New Constellations, Gemma is also co-founder and vice-chair of More In Common and sits on the global advisory boards of Yale University’s International Leadership Centre and the Apolitical foundation. She was previously Chief Global Officer at Change.org and CEO of Crisis Action (which won the MacArthur Award and Skoll Award for its innovative systems model) and co-chaired the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on systems leadership. She lives on Dartmoor which she loves exploring with her young family.
Iris Andrews weaves strategy, creativity and the sacred to build hope and action for a better world. Her work draws on over 15 years as a campaigner, cultural strategist and facilitator working on major global challenges (mainly the climate crisis) with a diversity of international NGOs and businesses, high profile artists and influencers, and grassroots groups. Directing New Constellations’ creative strategy and shaping and holding our journeys, Iris creates spaces and stories that engage heads, hearts and bodies to grapple with the big questions of our time. She previously worked with organisations from Greenpeace and Purpose to Participant Media and Virgin, and helped incubate and launch the European Climate Foundation, The Elders, and Meat Free Monday with the McCartney family. Iris is also an experienced yoga teacher and nature connection facilitator.
Jo Barratt works with sound pushing the boundaries of how it can be used to create spaces for reflection and social change. Jo conceives, directs and produces our audio research and experiments at New Constellations, including our audio encounters and how we weave audio into journeys and experiences. He is the co-founder of Farmerama Radio and a creative producer whose work includes radio, podcasts, audio content and sound design for exhibitions. He also has a background in working with governments and organisations using technology, education and advocacy to promote open data, open knowledge, data literacy and open science.
Lily Piachaud builds meaningful and creative connections between people to unlock positive change. She focuses on the practical, developing systems and processes rooted in care and trust that create the conditions for new possibilities to emerge. At New Constellations Lily runs day-to-day operations, tends to our community, and explores new forms of organisation and governance, drawing on her background in partnerships, operations and campaigns in the international development sector. Lily previously oversaw and managed partnerships at the international NGO Girl Effect working alongside governments, NGOs and civil society organisations across the globe. Before that she was a core part of the small team that established and ran the Jo Cox Foundation, and a Campaigns and Research Assistant at Crisis Action.
We are living through an era of extraordinary change and complexity which asks huge questions about what will become of us. We know transformation is needed, but will not be enabled by the existing structures alone, many of which feel dysfunctional and obsolete.
We share a sincere belief in the possibility of a better, more beautiful future emerging from this moment of huge change: an era of human and planetary wellbeing. We created New Constellations to hold and grow space for people to imagine and begin shaping such a future, and to find and illuminate new constellations of hope and possibility we can orient our lives towards as we explore what true transformation will take.
We see a more beautiful future already emerging, through the darkness. It glimmers in new economic and political models, new forms of community and ownership, new systems for decision making and value exchange, people learning from nature and returning to Indigenous wisdom, young people upending systems that don’t serve them, and so much more. New Constellations finds these glimmers and connects them together – the act of patterning hope. The more we illuminate these patterns, the more people will see them and be ready to turn towards them, away from the dystopian narratives so pervasive in our culture.
We have seen how change starts with new stories of possibility, and how transformation is sparked when powerful ideas, visceral experiences of connection and concrete opportunities to make change are combined. This is why we create and hold immersive journeys for groups, to help people understand the present moment, reflect on the past, open up to new possibilities and discover bold new visions for the future together.
This is new and experimental and we know we don’t yet have the answers – so will never tell you what to think. We hope to explore and learn with you as we make sense of this together. Over time, together, we hope to tell the story that emerges from these new constellations, of the brighter future that lies ahead.
We dedicate this work to the highest possibility of human and planetary flourishing, for the benefit of many generations to come.
We believe the time is now and our responsibility is great.
We seek deep and true transformation, within and without.
We see that this is bigger than each of us and also made up of something we bring.
We commit to bringing about new ways of being and doing.
We take responsibility for future generations and becoming good ancestors.
We will create new alliances, work across generations and with people who are different from us.
We believe technology should be built to enable human and planetary flourishing.
We believe we have more in common than that which divides us; so should focus on the biggest challenges of our time rather than the arguments and grievances of today.
We want to work through fear, grief and anger to share hope, beauty, exhilaration, and possibility.
Part of our approach is to build constellations of co-creation and collaboration and it is a pleasure and a privilege to create things with special people. Across the range of our work, our current collaborators include:
Emma Shaw takes inspiration from nature to redesign systems that are kinder to people and planet. She focuses on creating new economic models, governance and funding structures that are fairer and more regenerative by design, bringing 15 years experience as an ecosystem scientist and social entrepreneur. Her deepest expertise was gained as Co-founder of social enterprise, Library of Things, where she led its transformation into stakeholder ownership and received the Innovate UK Women in Innovation Award for her work on innovative impact funding. She is also an expert contributor at Considered Capital and advisor to underrepresented founders and funders building the new economy.
Hadeel Elshak is passionate about work that tackles social injustices by supporting marginalised communities to have their voices heard. She is a producer, former youth worker and journalist who has worked with the Jo Cox Foundation, National Science Museum, BBC and ITV. She is currently working at Citizens UK as a Community Organiser.
Hilary Cottam works with communities and governments to design collaborative responses to the eco-social-economic challenges we face. Her immersive methods have emerged new policy issues and her practice includes new approaches to work, care, ageing and family life. Hilary is an Honorary Professor at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose. She has been recognised by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and was named UK Designer of the Year in 2005 for her work pioneering social design. Hilary’s book Radical Help on the future of welfare was published to international acclaim in June 2018.
Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir is an experienced manager, an award winning entrepreneur, and practitioner in how to bring about transformative change. She has worked in areas ranging from post-conflict reconstruction and development with the UN, to film making and the arts, to various roles in the private sector. A firm believer that change starts from within, she is passionate about finding balance between the creative and rational, intuitive and analytical in a world in flux. She designed and directed a university program based on these ideas, written and co-directed the documentary film InnSæi – the Power of Intuition shown worldwide on Netflix and is currently writing a book in English on the topic. She is the managing director of Iceland‘s Centre for Sustainability, a managing partner at the Nordic Circular Hotspot, a Nordic Ignite Angel Ambassador, a board member of Eyrir Invest and the Advisory Council member at the International Leadership Centre at Yale. Hrund has been awarded for her sustainability leadership in Iceland, is a Yale World Fellow, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and Cultural Leader. Hrund spends her time with her family between Iceland and Germany and loves most activities outdoors.
Joanna Sparber is a passionate community and coalition builder driven by her belief in the power of collaboration across sectors to effect systems change. She is an expert in designing and facilitating innovative partnerships, programmes and initiatives that mobilize multi-stakeholder groups to achieve positive change with experience across the private and not-for-profit sectors. She runs her own strategy consultancy, Sparber Consulting focussed on supporting organisations design and deliver their social impact, community and external affairs strategies. When not working, you will find her nose deep in a book – all genres.
Kate McLaven embodies the power of community coalition for urgent change, whilst also taking a critical and creative approach to long term systems change. Kate grounds herself in her experience working front line in service provision, and volunteering as co-coordinator of grassroots group, York Anti Racist Collective. Her practice is rooted in access to community and connection, with a particular interest in ethics, accessibility and healing through a decolonised lens. Kate works as the York Local Lead at JRF, and as a member of Catalysts Governance Steering Group. Kate has also previously supported the design of NSEADs Anti-Racist Art Education Action resources and has stewarded change across York at the York Multiple Complex Needs Network.
Kim Willis is an award-winning communications strategist, facilitator and writer, who has spent twenty years working in the field of change with a specialism in community and story. She has worked for the UN and 10 Downing Street, written for The Guardian, and founded the Heroine’s Journey project to disrupt patriarchal narratives around the lives of women. She runs her own embodied strategy consultancy Where We Grow, and is also the senior strategy director at global content agency Cedar, working with clients including Nikon, Eurostar and YCare International. She is a mindfulness practitioner and qualified trainer, based on 14 years of practice using mindfulness and embodiment as part of recovering from long-term illness. Kim lives and works between London and South Wales.
Megan Lucero works at the intersection of systems change, community power and journalism. She launched and ran The Bureau Local, a UK grassroots investigative network, and is now working on The People’s Newsroom, a shared commons for those building community power and liberation through storytelling. She’s deeply interested in a reimagined funding distribution after seeing how current wealth structures have harmed the many communities she’s worked with. She’s a nerd for infrastructure, a dreamer and a huger and is usually found with her dog Dottie nearby.
Rithikha Rajamohan is an applied researcher working at the intersection of technology, governance and social justice. She is interested in understanding how people and organizations can work within complexity to create deep systems change and build adaptable civic infrastructure in cities. She has experience in community organizing, ecological restoration and digital mapping, and is the Principal of the V6A Collaborative, a consulting studio employing scalable experimentation to support the creation of a civic commons.
Utile are an art, design & branding studio crafting work with texture, tactility & emotion. By merging craft, illustration & bespoke typography with expertise in branding, digital and animation, they craft culturally relevant work that resonates with artistic value.
Yasmin El Dabi connects people with themselves, others and their purpose in the world. As an executive coach and facilitator with 20+ years’ experience, she is passionate about creating the conditions for people to learn, grow and evolve. She works with individual leaders, facilitates CEO peer learning groups, helps executive teams work better together and facilitates leadership development workshops. She works internationally and with a wide variety of businesses and sectors. Recent and current clients include: The Atlantic Institute, OnPurpose, Sanergy, Viamo and Change.org. Yasmin is a life-long learner. When not working with leaders or leadership teams, you will find her attending courses or reading books on systems thinking, neuroscience and personal and systems transformation. She is half German, half Sudanese and lives in York with her teenage daughter.
The inspiration behind New Constellations is itself a constellation of wonderful people who have helped this project emerge and continue to shape our thinking.
Thank you to all who have done so, including…
Aaron Dworkin, adrienne maree brown, Alaric Mostyn, Alec Proffitt, Alice Jay, Alvin Carpio, Andrea Barron, Andrew Naylor, Angel Acosta, Anna Murray, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Anthea Lawson, Audrey Tang, Baljeet Sandhu, Becky Burchell, Bel Lyon, Benjamin Davis, Beth Kirkby, Bill Sharpe, Bo Davis, Candy Chang, Caroline McGinn, Casper ter Kuile, Cassie Robinson, Charles Foster, Coleen Waldron, Cosima Prata Barratt, Dean McSkimmings, Emma Sky, Felicitas von Peter, Fiona Napier, Gemma McKell, Geraldine Chin Moody, Geoff Mulgan, Giles Hutchins, Hardin Tibbs, Harry Morgan, Hilary Cottam, Hope Turner, our friends at House of Beautiful Business, Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir, Iona Lawrence, James Mallinson, James Turner, Jane Hera, Jane Riddiford, Jaron Lanier, Jay Zaccarini, Jessie Teggin, Jim Godfrey, Jo Cox, John Murphy, Karen Mahaffy, Kat Segal, Kate Raworth, Laura Storm, Lauren Bryan, Lilian Carpenter, Liz Slade, Lonnie Bunch, Louis Davis, Lucy Powell, Mabel van Oranje, Maddi Nicholson, Margaret Levi, Martin McLeavy, Mathieu Lefevre, Natalie Chapples, Nick Grono, Pat McCabe, Phoebe Greenwood, Polly Mackey, Poppy Mardall, Rob Hopkins, Rod Sugden, Roman Krznaric, Ruth Ibegbuna, Sally Osberg, Sam Plum, Sarah Arun, Sarah Hunter, Sarah Jackson, Sharon Mullen, Shauneen Lambe, Sophie Howarth, Theodore Zeldin, Tim Dixon, Tom Lowes, Tom Pravda, Tristram Stuart, our friends at UTILE, Yo-Yo Ma.