Sheffield’s New Constellation journey was an adventure into the future for a diverse group of Sheffielders: a process to connect, explore, imagine and begin shaping a future for Sheffield that fully reflects the potential of its incredible people and places.
New Constellations is a not-for-profit organisation that works with communities to help people imagine and create better futures based on hope and possibility. We are a small team with a background in running organisations with a social purpose. Through workshops and creative sessions, we co-create journeys of exploration in which people are able to reflect on the present, the past and to discover bold possibilities for the future.
Over three meetings in autumn 2021 (late September, late November and early December) a diverse group of 28 people from many walks of life across Sheffield came together for a journey to explore and imagine how things could be different in the city, and what’s needed to make that a reality.
Together we examined this moment in Sheffield’s history, the past that has brought us here, and the future we want to build together. We explored what we will need to leave behind, what we want to keep in our sights from the Sheffield of today, and the guiding principles that could help us reach towards a brighter future for all.
The sessions combined storytelling, sound, reflective practices and group workshops, in a way that enabled people very different from each other to find common ground and common purpose, and to build relationships with people across the city that they do not normally meet.
It wasn’t always easy, we had honest and difficult conversations about the history of how citizens have been treated in Sheffield and about the different kinds of structural inequality that persist in the city. Though some of it was hard, it was a rare opportunity to have these conversations so openly. They are an important part of the process of change.
The crew has chosen to continue working as a group to support each other and explore next steps, including how to engage and work with others. They know this is one of many initiatives and projects in Sheffield that can help the city think about what it needs to do, and how, if we are to build a better future together. We see this as one contribution to a much larger whole and in time will reach out to others to join forces and collaborate.
Sheffield is at a crossroads; communities are facing great challenges as well as significant opportunities for change. We believe real change starts with a new story of possibility, and this time of upheaval creates an opening to shape a new story, rooted in the incredible assets Sheffield has. This story must be shaped and told by the community – not imposed from the top down or the outside but generated from Sheffield’s communities, businesses, and young people.
The journey curated by New Constellations was part of a larger project led by Paul Collier, David Tuckett and the Blavatnik School Place-Based Renewal team, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
New Constellations was asked by Collier’s team to facilitate an initial meeting in Sheffield in September 2021, off the back of research they had been conducting to explore barriers to economic development in South Yorkshire. This had involved interviews with over 120 people across Sheffield.
During that September gathering, in which an initial group discussed the future of Sheffield and explored how people across the city could come together to shape a new narrative of common purpose, the New Constellations team also talked about their work and processes in other places in the UK.
As a result of that time and conversation together – and with an acknowledgement that this project will need an open and inclusive approach to enable people to join in and get involved in a variety of ways – New Constellations was invited to take forward a longer process (the ‘journey’) with a broader group of participants, to look at how to make a difference to the city they all love and call home.
This project has been funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation with contributions for the second phase from Sheffield City Council, The Sheffield Property Association and the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce. Thanks to the many people and organisations who have given their time and expertise so far.
Our ‘crew’ of inspiring Sheffielders (who were involved in one or more of the three workshops) includes Abtisam Mohamed, Alexis Krachai, Anthony Olaseinde, Beatrix Butnicu, Dave Hembrough, Gulnaz Hussain, Helen Sims, James Lock, James O’Hara, Jodie Marshall, Kate Josephs, Kathryn Littlewood, Kiri Joanna, Louisa Harrison-Walker, Mahara Haque, Martin McKervey, Matthew Yates, Matthew Pinder, Maxine Greaves, Miranda Plowden, Nathan Geering, Novaya Bedward-Makanjuola, Rebecca Varley, Sandi Carman, Sarah Want, Steve Anwar, Terezia Terry, Waqas Hameed. The group was identified through a combination of research interviews and an open nominations process anyone in the city could apply to, and carefully chosen using criteria to reflect as broad as possible a range of lived experiences of the city.
Key institutions in the city supporting this project include Sheffield’s two universities, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and the Sheffield Property Association. Members of each of these institutions participated at various stages in the process.
About New Constellations
New Constellations is a not-for-profit organisation that exists to help people imagine and create better, more beautiful futures. Our mission is to hold and grow space for individuals and communities to envision and build these futures; to find and illuminate new constellations of hope and possibility we can orient towards as we explore what true transformation will take.
Learn more at newconstellations.co