Bold Dreams 2022:
a journey for courageous leaders
‘Bold Dreams for Our Future: a journey for courageous leaders’ brought together 17 people from all four countries of the UK, all innovating in service of people and communities. Spanning different generations, public and private sectors and many walks of life, the group explored their visions for flourishing futures and the transformation they want to contribute and commit to.
From the bright spring frosts of Kent to the first breaths of winter in the Peak District, the Bold Dreams crew followed the New Constellations journey in four stages throughout 2022, tracking and taking inspiration from the seasons of the year.
Made by Jo Barratt with Gemma Mortensen, Iris Andrews, Lily Piachaud and Hadeel Elshak.
Featuring the voices of Abdi Hassan, Asif Afridi, Chrisann Jarrett, Clare Reddington, Farah Elahi, Fiona Hegarty, Ivor Williams, Jane Davidson, Jules Peck, Kayla-Megan Burns, Lou Byng, Mahara Haque, Noreen Blanluet, Peter Macfadyen, Stephanie Antonian, Sughra Ahmed and Tom Hartley.
With thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund for making this journey possible.
Hello, mysterious phone call from the future of Bold Dreams. I’m calling you from outside, the sky in Birmingham.
I am currently on Duporth Beach, which is quite close to where I live, just so peaceful and the vastness of it looking out to the sea and the waves.
I’m in my garden.
I’m looking out into my garden.
So I’m in Vicky Park, Victoria Park, it’s opposite my flat.
I’m sat on a park bench and it’s a place I just come to, to walk around in my lunch break, to lie about on a Saturday sometimes and read my book.
I’m in my flat, on my sofa.
So I’m sat at my kitchen table in my house in a little town called Tame.
I’m making this recording on a bridal path that you get to through the track that runs past our refurbished barn.
Looking out the window, at the greenery we have around here.
I’m on my roof terrace looking down the valley at a canal and the river below me.
I’m sitting in the polytunnel in my garden.
I am in my family home in County Fermanagh.
I’m currently in my bedroom, this is where a lot of inspirational thinking has happened in the midst of the pandemic.
I am at the crossroads of something.
So I woke up the other morning and I thought, okay, let’s do this and let’s do that and maybe we should move house. And I thought, fucking hell, I’m 80 in 15 years, I’m on the, you know, the last few steps of a hundred metres. How would I like to be and who would I like to be in this final few steps before the end?
I’ve been down a rabbit hole for quite a long time of sort of organisation and, you know, hiring people and raising money and getting bank licences and really needing to step back a bit and zoom out and get a fresh perspective.
I’m mostly hoping to explore new ways of connecting with new people around really important agendas about intergenerational fairness.
In Arabic, there’s this kind of concept of Haqq which is like kind of absolute truth.
One thing I’m, I’ve been very keen on for a long time is how do I inject fresh thinking or a fresh perspective into everyday challenges where I notice people tackling things in the same way all the time. And whilst that stagnation frustrates me, I’m always trying to think about solving problems in a different way.
So I think the biggest thing that I’m hoping to explore is how to make the biggest impact as possible.
I’m really hoping to gain, do you know, I think healing is the right word, some healing.
I’m hoping to explore the temporality and pace of change.
The idea of dissolving into a group just feels like such a joyful thing to do.
I’m ready to look back and reflect on things I’ve done in the past and unlearn some stuff.
Cowardice sounds very judgmental, perhaps it’s the wrong word, but I can’t quite think of the right word. I’m ready to let go of something that I’ll call cowardice. Timidity that’s still there at 65 after having done a lot of things, which some people would regard as not, you know, cowardly. There’s still a side of me that’s not prepared to jump, that won’t quite do it, that won’t step out, that won’t, all of those things.
I spent so much of my life in senior roles where the role commands a level of authority. In the last couple of years since I’ve retired, I’m experimenting with actually losing some of those inhibitions, which makes it much easier to talk to a far wider group of people.
Being a middle child and a Pakistani woman, there’s like a lot of like, people pleasing, needing to be liked. I want to keep the parts of that that are in service of something positive and let go of the parts that are toxic.
I’m really ready to let go of business as usual, I’m ready to let go of being right, I’m ready to maybe let go of the notion of career.
Rather than letting anything specific go, I’d quite like to open the space
Okay, I’m excited to see you all. This is gonna be wild.
I feel like I’m on the edge of an adventure but I also feel like that’s where I am, we are. But I also think the wider world is, you know, in something else. I think the wider world is at a moment of dropping. I think the world has dropped. I think our collective wellbeing, our collective living system has dropped into dysfunction.
Are we at the top of something or at the bottom of something? Is it a big leap or a big hill?
I think we got here by just living beyond our means.
I think we are at moments that we don’t even understand or comprehend because we don’t have the information and a lot of that information is locked away or in circles, elitist circles. I feel like we are, as working class people surviving, that’s what this moment is. Survival.
It’s a bit like when you go on holiday and you have the first day off when you’re on leave and you suddenly get a cold or something like that, your body catches up with you and realises something quite traumatic has happened. You know, you’ve been pushing yourself really hard at work, and then as soon as you slow down your body says wait there, I need some time. So I think it’s a bit like that for us now, getting out of the pandemic, trying to recognise the impact it’s had on us.
I dunno, the industrial revolution, there were two, the rise of consumerism and plastics and technology and AI and automation in just the last, I dunno, 150, 200 years things have just been speeding up exponentially. And now we’re at the stage where, where everybody, where everything is shit. Where everything is hard, where everything’s happening too fast. A combination of catastrophes, but there’s been moments of crises before. So we’re at one now again, and this moment is the one where we step up and do something about it.
I think if we don’t make changes now, we’ll be the generation that future generations look back and go: these guys were the generation of greed, the ones that blundered everything away, the ones that took all our resources and snatched Mother Nature from us. And we need to work harder so we don’t become that for our future generations.
Every time that I feel like I show up into this group, I’m like, yes it’s like there’s always this like energy that comes with it. I felt like touching everyone’s mind, just sitting around in a circle, it was just so lovely. And it just oh touches my soul you know, it makes me feel really good inside.
It feels like the moment before something big happens, or maybe the moment before nothing big happens, but a moment where there’s butterflies in the stomach.
I needed a different way of working, and that different way of working had to come from a place of love and compassion.
Having decided intentionally to pack away parts of myself over the years. And throughout the programme from the start till now, unpacking bit by bit, dealing with loss, dealing with optimism, also dealing with despair and recognising it was such an internal facing or inward facing journey. I think that’s what’s shocked me, but in a really brilliant way that I didn’t know I needed it until now.
I’ve never seen myself as a leader, but actually talking this morning, it’s, you know that by behaving in a certain way, that’s one form of leadership, which, which I never thought of.
In my chest I almost felt a real lightless and that it was like I had sort of disregarded my chimp that was in there that was like full of judgement and anger and cynicism.
The charismatic element of it all, and the flamboyance behind the performance of leadership, it can be quite easy to not assess yourself, but just think about what you are trying to create. And it is a futuristic view of like society, but you are not seeing your positionality within that.
I feel like we’ve all got this golden thread, somehow we’ve all been connected together and we’re all in completely different lives, but we’re all at the same journey.
So much of where we’re trying to build alternatives, we still root that in the soil that we’re in, and so much of that soil is toxic. We live in a world of systems that are man made, that are kind of constructed around us, but that were constructed by quite a limited group of people in the context of humanity.
Sometimes I wasn’t always living up to the ideas that I thought I was, and that sometimes I could be the problem. And that I can use my gifts for either good or evil. And again, it’s that response and thinking about the response that you’re going to make.
In the past, I’ve tended to always think it, but never really been able to express it.
Maybe I’m playing it too safe. Maybe I need to be a bit more risky, a bit more bolder, because somehow I’m limiting my own abilities as well because I’m trying to play it really, really safe and there’s no comfort and growth in safe. I do want system changes to happen, but how do I do that where the consequences isn’t me, because if I’m not there, that journey’s not gonna continue. But if I’m there and if I’m doing something every day, It feeds into that and will have that compound change.
You can be in social justice and not give a shit about anybody else. I do think actually we all have the same purpose, like the purpose is collective, to be like supportive of each other, to help each other, to contribute to society. But the way we do it is totally individual. So it’s almost like I used to think, okay, I will find my individual path and then that will benefit the collective. But it was like when I flipped that and was like, no, I have a collective like purpose and accepting that is what helps me unlock what my individual talents are for how I contribute to that.
I think it’s really healthy to be mad about where things have got to, but to imagine a role for everyone going forward is still an approach that I think is the best chance to transform the world.
I know I had children, I knew what a seesaw, how they worked, you put someone heavy on one side and when it’s equal in tips. So the realisation that actually a tipping point may happen with very few people, a critical mass of change, of people who lead to change can be really quite small. And that’s what I guess gives me hope often in these things.
So I use this analogy of being in a bit of like a metamorphosis or a bit of like a chrysalis phase. And it’s like you can start to feel things are shaping up. Still very embryonic, but I’m feeling at the stage that I have resolved some subconscious things. They’re still like the kind of moments they’re gonna kind of merge and kind of like, almost like a fucking mushroom, like sprout up and be like, oh, it’s a thing.
Any sort of change like that’s about trying to imagine something different, you’re gonna get push back right. So I have noticed reactions in people when they’re not ready for it or they feel that it’s not needed. I guess one thing I’ve learned is not to take that personally.
I think the big thing that’s emerged for me through this and from reflecting on this experience is the interconnectedness and interdependence of people and systems and the work that work that people could do together.
I feel that the lesson for me, as somebody who’s lived alone for quite a long time, is how important being connected with people in this way is and for quite a long period of time, and how that it’s so nourishing and important for the soul and it has provided so much healing.
So for me, the change that I wanna see is just a world that’s more connected around, around these kinds of efforts, like less siloed, less, um, everyone in their own lane.
Relatively small decisions can make such a fantastic difference when there’s such a huge potential to create the world in which we wanna talk about now as being, which is fantastic, which has never been true before.
I will continue leaning in, continue knowing that there’s a group of people that are feeling the same.
All the different theories around what good transformation looks like or where we are at the moment in the world in relation to the tipping point and how economic models are collapsing and what we can do to really enhance, for me, enhance my work in a really brand new way. And I’ve been able to really study some of that and apply it in a very practical way in my work. Perhaps my superpower is that I have ADHD and I’m, my brain wants to be able to understand theory and apply it really quickly, and we’ve done that.
I believe in, you know, return to wholeness or finding wholeness and, and finding, you know, being full, those who can kind of fully embrace all parts of themselves, which includes basically the fear and anxiety as much as the joy and everything else are at peace and find acceptance and, and, and die well. If that’s writ large at a community level or a system level, if we can learn to die well through being at peace and being accepting of these things, I think that unlocks something much deeper. And that is what I think I’m drawn to, I’m being kind of, you know, pushed toward a little bit.
Actually, the world’s problems is not solved by labels and segregating people based upon what you perceive as necessary to solve a problem is literally putting a bunch of people that dunno each other, are so different from each other, and giving them a common problem that we all face. And then be like, what would you do about this? And nobody, no one person is correct. And perhaps that’s what the kind of fragmented approach to kind of injustice, whether it be climate or social injustice that’s, I think that’s been the error so far. It’s like we need a niche group of people that know this area very well, but actually no, because there’s a humanity throughout all of those injustices, and you just need human beings to be in a room together and put forward their expertise no matter what level that they are.
We talk about making the, the alternative, the new economy, the regenerative neighbourhoods. Like more enticing, appetising, delicious, wonderful. Like so much more appealing than everything in its shadow that people come and move towards it, rather than tearing down what is painful, like, and giving people a way out of that system. So if X is broken, how can we create Y, which will heal each other and then the system will shift, like you don’t have to change a hundred percent of the existing system, you just have to create enough of a movement.
One of the things that’s in my mind when we first came together back in April there was almost a real nervousness about going back into the world. At the end of the journey now I think everybody and me especially, I feel really excited to go back and to try stuff out and to work really hard and to bring to life some of the things that this has sparked and energised me to do. Yeah, I can’t wait really. I feel full of confidence and full of excitement about what could come next.
I feel very excited and I don’t know how to take that excitement and to meaningfully share it with the people that I work with. And so what next for me is like some, some landing of these processes and things and finding some ways to bring the language into my work.
The other thing I’ve been doing that relates to that is trusting a bit more in, it’s gonna sound weird, right? So I kind of like trusting more in, I said it the other day about sort of the dreams that I have. We need more dreaming in our world you know, we need more, we need people to listen to what’s happening in their unconscious, really, you know, so that, so that we can create something different.
It’s almost filled a void in a way I didn’t expect. I knew there was something missing from the world I work in and my own practices, and this has filled it and beyond, it’s almost this will feel like an infinite source of inspiration and energy. It will be such a powerful kind of guiding light for me in the future.
I feel like I’m coming back to shore, like I’m coming back to my life with a kind of settling of emotions and kind of thoughts a little bit as to like what I wanna do next.
I really believe in the power of relationships. It feels like lots of new seeds have been planted in my life and I’m excited to see what emerges from that.
This whole process is literally, I feel just tapping into people’s minds, tapping into people’s brains, tapping into that collective intelligence that we don’t normally get anywhere near. Oh yeah, I feel like it’s just different ways of being, and I actually can’t wait to see the outcome you know. I really can’t.