Seeds for the Future

Reflections on UKForum 2023

UKForum 2023 took place this July in England, as a collaboration between Ruskin Mill Trust (RMT) and the World Social Initiative Forum (WSIF). It was the culmination and celebration of the WSIF’s nine-month Leadership in Transformation (LiT Forums). The LiT program is an online course designed to empower individual leadership skills for real-world application. Held in weekly gatherings via Zoom from October 2022 through June 2023, it included 20 presenters and over 100 participants from more than 30 countries.


One thing is necessary –
Here in this hard world of ours
Of homeless and outcast people:
Taking residence in yourself.
Walk into the darkness
And clean the soot from the lamp,
So that people in the streets
Can glimpse light
In your inhabited eyes.1

Hans Børli
Photo: Jordan Walker

Highlights

As more than forty participants arrived from all over the world, we were warmly welcomed into beautifully prepared rooms and spaces in the Woolbarn, the Field Centre, and the craft workshops at Ruskin Mill. The whole valley seemed prepared to receive us, and the genius loci or spirit of the place felt abundant and strongly present—ready to co-host the forum event.

These natural elements themselves became part of the opening and closing ceremonies, the craft experiences, the meditation practices, and the evening fireside conversations. The contemporary practice of alchemy shaped our opening and closing ceremonies, as we framed the transformation of elements, both inner and outer, that our time together brought. During both ceremonies, we descended into the geological foundation on which the Field Centre was built and were brought into as profound a relationship to water as our signature LiT verse had given us into fire.

Another highlight, among many, was how the wonderfully diverse faculty (which included Orland Bishop, Lisa Romero, Aonghus Gordon, six craft tutors, the Ruskin Mill Organizing Team, and the WSIF Team) were able to tune in to each other and work together. Most were meeting in person for the first time, and a remarkable synergy arose within the group. Each member quietly and actively held the responsibility for the whole event, seeing what was needed and stepping up and into every situation as it arose, like bees gathering nectar for honey, each holding its own space while communicating the needs of the whole. It was quite fitting that at the conclusion of the Forum a new image was born for the WSIF’s future, out of Rilke’s words:

Our task is to stamp this provisional, perishing earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its being may rise again, ‘invisibly,’ in us. We are the bees who wildly gather the honey of the visible in order to store it in the great golden hive of the Invisible.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Photo: Jordan Walker

Impact

The UKForum marked an important transition into a new phase of WSIF’s biography. Many participants were deeply touched by the event and expressed deep gratitude. Facilitated by Joan Sleigh and Aonghus Gordon, in conscious collaboration, the immediate impact formed the seed for future Forums. People left with a resonant sense that what had been initiated with the UKForum could be the beginning of an ongoing transformational partnership.

Several alumni of the LiT program offered research presentations (both in-person and online). These presentations brought more exposure to the initiative network standing behind many of the individual participants. In the months following the Forum, alumni have taken their own initiative to hold a weekly Zoom space on Tuesdays at 4pm CET. This has been regularly attended by a dozen or more alumni, who utilize the space for vulnerable personal reflections, leading to a profound sense that the group itself is a sense organ for larger happenings in the world.

New Potential

On the Forum’s final day, a closing festival was co-designed and celebrated in honor of the nine-month LiT course. All the participants, online and in person, were invited to present the findings of the action research that they had taken up during the LiT course. In addition, the craftwork of the four groups that had explored the “descent into matter” on-site, were exhibited and presented. It was an experiment and a very creative process in which each person—old and young—was given the space to be involved and co-create. Like many experiments, the results were mixed and seemed to point toward more peer-led open spaces in this direction.

The potential of hybrid Forums, held simultaneously online and in-person, still feels in its infancy. The UKForum sought to make the experience meaningful for those watching via Zoom, while minimizing detracting from the real world, embodied experience for the in-person participants. We live-streamed as much of the Forum as we could and facilitated daily online conversations with the online participants. While this enabled some participants to follow the Forum from a distance, it also highlighted the difference in mood between onsite and online experiences.

It remains to be seen how the partnership between Ruskin Mill Trust (RMT) and the World Social Initiative Forum (WSIF) may evolve, but the intention to work together on future Forums has been clearly seeded. There is something deeply social that emerges out of researching the plants, elements, and processes of the locality hosting such a forum. This is connected to the way in which the whole ecosystem is structured and morphed from a coherent unity. If, together, we can discover the source of this unity, we may develop the art of social and spatial integration. The experience of Goethean phenomenology can serve as a foundation upon which we would like to build future Forums.


Help the WSIF Continue Their Work

The World Social Initiative Forum partners with change-makers and nonprofit organizations inspired by Anthroposophy based in the School of Spiritual Science at the Goetheanum. We are all working towards global impact and spiritual engagement in service of true social needs.


More UKForum
Recordings of the live-streamed elements UKForum 2023

Photo credit for title image Em Watson

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Footnotes

  1. The signature verse used for the LiT program.

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