Visionary ecosystems, Perspectiva plans, and the solution to all your problems for a good price.
As some of you may know, Perspectiva recently engaged in a project to explore what might constitute a visionary today. The initial inspiration for this work came from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and their intuition that our need for visionaries is especially great given the challenges of our times.
We did not anticipate what would unfold – and for this, we owe much gratitude to the Emerging Futures team at JRF. The inquiry afforded us an opportunity to get to know the wider community around Perspectiva and, for me, in my role as Associate Director of Community, it made clear one aspect of Perspectiva’s purpose that I had previously only been able to dimly sense.
The subject was fascinating in and of itself, but what struck me most was the richness of response from the Perspectiva community – the depth of the one-to-one conversations, group discussions, survey responses, direct emails, voice notes and even poetry. Here are just a few examples:
“A visionary today, has substance and depth. She can see with a very wide lens beyond a particular specialism in a way which integrates and inspires, doesn’t skirt past our pained reality but ultimately courageously unveils a truth that intuits that which we could see but didn’t realise.”
“In psychotherapeutic work, there's a vision of the work being about helping the individual human come to wholeness. The visionary, perhaps, enables that for larger bodies, like a society, a people.”
“A visionary is a person that is courageous enough to not only face and work with uncertainty, they also face the paradox of believing in a future that they may have no supporting evidence for.”
After months of engagement and inquiry, the insights and responses began to weave themselves into a clear emerging theme – that of the visionary ecosystem. The idea of a visionary ecosystem is that ‘visionariness’ is rarely located within a lone individual but often comes to life through a group of people “working in iterative commons with each other”, as one of our interviewees Indy Johar put it. When I shared this idea with my colleague Leigh, she mused, “Maybe this is part of Perspectiva’s mythos – maybe we’re trying to support the emergence of a visionary ecosystem.” I felt an immediate resonance.
I started working with Perspectiva at the beginning of the year (you can read about my journey and what drew me to this work here). When my friends have asked me “what does Perspectiva do?” I’ve not always found it easy to give a succinct explanation. This is perhaps because Perspectiva is not an ordinary organisation. Among many other things, it’s a publisher, a co-creator of an annual ideas-meet-embodiment festival, it curates public events and develops practices of deep democracy (see: Antidebate). By design, we do not subscribe to a narrow field of endeavour – for instance focusing solely on democratic renewal, spiritual innovation, metaphysics, or ecologically informed economics. Instead, we work across all of these areas, as we believe this is the best way to understand the interrelated nature of our world and improve the relationships between systems, souls, and society. A “visionary ecosystem” is what I came to Perspectiva looking for and, I believe, it’s an apt expression of what Perspectiva is trying to be a part of. In our report to JRF on visionary ecosystems we wrote:
"Ecosystem is a term derived from ecology that The National Geographic describes as ‘a bubble of life’, and it has evolved to include human ecosystems and digital ecosystems. The ‘eco’ refers ultimately to an idea of habitat or home, and system refers to the complex relationships between a range of elements within some kind of boundary functioning with some kind of goal.
A visionary ecosystem is therefore a geo-socio-digital network of deep thinkers and innovators who enhance our perception of life’s possibilities and purposes, to find ways to protect and revitalise our shared and only home."
And here’s one more quote from a survey respondent sharing about the call to participate in such an ecosystem:
“Who are we? We move in our circles, and admire our fellows in different ways. And if one is moved to want to contribute to the work of moving the world from one track to another, one must have an eye for others, and a will to follow, or lead, as occasion demands. It seems there is a movement, facilitated by the internet, that is reaching out, offering and striving to consolidate itself. This seems visionary. One is not after some individual or some individuals, but a movement in which to participate…”
Importantly, “ecosystem” is evocative of diversity, and it’s the very diversity of ecosystems, the fact they are teeming with different forms of life, that makes them so endlessly creative. In reviewing the responses to our “What is a Visionary?” survey, I was struck by the diversity of people who contributed: biologists, technologists, business people, artists, ecologists, educators, writers, dancers, therapists, retail workers, financiers, poets, mechanics, doctors, software developers, activists and engineers. And yet amidst this diversity, a commonality shone through: a thirst to realise new possibilities, collectively.
During times such as we are living in now – characterised by the metacrisis and a seemingly perennial stuckness – there is a need to move beyond the conventional, beyond the known ways of doing and being. Visionariness is not just about seeing clearly, it’s about direction, inspiration, and the exercise of a rare form of agency; as author, Quaker and friend of Perspectiva Alistair McIntosh says, it brings about “a re-ordering of reality.” But it is easier to articulate this need than give concrete instructions on how to realise it. And it’s for this reason we need each other. Connection between people and between ideas – like the “bubbles of life” in the natural world – is the wellspring of creativity. It is also the birthplace of new vision.
And so, we'd like to invite you into one such 'bubble of life': we are launching a new Perspectiva online community, and we'd love for you to join.
We aspire to create a space for conversation, for exploration, for the intermingling of expression and sensibility, and for wondering – both in the sense of curiosity, and in the sense of mystified awe. And we wish to do this with all of you in the hope that we might realise a wiser relationship to reality.
Our offering is still taking form, and we’d love for you to join us in shaping its evolution, but here are the aspirations that will characterise its beginning:
A place to find the others. The Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh famously said the next Buddha will be a sangha – a community. In this spirit, the Perspectiva community is a place to find kindred souls sharing in the call to work at the edge of the unknown.
Epistemic agility. While specialisation has greatly increased human knowledge, we believe there is also a growing need for consilience – for seeing connections across disciplines and domains. We value the understanding that arises in these relationships and seek to draw on multiple ways of knowing – aesthetic, relational, embodied, spiritual and mystical.
Caring deeply. We engage in this work from a sense that life itself is sacred and that what we do matters.
Daring. A willingness to be wrong, to explore, to experiment, to engage with others and see what unfolds. Staying in the comfort of the known won’t do.
We anticipate that what we do in the community will evolve over time, but we’ll begin with the following offering:
Each month we’ll have a themed series of events, providing the opportunity to dive into a particular topic (for example, imaginal causality, fractal politics, bioregionalism, existential creativity, cosmolocalism, generative ontology, etc.)
These events will feature inspiring thinkers, speakers and doers, but also make space for conversation and practice to embody, play with and apply the ideas concretely. The first of these events each month will be free and open to all, and the subsequent events will be for paying community members.
Our first event series, curated by Perspectiva’s Ivo Mensch, and featuring Bonnitta Roy and Jeremy Johnson, is on the theme of Time in a Time Between Worlds, and kicks off on 9th October. We’ll be sending out more information about this in the next few days, but you can sign up for the first event by clicking here.
Jonathan Rowson, Perspectiva’s founder and CEO, will host fortnightly events called ‘Leading from Confusion’. This springs from the idea that while confusion is often considered a bad thing, it can in fact be a place where deep learning and new insights emerge. In these online sessions, Jonathan or a guest will share what they are currently confused about and seek to build a conversation with the community from there.
Each month, we’ll hold a 3-hour Antidebate on zoom – a collective dialogue practice that emphasises the understanding that arises through deep listening and the interplay of different viewpoints and values.
In addition to this, we’ll be hosting a monthly Perspectiva Culture Club – a salon-style group in which we'll choose a single, meaningful 'cultural artefact' – book, film, podcast, tv series, album – for discussion each month. Gently facilitated, with enough room for unexpected pathways into the media and back out again into the world.
And finally, we’ve created a Perspectiva Mighty Network to enable ongoing conversation and reflection amongst community members. We intend to organise discussions in our mighty network temporally rather than by subject, to keep the discussion fresh, vital and relevant.
To join the community and gain access to these events will cost £20 / month. A limited number of reduced cost bursary places are available by application.
To end, I’d like to share an excerpt – again from Alistair McIntosh – from a recent Thought for the Day he contributed to BBC Radio Scotland, on 27th July 2023:
“As Hebrew prophet Habbakuk put it, “vision awaits its appointed time.” And vision… isn’t just another strategic plan. Vision is a reordering of how we see reality. Without it, we’ll never reach the roots of climate change, or war, or poverty. We’d just wallow in the same old stuckness of our limitations. The Hindu scriptures say that vision is of “a light that shines in our heart… smaller than a grain of rice… or mustard-seed [yet] greater than the Earth”. And so great things begin from the smallest steps that are taken by the least of us.”
Come join us.