As we step into the 10-day countdown to Turning the Tables conference, the inspiring and thought-provoking conversations continue: conversations with our 10 young speakers, with my network of extraordinary collaborators, and with new people I’ve met as a result of starting this journey.
I’m grateful to Canon Ed Newell, CEO of Cumberland Lodge and author of “The Sacramental Sea”, for quite accidentally helping me to realise why the Turning the Tables Conference is so important to me. As our wide-ranging conversation the other day turned to the magical and profound effect that the ocean can have on our physical and mental health, Canon Newell referred to “turning the tide”. Exactly. I’m hoping that Turning the Tables will be the start of turning our sea of troubles into waves of opportunity.
I’m also grateful to Camilla Parker of Just Equality for informative and inspiring conversation around the rights of all young people, and to artists like Elizabeth Arifien who fiercely and beautifully continue to remind us of all that we can gain from granting equal respect to all types of intelligence and expression, not just the intellectual and verbal.
It has seemed to me for some time that the role of our governments and organisations has been reduced to a clumsy, resentful patching up of holes in dysfunctional systems, only to see another hole appear as soon as that repair is done.
I’m impatient for more fundamental change. Smarter people than I, Albert Einstein for one, have expressed this more eloquently, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Also smarter than I, my friend and colleague the extraordinary Lucy Taylor recently asked if perhaps the concept of sustainability sets too low a bar, it implies maintaining the status quo, when our aim instead should be regeneration. We need not better repair kits, but to build something new out of the remains of the old.
We continue to complain that nothing seems to work, and the evidence for this is right there under our noses; from homeless people on the streets to electoral corruption to 6 week waits to see a GP, yet like an addict returning to the drug dealer, we keep looking for help in the wrong places. This is not least because we keep bringing our problems to those “excellent sheep” described by William Deresiewicz, the graduates from establishment schools and top universities who have achieved their status by performing so well within this broken system.
Because of my own steep learning curve in the last few years, I have come to believe that it is never too late to really listen to and learn from those that we have previously placed on the outside. If we help them to belong, we will all benefit. I am emphatically not asking for intellectual colonialism at Turning the Tables; our role as the audience is not to listen to these young people and tell them how we will help them to be more like us. No. Our role is to have enough humility to listen to them, and, based on what we hear, co-create with them the new ways of working and playing that we so badly need.