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Community and changemaking

Learning from the Hive Dalston

I believe we all have gifts to offer. And that those of us who feel a call to act for change in the world each have a unique part to play.

I’m passionate about people finding their ‘thing’. What I mean by your ‘thing’ is that sweet spot where what pains you in the world overlaps with your experience, skills, gifts and passion for change.

This may turn into your job and your livelihood or it may be something you do in your spare time that fuels and inspires you. And it doesn’t have to be hard work! This is about bringing all of you – all your brilliance, creativity, quirkiness and fun – all that makes you, you – to your actions for change.

What I witness is that the more ‘on purpose’, focused and aligned you are the more your voice gets clearer and stronger and your impact in the world increases.

And this doesn’t have to be something you do on your own – it may be something you work on with others.

However due to the way society is structured today even if we do work with others we can frequently feel isolated and overwhelmed in our work for change. This is where the importance of self-care comes in. We need to look after ourselves and reach out to others for help and support to build our resilience and resourcefulness as changemakers – and this can be hard as many of us feel ‘I can’t ask for help’.

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How is this different in a community setting like the Hive?

At Sunday’s event at the Hive I shared exercises and insights linked to these perspectives on changemaking. Alongside this, Gee Sinha, one of the founders and directors of the Hive shared some of his experiences.

The Hive Dalston has been a pilot project for ReSpace Projects – an initiative to use empty urban buildings for social, environmental and community good. It’s been going for the past 2 ½ years and has been an incredible success – and all carried out in close cooperation and agreement with the owner and developers.

Gee shared that the growth of the Hive has been organic and there have been different phases during the past 2 ½ years. At times a small team has run the place and at other times many people have been involved. And the times when more were involved were not necessarily the most productive!

I was particularly struck by Gee’s response to my tip on the importance of self-care for changemakers. In my work both with grassroots level changemakers and those working for larger organisations I witness people forgetting to look after themselves over and over again. It’s endemic in our society – you don’t have to look at changemakers to see burnout. Many people are exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed particularly in a big city like London.

However Gee’s experience seemed to be different. The Hive has been a creative hub. It was begun with very little money and many people have lived and worked there over the past few years. In this context Gee didn’t seem to have experienced or witnessed the burnout I see regularly around me. In reflecting on this I wonder if this is because the Hive provided both community and shelter. With fundamental needs for belonging and basics such as food and shelter covered perhaps stress levels were not so high? Although there may have been other challenges, people involved at the Hive were ‘held’ in a way that most of us are not.

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I find this an intriguing glimpse of a possible future. In this future we’re not stressed about meeting our basic needs by exchanging our time for money. With basic needs met creativity can flourish and everyone can simply get on with ‘doing their thing’ – it’s not such a big deal.

Gee spoke of not needing to ask for help so much when the Hive was thriving because people were collectively responsible for the running of the place and would step in when they saw things that needed to be done. People worked to their strengths, skills and interests while also being aware of the needs of the whole community. How simple it sounds yet how few of us live in communities like this?

With policies such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) now receiving more serious consideration I wonder if the experience of those who lived and worked at the heart of the Hive experiment show us how this can be done – and without even needing much money. At the Hive people had space to live in, simple food and shelter provided and freedom to be creative.

This is an environment in which we as changemakers and simply as creative human beings can thrive! The Hive has hosted many incredible events and happenings – supporting many others who are co-creating the future we know is possible.

Although the Hive closes very soon this experience stands as testament to what can be achieved by people coming together around a common vision in community where we're both supported and support. We’ve all become too fragmented – including as changemakers.

My hope for ReSpace and for us all is that new Hive-like communities can be built and created so that finding our place is not just about finding our ‘thing’ in isolation but is about contributing to vibrant changemaking communities.

And I also hope that UBI-type discussions gather pace so that society moves towards caring and holding all members more equally - so we can all play our unique part and do our 'thing' - whatever that may be.

Thanks to the Hive for your brilliant experiment and the great inspiration!