The tree and the tabernacle: Part 1 The Roots— Inoculation and Preservation

Wes Hinckes
38 min readJul 15, 2023

The Tree

noun: tree; plural noun: trees

1. a woody perennial plant, typically having a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches at some distance from the ground.
“we came to a small clearing in the trees”
(in general use) any bush, shrub, or herbaceous plant with a tall erect stem, e.g. a banana plant.
“we move through groves of coconut and banana trees”

2. a wooden structure or part of a structure.
“Bill made the wooden trees upon which the saddle was built”

ARCHAIC•LITERARY

the cross on which Christ was crucified.

“he suffered and died on the tree”

ARCHAIC

a gallows or gibbet.

“during the procession to the fatal tree at Tyburn he seemed much affected”

3. a thing that has a branching structure resembling that of a tree.
“our inward trees of nerves and blood vessels”
a diagram with a structure of branching connecting lines, representing different processes and relationships.

noun: tree diagram; plural noun: tree diagrams

“these organisms mostly occupy spaces at the base of evolutionary trees”

The Tabernacle

noun: tabernacle; plural noun: tabernacles

1. (in biblical use) a fixed or movable dwelling, typically of light construction.
a tent used as a sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant by the Israelites during the Exodus and until the building of the Temple.

2. a meeting place for worship used by Nonconformists or Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

3. an ornamented receptacle or cabinet in which a pyx containing the reserved sacrament may be placed in Catholic churches, usually on or above an altar.

ARCHAIC

a canopied niche or recess in the wall of a church.

4. a partly open socket or double post on a sailing boat’s deck into which a mast is fixed, with a pivot near the top so that the mast can be lowered to pass under bridges.

Intro

In this post I’ll be connecting the concept of the Socially Enterprising platform with spirituality, religious organisations, humanism and philosophy. An unusual grouping you might think, but as I progress through this series, I hope to bring your mind to matters which are important to individuals, communities, society, civil society, regenerative development, international development and the future economy.

It is also an opportunity to look at the context, intents and concerns of Socially Enterprising as a form of developmental NGO both at the foundation stage and throughout its course into the future.

It is a post about the past, the present and the future.

Why the tree and the tabernacle?

I have used the metaphor of a tree before to help connect the idea of a collaborative network with the concept of something alive and functioning as a key part of a larger ecosystem.

“The Main Mast

This is a living tree which stretches vertically throughout the network.

It reaches high above to create a protective canopy and deep below to create the roots and connectivity.

Sheltered from the elements and able to exchange nutrients, resources and knowledge. Existing ideas and organisations can connect, adapt and thrive. New ideas and organisations can experiment and grow.

Its presence allows a vibrant new ecosystem to begin to form; locally, regionally and nationally.

It is the start of a permaculture garden that has life in the network.”

https://weshinckes.medium.com/allusion-ahoy-42e16e542cf8

It’s appropriate that in the post above it is referred to as the main mast as this also helps us to connect the ideas (tree/mast) with the tabernacle in both nautical and religious terminology.

Thus ‘the tree and the tabernacle’.

The multiple meanings which can be implied then allow the rest of the themes contained within this series of posts to be grouped together.

The importance of protecting the roots

I know a man called Brian Heath who runs a number of community gardening projects in the nearby town of Taunton. He also happens to look after the plants at a more local venue here in Bridgwater which is where we had one of our many enlightening conversations.

On this particular occasion I stopped to chat whilst he was planting some saplings.

During our conversation he mentioned that many people simply plant saplings and hope for the best. But different soils and different local conditions as well as different genetics, rearing and health mean that this approach can be inconsistent.

What his practice was, was to inoculate the saplings roots with a fungus.

This fungus would create a symbiotic relationship with the saplings roots and allow the young tree to adjust more readily to local conditions and be far healthier as a result.

The practice being described by Brian is called ‘mycorrhizal inoculum’.

“Can a naturally-occurring soil organism help your new plantings proliferate and thrive more fully? Research on mycorrhizal inoculum over 25 years proves that plants including this agricultural inoculant are more rigorous, display increased drought and disease resistance, and are consistently better at absorbing nutrients and water. Including these soil amendments means that plantings need fewer pesticides. They grow heartier, with a better overall response to environmental stresses. Since 80% of all plant species form associations with a vast network of naturally-occurring fungi, mycorrhizal has a built-in place in the plant ecosystem. You already know that adding fertilizer to the soil is an essential part of promoting new vegetation and plantings. But nutrient availability relies on the chemical and physical properties of soil, climate, and crop type. Mycorrhizal fungi, a natural inoculant product, helps restore soil stripped of a healthy chemical profile, providing new plantings with a viable source of nutrition.”

The reason I remember all of this (the conversation took place during lockdown when a daily run became part of my routine) is because I already had this title written down on a post-it (pretty much everything I’ve written about has been held together with a title on a post-it!).

I had concerns about protecting the network from bad actors or ill-judged future decisions which might steer the network and platform away from its community, commons and activist (as in getting on and doing, not getting out and protesting) roots.

A type of ‘mycorrhizal inoculum’ was exactly what I was looking for and to keep with the theme of this post let’s also think of this inoculum as incorporating a ‘living spirit’ of sorts into the network and organisation. Again, the multiple meanings are purposely being made use of here.

But how on earth could I accomplish this?

There are no answers here only some thoughts around the who, what and why of some forms that this protective ‘mycorrhizal inoculum’ could be composed from.

The Quakers, the Ents and the birth of sociocracy

I’m quite a big admirer of the Quakers and have attended their local meetings for several years.

The Quakers, on paper and historically, have a reputation for being rebellious, non-conformist and active in society and the economy.

The Quakers have a highly inclusive form a decision making which they refer to as discernment.

“Quaker decision-making is grounded in the belief that when several people come together to labor in the Spirit they can discern a truth that exceeds the reach of any one individual. In making decisions Friends do not simply vote to determine the majority view, but rather they seek unity about the wisest course of action. Over time Friends have developed ways to conduct meetings that nurture and support this corporate discernment process.

To be effective, Quaker process requires that everyone come ready to participate fully by sharing their experiences and knowledge, by listening respectfully to the experiences and knowledge brought by others, and by remaining open to new insights and ideas. This powerful combination of grounded experience and spiritual openness, rationality and faith, allows a deeper truth to emerge. When everyone present is able to recognize the same truth, the meeting has reached unity.”

https://quaker.org/decision-making

This can on occasion mean that decisions seemingly take a lifetime for the people involved to make. But that when they do make that decision it is probably a very good decision indeed.

In this they remind me very much of Tolkien’s Ents, frustratingly slow for the fast-thinking Hobbits but ideal for the long-term sense and sensibilities of this older, wiser and long-standing community. Again, the thematic connection to trees, the environment, society and the economy is useful here *watch LOTR.

Quaker discernment in fact was the origination of Sociocracy (an organisational decision-making process) which renames ‘discernment’ as ‘consensus’ and removes any reference to the spiritual and religious roots of the process.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaker_business_method

Quaker’s and moral and ethical concerns in business

You may be also be familiar with the successful economic contribution of certain Quaker businesses in history such as Cadbury’s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bournville) and Rowntree’s (https://www.quakersintheworld.org/quakers-in-action/199/Joseph-Rowntree) who ran successful business operations whilst also placing due consideration on the wealth, health, happiness and wellbeing of their workforce.

They were socially innovative, experimental and ahead of their time.

The 20th century saw the survival of the brands but not the concerns for the poor and needy. As time progressed the founding Quaker influence diminished and the companies began to operate and trade in the same fashion as their competitors and eventually the social and ethical concerns disappeared completely from view.

“From the beginning, Quakers brought new standards of truth and honesty to the conduct of business, putting into practice the testimony to Integrity and Truth. People realised they could trust Quakers with their money and in the 18th century this led to the rapid growth of Quaker banks such as Barclays and Lloyds. Quaker communities oversaw local Quaker businesses in order to maintain these standards and prevent over-indebtedness and bankruptcy. They also regulated the master-servant and employer-employee relationships in the interest of equality and fairness. People who fell short of these standards were disowned if they did not change their ways.

In the nineteenth century there were more changes. The US was independent, and expanding westwards, and new Quaker communities and businesses emerged. In Britain and the US opportunities in politics, academia and the professions were opening up to Quakers, and many took advantage of this. Some wealthy Quaker businessmen resisted community oversight, and left. There were some Quaker bank failures due to speculation and over-extension. Nevertheless several family businesses became enormous and thriving concerns — such as Clark’s shoes, Western Union, Lloyds and Barclays banks, and the chocolate manufacturers (Frys, Rowntrees, Cadburys). Many Quaker employers did much to improve the general living conditions of their employees, building houses, schools and infirmaries for their benefit. Some became involved in general issues of social justice (like the anti-slavery campaign), and in philanthropy.

By the 20th century, things had changed again. Changes in company law meant that businesses on both sides of the Atlantic were usually public companies rather than family concerns, and far fewer Quakers were involved. Some family wealth was channelled into Quaker philanthropy and there are several charitable trusts.”

https://www.quakersintheworld.org/quakers-in-action/39/Business

Quaker Philanthropy — The Joseph Rowntree Foundation

If you’re interested in social change in the UK then you will probably be aware of The Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation works to support and speed up the transition to a more equitable and just future, free from poverty, in which people and planet can flourish.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s purpose is to inspire social change. The JRF is an endowed foundation funding a UK-wide research and development programme.

In addition to the JRF, Joseph Rowntree’s wealth also supports;

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd. aims to correct imbalances of political power, strengthening the hands of individuals and organisations striving for reform.

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is a Quaker trust which supports people who address the root causes of conflict and injustice.

If you understand how the Socially Enterprising network and strategy can weave together many of these separate strands then you should see the implicit connection I’m trying to make with this particular group of organisations.

My feeling is that The JRF would be an ideal early relationship for Socially Enterprising.

Their ambition to eliminate poverty and create a fairer and more just world is perfectly aligned and it is the elimination of poverty that I would like to place at the centre of things so it can have its rightful place in influencing organisational strategy even in areas such as culture and environment.

Poverty in the 21st Century and the Socially Enterprising platform

In my personal take on today’s society, poverty is the cause of unnecessary suffering ‘and also’ the unfulfilled potential of society and the economy.

By poverty I do not mean this in a purely monetary sense which has become the current understanding, definition and approach to poverty alleviation and economic development.

I mean poverty as an insufficiency of some kind in someone’s life.

Our modern age now presents us with multiple forms of poverty all of which hinder people in living their best lives, fulfilling their full human potential, and contributing fully towards society and the economy in whatever way they choose.

  • Social Connection & Loneliness
  • Social Capital (contacts, networks, and opportunities)
  • Role Models / Parents / Grandparents
  • Class & Stigma
  • Disability
  • Internet & IT access
  • Mobile Access
  • Time / Space
  • Literacies (Maths, Spoken/Written Language, Apps/IT, Sex/Consent, Media Literacy, Empathy/Emotions, Critical Thinking, Time, Transport/Mobility
  • Many of these may also be expressed within the SDG’s.

Civil society and the state may struggle to ultimately solve the needs above as we currently view all of these things as separate needs which separate organisations then campaign around and work towards (which also inadvertently leads us into competition with each other).

This way of operating was understandable in the 20th century but it is perhaps much less so in the 21st.

If we treat; poverty as solely a money issue; and the meeting of additional needs as charitable/welfare concerns (or governmental failures) then it’s possible we remain stuck.

Maybe we could shift our understanding to view these multiple forms of poverty (insufficiencies of some kind which if addressed would lead to an alleviation of suffering, an exit from difficult times/conditions, and/or additional personal/social/economic co-benefits) as all potentially being distribution problems then maybe we have something new to work with.

Organising around distribution is, in a way, what place-based work and strategies are doing.

By bringing organisations together, improving communications, encouraging collaboration, and sharing resources and knowledge, they are creating new forms of distributive networks.

It is the distributive effects (assets, resources, knowledge, intelligence) between the organisations which then lead to better services and outcomes for the organisations involved in meeting local NEEDS (improving health for example).

But what is the OPPORTUNITY to utilize distributive networks to address the multiple forms of poverty which I outlined earlier?

Treat these things separately through separate organisations and you will never solve the problems. Please also consider that today’s modern poverties will be joined by future unknowable poverties (and emergency events) in times soon to come.

These multiple negative personal and social effects are going to accrue and grow larger perhaps because we are not understanding or addressing them in the correct way.

The acceleration of society and the economy is not going to slow down, it’s going to get faster and expand in multiple directions. The inequalities are going to grow and spread through the negative effects of growth and expansion.

The rising tide does not lift all boats.

If we consider for a moment that social and economic acceleration creates uneven distribution, and that it could be uneven distributions which lead to multiple forms of poverty. Then it could be that our response should be to address these unequal distributive effects through new forms of distributive networks.

Here is where a great potential may exist for individuals, communities, civil society, the state and business to work together.

By connecting locally, they may be able to efficiently distribute local assets, resources, skills and knowledges in such a way that they can effectively address the poverties experienced locally.

From an abundant society and economy that is unevenly distributed with high levels of poverty and suffering.

To an abundant society and economy that is evenly distributed with low levels of poverty and suffering.

Place-based networks that connect; individuals, communities, local civil society organisations, local services, local businesses, local assets/knowledge/resources/funds — with non-local organisations (from civil society, the state and business) combined with outside sources of funding and resources should theoretically be able to do this.

We are only scratching the surface of what’s possible today.

I have slipped off topic slightly here and my idea is not well thought out or presented here but I guess it does cover some of my thoughts on poverty and Socially Enterprising.

In an attempt to reconnect to the central themes of this post let’s imagine these ‘modern poverties’ as negatively experienced disease symptoms which all stem from poor nutrient distribution within the rapidly growing social and economic tree.

The correct approach to resolving this issue of local and overall plant health might be to create an additional level of circulatory (distributive) effect at the local level which when scaled (i.e. exists everywhere) also contributes towards the total and complete health and wellbeing of the entire system.

Like an evolving organism we need some new and distributed; resource stores, capillaries and intelligence/sense making organs so that we can maintain our overall health and fitness. We do this by accumulating, transforming and moving local stores of energy to where they can directly benefit places and people’s lives.

3. a thing that has a branching structure resembling that of a tree.
“our inward trees of nerves and blood vessels”
a diagram with a structure of branching connecting lines, representing different processes and relationships.

This is what connective and collaborative place-based/local networks can enable.

In social and economic terms, it sounds a lot like missing infrastructure again.

Quakers and Society

Getting back onto topic, the Quakers also have some quite firm stances on what they believe is harmful to society and I agree wholeheartedly with them.

I mention only a couple here (the link above outlines more of their work) as they may be non-obvious compared to the churches work on other issues such as climate/economic/social justice and peace.

They are also useful for looking at their effect upon how Socially Enterprising would need to work in order remain in alignment, not only with Quakers concerns but also the concerns of the majority of faith and religious groups (as well as the concerns and efforts of wider civil society of which these groups are a key part in the UK and all other nations).

The Quaker opposition to the National Lottery

The Quaker’s and most of the churches in the United Kingdom made statements against the introduction of the National Lottery in the United Kingdom.

Their arguments were sound and well-made.

They were also roundly ignored, after a fine course of political platitudes and assurances.

I’ve included some links below which provide deeper explanation and illumination of the process of growth of the National Lottery and the ‘lottery industry’.

The story and expansion of the National Lottery and other smaller UK lotteries is also related to the continued acceptance and expansion of gambling within the UK.

Along with this acceptance and expansion comes an increase in directly and indirectly related social harms.

To me it’s absolutely madness that we now see charities rushing in to set up their own lotteries (which leads to the expanding lottery industry).

Please remember, lotteries are defined as a form a betting and the expansion of the lottery market is thus also a direct expansion of the gambling industry.

Charities should be seeking to cause no additional harm in society yet there they are piling in to the same socially harmful revenue raising strategy.

Let’s face it they’re either failing to see the long-term repercussions of their actions or they straight up don’t care that much as long as they are bringing in the money (i.e serving their own interests). In either case there’s a glaring problem of indifference and narrow thinking.

Civil society should ideally be working together to move us towards a better society.

Maybe this section overcomplicates? It could be good to have the maps I’m looking for though

To be a little more kind and forgiving maybe the behaviour and action is really rooted in another way of seeing the world. These charities do not see the world as interconnected thus the action, decision and behaviour has no perceivable negative effect within the immediate circle and concerns of the charitable organisations and their beneficiaries.

But in reality, the world is relational and interconnected and we need to learn how to see the world around us in this way and perceive the mutual effects of our decisions and actions as a part of this inter-connected world.

We need to develop our understanding of systems…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaGPY-7msfU&ab_channel=SystemsInnovation

Are there any systems maps for;

· the connection between the lottery and gambling

· lottery or gambling

· militarism in society

Unwanted Pregnancies System

Research Map — https://systemsandus.com/2012/08/24/conceiving-a-different-framework-for-abortion/
Synthesis of Research Map — https://blog.kumu.io/making-systems-more-approachable-part-2-94c5b552ed3d

The reason I am trying to highlight this complex and interrelated way of understanding problems and challenges is that;

  • we can see where our intent to do good inadvertently does harm
  • it becomes possible to see opportunities to positively intervene and improve outcomes without causing harm

There is a similar complex system at work with the National Lottery and Gambling.

There is a similar complex system at work with Militarism, Society, Culture, Violence and Peace.

There is a similar complex system at work in Peaceful and Cohesive Communities.

There is a similar complex system at work with Drill Music, Society, Crime and Knife Crime (aka tough on grime but not on the causes of grime).

The point being having a better and more complete understanding of what’s going on allows us to act and intervene intelligently.

Why Quakers oppose the National Lottery

“Friends’ testimony against gambling is rooted in concern for the moral and spiritual wellbeing of individuals and of society. From early days, gambling has been seen as inimical to this because it engenders greed, covetousness and sloth. It is also perceived as an example of a minority of people benefiting from the hopes and fears of a less well-off majority. This is at odds with Quaker notions of social justice and right sharing of resources.

Concern about the spread of gambling is not new: it was being referred to in Quaker writing as early as the 17th century. Friends were urged by Yearly Meeting not only to abstain from gambling themselves but actively to oppose it. Gambling was seen as one of a number of distractions from the spiritual journey, rather than something uniquely to be avoided. It was however equated with other forms of speculative dealing to the extent that such behaviour in business matters was a cause for ‘disownment’.

Today’s Book of Discipline (Quaker faith and practice, 5th edition) retains guidance on the matter of gambling. It arises specifically in ‘Advices and Queries’ para. 39 and in the section on ‘Gambling and speculation’ in chapter 20. Other paragraphs show the both the traditional linkage of gambling and other forms of speculation, and the impact of personal actions upon the community.

A particular reason for opposition to the National Lottery is its prevalence in society and the way it has institutionalised gambling. It is widely advertised, available in numerous places as well as on the Internet, and the weekly draws are given television, radio and newspaper coverage.

Distribution to ‘good causes’ of the money generated by sale of tickets is also widely publicised — but the amount of money from ticket sales used to pay the operating costs, provide prizes, and paid in tax to the Treasury is less well advertised. Money raised through gambling on the National Lottery now affects almost every area of our lives: charitable and community projects, arts in all its forms, sports, heritage buildings and sites and, via the Treasury, public services including health, education and the environment.

When the National Lottery was first proposed the government gave strong assurances that Lottery funding would not be a replacement for state funding. Indirectly, through the tax paid to the Treasury, and directly through grants made from the distribution bodies, National Lottery money is used to fund services, facilities and social provision many of us assume are paid for through the taxation system.”

https://www.quaker.org.uk/documents/quakers-national-lottery-briefing-2004#:~:text=Concern%20about%20the%20spread%20of,but%20actively%20to%20oppose%20it

Please remember lotteries are defined as a form a betting and the expansion of the lottery market is thus a direct expansion of the gambling industry.

The UK Lottery Market

https://store.mintel.com/report/uk-lotteries-market-report

UK Gambling Commission: Market advice on the lottery sectors

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/386420/141211_DCMS_Lotteries_advice_letter_public_version_formatted.pdf

Worldwide the lottery market is vast and increasing in size with ever new products and innovations that enable; the market to grow, for new customers to begin betting, and for existing customers to remain hooked.

Is there any research on the connection between national lotteries and more traditional forms of gambling?

Quakers and Peace

The Quaker’s, as do all other faith and religious groups, also work hard to promote peace around the world.

This work can come in many different forms; from community level projects and interventions all the way through to facilitating much larger national and international peace and reconciliation processes

A more modern concept of peace is not just restricted to the absence of war. It is a more expanded understanding which begins to look at the structural and cultural factors which can lead to violence and conflict

“Our understanding of the term ‘peace’ has evolved significantly over the last 2,500 years

Introduced into academic literature by the Norwegian pioneer of peace research Johan Galtung, who distinguished two types of peace:

Negative peace

– defined by the absence of war and violence

- does not capture a society’s tendencies towards stability and harmony

Positive peace

– defined by a more lasting peace that is built on sustainable investments in economic development and institutions as well as societal attitudes that foster peace.

- can be used to gauge the resilience of a society, or its ability to absorb shocks without falling or relapsing into conflict

Positive Peace opposes what is known as the ‘structures and cultures of violence’. These structures and cultures can cause people to behave violently, or impose violence on others.

This definition has since increased in popularity, and is now widely used by academics and politicians alike. But in order to fully understand the idea of Positive Peace and its implementation, we need to understand the history of Positive Peace.

Our understanding of the term ‘peace’ has evolved significantly over the last 2,500 years, and its long historical pedigree is explored here through this website.

Instead of looking at the causes of war, we can explore the attitudes, institutions and structures that build a more peaceful world, and strive to create these conditions in all areas…

Through these several dimensions of positive peace emerge:

Systemic and complex

Virtuous or vicious

Preventative

Underpins resilience and nonviolence

Informal and formal

Supports development goals”

https://positivepeace.org/what-is-positive-peace

It’s a complex system again which requires that people come to greater understanding and work closely together to achieve good outcomes.

Quaker Opposition to Militarism

“Militarism is the belief that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests. It is also the accompanying practice of preparation for war. This makes the world less, not more secure. Investment should be channelled into the humanitarian, peace-building and development efforts that will wither the roots of war and build true security…

While militarism has existed in Britain for a long time, in recent years increasing resources have been devoted to it, the arms race has intensified and the promotion of militarism across society has also increased. Military careers are publicised in schools and through services for young people. In 2009 the UK government created Armed Forces Day.

Quakers in Britain and Quakers in meetings around Britain challenge the squandering of resources on militarism. We challenge the new arms race in military capability, including the development of ever more devastating weapons of mass killing. And we challenge the embedding of military values in society by increasing scrutiny of militarism in public life, and by helping to build a new culture of peace and non-violence.”

https://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/peace/challenging-militarism

“What is militarism?

Viewed at its simplest, militarism is the belief in the use of force and violence to promote and protect supposed national interest. But militarism goes much further than this. Militarist values affect our attitudes not only to conflict and war, but to many other aspects of power, politics and everyday life.”

https://www.ppu.org.uk/everyday-militarism

The new tide of militarisation (Quaker Peace & Social Witness)

“Militarism is ever-present in British society. Soldiers have always marched at state events; cadet forces are part of state and private schools; armed forces recruiting offices can be found in many town centres. Successive governments have been under constant pressure from arms manufacturers to buy more weapons.

But there is a new and different tide of militarisation that has developed over the last decade. The general public does not seem to be aware of it, and it is not being discussed or scrutinised. In this briefing we will show that there is a coherent government strategy behind this tide, which is aimed at increasing support for the military.

This briefing demonstrates that the main reason the government is seeking to increase support for the military is to raise public willingness to pay for the military, to make recruitment easier, and to stifle opposition to unpopular wars. Quaker Peace & Social Witness hopes this briefing will start a conversation about these issues.

Since this briefing was first published in 2014 there has begun to be some discussion about militarism, at least in the margins of society. That this is the third print run of this document, and numerous others have built on this one, shows there is a thirst for information about the militarisation of Britain.

This briefing does not cover all aspects of militarism and the government strategy to promote it in our society, as this is a vast

topic. There is much more work to be done to scrutinise the new wave of militarisation breaking over our society.”

https://www.quaker.org.uk/documents/new-tide-militarism-june-2018

How to balance these things?

I bring to your attention the above Quaker concerns as most platforms are value neutral. Social media platforms for example allow you to freely (within the parameters of local laws) promote yourself, your organisations and your views.

As long as its not against the law then it’s a free for all (or rather a pay to win influence).

Socially Enterprising as an organisation however is not value neutral. There are moral, ethical, social and economic preferences which will find themselves at ends with certain commonly accepted social and economic behaviour in certain countries at certain times.

The existence of lotteries is one such example.

This does not mean that the lottery and/or lottery operating organisations and their beneficiaries cannot use the platform.

But it does mean that the platform media-strategy should not be promoting the playing of the lottery.

As a collaborative platform people and organisations should be utilising the platform to connect, learn and collaborate with others. It isn’t a ‘social media platform’, it’s a ‘collaborative platform’ with a social, environmental and economic purpose.

The story which should be getting told is one of collaboration and cooperation not organisational promotion and public relations.

In the same way, Armed Forces exist and active service personal and veterans live in our communities and are a valuable part of families and society.

The Socially Enterprising platform is there so that multiple organisations can work together to benefit society, the environment and the economy and the people and organisations that make up the Armed Forces have a lot they can offer in all of these areas.

Yet there is no need for the Socially Enterprising platform to be used to promote the Armed Forces.

To really reinforce why it matters to get this right, please consider that peaceful, cohesive communities are an aim of Socially Enterprising and so is the long-term intent for Socially Enterprising to become an international platform and NGO.

I believe that connecting a community in the UK to a community in Ukraine as well as a community in Russia is entirely possible and that this has some relevance for peaceful relations around the world.

If those communities connect through the platform space and form a collaborative relationship then they will see and read the posts that belong to the other communities.

Platform content which could be read (interpreted or misinterpreted) as racist, militaristic, nationalistic or anti-nation would have a negative effect on those relationships.

I hope that makes sense.

You then find that there are similar questions around the use of language (within platform content) and the acceptance of certain other social norms in certain countries (anti-gay laws for example).

Getting content and language right matters.

Within the faith communities there are also major differences and potential conflicts. Pro-life vs Pro-choice is one such example.

If each if these sides wanted to utilise the platform so that they could amplify their voice then I would have grievous concerns for the platforms potential to ever be fulfilled.

But if either of these groups (pro-life/pro-choice) wanted to contribute people and resources into creating strong place-based parental, family and child care networks then they’re in the right place. They would both have much to offer in creating those kinds of local community support structures in the 21st century.

Working together around differences can benefit society and diverse groups can have a more complete understanding of problems and solutions.

Falling out over polar opposites tends not to have any of these beneficial effects.

Anyway, I hope the message I’m trying to convey is getting across.

Cohesive communities at home, successful collaborations within communities, and collaboration between communities within nations and beyond necessitates some serious thought and organisational policy around peace and good relations before you set off down a divisive path.

Do the thinking upfront and you find that much of this apparent complexity actually reduces itself down to some very simple peaceful principles which in turn become translated into; editorial policy, content style guides, platform policy and accepted behaviour etc.

I’ll revisit this topic as I look at; workforce/labour — platform, collaboration and community roles and content production (independent journalism) in an entirely different future post.

St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace

I first became aware of St Ethelburga’s back at the begining of my journey into what has become Socially Enterprising.

At GLADE (the Global Learning and Development Education Centre) I was able to learn and research all of the topics that their work was related to.

I mainly used the United Nations International Days as an opportunity to dive into the background, history, state of play, and the changes in thinking and practice taking place in each.

They’re big topics.

Peace and reconciliation was one of the areas which I spent some time on.

This obviously had an international side which I won’t explore here but I was able to learn of the network of churches which together form the Community of the Cross of Nails.

“We are a worldwide network of some 250 churches, charities, chaplaincies, peace-building and retreat centres, schools and other educational and training organisations, all inspired by the Coventry story of destruction, rebuilding and renewal, and active in reconciliation in our own ways.” — https://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/reconciliation/community-of-the-cross-of-nails

The Community of the Cross of Nails was inspired by events which immediately followed the WW2 bombing of Coventry Cathedral.

“On the night of 14th November, 1940, Coventry and its Cathedral endured a relentless bombing campaign. Overnight, the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ offensive destroyed much of central Coventry, hundreds of its people and left its Cathedral in ruins. Only the outer shell of the walls and the tower remained standing.

In the days that followed, two enduring symbols emerged from the rubble: two charred roof-beams which had fallen in the shape of a cross were bound and placed at the site of the ruined altar, and three medieval roof nails were also formed into a cross, which became the original Cross of Nails (now located at the High Altar in the new Cathedral).

Shortly after, the words ‘Father Forgive’ — deliberately neutral in content — were inscribed on the wall of the ruined chancel, and Provost Dick Howard made a commitment to not seek revenge, but to strive for forgiveness and reconciliation with those responsible.

During the BBC radio broadcast from the Cathedral ruins on Christmas Day 1940 he declared that when the war was over we should work with those who had been enemies ‘to build a kinder, more Christ Child-like world.’

The Cross of Nails quickly became a potent sign of friendship and hope in the post-war years, especially in new relationships with Germany and the developing links between Coventry and the cities of Kiel, Dresden and Berlin. Learn more here

Coventry Cathedral is thus one of the world’s oldest religious-based centres for reconciliation, and its work in recent decades has involved it in some of the world’s most difficult and long-standing areas of conflict. Today the medieval ruins continue to remind us of our human capacity both to destroy and to reach out to our enemies in friendship and reconciliation.” — https://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/reconciliation/reconciliation-ministry

St Ethelburga’s is one of the many organisation which form the Community of the Cross of Nails. It is unusual in that it was severely damaged by an IRA bomb in 1993. It was this event which eventually led to the church being rebuilt and becoming a Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in 1993.

St Ethelburga’s focus and location in the heart of London has led to it developing a worldwide reputation for it’s pioneering work.

“St. Ethelburga’s work sits at the intersection of climate and peace. We believe there can be no peace on Earth unless we also realise peace with Earth.

St. Ethelburga’s is a ‘maker of peacemakers.’ We offer events, training, leadership programmes and multimedia content which equip and inspire people to become peacemakers in their own contexts. Our project areas include community reconciliation, refugee inclusion,
radical resilience, viewpoint diversity, and spiritual ecology.

Our work is organised around four key principles, which are reflected in the fabric and history of our building. Scroll down to find out more about our four core values, our vision and our methodology.” — https://stethelburgas.org/who-we-are/about-our-work/

Their work includes the following and you should begin to see the connection with the intents of Socially Enterprising. This important peace, relationships across difference, community engagement and vital hope work could perhaps be taking place in any community in the UK;

Tent Talks — Through each of our Tent Talks, we invite speakers to show up with an open heart and an open mind into a space where they can listen, learn, and delve deeper into controversial, complex and thought-provoking topics.

Viewpoint Diversity Programme — creates spaces for people to lean into disagreement constructively. We want to regenerate social trust, one conversation at a time.

People of the Earth — aims to promote a sense of community, connection and understanding between settled, local people and displaced people through public events, workshops and humanising narratives.

Journey of Hope — is an immersive leadership training programme which equips and supports faith leaders to creatively and courageously respond to conflict, cultivating a more relational and resilient society. Since 2019, we have supported 5 cohorts of over 100 faith leaders who are working to address issues of community polarization such as multi-faith relations, youth violence, LGTBQ inclusion, class divides, systemic racism, and climate breakdown.

Radical Resilience — We work at the intersection of climate and peace, and our resilience model reflects these twin themes. This training starts from the premise that ecological emergency is already upon us. There is an urgent need for us to respond to this both as individuals and in our communities. How can we find strength in our values and take practical steps to regenerate our world?

Deep Adaptation — We take as our starting-point the climate science that tells us that near-term ecological and societal emergency are now upon us. Across the world, we are already seeing food shortages, flooding, extreme weather, escalating extremism and mass migration caused or exacerbated by climate breakdown. Climate breakdown will likely be the greatest driver of conflict over the coming decades. How do we adjust to this reality? How do we approach themes of complicity, responsibility, and reparations? By what values do we want to live individually and collectively?

Lighthouse in a Storm — The pandemic was just the beginning. We are entering into times of profound uncertainty, watching things unravel around us. Where can we find the inner resources to help us weather the storm? How can we root ourselves in what is essential? Can we be a light for others in a time of growing darkness?

Spirituality and faith are a vital resource for both personal resilience and global transformation — but the rampant materialism and cultural disintegration in the world around us, can have a negative impact on spiritual depth, sometimes without us realising.

We see a need to resource young adults who are engaged in service, leadership or innovation, to keep inner lives powerful and true for the long haul. This programme teaches a simple method for forging an inner space inside ourselves, and an outer structure in our lives, that protects our practice from the distractions and distortions in the wider landscape.

Humanism — The 10 Commitments

I did say that I’d include humanism.

It’s important to get the foundations of Socially Enterprising right and it’s hard to argue with the following commitments which I feel anyone seeking to collaborate with others could sign up to.

If we’re looking to collaborate to make the world a better place then these are good foundations.

https://thehumanist.com/magazine/september-october-2019/features/living-humanist-values-the-ten-commitments/

Critical Thinking

As we are each bombarded with a constant stream of information, it can become challenging to decide what is accurate and true. Thinking critically allows us to make sense of all this information and reason our way to good judgments and effective solutions to the problems we face while rigorously avoiding pitfalls like rationalization, conformity, and stereotyping. This process forms the basis of the scientific method, which opens the door for new discoveries through hypothesizing and experimenting. Critical thinking is a skill that requires continued attention, practice, and reflection. Exercising our minds to build these skills enables us to challenge biases in ourselves and in others, paving the way for a fair, open-minded, and autonomous perspective that fosters a multicultural worldview.

Ethical Development

The key to understanding ethical development is acknowledging that nobody is perfect or has all the answers. Ethical development is a never-ending process that requires constant reflection and evaluation of our personal choices and the consequences they have on others. Fairness, cooperation, and sharing are among the first moral issues we encounter in our ethical development as human beings and are often embraced intuitively, but each new day carries with it new challenges and new moral dilemmas. We should continually adapt and rebuild our moral frameworks with the goal of becoming ever better human beings.

Peace and Social Justice

True peace involves an intense commitment to social justice and affirms the human rights and personal autonomy of all people. Any level of injustice against groups or individuals signifies existing conflict, even if the conflict isn’t immediate or obvious. We attain peace only by consistently responding to injustice through thoughtful conflict resolution that aims to repair harms and ensure a fair and equitable society moving forward. This kind of conflict resolution is known as restorative justice. In order to achieve a just, peaceful society, we all must take claims of injustice seriously and ensure that those who are impacted most by rights-violations determine the best course forward.

Service and Participation

Service and participation means putting values into action in ways that positively impact our communities and society as a whole. It fosters helping others, increasing social awareness, enhancing accountability, and many attributes of the other nine commitments. Engaging in service doesn’t just make the recipients better off, but those who serve can develop new skills, experiences, and personal satisfaction that all promote personal growth. We must all recognize that we are members of a group, and engaging in service to benefit the group and the other individuals in it makes us all better off.

Empathy

Empathy means entering imaginatively into another’s situation in an attempt to understand their experience as though we are experiencing it ourselves. Empathy requires a person to step outside of their own perspective to consider someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or circumstance from that person’s point of view. In many ways, empathy is the first step to ethical behavior as it allows us to respond compassionately to the suffering of others and exercise good judgement when our actions may affect someone else. Understanding another’s perspective is not only critical to building better relationships, but also makes us better citizens in our local and global communities. Empathy promotes tolerance, consideration, and compassion amongst us all.

Humility

Humility means displaying modesty about accomplishments, talents, gifts, or importance of self. It acknowledges we humans are fallible and have limitations in what we know and can do. Being humble isn’t about having low self-esteem or denigrating oneself. Humility at its core is robust self-awareness — awareness of our strengths and weaknesses, our faults and our merits. Humility involves setting aside personal pride and overcoming our egos to embrace gratitude for what you have and appreciate others for who they are. In being humble, one recognizes their own value in relation to others; inherently, you are neither better nor worse than anyone else.

Environmentalism

Regardless of our individual identities, we all share the same home: planet Earth. Just as we depend on the planet to sustain us with its precious resources, this planet’s ecosystems depend on us to be good stewards and take responsibility for the impact human activity has on our shared planet. Disregard for the large-scale impacts humans have on our environment has caused extensive harm to earth’s ecosystems. Despite this, humanity is also capable of positive environmental change that values the interdependence of all life on this planet. Each of us must acknowledge our collective and individual mistakes, repair past damages, and purposefully work toward cultivating rich, diverse, and resilient ecosystems.

Global Awareness

We live in a world that is rich in cultural, social, and individual diversity — a world with rapidly increasing interdependence. As a result, events anywhere are more likely to have consequences everywhere. Global awareness broadens our knowledge of cultures and perspectives that are outside of our own experience. A true global awareness includes attention to both current and historical events, and acknowledges how we affect — and how we are affected by — the interconnected social, political, and economic systems in which we reside. The end-goal of global awareness is global citizenship, which recognizes our personal responsibility to foster a healthy and dignified life for everyone in our global community.

Responsibility

Every day, each of us makes choices. These choices, large and small, all have consequences — for ourselves and for the world around us. Moral responsibility involves taking conscious ownership of one’s intentions and actions, and being accountable for the resulting consequences. Although we all live in a society with various cultural values, expectations, codes of conduct, and social mores, ultimately we all decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. Being a responsible person involves steadfast attention to what is right and willfully bearing the blame or praise for our own actions.

Altruism

Altruism is the selfless concern for the welfare of other living beings without expectation of reward, recognition, or return. The collective welfare of our communities and society depends on the welfare of each individual person. We should always seek to alleviate the suffering and hardships of others with compassionate action. By caring for others around us and lifting each other up, we reinforce healthy connections and contribute to the betterment of our community, society, and the world.

An opportunity for social and economic change

I just don’t believe that the campaign and broadcasting model is the effective way to achieve social and economic change in the 21st century. If it was then we would’ve changed but we haven’t and the list of social and economic issues and challenges is growing.

Maybe we don’t solve the climate crisis, or the epidemic of teen suicide, or child mental health through the traditional routes of campaigning, broadcasting and policy reform which was the 20th century route to social and economic progress.

Broadcast was the communications technology and thus method of that century.

Perhaps we solve them by connecting, being open, bridging the spaces between problems, creating a new scaffolding that spans society and the economy, and working together to fix the problems for good.

Network is the communications technology of this century but we haven’t yet changed our methods. We have generally only applied networks as leverage for our old ways of doing things.

Collaboration around complex systems is begining to happen in multiple places and it needs to — it can get us unstuck from ineffective approaches and away from finger pointing, shaming and the shifting of blame.

It’s about peace and cooperation at the community level and most probably all other levels too.

Collaboration in Complex Systems: Multilevel Network Analysis for Community-Based Obesity Prevention Interventions https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-47759-4

My previous post explored a number of different collaboration networks and purposes including NHS Integrated Care Systems (ICS).

Peace, Health & Wellbeing and Community Development (and pretty much everything else) are all interrelated once you start to see and understand the common factors, drivers and opportunities that exist within them and between them.

Bringing these otherwise distinct needs into a common system allows you to make those connections and collaborate in a non-siloed way.

You do it all at the same time through the same system.

You collaborate to improve all of our holistic systems, through a holistic platform, which enables you to think and act holistically.

To close

I’m not a person who considers themselves to be overly religious in the modern sense, but nor am I an atheist or agnostic. I’d call myself a spiritual humanist although I don’t see the need for anyone to have a label. I’m very definitely inter-faith and enjoying the journey wherever it happens to take me.

I write this post due to;

  • the importance of spirituality, religions and churches in civil society and within communities
  • the need for moral and ethical foundations within Socially Enterprising
  • the need for religious sensitivities and inclusion
  • the need to bring communities together and heal divides
  • the need for some important policy/editorial/content considerations so that the platform can hold things together instead of driving them apart
  • the need to work together around differences

There is much that could be expanded on but I have kept it purposely specific to a couple of organisations whose work I have followed for over a decade.

I hope that it’s self evident that every faith and religion does amazing work in the UK and around the world.

This post is a very narrow reflection that I hope helps communicate what I want to achieve and why. It’s a starting point for conversations and other things.

On spiritual matters I believe that there is a spiritual side to the world which we rarely explore in full, if at all, in modern society and I feel that we all lose something from this lack of curiosity.

It isn’t just the world we are failing to explore it is ourselves and each other.

It would be good to have much more in the way of open, engaging, inclusive, educative, non-committal, non-dogmatic, non-mission serving local opportunities to discover more about spirituality, religion and mysticism in our lives of lifelong learning and development.

We need opportunities for people to dip their toes into the natural and spiritual world that surrounds them, it is from this first contact that paths of ever deepening discovery may open themselves up to all of us.

I’ve written about this spiritual dimension before.

A Footnote to Whitehead

Many of the worlds important institutions may see their roots in certain philosophies or ideologies.

In this time of necessary change when new paradigms, behaviours and responses will be required for the reinvention of of society and the economy there is a need to see, think and do differently.

The old reductionist way of understanding the world finds itself incapable of being applied to complex systems — and society, the economy and modern challenges are complex.

In many of my previous posts you see me utilising metaphors of nature and natural ecosystems as these lend themselves very well to understanding and visualising platformed ecosystems, networks, groups and collaborations.

The natural metaphors allow us to grasp in some way what the nature of these things are. Not the explanation of them (multiple things connected), but the sense of them (something with a form of consciousness, in constant motion and alive).

Socially Enterprising is an ecosystem of ecosystems (a network of networks) and I feel that the world and all it’s systems and environments can also be defined and understood as such.

What is the nature of nature? Nature is a network of networks so to speak.

The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead would say organism.

I have referred to Alfred North Whitehead on a couple of occasions in my writings as his Philosophy of Organism is possibly a missing piece.

For Whitehead nature is an organism. That’s all of it. The universe. Matter. The lot.

This way of seeing reality, not just the phenomena of what we see and experience in society and the economy but really to take that way of seeing and peer into the very essence of nature from which all things arise, and also stare out at the vast systems of which our galaxy is an infinitesimally small part.

I mean Whitehead really deals with the question of “What is the nature of nature?” and he’s a seriously super smart philosopher — not like me.

I could be wrong with the connection and it's highly likely that I am but it feels like there’s a fit.

I initially became aware of Whitehead through his opinions on education (we’re doing it wrong) but found his writing to be hard going. I’m from a very different world and background.

Despite attempts to read others of Whitehead’s books I found the same problem — I just couldn’t engage with him.

Most of what I have happily learnt have come from explanations of his work by other people who have been able to interpret him for new and modern audiences .

Matthew D. Segall has been perhaps the most accessible and I highly recommend his YouTube channel FootNotesToPlato.

I wonder if Whitehead could be useful as part of a radical shift from ‘reductionism’ to something new? Providing that real deep foundation around which other things can be connected.

In a future post I’ll bring together a number of networked understandings of the experienced world such as mental health to show how many areas of knowledge are begining to shift from reductionist to complex and networked theories and practices.

It’s networks all the way up, all the way down, all the way across, all the way inwards, and all the way outwards.

As this post touches upon religion and spirituality it is worth mentioning that Whitehead’s work includes multiple references to God and has been developed into ‘Process Theology’ by a number of Whitehead’s advocates.

Part 2

In Part 2 I’m going to look at Growth and Health where we are going to look at the work of the church and faith groups in the world, some of their history and their ambitions of realising a better world, societies and economies.

  • Meeting Immediate Need
  • Community Development
  • International Development

--

--

Wes Hinckes

Founder of Socially Enterprising / Commoner / Mostly Unemployed.