Category Archives: What can we do in these powerful times

Powerful Times S1. E36. Andrea Hartley

Andrea Hartley is Founder and CEO of Skating Panda, a creative social impact consultancy (Twitter, LinkedIn).

DISCLOSURE: I do some work for Skating Panda as ‘Senior Associate — Strategy and Sustainability’. In the 12 months to April 2023, that work comprised about 18% of my income.

We speak about Andrea’s three priorities:

  • Unlocking those individual and organisational impact journeys,
  • Finding ways to communicate big issues so that they can better have real impact
  • Shifting the nature of consulting so that it acknowledges and acts for positive impact as much as possible.


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Powerful Times S1. E35. Prof Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson is a British ecological economist and professor of sustainable development at the University of Surrey (personal website, twitter, wikipedia). He is the director of the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), a multi-disciplinary, international research consortium which aims to understand the economic, social and political dimensions of sustainable prosperity. He is also a successful playwright.

It was an extraordinarily rich and honest conversation, covering (and this is just a taste):

  • Moving from playwright to accidental economist because of the Chernobyl disaster.
  • Allowing the playwright aspect to explore the conflicts within himself on the economics of prosperity.
  • The struggles of being an outsider pushing at the mainstream.
  • Trying to create a society based on the vastness of meaningful relationships and purposeful lives, rather than the flat, narrowness of economic growth.
  • The need for partnership culture, rather than a domination one, though still with some role for competition that encourages us all to raise our game, without fearing we’ll lose everything.
  • Providing capability to the next generation, so voices of today have the space to speak, while having respect for how the past generations helped created that space.
  • The importance of following your north star, and treating challenges to you from the status quo as the crucible that forms you.

I make an quotation error. it was Max Plank (not Thomas Khun) who said that scientific revolutions proceed one funeral at a time. Towards the end, Tim makes a similar error: Ode: Intimations of Immortality was Wordsworth, not Tennyson.

Tim uses one swear word (f*ck) as part of a story about being rejected by mainstream economists.


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Powerful Times S1. E34. Dougald Hine

Dougald Hine is author and co-founder of Dark Mountain, a cultural movement of people who have “stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself” and a School Called HOME, a “a gathering place and a learning community for those who are drawn to the work of regrowing a living culture” (personal website, Substack, wikipedia).

His latest book is “At Work in the Ruins”, which we discuss at length in the conversation. At the beginning Dougald describes himself as “using words, and sometimes silences, to shift the space of possibility”, which I think underplays his role as curator and community builder.

One way of understanding Dougald’s response to these powerful times is that he sees them as showing that our world, the world of mordernity, is ending. Rather than moving into denial or a desperate fixing, Dougald is making ‘good ruins’ for whatever might be next, through creating pockets of living culture.

He is trying to contribute to the possibility of presently-unimaginable futures, which starts with clearing away the stuff that has colonised the currently-imagined future.

I have read the book and heartily recommend it. To buy the book, and find the latest on Dougald’s tour in Feb 2023, follow this link.


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Powerful Times S1. E33. Robin Alfred

Robin is an executive coach, facilitator, a mediator, an organisational consultant, works in leadership development and sometimes known as a mystic (Twitter, LinkedIn, Website).

Our conversation concentrates on the importance of feeling present, and being fully open to what is happening in that moment. Only then can we integrate the past, and not be unconsciously driven by it. Only then can we hear the calling of the future, and act courageously towards something different. Only then can we act in alignment with a deeper ethics.

This is all very much at the spiritual end of acting in these powerful times. You can read about my own experience on a previous version of Robin’s course, Leading from the Future, is in this blog ‘Facing the Future’. Here is the current one (as at Jan 2023) Leading from the Future programme (starts 14 Feb 2023).


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S1. E32. Liam Black

Liam Black has a long history of leading social enterprises (including Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen), and is now ‘Chief Encouragement Officer’ and mentor to many (website, Twitter, LinkedIn).

In his own career, Liam has made many jumps into the unknown, which became the main theme of our conversation.

His view is if you are clear about the work you want to be doing, then taking the jump gives others the chance to recognise what you’re trying to do and to offer you help (including, maybe, a job).

Also that “if you do things with good intention, with enough advice from the right people, you can always come back from whatever mistake you make”. Putting it another way, in the long-term it is better to try than not.

Liam’s book is “How to Lead with Purpose: Lessons in life and work from the gloves-off mentor”. Buy it here.


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Powerful Times S1. E31. Clare Farrell

Clare Farrell is a co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, as well as fashion designer and lecturer (Twitter, website, LinkedIn).

Clare had a lot of deeply interesting things to say across a broad range of topics. So, this episode is the longest yet at 57 mins. I make no apology, as every minute is worth listening to. Just want to give you a heads up.

She speaks about the coming together of Extinction Rebellion as a magical time: “It’s a huge honour really….I feel the universe sort of collided the right people at the right time. And enough of us were like crazy enough to go: oh, yeah, like, whatever. Let’s try and do that.”

She talks to bringing her sense as an artist and fashion designer into the heart of action, including the importance of making ‘brand assets’ with the intention to just give them away.

Clare is trying to create a different approach to politics, where “ordinary people have agency, and the ability to take part in the way decisions are made”. On the need for deep change to address the climate emergency, Clare believes that “ordinary people are way ahead of the people in power”.

As you will pick up, I hugely admire Extinction Rebellion for many things, including the core message: a positive future possible if only we were willing to tell the truth on the challenges we face and act for it. For the most part, the first wave of XR was successful in creating a sense of a festival, which modelled a more vibrant, more inclusive, positive future, where we will still have to deal with the consequences of our actions up to this point.

Clare ends with this important thing for everyone to know:

This work that we do is absolutely made of love….Whatever your opinion about me or about any of the people who do this stuff…[It] absolutely comes from ..the best possible intention to try and make something better out of a wholly depressing and heartbreaking, tragic situation.”

Clare occasionally swears (a*-holes, sh*t, f*cked that kind of thing).


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S1. E30. Daianna Karaian

Daianna Karaian is co-founder of Today Do This, which aims to empower everyone, every day (Today) to take action on (Do) what matters to them (This) (LinkedIn, personal website, Twitter).

The theme was people being able to take meaningful action in their work. REasons:

First, “The scale of the change that’s needed is only going to happen if social and environmental considerations are woven into the daily decisions and responsibilities of everyone in the company at every level in every department.”

Second, “I think there’s this really common misconception that action is reserved for those in power, that sort of only a few people, in powerful positions can do anything that makes any difference in the world. And I think that’s nonsense. I think power is accumulated by those who take action.”

Third, taking meaningful action also makes people happier and more productive.

With that in mind, some things you can do after listening to this interview:

Subscribe to the Today Do This newsletter, which “revisits one major headline each week and suggests a simple, practical action you can take that day to make a difference”.

-Contact Daianna through this link.


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S1. E29. Zahra Davidson

Zahra Davidson is Chief Executive and Design Director of Huddlecraft, a Community Interest Company that uses the the practice of combining people to unearth and multiply potential (Zahra’s Linkedin, Twitter and Medium). Huddlecraft asks: ‘What if everyone could multiply their potential by the power of their peers?’

We talked about how collective learning is so necessary for global transformations, but how to contribute at the necessary scale while keeping the important relational, often local, character of individual peer learning groups.

Also, the challenges of being a CEO of a start-up which is trying to be different, trying to be organised in a way that mimics living systems and nature.


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S1. E28. Richard Sandford

Richard Sandford is Professor of Heritage Evidence Foresight and Policy at the UCL Institute of Sustainable Heritage (Twitter, LinkedIn). He interested in how we think about the future and how we connect it to the past. 

We discuss in depth how heritage can be a source of useful and productive stances towards the future. Key line from Richard for me:

There is change coming. And actually, the hardest thing might be to preserve sufficient continuity ourselves and allow institutions for them to be able to act to be the same to preserve an identity over the time and they need to be able to do the work that they’re trying to do.


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S1. E27. Helen Henderson

Helen Henderson is a Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), combined with a long history of community education in Derry/Londonderry.

We explored Helen’s work on peacebuilding and non-violence. For instance, how do you build peace between communities that have been in conflict for decades? Two things: spaces to discover common humanity; and growing critical literacy.

My reflection is that I’ve not had to worry about security. But that’s a privilege others haven’t had. And how important that work is, because so much else relies on feeling secure.


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