Here I am, once again, on the other side of the Future Makers communication retreat.
I’ve got all the things. I’ve got a deep well of belonging, I’ve got a cold (only a very, very small light handed one – which I’m totally calling a successful outcome given that previously I have barely been able to make it from the car to my bed at the end of previous retreats), I’ve got joy and hope for the future, I’ve got new ideas and ways of seeing things, I’ve got a bunch of beautiful photos and memories and I’ve gathered another group of friends and future makers that will be with me on this very uncertain journey into the unknown.
This year something is different.
I also have sadness.
An unspeakable sadness.
This retreat was the last ever communications retreat that will be run by the Centre for Sustainable Leadership. The organisation has decided to close down. This year will be the last Future Makers Fellowship.
It has been difficult to keep this organisation afloat.
I’ve seen the struggle, the hours of unpaid labour, the passion and commitment to make it work.
And it’s sad because it’s not like we don’t need the program, not like we don’t need leadership, not like we don’t need those leaders to help us to write the future of our species on this planet for the sake of all living things…
The need is greater than ever.
Philanthropists and governments and businesses used to agree that investing in this collective action was worth it. So, they would subsidise the cost of doing the course by giving the organisation money.
Then something changed.
A new expectation emerged that everything should be able to run as a social enterprise, everything should be able to fund itself…
This sounds reasonable on the surface.
I can’t quite put my finger on it…but something about expecting a capitalist model to fix the devastation and destruction that capitalism has reaped upon our ecosystem…it feels like the virus trying to heal the body.
I suppose I feel sad that we had a moment where the zeitgeist was “We need to collectively address these issues” and so we all, individuals, governments and businesses, invested in something that truly changed the story (just look at the 700 plus alumni who are now leading themselves, their communities and their organisations towards healthier relationships with each other, the economy and the planet that sustains us)… and now we don’t seem to have that collective agreement anymore.
Now we are saying “Well if you want to change the world you can pay for it yourself”. Which seems mean, and naïve, and foolhardy and like the true embodiment of cutting your nose off to spite your face.
But that’s where we are.
My experience with grief is that it is long and slow and complex and unexpected. That it will play out in many ways over the coming months and years.
I’ve had some time to sit with all of this. Enough time to accept, in some way, that the Centre for Sustainability Leadership is ready to let go. To appreciate and love the people who nurtured and cared for it, who fought for it in a system that didn’t want to listen.
Enough time to understand that its time has come. That this magic, beautiful thing, as we know it, is over.
But time is an interesting thing.
Because I’ve also had enough time to know that it’s not over yet.
Maybe my beloved CSL’s job was to launch the first wave of change makers into the world. To give them confidence and certainty, passion and compassion, clarity and voice, skills and knowledge.
To give them each other.
To weave them deeply into the fabric of the system they are going to change and then give them a clean slate to invent the next chapter.
Whenever I am truly lost I always check in with my mate Matt Wicking. At some point when we were talking about all this he said Luke…
“The future is unwritten. So, let’s go and write it.”
I’ll take my time to be sad. To feel the loss of this. Those feelings can’t be rushed.
Then, when I’m ready, I’m going to call my mates and start writing the next chapter.
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