A reflection on ‘How’

At the start of the year, we decided to bring together several separate workstreams at Lankelly Chase.

30th September 2021, words by Jess Cordingly

We had a hunch that there were important crossovers between our focuses on governance, knowledge systems, communications, skills, investments and movements. These all feel like technical elements that drive the systemic change we want to see in the world. By exploring them separately we guessed we might be missing important signals and trends that were relevant to us all. So we set up a slightly nerdy group to ask the even nerdier (and badly phrased) question:

“How will the infrastructure be in a world healed by justice, equity and inclusion?”

It’s still early days, but we think we have noticed a few trends cutting across our workstreams, which point us towards some answers.

We feel like there is an increasingly a clear set of skills being used by people driving systemic change, whether that be in the field of reforming governance, investment practice or community organising. We’ve also seen this coming up in our place work too, with hugely different local activists drawing upon similar skills as they weave community conversations together, navigate opposing opinions, and create spaces that marginalised people feel safe to enter. Some of these skills are outlined in a recent Systems Convening Handbook. But others are harder for us to articulate. They are owned by and nestled in the resources of communities. These are not for funders like us to extract but rather to learn from and promote with humility so that we and others can keep adapting ourselves to be fit to join the fight for a healed world.

We are also seeing, again and again, energy being unleashed by grassroots groups and movements that are outside the standard corporate charity structures. By rejecting set organisational models, new possibilities can emerge that embed equity and inclusion. New ways of organising change are unleashing energy to promote justice. Some of this is captured in reflections coming from Beyond the Rules, some in the dynamism we see coming out of NEON’s movement builders training, and some in the excitement of the network growing out of the Centre for Knowledge Equity . Indeed, there are too many examples for us to point to and this list in no way does justice to them all. And we acknowledge that many of these grassroots entities have been out there for a long time but Lankelly Chase’s privilege, our position in the sector and our funding processes have meant we haven’t seen them. We are that grateful we see them now.

Looking beyond infrastructure, we’re also noticing an increased and increasing boldness amongst partners of all persuasions to act. We think in many cases this is a reaction to a hostile political climate, which being experienced as a shrinking space for civil society. We see a split reaction to this political backdrop. Some partners have a growing boldness in direct political engagement, for example gypsy and traveller groups mobillising against the new Police Crime and Sentencing Bill. But others are demonstrating more boldness to step away from broader political action and are focus on concrete local action and knowing that this too is part of systemic change.

There’s a message for Lankelly Chase here, as partners look to us and ask where our boldness is: to speak, to agitate, to act. As I look back over the changes we have made at Lankelly over the last year – to our devolved decision making models, our team and Board structure, our partnerships across the UK and the direction of our funds – I can see that our boldness too is here and it is growing.

We’re still asking how infrastructure needs to change for justice, inclusion and equity to prevail, but we know we are part of answering this too.

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