I am deeply happy to announce the second run of ‘Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time’ will take place from January 4th – February 28th, 2021!

Places are already filling, including some of the participants from the summer 2020 run, who got an early heads up.

For those who weren’t with us, here’s a taste of why they’re so keen, from their anonymous survey feedback:

 “What an amazing journey you took us all on! Immense gratitude to each of you.”

“Your course should be a model for online learning!”

“I thought the facilitators were wonderful. Thank you all for making it more than just another course to muddle through. It feels like a great start to a community.”

“It was a joy and a privilege, and I already miss your faces!”

“This course was so much more than I expected it to be. Such an inspiration!”

“I feel so blessed, so enriched, so humbled and so eager for others to have the chance I had here.”

I can only add my voice to theirs – holding that space was hard work, for sure, but creating such an unconventional educational experience was also one of the most satisfying experiences of my life!

For context, this year I’ve been a little overstretched, dealing with these disrupted times while getting ever more offers of collaboration on projects and, frankly, saying yes to too many of them.  It’s hard to say no to good people doing good work, but it’s been too much.  So lately I’ve been reflecting on the importance of learning the difference between ‘good work’ and ‘my work’.

There is, without question, an overabundance of good work to be done in these times – urgent situations requiring important interventions – but I need to get better at recognising when the work I’m being invited to join is both pressing and important, but nonetheless not ‘my work’; not where my specific personal energies might best be focused.  Cultivating that discernment is a key focus for me at the moment.

And in doing so, facilitating these courses becomes ever more clearly and wholeheartedly a priority.

The first course had been in gestation for a long time, but just so happened to coincide with the COVID-19 outbreak locking down much of the world.  No doubt part of the reason it immediately attracted nearly 250 participants – from 25 countries, on every continent bar Antarctica – was because so many of us suddenly found ourselves stuck at home, with time on our hands and worried about the shape of the future.

What on Earth to do in such times?  Well, to quote David Fleming,

“Do nothing that matters without consulting a conversation”

That was our guiding principle in designing the course and, as the above feedback attests, what we all created together was indeed a space for those deep, searching conversations that it is often hard to find space for in our everyday lives; whether because we are busy, or simply because it’s hard to know how to start them with the people around us.

Different people prefer to converse in different ways of course, so while some of the participants focused on the conversations with our weekly guest teachers – including Kate Raworth, Rob Hopkins, Vandana Shiva, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Nate Hagens and Richard Heinberg – others did most of their engagement via the active discussion forums, or our reflection sessions, or the video chat rooms we created for small groups to talk amongst themselves.

Overall, the whole thing felt actively co-created, with several of the most powerful sessions being ones we facilitators had no conception of beforehand, from the webinars on grief created in response to demand from the group to the glorious online carnival that emerged at the end!  I’m delighted to report that monthly ‘reunion’ Zoom sessions are still well-attended too, and that the group feel like real allies as we navigate the future together.

Difficult times are made so much more bearable, even wonderful, by sharing them with good people.  And I particularly value the diversity of the group – whose ages ranged from 21-93! – in helping me to broaden my own perspective.  For example, I found the accounts from Venezuela particularly memorable, making clear that for many ‘collapse’ is not some feared future possibility, but a real lived experience.

But also making clear that once challenging realities are faced and taken on board, then we get into the reality that we can absolutely make things better than they would otherwise be, and that there are inspiring and meaningful lives to be lived – and relationships to be had – on every challenging path.  That in this lies a far more demanding and comforting source of hope than “I’m sure everything’s going to be fine”.

Hence our aim is that this course will again be a venue for those deeper, more honest conversations – for discussing our fears, laughing together, and creating a shared space of safety to explore what needs exploring.  All of which tends to leave us with a deeper motivation to tell stories with our lives that we are proud to tell, and maybe a few more ideas on how to do so!

All of that said, there’s was one thing I wanted to change since, due to the unexpected demand, at times facilitating it all was an exhausting experience, and there were just too many participants to allow for engaged pursuit of all that emerged.

We didn’t want to raise the price out of the reach of those who want to be part of it, so instead we’ve decided we’re limiting the course to 100 places this time.  So if you’re keen to join us in January, click the button below now to enrol – choosing the price that you can afford or applying for a full scholarship (deadline applies) – or simply for more details.

And I am delighted to be able to close with a podcast pulled together by Dakota Lacroix – part of the team at Sterling College who made the whole thing possible, as part of the wider EcoGather project.  It tells the story of how the course came to be and, from around 18m30, features interviews with many of the participants.

I can’t wait to meet the good folk who’ll be joining us in the New Year for another adventure together through these difficult times – hopefully you’ll be among them!

What an achievement to creatively juggle so many HIGHLY-individualistic people, technical issues, course material, time zones, differing cultures, accents, moods, and even the weather! GREAT WORK! I am profoundly grateful to have been part of the course.

Excellent management of the course was akin to a high-wire act: great balance, a sense of humor, thrilling moments, and we all gathered around Philip’s campfire at the close.

Very very well done. The times weren’t always convenient to my personal schedule, but you did a great job of navigating the needs of a worldwide community of students, teachers, and support staff.

It was one of the most important experiences I’ve had the privilege of participating in ever. I found that what I learned was relevant to understanding the obstacles and options towards shaping a viable future and useful to share with the growing number of people realizing our predicament.

Huge gratitude

My life is transformed, now I know my purpose in life

The content of this course will reverberate within my being nourishing the seeds it has planted. Thank you.

This course has vastly improved my understanding of the world we currently live in and our predicament. It has also given me inspiration for my future life and lots of further resources to engage with to keep me on this new path.

The space and respect you gave to all participants was fundamental, I imagine it might have taken a lot of energy but it was really important for participants to feel heard and acknowledged, you could see it in our faces, they would many times just light up because of the feeling that we were being taking seriously. So I cannot emphasise this enough, the way in which you guys listened and allowed us to be, really brought this course to another level. This ability is something I strongly encourage you keep and take to all courses, thanks so much.

I loved this course. I get less out of break out groups and posting thoughts but others like that and that’s fine. I felt that there was lots of room to engage in whatever style suited the student.

If I could dance on a tabletop to prove my appreciation for the course, I would do it (and I can’t dance a lick!)

I loved the breakout rooms, getting to know the other participants. It was great to have more than one opportunity per week to get together. Loved the Carnival at the end, the weekly quotes, the additional readings and videos… all of it. Such an inspiring course! Thank you, Philip and Shaun.

First, the online format of the course was excellent! It flowed very smoothly and was user friendly. Always supporting us in whatever we needed. I also appreciated the flexibility of the team. Thank you!

Shaun and Philip are exceptional teachers, in terms of both intellect and emotional connection.

I think this was a unique moment, taking this course, with these people, during a global pandemic.

There is a path forward, and there is hope.

Very well done. I’m also glad you’ll be helping us stay connected and to continue to build this community, going forward. I’m definitely missing the course and community, this week, in spite of staying connected with some individuals from the course. The gestalt of the group was so much of the community. Thanks again!

Sterling College should be very proud of this course.

A sense of expectation and wonder. An important reminder of how lovely humans can be. The nudge to keep searching for my tribe The need to do the inner work as a means to serve better. Thanks so so so much