It started in 2013 with a simple question: “what would the business school of the future look like?”
We put the question out, chose a venue (Minstead Study Centre, New Forest) and wondered what would happen. We had no agenda, no process planned and no idea who would come.
On the day some 15 people gathered on the eve of the meeting, bringing their food contributions. What to cook was the first question that was never really answered but a wonderful meal materialised and some home-made bread eventually appeared. Minstead is blessed with some wonderful spaces and we explored them all: the veg garden, the labyrinth, the woven hazel fences, arches and hurdles, the oak circle and we ended the night in the iron-age mud hut sharing poems and stories.
The next day started in silence and flowed through various ways of allowing us to access the deeper questions and thoughts we all harboured around the central question. By the end of the day we had collected a number of important statements that had emerged thanks to this trusting, open process. Steve felt compelled to capture them and created a list of maybe two dozen thoughts that held special meaning to us. And then we left.
On to Bristol…
Later that year we gathered at Happy City Bristol and considered these statements and explored what we should do. Form a collaborative to bring these ideas into reality? Nothing seemed appropriate so we decided to continue to trust and honour the process and the ideas for what they were, and name them. During this we’d used the metaphor of a tree to explore how an organisation could be represented by something from nature. So it should not have been a surprise when Martin offered us his observation, and in doing so a name: “…it’s The Forest Floor”. Silence. It felt perfect.
Helen took the statements and “shaped them” into a tree and we added a line – the forest floor.
What emerged from this open process was a manifesto for how we could live on this beautiful planet in peace, with equality, with respect and care for all living things past, present and future, as human beings with all our messiness and doubts and qualities. Earning a living with our particular skills and passions and not being afraid to ask for our worth in return.
Thereafter we met at Minstead annually. Different people attended; the question was different and we had a context for each meeting. We started each meeting in silence. We cooked and ate together and we read the Forest Floor allowed in the circle to remind us of what we hold dear and to introduce new-comers.
In summer 2016 we went to Embercombe (https://embercombe.org) and invited our children and partners to join us. Steve could not join us but we held him and honoured his legacy.
The question was simple: “how can we live together?”
The timing was interesting – we met on the day after the EU referendum. A deep sense of loss, shock and confusion pervaded as the first in the circle to speak were EU citizens who have lived here for decades. I’d not witnessed anything like that before. The pain, the sense of betrayal, of grief, set a sombre stage for the rest of day.
But life goes on and the whole day flowed with a wonderful variety of deep work-shops, children playing, families swimming and fabulous food just appearing. Everybody seeming to know when to step forward, or to leave space for others to lead or be heard. We learned a lot about living together that day.
The Forest Floor seems to invite us to live well, and is available to all.
The next gathering? Who wants to initiate it?
The Forest Floor Manifesto
LIVE ‘fully’ as it invites us to embrace joy, hurt, anger and disgust;
all states of mind that can contribute to sustainable change. LEARN CONTINUOUSLY
and aspire to live in balance and influence on life balance. BE PROUD to make a living; through
productivity come the gifts of art, craft and science. LEARN FROM NATURE and appreciate the self-organization
that comes from it. LIVE COMFORTABLY WITH DOUBT AND UNCERTAINTY and engage with predicaments rather
than problems, to find a better way. ASK POWERFUL QUESTIONS and engage in inquiry rather than jump to closure or solutions. UNDERSTAND EMERGENT CHANGE and recognise that small changes can make big differences. INFLUENCE bottom up change, open boundaries, and continuous growth. VALUE DIVERSITY and difference and recognise the paradoxical and irresolvable nature of many of the complex issues we face. BE EVER CURIOUS and looking with a child’s eyes. FOCUS on abundance and grow to become our own personal experts. LEAD FROM THE BOTTOM, from the roots, confidently, in “new ways of doing business” recognising that there are many paths on this journey. INCLUDE, CONNECT, SHARE and work with a whole-brain approach with groups, systems, communities and cities. LEARN AND LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND FIRST, meet people and groups where they are and go courageously where the issues are. SHARE DIFFERENT AND NEW WAYS of seeing, feeling, being and thinking and aim for ambitious alternatives. Recognise that people, all of us, don’t know what we don’t know. GUIDE AND BE GUIDED, inspire and enrich, rather than convince, persuade or diminish.
SERVE AND SUPPORT the community with compassion and innovative delivery. HONOUR ANCIENT WAYS such as the Way of Council, nomadic life and teaching and the importance of pilgrimage. BRING RADICAL HOPE Radical in that it is “directed toward a future goodness that transcends our current ability to understand what it is”.
CREATE MEANINGFUL SPACES for creativity and dialogue aimed at finding the right questions and deeper understanding. CREATE NEW CULTURES for improvement, including offering radical acceptance, both of our crappiness, and our beauty. SEEK AWARENESS of what may be unconscious and in shadow as
part of working authentically and with people’s whole selves – engaging head,
heart and hand and working with deep purpose.
BRING THE LEARNING HOME BY ASKING
“What does it mean to your purpose?”
COMMUNICATE with personal
responsibility by speaking for
self, getting our “own houses
in order” and limiting or
checking our assumptions.
STAY OPEN, LISTEN
carefully and be mindful of
how easy it is to attach labels.
BEGIN WITH AND MAKE
VALUABLE USE OF OUR
ASSETS and strengths –
we know what we know.
WORK WITH INTEGRITY
AND ETHICAL INTENT.
HAVE FUN as we continue
this journey, recognise that
most things are easier
and our connection to
people and the world is
strengthened if we find
joy in what we do.
THE FOREST FLOOR: WE STAND FOR LIFE.
THE FIVE “DEEP COMMITMENTS” OF THICH NHAT HANH FOR LIVING WELL
PROVIDE A FRAMEWORK FOR OUR INDIVIDUAL AND COLLECTIVE WORK AND LIFE:
Cherishing all life; Responsibility in relationship; Generosity and social justice;
Loving speech and deep listening; Mindful consumption and eating.
The Forest Floor Manifesto: the-forest-floor-manifesto-3.2.1