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The Forest Floor: a manifesto for life

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 ( 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: the-forest-floor-manifesto-3.2.1

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