We’re back for more Long Talks in the Woods and also on the internet. For this first session of 2021, after a winter hiatus we want to have a shared conversation about the direction of Long Talks. We have some plans in the making and are lining up some speakers for the spring, but we also want your feedback and what you would like to see, hear, learn, build and share in 2021. We think the theme in 2021 for Long Talks will be about theories of change, and learning about where and how we fit into the stories we tell about the future, want to tell, and want to bring into being.
What is a theory of change, you ask? It is a working theory of how we get from ‘here’ to ‘there’, wherever here is, and wherever there is. ‘Here’ could be the ecological crisis, and ‘there’ could be a human futurity on a livable planet. Or ‘here’ could be as simple as ‘exhausted’, and there could be ‘well rested and restored’. We all have many theories of change for lots of different contexts and scales, but they are usually invisible to us. We don’t usually base our behaviours on a consciously articulated understanding of how this action today will effect a change we desire tomorrow because we think that change happens in certain ways, but most of our actions have a meaning and logic to them. We all have theories of change that reveal how we think the world works, how relationships work, how society works, etc. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” and “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” are theories of change. There are policy theories of change, economic theories of change, systems theories of change, educational theories of change, spiritual theories of change, and more.
When we began Long Talks in the Woods, we didn’t have a plan, except to know that we wanted to be having conversations and connecting about things that really matter to us, things we are concerned with, and which occupy our thoughts. I didn’t have a lot of preconceived ideas about what we were doing, this wasn’t designed to be anything in particular. And yet, now, in retrospect, it feels like there has been a logic to it, that there has been a progression to the conversations which have been about how we come together as a community to engage with the big existential issues of our time- climate change, well-being, injustices, relations to land, colonialism, and imagining how we can think about the future together. Our discussions have led to new session ideas, which lead to new discussions, and so forth. It seems like we have covered a lot of ground in the last nine months, especially within the context of the pandemic which has constrained and often focused our talks, and the ‘what’ of our conversations has always been tied to the ‘why’ of our conversations. This ‘why’ that seems to be our common ground is that we must transform ourselves, our societies, and our impact on the world we all share, and this is a deep and uncertain path to travel, but it is much better to travel it together, and to figure out what we need along the way. Learning, clarifying understandings, and grounding ourselves in community during these times is itself part of the transformation we are working through. So now, I would say that I see Long Talks in the Woods as a conversation series that acts as a place of connection, learning, and imagining together this future we will be sharing, whether we spend time co-creating it or not. So we might as well co-create it together and figure out what we need to do that. This is a place where we can admit we don’t know how to do it, and then help each other figure out how. And we can take heart that other communities and peoples are doing this all over the world, trying to figure out how to be part of building worlds we want to live in and share.
Making visible the usually invisible theories of change we work with, allows us to not only consider our beliefs about the world and our relationship to each other, but it enables us to see the broad diversity of local climate, justice, or ecological actions we might be engaged in as part of a greater whole. It also enables us to see where we might be contradicting ourselves, or even wasting time, and hopefully avoid this. There are a lot of challenges from the personal to the global when trying to contribute to a better future, to heed the calls for transformation made by scientists, scholars, land defenders, activists, and even ourselves.
In our first session, we will talk about how and why we think this a meaningful theme to explore together in 2021, and will share some of our reflections on the last year. We will also invite YOU to share your own reflections of the last year of Long Talks, and what you’d like to do this year together. This session is meant to ground the upcoming year as we think about the year we’ve been through. We look forward to seeing you there.
Note: this session will not appear as a video recording, as it is meant to be participatory and conversational, though we will be recording in order to keep track of the ideas that come up.
Please come to this session with some thoughts you might have about the 2020 Long Talks, what brought you to Long Talks, and your wishes for 2021 Long Talks.