When the lovely people over at Westminster Hub asked us to hold some sort of event for their Changemakers’ Fayre on the 27/28th October we thought long and hard about what sort of event we could do that would fit with the Hub’s ambitions to seed thousands of new conversations during the Fayre … and also our own ideas and work.
Our first thought was to shape an event that brought together some of the amazing people we know to share some of the research, strategies, and other transdisciplinary emergent community stuff our heads are currently immersed in. Which of course would have been lovely… and we hope to be doing a lot of that sort of event in the coming months.
But instead we decided to do a PieLab event for the whole day on the 28th – thanks to some bright thinking from Laura Billings. This means that we will just to be hanging out at the Hub, sharing free pie and chatting to everyone that wants to pop by.
In all our workshops we talk about PieLab in Greensboro Alabama – one of our most inspiring projects. The Changemakers’ Fayre gives us an opportunity not only to talk about PieLab, publish books about PieLab … but to actually ‘do’ PieLab.
We talk about PieLab for two very important reasons:
There are no short cuts
PieLab is a brilliant example of how a project can (and should) start from the smallest point of contact between people. When we look at the Theory of Change and assumptions that people are working to on many existing community projects we often see that a common ‘failure to engage’ is often caused by a ‘failure to start small enough’.
And with so much talk around at the moment about taking over community buildings and services, and even social enterprise, it is easy to see how in our haste we could forget that absolutely nothing happens in communities without the relationships that drive any ideas and projects forward.
PieLab started by holding free pie events, with the simple proposition that ‘life can be bad, free pie isn’t’ …. And now have permanent premises in the high street out of which they still produce pies, but also have created an amazing community space through which all sorts of enterprising initiatives have emerged – from BikeLab to apprenticeships …
Below is the PieLab piece that they wrote for the Hand Made so you can read their story for yourself.
Social is Social Change
So while we might see that building on relationships can be a great strategy for developing bigger more transformative projects, for many people the social can be the social change they really need. We spent some wonderful time last week in Oldham, Manchester with a group called the Friends of Stoneleigh Park, that had started by focusing on their local park (which is beautiful), but now hold a lot of events for the community more widely. We found that the level of care that this group are showing as they plan their events really inspiring – right down to picking elderly people up from their homes to attend a coffee morning or book swap… and even making sure they had someone they knew to sit next to. Bringing people that might otherwise be isolated or lonely into enjoyable and comfortable contact is vital and valuable social change in itself.
Noel Hatch mentions the PieLab in his post here, quoting Toby Blume's post 'Food is Love' "If the ultimate act of love is to nurture another human being, then how can providing nutritious and delicious food be anything other than a hugely caring and generous deed?
My friend in the US, Jack Ricciuto in this interview extract talks about exactly this point – saying that when you have a lot of money you can be preoccupied with scaling up as fast as possible, but when you want to engage people in the community it is the ‘small acts’ which really make a difference.
Invitation to PieLab
On Friday myself and Laura Billings will be bringing lots of pies (some we will even have made ourselves) to the Westminster Hub and we hope that many people will stop by and talk to us about their ideas and plans for social change – what they think community is all about and how we can all ‘do’ community in our own places and spaces.
A Big Thank You
We also wanted to give a big thank you to Tim, Alice and Indy at the Hub for letting us loose on their formally pristine greenhouse meeting room to bring in our This is Community installation - pics here and here. Thanks for the confidence and trust… and above all the sense of creativity and fun you’ve allowed us… and of course to make something beautiful, visual and tangible out of our ideas and work.
And thank you also to all the lovely folk over in the US who created PieLab from the beginning – especially Megan Deal and Amanda Buck who have wished us a lovely day on Friday and have always been so supportive of the Social Spaces project!