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Reflections on the Sustainable Enterprise London Festival

Adrian and I started the Festival three years ago, at a time when we felt without power and we knew that our colleagues, friends and local business owners were struggling financially, emotionally and with plannng how to leave lockdown. Since then, the landscape has grown more challenging, not only is there at least two pandemics that are limiting people’s opportunties and ways of generating income or expressing themselves, the climate emergency is so clear, and the impact of the patriarchy also shines through.
These things are lit up, and not in a positive way. Yet our speakers were all asked to find optimism and they did, and generously shared that. We are planning a small, free, publication about the insights shared, new approaches to supporting people’s wellbeing and towards developing our individual as well as entrepreneurial anti-fragility. So new ways for cultural and social enterprises to be resilient and not only survive but to positively impact our futures.
The SELFestival was always meant to be a space for sharing and also to create change. We are working to make sure this happens, so not just reporting but actively working.
While we do this we wanted to share the below themes that came through so very strongly:
  • Lead with the planet in mind, being human-centred has shown that it is far from enough, if not detrimental – let’s create with our guardianship of the planet at the forefront of our work;
  • Resilience is synonymous with neglect – George Gachara powerfully reminded us;
  • Uzma Hameed gently yet forcefully encouraged us to make efforts to see each other better and treat one other better;
  • David Blake inspired the audience to take agency and create a space where people can grow and become their better selves;
  • Susan Aktemel encourages us that if you lead by example you/your enterprise does not have to be big: have a ripple effect;
  • On the notion of keeping doors open for those who follow, Jess Allen agreed but also challenged us – “yes, open doors, keep opening more doors, don’t replace or shut them”.

Most powerfully I was left with heightened awareness that everything we work within has been colonised and informed by heteronormativity and patriarchal thinking – from our ways of learning to our business models. The importance of finding ways to decolonise through praxis, and to work to find new models that replace and are created with care rather than status shone through.

We were left so grateful to all speakers and audience members.
Thank you, and Adrian and I are looking forward to the publication and our 4th Festival in 2023.
Siân Prime

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