The Emerge Gathering brought together a group of 180 change-makers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the innovative city of Kyiv, Ukraine, to connect, share and discuss our work at the intersection of inner and outer social transformation. Here are some highlights from the two day long Gathering, 27-29th September.
From workshops on emerging technologies, spiritual sensibility and masculine/feminine integration, to collective sense-making exercises, the Emerge Gathering 2019 was an experimental journey into what can happen when change-makers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders gather together to explore new ways of relating for radical social change. Here are some of the highlights from the two day event held in the Ukrainian capital.
Friday morning saw opening words and framing by facilitator Pamela von Sabljar, Jonathan Rowson, Indra Adnan and Tomas Björkman.
Tomas Björkman opened the day by quoting environmental activist Greta Thunberg: “We can no longer save the world by playing by the rules, we need a systems change rather than individual change." He then went on to set the tone of the Gathering by outlining the current paradigm shift we are experiencing today as a result of the development in technologies of the past 50 years. Our challenge, he said, is to ensure that something beautiful emerges out of this chaos.
“Systems change always starts at the periphery, not in the centre, of a system."
“Greta can’t do it alone, the change will come from all of us, it will come from that inner place and it's this understanding that is bringing us all together."
On the decision to hold the Gathering in Kyiv, organiser Tomas Björkman said “Kyiv is in many ways a frontier land. Systems change always starts at the periphery, not in the centre, of a system."
Indra Adnan, founder of The Alternative UK, then took to the stage to deliver a talk about her work as an advocate of grassroots politics in the UK. “So many of the people that I speak to are very aware that things are breaking down, but there is a little bit of anxiety because they can’t see if anything else is emerging," she said, “In that vacuum all sorts of things can happen, and that fear is pervading in the space that we’re in right now."
“Fear is pervading in the space that we’re in right now."
Using references to Greta Thunberg, Brexit and the Extinction Rebellion movement she laid out what she sees as a trend towards soft power in our public sphere today. “Soft power is the power of attraction, the stuff that draws our attention," she said. “We saw it in the Brexit campaign, with the bus... At the same time, if you look at Extinction Rebellion; what does this evoke in you, how does this make you feel? It's the story of something deep and rich and heartfelt."
Finally Jonathan Rowson, founder of Perspectiva, gave some textual background to the creation of the Emerge Platform. “One of the things we do together is ask questions, and one of those questions is ‘what is emerging?’" he said. “It's a funny question, not the kind of question you’d expect to solve the problems of the world, nonetheless it's the question we ask."
Using the word ‘Emerge' as an acronym (see above picture), he said, can help us to ground this complex question into method. “Considering the magnitude of the world's challenges today, method is vital for creating new institutions and new forms of practise on how to lobby governments, how to change economic systems."
“We do not yet have a toolbox to say this is what Emerge does," he said, “but one of the things we do is create a network so that it can begin to know itself."
After Lunch, participants broke off into various workshop groups around the topics of Spiritual Sensibility, Personal Development, Media Production, Business as a Force for Transformation, Integral/Metamodern Philosophy, ‘New Narratives', Masculine Feminine Integration, Emerging Technologies and the Inner Cries of the Environment.
“During the workshop stuff started crystallising and going from the abstract to the right here, right now" said Martim Loureiro from London, who participated in the workshop on Media Production Initiatives. “There’s a feedback loop that starts happening when you talk to people, bounce ideas and start to co-create and find new ways of expressing yourself through living and embodying this community which has so far been relating to itself in a very virtual way."
After a long but inspiring day, drinks were served and the Metamodern Arts Festival took over the programme for the evening. Inspired by the novel of Hermann Hesse, artists Laurence Currie-Clark and Jan Artëm hosted the ‘Glass Bead Game', a transformational game which gave participants the chance to meet each other in unexpected ways.
Day two focused on helping participants to drop into their bodies.
Participants had the option to participate in one of three Collective Sense-Making Experiences. On the main floor, facilitators Elizabeth Debold and Thomas Steiniger delivered a dialogue process which they have been developing over 20 years of practise, turning the industrial setting into what Elise Lilliehöök from Stockholm described as a “spiritual healing space."
“At one point I started to cry," said Maria Clara Parente from Brazil. “It was powerful to not just talk about ‘being' but really feel it, so that when we started the conversation it flowed in a way that felt like it was really emerging collectively."
“We started to talk about things like grief, climate collapse and honouring the pain of this world that is transitioning, and for me that was a very important shift in perspective."
“After the Collective Sense-Making I felt that there was a flip in the mood and the energy of the Gathering," said Camilla Cardoso, also from Brazil, who was in a Collective Sense-Making group for women facilitated by Pamela von Sabljar and Sanna Rådelius. “We started to talk about things like grief, climate collapse and honouring the pain of this world that is transitioning, and for me that was a very important shift in perspective."
After lunch, participants gathered together and the floor was opened for individuals to break off into their own discussion groups on topics of their choice. Suggestions included co-creating an ecosystem of influence, how to create developmental spaces in Kyiv and the creation of a fiction series on possible futures.
To close the day, Maria Clara Parente and Camilla Cardoso delivered some words on how integrating indigenous perspectives and forms of knowing might help us to stay in an ‘emergent mode' when approaching an uncertain future.
Ukrainian street food was then served and the Metamodern Arts Festival curated an evening programme which included music and performance piece ‘Swimming Pool' from Hans Appelqvist.
Of the weekend as a whole, people spoke of the importance of connecting, presence and being in the moment. “Gatherings like this are important because when people come together, let go of their egos, and connect from a place of vulnerability, trust and intimacy," said Alistair Langer from Berlin. “Emergence means to allow something to happen which we cannot plan for or predict, and with the sense of urgency we all feel right now it's important to have formats like these to help each other, and to leverage our impact with our mutual projects."
In a Facebook post, Nico Czinczoll from Berlin spoke of the questions and polarisations that emerged over the two days, specifically that of ‘thinking vs being' and ‘masculine vs. feminine'.
“Gatherings like this are important because when people come together, let go of their egos, and connect from a place of vulnerability, trust and intimacy."
“While we will continue to talk about transformation, crisis, and collapse an image of our world giving birth took hold. Thank you for this humbling and powerful vision," he said. “Fearful or prideful action leads to more suffering, pain and death. How do we ease the process we do not control? How do we become strong midwives and guardians? How do we become well prepared for emergency interventions without forcing them too early?"
“The main thing we would like people to takeaway is that this two day event is only the beginning," said Tomas Björkman. “Where we go from here is up to all of us."
Thank you to everyone that attended the Emerge Gathering 2019 and contributed to making it a success!
Words by Tarn Rodgers Johns
Tarn is a freelance writer. Raised in the UK and based in Berlin, she is driven by curiosity and an incessant but largely unsatisfied desire to get to the bottom of everything. She is interested in psychology, human creativity and the changing world around us.