My nephew is nearly three and for the most part of this year he’s been asking: “why?”
He makes a good point. With this word, he pushes the boundaries of his understanding until we reach the boundaries of our own. His infinite curiosity allows no unaccountable answer. Until, at our limits, we are forced to answer: “because it is”.
But what if it wasn’t? And, anyway, as Eeyore asks, Hamlet-like, “what is?”
As we reach the conclusion of our first Future Labs project, we consider what Future Labs is, was and has been. We analyse, we assess the results, we look for concrete achievements.
Concrete achievements. Far from the unyielding stuff of our buildings, outweighing the total carbon mass of every tree, bush and shrub on the planet, the word concrete actually comes from the Latin concretus, past participle of concrescere, meaning ‘to grow together’.
Future Labs set out to find solutions. For each panel freelancers, artistic and executive directors made commitments towards ideas and plans. How can we be sure that these are actually applied?
In honesty, it is inevitable that many will not have been applied. In practice, many individuals will find that it is harder to realise their solution in their organisation, life or community than they thought it would be. That their structures or resources simply haven’t allowed it.
Though, of course, our immediate reaction to this continued stagnation might be one of frustration or anger, perhaps, in the spirit of a collection of words Rachel Bagshaw gave us last week - Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy - it is useful here to take a leaf out of my nephew’s book.
Hopefully it won’t be necessary, but in asking organisations why their Future Lab solutions were not possible to implement, we will discover a reason. Perhaps the reason is apparently superficial, or indeed structural or due to a lack of resources. But enquiring deeper as to why this is the reason will bring us closer to the root of that problem. In theory, given the number of organisations we have engaged and will, this data should draw a detailed map of where the subtle systemic problems lie that we look to change.
As far as I can see, it’s been hard to know how to make changes without knowing where exactly to make them. Maybe, even if immediate solutions aren’t possible (and hopefully some are), deep curiosity and rigorous enquiry will allow both us and the organisations to continue to learn from Future Labs. The work and research will not end with the end of the Future Labs panels. These are the beginning. Holding us all accountable, asking “why”, in this and other aspects of the work that we do, might still provide concrete knowledge of the root problems, allow all of us to do something about them and grow together again.