Our Journey over the last two years
[Image from Unsplash]
When we started ActionAble almost exactly two years ago, the world was a very different place. This thing called Covid hadn’t happened. Ol’ Mr Trump was still managing to occupy about 90% of our headlines and, unfortunately, headspace. And the ActionAble team were still Associates on the On Purpose programme, trying to understand what real, lasting and meaningful impact looks like in a rapidly changing, crisis-ridden world.
Back then, we had felt that there was a lot of talk about all things impact, but frustratingly little action, and that some of this chatter could be turned into action with just a little nudge in the right direction.
And so we set out to remedy this through action-focused events, utilising the opportunity of getting 50+ people in a room, all with a desire to make a positive difference, by helping them make that difference there and then. We ran multiple events, including one on sustainable fashion that doubled up as a clothes swap; a food systems event where we cooked and shared a meal using leftover food people had brought; and a sustainable finance event where we divided people up with experts based on their area of choice (pensions, savings or current accounts) and helped them identify tangible actions they could take immediately to put their money where their mouth was.
It was a lot of fun and we felt we made a difference (as over 300 attendees, 100+ items of clothing saved from landfill, 20+ kilos of food saved from and other stats from our events suggest).
The only problem was, it still didn’t feel enough. For those who don’t have experience organising events, it turns out it takes a bloody long time. Even identifying the right theme can be tricky when you’re trying to operate in an experimental and radically democratic flat organisational structure where the priority is to cater just as much to the needs of your colleagues as those you are providing services for (and we wouldn’t have it any other way!).
On top of this, there is the event design and curation, the endless promotion, the reaching out to speakers, the coordination of responsibilities, the on or offline logistical prep. It’s a lot.
And then it’s all over in a puff of smoke, your enthusiastic attendees released back into their busy, distracting lives, where the best intentions quickly melt beneath the flames of work deadlines, social FOMO and those million untraceable responsibilities that make up life. The impact we were making felt tangible, but also short term, and limited to discrete and relatively narrow topics: waste, homelessness, finance. Rather than a sense that we were moving the needle, it felt as if we were using one to beat back the tide.
Our last major event, fittingly, was on the Covid 19 pandemic and how to respond to communities in need. For all its many evils, the pandemic has at least given many of us pause for thought on what we are doing and the direction in which we are heading. For us, it was no different. We started asking ourselves: was running events really the best way of using our skills and resources to make the world a better place? Were we really achieving our goal of getting as many people as possible taking action in meaningful, sustainable ways?
These questions floated through the fog that was 2020, and we are grateful we had the space to let the answers rise gently to the surface. We don’t want to spill too many of the beans we’ve been patiently cooking up over the last year or so (we know, we’re terrible flirts), but suffice to say that we’ve realised that we want to focus on empowering you to be the change that you want to see, rather than on trying to drag people to make the change we want them to. Because we believe that when people really ‘come alive’, good stuff happens. And that, ultimately, is what the world needs more than anything.
The last two years have been a beautiful, unexpected, exciting journey, and we hope that the next two are no different.
If you’ll allow us to get all aspirational for a second, our dream is to help society reach a tipping point of active, confident, inspiring change-makers who can then really begin to shift the dial on some of society’s biggest challenges, not only through their sheer numbers, but through their self-belief, their sense of agency and their clarity of vision and purpose.
We don’t know if two years is enough time to achieve that. But we’re going to have a lot of fun trying, and our aim is that our participants will too. Because actually, this work should be more joyful than anything else. Not only because there’s nothing more important than taking action to make the world into the kind of place we’d all like to live in. But because if we bring the fun back into taking action, more and more people will want to take it, and we can really start seeing the ripple effects that will get us towards that tipping point.