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A Reflective Post for the Turn of the Year

How intense has 2023 been?

I know I’m not the only one to think that.

By intense I mean both in a good way and in a challenging way. Isn’t life bittersweet sometimes? On the good side, we at Hot House got to work with some pretty amazing collaborators, colleagues, and community folk. All committed to an empowering and regenerative practice- there is an exponential experience of energy and joy when values align.

I get to work with a bunch of gorgeous people who each do great stuff in the community development space as collaborators with Hot House and I am in total awe of what we have achieved together – shout out to Tori Mathison, Track C Consulting, Terori Hareko-Avaivilla, Dee Brooks, Michelle Dunscombe, Sandy Joffe, Maggie Mildenhall, Hannah Veljanovska, Soraya Barr, Rory McMaster, Gabriel Veljanovski, Oliver Veljanovski and Spase Veljanovski.

This year we had the absolute pleasure of learning with Wicked Lab, Sharon Zivkovic and Emily Humphreys. Very grateful for the opportunity to present to the Community of Practice on the intersections between complex adaptive systems theory and community development. Still learning, absorbing and connecting the dots!

Serendipitously, my dear friends Duy Huynh and Andrew Kelly launched their documentary film, How to Thrive this year. Given the year we have all had this film was perfect timing and reminded us all to connect, reflect, learn, grow and… thrive. Many of us signed up for the How to Thrive course with Marie Macleod and she led us through the BEACON framework. I’ll be absorbing much of that learning over this summer as part of my annual reflective ‘new year’ practice, and hopefully building more “thrive tribes”. This is worth a story in itself and is still evolving, so I’ll come back to this next year.

On the challenging side, in two of my volunteering roles, I worked with the underside of power, the one that is about centralised, ego driven, command and control – toxic, cut-throat power. This is so old school, neoliberalism, it’s hard to believe people in my sector are seduced by it! Alas, that is hegemony for you! I’ll be writing more about this next year as a cautionary tale, recalling the poem of Pastor Niemoller, ‘First they came’.

The light and the shadow. Community development, social justice and generational change work takes you on an epic life journey. Your travelling companions and the people you connect with along the way are truly amazing. They sustain you. The stories you hear, and the ones you tell, are about the struggle and the rage, but they are essentially, deeply, full of hope, kindness and joy, because that is precisely the world we are working towards. And it feels like a life well lived.

Go gently, be kind,

Helen x

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