PATTERN WEAVER | NEOGENERALIST | PIONEER SPECIES
A Girl from Brixton with a deep, wild love for Mother Nature
andWhen people ask me what I do, it’s difficult to answer. I do a lot of things. But all those things are about who I am rather than what I do.
I’m a girl from Brixton. I was born and grew up in this neighbourhood in South London. It was the place to which the Windrush generation first came. The first truly multicultural part of Britain. We were poor. We didn’t have much. But we did have community. There were Brits, West Indians, West Africans, Portuguese people. We all had our own customs, history, food. But we all got on together and shared with each other in acceptance of our diversity. That experience shaped a strong set of values I have carried with me my whole life. Share what you have. Accept others without divisive judgement. Each day is a gift.
We are all human, we all have value, we are all included in this journey in our wide, brilliant diversity.
At senior school, I had a miserable few years at the hands of school bullies. They saw to it that no-one spoke to me at school for over a whole year. It was a very self-isolating experience. I learned a lot about self-reliance, the shadow side of the human psyche, and the potential for human cruelty and division. Early experiences stay with you. I am, and have always been, a champion of the underdog, and fierce protector of those without a voice – whether human, animal or Gaia herself. It activated a deep rooted desire to foster equality, which later manifested itself in work with developing nations, challenger brands, and eventually as an advocate for transformative change through busiess.
Growing up in Brixton there was one thing I deeply desired that I didn’t have. A pony. Nature – and all her awesome creations – was perhaps my greatest love and has remained so. I connected with Mother Nature’s other creatures in a way I didn’t always do with my fellow humans. Though I loved school – and learning has been another lifelong passion – life was lived in sepia until those magical holiday moments when we travelled as a family to the Isle of Wight or to Devon where I could be high up on Dartmoor watching the buzzards and hawks, tracking wildlife and talking to the grass and sun.
Travelling to far flung places, connecting with the world’s astonishing variety of flora, fauna, animals and people is a theme that has flowed like a river through my life. Though today I travel as little as I can, years spent hiking through the Sinai, watching wildlife in East Africa, driving solo through the Daintree rainforest to Cape Melville and exploring the Rockies on horseback with real cowboys (not the fake kind) from Montana to New Mexico, shaped an even greater fascination and love for the pulsating life that lives on our planet.
“I love not man the less, but nature more.”
A woman of the world with a passion for Pioneers.
Inspired by pioneers
v, , drink to sMy career began in international development, working for the government of Tanzania in the Nordic countries. From Stockholm where I lived, I worked with international businesses based in Scandinavia to help build industry, agriculture and education in one of Africa’s poorest nations. Its then President Julius Nyerere was an outstanding example of a pioneer species who tried so hard, through his socialist principles, to spread potential and possibility throughout his country – though ultimately he failed.
When I returned to the UK, after a brief spell in a PR consultancy, I set up my first business – a creative consultancy specialising in consumer brands. We served global households names, increasing their reach, magnifying the messages and narratives we created, and extended their impact to all corners of the world. All my clients were important to me, but a few stand out because I learned important principles from their leaders.
They are Patagonia, led by Yvon Chouinard and Timberland, then owned and led by Jeffrey Swartz. Both were deeply visionary people who understood that business can be a force for good and change; long before we talked about social and environmental purpose. From Yvon I learned what it takes to build a culture aligned to purpose, and how to transform a supply chain and marketing model. From Jeffrey I learned the importance of vision, consistency in the face of cynicism, and upholding the highest human values through your brand. I’ve tried to take what I learned from them to the hundreds of other brands I’ve worked with over the years.
Today I still work with pioneers but my focus has shifted a little. In these challenges times of existential threat on a finite planet, I work with those orgnaisations – large and small – who acknowledge that the only reason for a business to exist today is to make a dent in those great challenges. I work with start-ups, scale-ups and existing businesses who are ‘ready to act’. Ready to take on the challenge of changing the systems on which life on earth depends and make headway to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and reduce the Stockholm Planetary Boundaries. Food, drink and agriculture; increasing circularity in fashion, consumer goods, housing; working with urban and rural design, management and community; supporting organisations delivering net zero; innovative technologists and engineers.
A need for Renewal
After almost 4 decades helping diverse brands, start-ups, scale-ups, NGOs, charities build their businesses, influence and impact, about 5 years ago I took a step back.
A brush with advanced lymphoma, a bout of a-plastic anaemia and the lost of my home and beloved horses had an enormous impact on my resilience and confidence. I took some time out to dive deep into the systemic patterns which influence and operate our beautiful world.
I looked at developmental psychology and biology, systems thinking, the Gaian approach to living systems theory, complexity, indigenous wisdom, bioregionalism, emergent business models, the global issues of ownership, global food systems, land management and biodiversity loss in depth, and tucked into ancient and modern philosophy once more. I studied biomimicy which has been a joy, improved my skills in facilitation, and deepened my meditation practice.
That’s not to say I went totally woo-woo.
But when a wall of water flooded my home in the dark one Christmas Eve leaving me and my horses struggling for survival and wiping out 15 years of precious, privileged life, I heard the primeval call of Nature asking me to step up and do more.
Until recently I didn’t know what more meant. I had shifted into sustainability strategy and narratives, dabbled with being a speaker, host and philosopher, writer and author. I haven’t until recently found my proper place for the last period of my working life.
But I have now. And it’s simply this. To be in service to the regenerative emergent potential of people and planet. Whatever form that takes.
My long awaited book – Renewal – comes out in late 2020 in what I hope will be a post-COVID world.
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