Who are we?

Welcome to our growing and evolving family within Starter Culture!

To find out more about each of our experiences and involvement in Starter Culture and various other inner-led change work, click on the names below...

Co-Founders of Starter Culture

Claire Milne

Claire is Starter Culture's Coordinator and co-founder.

She is a passionate and wild ally to all that is marginalised, working at depth and scale as an organiser, mentor and guide.

"I am deeply passionate about drawing on my own deep journeying around inner-led change to support others in theirs' - and to make support around healing and wholing widely available to all who are seeking it."

Claire previously worked as the Inner Transition Coordinator for Transition Network - coordinating the integration of an inner dimension into the international Transition Towns Movement.

Prior to that she lived and worked at Ecodharma, a buddhist community and education centre in the Cataunyan Pyrenees where she facilitated retreat-based programs for activists experiencing burnout and buddhists wanting to engage more in activism.

In the more distant past Claire spent 10 years pioneering the creation of local food systems across Bristol, including as both Food Sustainability Coordinator for Bristol City Council and Coordinator of the infamous No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign.

Claire also worked as a global social justice campaigner for Global Justice Now! and War on Want and as the Food Poverty Program Coordinator for Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming.

Claire has a Masters in Social Anthropology from University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies and a degree in Psychology.

Read more about Claire and her relationship with inner-led change here.

Jo Hamilton

Jo is a Co-Founder for Starter Culture.

She is an activist, researcher, facilitator and musician. 

"I’ve found group work approaches such as The Work That Reconnects a powerful way to connect with my deeper feelings, and a safe space for me to acquaint myself with and transform the feelings of anger, rage and grief that I didn’t know how to work through in other ways. These experiences have inspired me to facilitate processes where the more painful emotions are welcome, not excluded, where they can be explored and moved through". 

Read more about Jo and her relationship with inner-led change here.

Eva Schonveld

Eva is a Co-Founder for Starter Culture.

She was working with Claire and Jo for two years to build the early stages of Starter Culture (in connection with many others, and her husband Justin).

Working fairly intuitively, she was drawn towards politics - our collective decision making system - with the firm belief that it must be possible to co-develop and re-learn better ways to do this together, ways that bring out the best of our human nature and enable us to live meaningful, abundant lives, while regenerating the natural systems we all rely on for our survival. 

The fruits of this were the article Politics, Trauma and Empathy and the project Grassroots to Global, which aims to find ways to put the ideas in the article into practice.

Eventually a choice needed to be made, as her time in both projects was becoming stretched and she left Starter Culture, which remains a much valued sister project to G2G.

This work is developing in exciting directions: in assembly processes in Scotland, where we’re exploring how to bring a more self-reflexive, deep listening approach to community contexts; and in a series of international events focusing on relationship building and shared learning; and in a growing pile of writings.

Eva has felt a deep connection with the other creatures we share this planet with her whole life.

Although she's always had a need for emotional and spiritual exploration, for several years she kept her activism for change and those deeper parts fairly separate, but, as happens for many of us, a severe bout of burnout helped her realise that the social problems we face - and their cure - are deeper and more intriguing than imagined.

Eva began to see the extent to which we, and the social and economic systems we have inherited, are conditioned by a mindset of materialism and control/domination, passed across generations and colonisations, often so deeply buried in our assumptions and cultural habits that we can’t see them in action, even when we’re trying to change their results in the world.


Co-Conspirators

David Crook

David supports us around our funder-facing work seeking to help make significantly more funding available for inner-led change.

He has worked for over 25 years on partnerships and resource mobilization with non-profits and foundations. He has practiced Buddhist meditation and ethical training since 2005, and his main area of interest now is working to facilitate greater awareness and participation in initiatives that promote inner work (for example contemplative and embodied practices) within social and environmental change movements.

With Starter Culture David is focusing especially on exploring how inner led perspectives are showing up within the work of funders and their grantees, and on encouraging more awareness and support from funders for inner work’s flourishing. Having personally experienced the impacts of inner work, David became convinced of the need to encourage a bringing together of inner and outer change efforts, so that we and our institutions and cultures can renew and embrace a more whole, and whole-hearted world view.

Alongside his work with Starter Culture, David has also been assisting a number of other initiatives that are advancing inner led change agendas, including efforts to address stress, burnout and toxic working cultures within international humanitarian organisations. 

David is originally from the North West of England but settled with his wife and three children in Lewes, East Sussex, where he delights in the area’s unique blend of traditional and modern cultures and the majestic South Downs. 

From 2009 to 2020 he led the partnerships functions and institutional fundraising efforts of sister organisations Stars Foundation and Philanthropy University, both of which aimed to support the leadership of locally led development and rights organisations across Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Since 2020 he has been enjoying his first stint as an independent consultant with a main ongoing commitment to Empower, The Emerging Markets Foundation and their efforts to elevate the leadership of adolescent girls and youth. 

Anthea Lawson

Anthea supports us within the realms of communication.

She is a writer and editor and supports Starter Culture to find effective ways to communicate all things inner-led change.

She is also an activist who is interested in the connections between our inner worlds and the outer worlds of politics and culture, and whose work seeks to break down the polarising barriers between them.

Her book The Entangled Activist: Learning to recognise the master’s tools (Perspectiva Press, 2021), about why activists can end up recreating the problems they are seeking to change, was a Times Literary Supplement book of the year.

She trained as a journalist at The Times before working for human rights and environmental campaign groups investigating the arms trade and how banks and tax havens fuel corruption, conflict and environmental abuse. At Global Witness, she launched a campaign that changed the rules on secret company ownership and resulted in new laws in dozens of countries.

Anthea does freelance writing, strategy and communication work for change-making organisations, bringing an ability to speak the language of both ‘outer’ and ‘inner’. She is an editor at Dark Mountain, and is working on a new book about the psychology of activism.

www.anthealawson.uk

Kerry Stevenson

Kerry is our Communications Coordinator and Relationship Builder, joining Starter Culture in August 2022.

Kerry left the corporate world of healthcare communications as a Medical Copywriter in 2018 after devoting two years of evenings and weekends to re-training as a Mindfulness-based Interventions Teacher and Awareness Coach with the Centre for Mindful Living. This was largely driven out of necessity for her own mental health, finding the work to be exacerbating an inner dilemma of morality and freedom.

This teacher training opened doors to working with individuals and groups to connect more deeply to their inner world and awareness of their outer social and environmental influences.

Pre-pandemic, Kerry worked with young people who had left the care system, people without a home, and various local council initiatives across London. She also ran public group courses, workshops and retreats in the UK and abroad - bringing elements of meditation, play and movement into the arena for deeper exploration.

She now helps organisations to improve their work culture and employee wellbeing. This is done through 1-2-1 work as well as in-person workshops.

A key component of this work is online mental resilience programmes with Tough Cookie for teams and organisations, with a focus on inner and outer dimensions for healing and cultivating deeper resilience that may enable change to come from within both the individual and organisation.

Kerry recently completed the Wildwise programme, Call of the Wild, a year-long outdoor leadership training. This, along with a growing and urgent awakening to the importance of re-finding our ecological selves as humans, is shaping the current and future direction of her focus and energy.


Cups of Tea Coordinators

Israh Goodall

Israh coordinated our Rites of Passage for Young People Cups of Tea process across eight different countries.

She was born in the UK into Islam. From 6 months old and until the age of 12 years, she lived and learnt in many different countries, cultures and communities which certainly left its mark.

Moved by a deep enquiry of the sacred, she has spent many years on the trail of learning about rites of passage and with intention engaged in her own rites of passage experiences.

As a midwife for 10 years, Israh has had the honour to witness the very first passage of the human journey into this world. From the hundreds of birthing’s attended, she has felt the palpable sacredness of something which dies in order to be born.

The preparation of the mother, so that she is ready to birth herself anew and the healthy transition and return to her home can have far reaching and rippling effects to the health of our communities.  Birthing is not (unless in extremis) a medical act but perhaps the most important waystage in life, made so by the inevitability of our death. 

This thread of rite of passage has continued in her life as she has been drawn to working with youth as they transition into adult hood.

As an expedition leader and rite of passage facilitator, she has seen the inherent power of taking young people out into the unfamiliar, stripping away the normal rhythms so they can begin to uncurl and unravel what no longer serves them and come home to themselves.

From this place they are much more awake and open to what their gifts are and may sense for the first time their role in the care of this earth.

This work has inevitably asked her to go deeper and deeper and with questions in her heart, she has undertaken research and set up gathering spaces for rites of passage facilitators to journey these questions together.

She has so much to learn and feel grateful to be on this path. One that feels a needed space in these times. For more information, please see www.israhgoodall.com

"It is a complete honour to be part of this research, to listen to the personal and collective stories around rites of passage and, to walk with others in an enquiry of what is needed in these times. I am grateful to all those who have so generously shared their time and experience and am also aware of those voices that are not present and heard. I know this is just a step and there is more to come. May this tend to the central fire, nourishing the ground for this work to flourish."

Elizabeth Mpyisi

Elizabeth coordinated our Radical Leadership amongst People of Colour Cups of Tea process.

She is a bilingual Barrister (non-practising) who previously served with the United Nations for over 25 years as a Human Rights Advocate protecting refugee rights in such diverse places as former Yugoslavia, Mozambique, West Africa, and in Geneva Switzerland as the Senior Ethics Officer. 

In Summer 2016, she attended the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation to study secular Mindfulness and has not looked back since. She embraced Buddhism in 2020 and became a “Mitra”, a friend of the Triratna Order, where she is fully engaged with People of Colour Groups, Women Champions, Mindfulness Addiction Recovery, Reading Circle as well as RDI project at North London Buddhist Center to improve access and inclusion for “hard to reach” communities.

Mum of two grown daughters, Elizabeth still finds time to sit on a number of Boards as Trustee - the Desmond Tutu Foundation UK. 

She carried out a Starter Project research project on 'inner growth', among a number of Black leaders and this has flourished into a self-reliant Community of Practice, wherein Radical Leadership is manifest through a serious linking up of Black, Brow, Asian Women sharing their experience and supporting each other in building up businesses, charities along the principles of UBUNTU (I am because you are).

Olivia Nathan

Olivia coordinated our Disabilitea: exploring the intersection between the inner, disability and social and environmental work Cups of Tea process.

Olivia is now hosting quarterly 'meet and greets' for those involved in the CoT process to share skills and experiences and explore further collaboration. If you identify as being someone living with a disability and would like to get involved, please contact Olivia: olivianathan@starterculture.net

Simon Griffiths

Si coordinated the Cymru Cups of Tea process with Lucy and Jula.

He is a poet, chef, coordinator and workshop facilitator living in Machynlleth. Raised in Walsall, and from a working class background, his poems, essays and short stories have appeared in Spelt, Lumpen, Sarai Reader, Unthology, Permaculture Magazine, Flesh: Bodies and Technology, Clean Slate and Sparks. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa and has worked within a variety of editorial collectives and publishing projects.

He is currently completing a pamphlet Debone and Fold, which focuses on the catering industry, exploring our relationships with what we eat and those who produce and serve it. Twitter: @ontheoutbreath

He has a proven track record of writing successful funding applications, combined with experience of project management and delivery. He has experience delivering and organising events and workshops.

Lucy Morus-Baird

Lucy coordinated the Cymru Cups of Tea process with Si and Julia.

She is a qualified therapist practising Compassionate Inquiry and Kinesiology in Mid Wales where she lives with her family. She has been facilitating and teaching for almost 20 years. She graduated as a Minister from the Center for Sacred Studies in California in 2011, where she works as a mentor. She holds regular Cacao ceremonies and dance sessions that align with the Celtic calendar.  She has practised and studied many traditions of healing and martial arts before becoming a therapist. She is now continuing her studies with Gabor Maté’s approach to health in the mentorship program and working as an intern. 

She has also been a student and passionate advocate of divination tools for almost 20 years and teaches about Tarot and intuition. She is an advanced Welsh learner, living within a Welsh speaking family.

Julia Forster

Julia coordinated the Cymru Cups of Tea process with Si and Lucy.

She runs Write Within from Machynlleth, a coaching service specialising in working with authors, poets and creative individuals. Elsewhere, she is Co-Director of The Literary Consultancy’s Being A Writer which assists writers in persisting with their works-in-progress. In addition, she works in Public Relations for poets and authors, helping them to reach the readership their books deserve. In 2023, Julia is launching a writers’ cabin as a creative sanctuary for authors of all disciplines to work on their inner-led creativity. She completed a Diploma in Spiritual Development in 2021 with Dr Brenda Davies and works as a volunteer with Eginiad Cymru, assisting the core crew.  

She is passionate about working with individuals to bring their creative work to larger audiences and readerships and working with them to sustain their creative ambitions because she has experienced first-hand the depths of uncertainty and leaps of speculation necessary to finish a full-length enquiry, and believes deeply that creatives should be afforded holistic support throughout the course of their emergent work. 

She is the author of a coming-of-age novel, What a Way to Go (Atlantic Books), a non-fiction book on muses which looks at inspiration through the lens of quantum science and she is currently finishing her poetry collection.  

www.julia-forster.com

https://literaryconsultancy.co.uk/being-a-writer/community/

Facilitators and Guides

Claire Milne

Claire, Starter Culture's Coordinator, is a creature that works at both depth and scale. As well as web-weaving Starter Culture's myriad golden threads, she also has a passion and gift for supporting people to travel at depth as a facilitator and guide.

She's actually just now run out of steam to write any more about herself or inner-led change so will return here soon to share a little about her work as a facilitator and guide ....

Bel Selkie

Bell has been rooting into Cymru for 26 years, rewilding alongside 40 acres of ex-chemical dairy land in a multi-species cooperation called Daear Ydym ni ! We are Earth ! 

Her rooted knowing that humans are Earth is why all she does orbits the self healing and wholing of modern humans and reconnection to our kinship with non-humans..

She resecrates (restores to sacredness those who have been desecrated) land, people, rivers, trees, practices of living, language and has been weaving together inner and outer worlds for 25 years, with much practical experience of creating strong physical, emotional and cultural " baskets" in which folks can unravel in order to tend to the wounding that is within us and around us.

Her work with individuals and groups, Bewilder, is inspired by Bill Plotkin and Animas Valley Institute for whom she's a Wild Mind Guide. She leans into 20+ years experience as a BACP accredited counsellor with a stamina for emotional intimacy that home educating six children over 22 years consolidates. 

She has co-founded a housing co-operative and organic farm co-operatives and worked as mediator/facilitator for Radical Routes. 

She co-founded Regenerative Cultures in Extinction Rebellion to develop and track  the "how to do things well" in an organisation focused on action and the  "what we do" of things. 

She also casts word-spells as a poet/writer and has an MA in Creative Writing.

Sara McFarland

Sara is a Wild Mind Guide for Animas Valley Institute, wilderness guide, ritualist, improvisational nature-based singer, SoulStoryteller, performance artist, naturopath and mentor.

As a guide, Sara welcomes Humans of all genders, sexual orientation, colors, race, and every other "identifying characteristic" with honesty and curiosity, devotion and loving fierceness in service to Soul. She is a queer both/and creature who is not afraid to visit the dungeons or heavens, closets or wild forests with you. She assists you on your Soul Path, to discover your unique and interwoven essence. Along the way, you will be supported to heal the trauma of civilization and developmental trauma through Sacred Wound Alchemy and practices of coming home and belonging to Earth Community. Sara works with groups and individuals who long to know who they truly are, to take their place in the Golden Web of Life, bringing all of their gifts, powers and abilities to the people and in service to Earth.

Sara is north American and currently lives in Germany.