Cups of Tea conversations

Our work to date has centred around our core Cups of Tea methodology - informal conversations exploring challenges, needs and opportunities within inner-led change. We have now carried out twelve Cups of Tea processes with over 200 social and ecological change-makers across the themes below. Starter Culture’s emergent strategy continues to evolve through our ongoing learnings from these ‘Cups of Tea’ processes.

  • Radical leadership among people of colour in England
  • Power and identity amongst development workers in Nepal
  • Disability and climate justice activism across Scotland and England
  • Rites of passage work with young people across eight countries
  • Funders across England and the States
  • Integrating an inner dimension into social and ecological change efforts across; Wales, Scotland, England, Oxfordshire and Devon.

* Radical leadership amongst people of colour across England

The coordinators of this process, Elizabeth Mpyisi and Calvin Niles, have hosted some 20 courageous conversations exploring challenges, needs, opportunities and emergent threads around supporting inner-led radical leadership amongst people of colour to flourish in service of deep cultural transformation. The conversations revealed a number of areas of work that need resourcing and recommendations around our themes of Resilience, Connection, Decolonising, and Collaboration.

As a result of this Cups of Tea process Elizabeth has now been coordinating a regular Community of Practice for black and brown inner-led change practitioners. They meet every few weeks to share what is alive for them in their inner-led change work and to share experiences, skills and resources and cross-pollinate across their work.

You can read about Elizabeth's reflections on these courageous conversations around radical leadership amongst people of colour here.

* International Rites of Passage for young people: a trans-local exploration

In collaboration with Israh Goodall we are exploring how to support the escalating crises among young people across the globe today. Israh has spoken to a range of Rites of Passage guides in several different countries to explore the challenges, needs and opportunities being experienced in regard to enabling Rites of Passage work to flourish. Many strong threads were revealed, the most compelling of which was the need for an ongoing community-focused approach to Rites of Passage that sees Rites of Passage work integrated into the daily rub of community life and Rites of Passage guides working alongside the myriad others who are supporting young people in their day-to-day lives. We are currently seeking funding to pilot this project in England and Wales over a 5 year period.

You can read more about this Rites of Passage work here.

* Nepal: exploring identity and power across the development sector.

This series of conversations was coordinated by Shreya Thapa and Vipassana Karmacharya. Together they courageously delved into the challenges of identity and power within the development sector in Nepal - and inquired into the lived experiences of both non-nationals and Nepalis working in development/academia. Their exploration focused on Nepal and Nepali culture relative to colonial/western systems (e.g. professionalism, communication styles, relationships with time and how we make meaning and constitute truth and knowledge) and the implications this has on Nepali individuals, their families, and larger society. The dialogue seeks to address issues of internalized inferiority, systemic bias/oppression, and imbalanced power dynamics - and begin to reveal what it is Nepali's themselves long for and what change is needed for them to be able to define and manifest their own futures.

These conversations also revealed an urgent need for a dedicated safe space for development workers - nationals and non-nationals, to come together and explore these issues between them. We hope to find a small pot of funding to make this happen.

* The gift of disability within climate activism

These conversations explored what it is like for those living with disability to engage in climate activism and how their experience offers vital gifts to our movements and how we go about bringing about change. Olivia Nathan coordinated these conversations and has been hosting a series of ‘meet ups’ for participants keen to connect and explore continuing this important thread.

* Cymru (Wales): Integrating an inner-dimension into our social and ecological change efforts.

Simon Griffiths, Lucy Morus-Baird and Julia Forster from Eginead coordinated this Cups of Tea process exploring the challenges, needs and opportunities being experienced by those in Cymru/ Wales attempting to integrate an inner dimension into their efforts around social and ecological change. The threads emerging from these conversations were striking in both their particularity to Cymru/ Wales and the flavours and fragrances of cultural and historical uniqueness - as well as how resonant they are with what is emerging from many of our other Cups of Tea processes. 

We are now collaborating with Calon Meddwl Corff around work that supports the creation of healthy organizational culture and Rites of Passage work for young people.

* Bristol, England: Integrating an inner-dimension into social, ecological and arts-based work

Danny Balla and Bex Baxter from Co-Resist explored how to support inner-led change across Bristol - a city renowned for its radical social and ecological change work and its rich community of artists, (re)makers and performers. Their Cups of Tea process explored the challenges, needs and opportunities being experienced by those attempting to integrate an inner dimension into their efforts around social and ecological renewal and justice. 

* Funders relationships with inner-led change
David Crook and Claire Milne have been engaging funders in an inquiry around their relationships with inner-led change in regard to the role it plays in the social and ecological change their funding seeks to support. These conversations have been exploring; how, if at all, funders are integrating an inner dimension into their own organisations; what, if any, inner-led change work they are already funding; and what they perceive to be the challenges and opportunities in regard to making more funding available for inner-led change. We have now drafted a report for funders that makes a clear case for why they need to pay attention to inner-led change and firmly centre it within their theories and practices of change. We look forward to sharing this report with you and our hope is that it will feel of interest to anyone interested in inner-led change.

To pre-order a free printed copy of the full length report please email kerrystevenson@starterculture.net with 'report pre-order' in the subject heading.

If you are a funder interested in inner-led change then please be in touch with Claire Milne, Starter Culture Coordinator: clairemilne@starterculture.net

Pilot Cups of Tea processes 

During 2019 we experimented with five Cups of Tea processes that explored the challenges, needs and opportunities being experienced in relation to integrating an inner dimension into social and ecological change efforts across Alba/ Scotland, England, Oxfordshire (south east England), South Devon (south west England), trans-locally (with those working outside the British Isles) and internationally (those working at an international level of scale).

A number of common threads and collaborative initiatives emerged from these pilot Cups of Tea conversations and it was striking that simply mapping and connecting those interested in inner-led change was incredibly supportive and generative in and of itself.

The simple act of making space to talk about how it is to try and integrate an inner dimension into our work and groups enabled valuable connection and solidarity. This instantly felt transformative in and of itself. Simply connecting around this common theme resulted in us feeling much more confident to speak more boldly about the importance of inner-led change.

Our conversations also highlighted that whilst a collaborative approach is common within outer focused work, efforts around inner-led change still tend to happen quite disparately and in the margins. This seems to be significantly hindering the potential for deepening and scaling up this vital work.

Find out more ...

To find out more about each of these Cups of Tea processes and the emergent threads they revealed - and read the reports thier Coordinators prepared, sign up to our newsletter here.