What is Starter Culture?

We are a small emergent collective dedicated to supporting the inner-led change needed to challenge systemic injustice and support outer social and ecological change and deep cultural transformation. We do this by supporting people, groups and organisations to compost power-over culture from the inside-out.

It is palpable that the effectiveness of our outer actions depends on us engaging in inner practices that support us to expand our consciousness beyond right/wrong binaries - and the power-over culture and drama triangle consciousness this polarising mind-set perpetuates. Without changing our inner worlds our change-efforts simply replicate the power-over paradigm that created our current crises. It is the tending of this threshold between the inner and outer dimensions of change that Starter Culture is bringing to the conversation about systemic change. 

Why composting?

With this in heart-mind, we at Starter Culture find ourselves articulating our approach to change through the lens of composting power-over culture from the inside-out. We are using the word composting because for us it encompasses the closed-loop system we experience deep transformation to require. That is, rather than bypassing our current situation by trying to skip straight to whatever it is our strategic minds tell us we want or need, composting supports our current ways to break down and ferment into something new, something we could not possibly foresee from our current vantage point. And which then grows out of the composted nutriment of the past.

It may be a cliche that no problem is solved from the mindset that created it, but it is still true. If we could envisage where we need to get to it wouldn’t be a big enough change to make it worth going from where we are

Manda Scott

Compost is a natural process of the life-death-life cycle that humans participate in when we grow gardens. The parts of the fruits and vegetables we do not eat, grass clippings, plants that are growing where we don’t wish for them to grow (weeds) all join the compost pile along with straw, dried stalks and other dry or brown bits. Compost becomes a nourishing, generative tonic and renewal of the garden that is made out of the dying and dead and no longer needed parts of last year's garden. The way this transformation to humus (rather than rot) happens is through the intentional creation of good containers within which to inoculate healthy bacteria and mycelium from the Earth, which when added by human hands, is called a starter culture. We seek to be part of and support the inoculation of transformation in our current culture.

Photo: Wolfgang Hasselmann for Unsplash

For us, it is this composting process that holds the keys to unleashing the deep cultural transformation that is possible. Each new iteration of culture grows upon the previous one, and we want to presence the goodness that is also within the current human culture - it is not all terrible! - there is also beauty and gifts that have evolved over the last several thousand years.  And, it is obvious to some of us that the current culture is dying, which it needs to, in order to make good soil for life to grow out of. The violence and suffering that result from our cultural illusion of separability from Earth, needs to stop. Compost is about returning to Earth, becoming Earth and growing a never-before-seen relational culture from the humus of the old culture, composted.

We long to help unleash our collective transformative power to radically address the inequality, systemic injustice and abuses of power giving rise to the inordinate human suffering, ecological destruction and species extinction that are bringing into question the future of our own species. We are doing this through collaboration with those interested in what can be imagined at the threshold of the inner and outer dimensions of social and ecological change and the relational field of the personal and the collective.  And crucially, this deep cultural transformation goes well beyond change within just the human realm. It is a remembering of the eco-centric or Earth-centered relational ways of living as humans within the ecosystems of Earth community.

Do you love yourself enough to listen with the ears of your heart,
to the other voices of yourself speaking? 


Supporting change-makers

We want to support folx who are engaged in change-making to:

- Know themselves as part of Earth community
- Have tools to expand beyond power-over culture into earth-resourced consciousness
- Heal from burnout and civilization trauma

This is how we become able to respond to these times from another kind of consciousness than the one that has caused the problem. To support all this we offer online and in-person programs, webinars, storytelling events, writing, videos and podcasts to support you on your path of inner-led change.

Unleashing the transformative potential
of groups, organisations and movements
- and those who fund them.

Photo: Shane Rounce for Unsplash

Groups and movements dedicated to social and ecological change are key to catalysing the deep cultural transformation demanded by these times of collapse. However, making space for our inner experience is mainly neglected within our social and ecological change efforts - at great cost to their health, effectiveness and transformative potential. 

Escalating patterns of burnout, polarization, 'othering', conflict and unhealthy group and power dynamics, are referred to generally as a 'mental health crises' in our work places - but we believe these are the symptoms of the civilisation trauma that power-over and consumer driven cultures both create and are born out of, underpinning all of the issues our activism and change efforts seek to address.

To date we have had almost 300 Cup of Tea conversations across 14 countries to explore what it is like to integrate an inner dimension into social and ecological change work with folks who are actively at the emergent edge of this hidden movement. We call this our Cups of Tea approach. These conversations are highlighting just how rife these symptoms of civilisation trauma are within our groups, organizations and movements. Many of the 300 change-agents we spoke to shared that burnout, destructive conflict and unhealthy power or group dynamics are undermining their work - and that a lack of funding for the inner-led support they need around this is one of the major barriers to their work flourishing.

Check out our 'Supporting a Hidden Movement' section to find out about these Cups of Tea conversations and how we are drawing on their rich learnings to help unleash the transformative potential of inner-led change.

Co-creating a relational movement
for inner-led change 

The time is ripe for us to come together and explore how to co-create a relational inner-led change movement. To support this we have co-created an Approach to Change that is rooted in our imaginal and experiential knowledge of relational culture. It is our humble invitation to join us in composting power-over culture from the inside out. 

Societies that see death and life as integral to each other have processes and protocols of coordination and preparedness to deal with the inevitability of change, pain, loss and death that are unimaginable within modernity. 

Vanessa Machado de Oliveira

Read more about our Origin story here