Our 'Cups of Tea' approach

We started our project with a simple idea: if we want to find out what the needs of people who work in the place where inner experience and outer social and ecological change meet - why don’t we ask them?

It was important to us that the conversations we had were going to be friendly, informal and relaxed, so we called them ‘cups of tea’.

We decided to experiment with this idea at different scales, starting where each of us live: a small town, a region, a small country and a big world: Totnes, Oxfordshire, Scotland and internationally. Our findings were fascinating - you can read about what happened in each of them elsewhere on this site, but the ‘Cups of Tea’ (or CoT) themselves proved to be a simple, flexible, generative and effective tool which helped to tease out divergence and convergence across a range of levels of scale leading to tailored interventions that have catalysed several initiatives supporting inner-led culture change:

  • Heart Politics and Grassroots to Global: two sister projects working to collectively create decision making processes that are compelling, fair, transparent, morally legitimate, emotionally intelligent, decolonised and culturally diverse.
  • Community Conversation around Trauma: a courageous conversation exploring community responses to Collective Trauma in south Devon
  • Art of Activism: a year long programme for activists from across south west England and London
  • Shared Governance training and mentoring across Devon and south west 
  • A support and development group for inner/outer activists in Oxfordshire
  • A commitment to a gathering on conscious culture change in Scotland

Over the time we’ve been using this process, we’ve grown more confident and precise in how to use it best.

We are now exploring our Cups of Tea process across other place-based and trans-local thematic communities.

Components of our Cups of Tea methodology

  1. Identify a community, theme or approach to inner-led change with a critical mass of people engaged/interested in the inner -led change and the inner/outer intersection of how change happens.
  2. Map those you are aware of who are engaged/interested in the inner/outer intersection within how change happens.
  3. Carry out Cups of Tea process:
  • Share an overview of what Starter Culture is about.
  • Explore with them any challenges, needs and opportunities they experience and/or perceive in relation to integrating the inner dimension into their work/community/culture and/or to their approach to inner-led change flourishing in the world.
  • Ask them to share suggestions for other people to have exploratory conversations with within their community/sector to help with mapping more generally.
  • Explore their suitability/ interest in being part of a community of practice.

4. Track emergent threads around challenges, needs and opportunities within this particular community/theme/sector.

5. Identify collaborative projects or initiatives that could meet the needs and opportunities emerging.

6. Identify and apply to appropriate funders.

7. If appropriate form a community of practice to enhance their individual and collective impact around affecting radical inner-led culture change by, for example:

  • Creating a sense of solidarity, strength and confidence in their growing numbers and understanding of the terrain.
  • Identifying common and cross-cutting themes, challenges, needs and opportunities around radical inner-led culture change.
  • Cross-fertilizing across their different approaches and methodologies to the inner dimension of change.
  • Sharing resources
  • Identifying, designing and implementing collaborative interventions
    Collaborating to create shared strategic funding applications
  • Supporting each other through peer-peer mentoring 

These functions of a Community of Practice respond directly to the needs  identified during our 5 pilot CoT processes which you can read more about here.

Needless to say we have no idea whether this is the trajectory a Cups of Tea process will want to go! We are sharing this in case it feels useful for others to experiment with - and feel fully in mystery as to where the process will lead whenever we begin a new Cups of Tea process.