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An expedition to explore the new land of “culture-making”

We know there are individuals, organisations and initiatives around the world who share the values, principles and vision of Life Itself. We know that many of them are trying to create change, often by attempting to change the culture — a form of culture-making.

But that is more or less all we know about this newly emergent space, and, as such, it calls for exploration.What are its defining characteristics? How do organisations differ, and how are they similar? How do people work together? What is this space?

These are some of the things we are hoping to find out. We will start by talking to as many people as possible so if you’d like to talk to us or know someone or an organisation we should talk to please let us know by dropping a line to [email protected]. Finally, we’ll be sharing everything we learn back with the community.

What we know

The ecosystem of change-makers which Life Itself is part of has come to life primarily in the last 10-15 years, thanks to three key developments.

1. Recognising the shortcomings of Western societies

Although the last 100 years have seen incredible technological, scientific, social and economic progress, there is a sense that Western societies have failed to generate corresponding advances in human flourishing. Rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are rising; complex collective action problems and global catastrophic risks (such as climate change, nuclear war, the weakening of democratic institutions, global inequality, etc.) appear unlikely to be solved by technological or scientific innovations alone. As a result, more people are recognising the need for better ways of being and acting, individually and collectively. 

2. Popularisation of wisdom traditions, especially Buddhism

The dissemination of Buddhist ideas and practices in the West over the last 60 years has led to a renewed appreciation of wisdom traditions. A growing number of people, including Life Itself, wish for these ideas and practices to be more widely accepted and embodied in our society and culture. As a result, many organisations have been created in the last decade whose aim is to push these ideas into the mainstream, in one form or another. Not everyone focuses on popularising Buddhist ideas, of course, and many appear to be doing completely unrelated things. However, ideas of wisdom and awakening often constitute core philosophical foundations, or at the very least have inspired the activities of actors in this space.

3. Acknowledging the connection between inner and outer transformation

Implicit in the activities of organisations in this space is also a belief in the connection between inner and outer transformation. At the individual level, this is relatively intuitive – in order to make lasting changes in your life, your mental state must change. External circumstances matter as well, of course, but if your intentions, values, beliefs and mental models are incompatible with your goal, you are much less likely to achieve it. The same holds at the collective level. A whole systems transformation requires some form of structural change (outer transformation), as well as some form of cultural change (inner transformation). The key point here is that the former does not guarantee the latter. Changing the external components of a system can indeed affect individual behaviour and is important, but it is much less likely to achieve the desired outcome unless people’s inner lives are appropriately aligned, especially when the system is complex and unintended consequences are difficult to predict. This is why culture is important: it regulates behaviour and makes it more predictable. It may sound obvious, but it is only in recent years that changemakers have started to take seriously the importance of inner transformation. 

What we want to find out

Through our exploration, we are hoping to answer the following questions:

  • Who are the individuals, organisations, communities, etc. that make up this space?
  • How can the space be mapped? What are the key groupings and directions? 
  • What are the major differences and similarities between actors in this space?
  • What, if any, are the areas of overlap and what, if any, are the gaps?

Answers to the questions above will help Life Itself and other similar organisations to better understand:

  • Who they could work and partner with
  • How they complement and differ from other organisations
  • Potential opportunities and future directions
  • Where to share and find ideas
  • Where to find like-minded people

In addition, exploring the space can help to establish credibility for the people and organisations involved. By better understanding it and finding appropriate terminology to describe it, public awareness can grow more easily. 

Get in touch!

If you are an individual or an organisation active in this space, and you think you could provide insight into our research questions, get in touch! Send us an email at [email protected] with ‘Ecosystem research’ in the subject line. We would love to hear from you.

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