Seeding cultures of care and kinship
Seeding cultures of care and kinship

Planting seeds to grow into cultures of care and kinship

At the mid winter point in the Northern Hemisphere, also known as Imbolc, the CitizensLab hosted an evening celebration of our year-long seasonal Learning Journey.
The old Irish word ‘Imbolc’ means ‘in the belly’ and refers to the pregnancy of ewes at this time of year. After months of wintering, hibernating and resting we felt life beginning to stir again. We had invited our extended network and social change practitioners from across the globe and were curious to discover what was growing in their bellies. For some there was a clear spring energy arising, the joy of connection, creativity and new adventures, whereas others were noticing tiredness and the need to slow-down.

At the CitizensLab we feel the need and urgency to bring a regenerative approach into the field of citizen engagement and participation. This includes creating the conditions to work with natural rhythms as well as integrating the cognitive, the emotional and the physical body as we seek to rewrite current narratives of democracy. We believe that such a cultural shift can be supported by cultivating competences and capacities for nourishing cultures of commoning, care and kinship. At the core of these cultures are flourishing and reciprocal relationships. So this is our current action-research topic, which has emerged from the seasonal Learning Journey. It’s an exploration that will lead us to question and deepen our practices within the field of systems and social change. We want to co-create spaces that are radically transformative, that don’t reproduce oppressive structures and social injustices. We want to host processes through which people become more alive, more capable and more powerful together, navigating uncertainty, holding complexity. Spaces, where we feel stronger in reclaiming our abilities to shape the world together with creativity, curiosity and experimentation. Spaces, where there is room for differences, non-violent conflict based on shared values, commitments and passions.

For us the Learning Journey was such a space and it was fascinating to explore with a much wider circle what care and kinship meant to us in each of our local geographies and contexts (ranging across Berlin, Cape Town, Tuscany, Athens, Reykjavik, the USA, Devon, France, the Netherlands, Malmoe and Valencia). What emerged was a beautiful mosaic, various shades of colors and differently shaped pieces forming a wider whole.

Mosaic of care and kinship
Mosaic of care and kinship
Care and kinship is…

a need that is embodied in my relations to the human family

something to hold onto and remember to return to

taking care of children together with educated pedagogy

roots, intentional relations in the queer community, extended family

the necessary heart of life and community

kinship with the soil from which I eat

acknowledging care work

connecting the broken parts inside us and in the world

it’s a longing. a home. a mystery.

a way of expanding our response-ability

connecting through grief and loss

where we feel rooted

a need for participatory democracy

Practices that can support us with nourishing cultures of care and kinship...

Mutual support networks popping up during the Ukraine / Russia war where people offer shelter to strangers, treating each other as kin

Group ceremonies and rituals like Temazcal, where we hold each other and connect to the ancestors

Connecting on the level of archetypes and building kinship through this

Accompanying a cat in her dying process, treating animals as kin

Bringing more emotions and care for each other into corporate spaces

Holding each other in activist spaces

Creating the new instead of just fighting the old

Exploring how grief connects us, including grief tending practices via Zoom

Becoming present with our local place and the people that surround us

Spaciousness to connect outside of full agendas and structured time 

Creating rituals together, eg. cooking together, gardening together

Being close to the soil, listening to the earth, observing wildlife

Stewarding the land, the notion of ownership is problematic

Working with permaculture principles

Embracing an indigenous worldview where everything is in relation

Creating economies based on relations instead of money

Understanding the power of interdependency

Working differently: intimate check ins, grounding sessions, working with the seasons

Non violent communication and needs consciousness, listening with the heart

Cultivating intentional communities

Finding commonalities and celebrating diversity

Feeling all our feelings, including anger as a force for action

Contemplating our shadows rather than reacting from triggers

Supporting each other via digital meetups

Self-organized gatherings

Claiming our agency to create the change we wish to see

Nourish connections within the queer community and other spaces where people don’t feel connected to traditional forms of kin (biological family) 

Being courageous to show ourselves vulnerable

Awakening our senses (eg. through the awakening hands practice)

Inviting different forms of gender expressions (eg. drag workshops)

Cultivating playfulness in our encounters

Presence with each other, slowing down in conversations

Language as a connective tool

Encountering each other open- heartedly 

"Everything is worth it if the soul is not too small"
"Everything is worth it if the soul is not too small"

We listened to a beautiful poem by our dear spoken word poet Awa Ndiaye.

And we received our wisdom holder Sophie Bank’s reflections on the theme as a missing piece in the mosaic.

Sophie brought in the idea of water and fire finding kinship with each other. Fire being a core element in our rituals and bringing in the energy of power, destruction and transformation, it needs to be balanced by the fluidity, depth and emotionality of water. The way that Sophie brings in the water to create healthy human cultures is through grief tending practices and rituals. These are of utmost importance for healing our wounds and traumas which the soil holds layer after layer, spanning generations. She left us with the question ‘Which layers of pain are our soils holding and how can we repair them’?

We ended our time together with a beautiful sharing circle about what we dream possible for seeding cultures of care and kinship more widely. We leave you this wonderful weaving of our dreams.

Dream weaving

We dream of being in imaginative learning spaces to reconnect to the lost wisdom

We dream of remembering what is essential in our bones, remembering that we are earth, This will create flourishing ecosystems and healthy human cultures

We dream of taking more time, less time assigned to earning money and more time for nourishing connection to nature, community and self

We dream of making space for real empathy to emerge between people from completely different cultures, who might never meet each other – as an antidote to the division that is cultivated by the powerful few, who are invested in maintaining the current system

We dream of love and care on a planetary scale

We dream of creating systems that serve people in life-affirming ways

We dream of having a sense of interconnectivity with of all life

We dream of intergenerational and interspecies collaboration. 

We dream of seeing the deeper truth of who we are by going beyond polarities

dancing with both

there we can find belonging

We dream of creating collective power between organizations and people

to become the force of the new society and system where the people are in power 

We dream of creating interruption in this accelerated time and creating new rhythms

to let the inner child out and connect with each other in playful ways

We dream of grounding ourselves in healthy humility

we are just a short moment of life

we are beings among other beings 

We dream of slowing down and feeling the fabric of our relationships

We dream of extending our care beyond just our loved ones and to everyone 

We dream of a world where mothers are supported and not left alone, surrounded by community

We dream of a world where we become indigenous to the earth

we dream of knowing how to reach out – not figuring it out ourselves

we dream of building strength beyond borders

we dream of living in a world where death and dying are part of our culture

in ways that help us heal appropriately

so we can hold one another through the whole life cycle

We dream of honouring life cycles in their fullness

to move with the earth

to understand the power of interdependency

we dream of a world where care and kinship is at the centre,

where we practice a politics of care

We dream of being stewards of our surroundings and not masters

to understand that we are of the world and not apart from it.