This is a question we get asked all the time because our human instinct is to look for outcomes and results
City to City translates the ideas that come out of a conversation and puts them into action. We can’t do that as City to City alone but we can when we all utilise our own networks. We can’t quantify the potential that there is in each person who gathers around a sphere or a C2C event!
City to City uses these human resources gathered from our global connections, to accelerate the expression of a vision on the ground. We are not gathering a global vision and implementing it locally, we are picking up the local vision and accelerating it with global resources.
It is sometimes helpful to express these thoughts as an image, so picture this scene: urban buildings alongside a beautiful green space, with people wandering into both areas. Some are on roof tops or in offices, and some are in fields. It is a multigenerational community. There is a sense of space and movement. As good architects know, space and light are important to people. The words ‘light’ and ‘space’ are two key words for our world today, and in many ways they are a better explanation of what we mean when we talk about ‘hope’.
If we have light and space in our heads then we have possibility of change. In contrast, if we put our heads down to graft we may not get anywhere. When we are in the midst of ‘doing’ we are task-focused. We run out of breath, but we have not gone anywhere. We may become highly stressed. A few days space to think about our sphere of expertise and experience in a way that is not orientated towards a ‘task’ can be transformational.
You can find out more about future City to City gatherings by visiting our Events page. Please join in with the discussions and comments that are growing around the conversations that we have hosted in recent years.
Conversations are at the heart of City to City
Those individuals in the group that gathered around William Wilberforce at the end of the eighteenth century all had different callings and gifts. They brought their vocation into their debates but the conversations they had also transported each of them out of their own area of expertise and gifting and into someone else’s sphere of influence or culture.
The model of the Clapham Sect is important to City to City. We are trying to bring people together so that this exchange can take place.
Why do we value conversation so much?
We don’t want to ‘just talk’, but conversation inspired by God and the Holy Spirit produces some incredible things. It sees possibility in small changes. It is founded on the belief that one person can influence an environment by being interactive, complementary, helping good things to grow rather than regress, and by encouraging signs of hope in society.
Conversations at City to City gatherings have proved to be powerful, fun, heated, challenging and, most of all, a release of encouragement, ideas and possibilities that can shape our journeys and stories as we engage with the different spheres we are called to be connected to.
We have seen conversations develop fruitfully when people start to take seriously the place (we call it the ‘cultural sphere’) they are in and their involvement in it. City to City aims to facilitate depth, to let conversations spread, and to foster initiators, gatherers and cross-pollinators. We believe that an artist needs a scientist, an educator needs a financier, and so on. Without these cross-overs it’s easy to get very narrow minded.
Going back to the Wilberforce model we see that those that gathered as the Clapham Sect were not just talking about ideals – they were looking for concrete, real changes
Most people are realistic as well as idealistic. But do we find that utopian ideals creep into our hopes and dreams? Yes, we do! We all have an idea of what utopia looks like – for ourselves or for the place where we live. There are utopian elements to all our dreams. But do we really know what this imagined state of perfection would look like? We often find it easier to define politics, systems and formulas than to commit to unpredictable, shape-defying human interaction?
In the New Testament Jesus is not prescriptive about action and outcomes. He doesn’t tend to say ‘Do this … and this will happen.’ We know that Jesus responded to practical needs but he also taught ‘ideals’: in Jesus’s life and teaching we see flesh and blood (real) human relations, imagined (ideal) human relations, and the meeting place of these two in the potential for transformation.
Jesus’s ideals were not a political system, but guidelines for how people should interact with each other. In the Sermon on the Mount we receive a model for holistic, healthy human relationships that includes value, creational enterprise, growth, cultivation and development.
So through the City to City network we are saying:
- we’re not looking for a formula or prescription for change (prescriptiveness can crush local adaptations);
- through our conversations and networks we want to inspire a set of ideals that are worth building our lives upon;
- we believe that concrete changes are not monoliths but come through the scattering (and joining together again) of the seeds of ideas;
- when we are rooted in these ideals, we will have a massive impact on our cities.
We are not trying to take on all the issues in all the cities of the world but to be seed releasers and idea spreaders in key structures of society
There are three key themes for us:
- to be inspired (and inspirational)
- to be innovators
- to be intentional.
We believe that the inspiration for all activity in society should come from the imitation of Jesus Christ. Innovation is a good thing that grows when we ‘abide’ with Christ. We are intentional about bringing people together because we believe that through each other we can release ideas and possibilities that will re-shape cities and communities.
Greg Valerio has asked a great question: ‘How can our activity in society for justice and peace become more relevant and more innovative? How can we see a multiplication effect?’
One of Greg’s answers to this question is to remind us that talking about action and activity can lead us into a project mentality. Conversations and networks are the opposite of this because they are not events or big decisions with the aim of directly changing something. Conversations are hard to pin down; even harder to measure.
It is always difficult to analyse what comes from a conversation but it is without doubt a truism to suggest that conversation that engages individual stories has a profound impact on individuals and groups. We believe it will result in visions and dreams that re-shape cities and throw out seeds of change into communities for the common good.
We tend to be obsessed with big ideas and social programmes. This was especially true of the nineteenth century. But our belief (and our experience) is that organisational change happens in small groups! It doesn’t come from a big decision to change something – you can change laws like that but not lives. Lives change through interaction with other people.