Walking in each other’s shoes
One of the things I love most about working at Lankelly Chase is the opportunity to work with an incredible range of people. And not just work together, but truly collaborate, walk together for a bit, try on each other’s shoes (I’d kidded myself that I had a rich and varied social circle prior to working here, but in reality, it was shaped by me spending most of my life living in wealthy areas in three southeastern cities. It turned out there was a tonne for me to learn, and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to do so.)
Having the space, time and resources to connect with people is one of the many privileges we hold at Lankelly. Fortunately, it’s also the privilege that I think is easiest to disrupt. So much of our work — and our Place work particularly — is aimed at opening up that space for connection for others. We believe systemic change — which seems so big and intangible — actually so often comes from simple connections with others. Open, trusting and respectful relationships are both a means to change and an end in themselves
In Oxford, as last year of turmoil has dragged on, the people involved in the Oxford Place Inquiry have truly invested in building these relationships. From coaching circles to moulding clay over Zoom together, we’ve played around with different ways to connect with each other while we have to stay physically apart.
This work is starting to bear some fruit. Plans are emerging. Ideas are bubbling. And these ideas and plans are all themselves based on building more connections across Oxford, to encourage more people to walk in each other’s shoes, as we all start to rebuild the region from the ravages of the pandemic.
Next month, the annual Marmalade festival of social change will take place. Usually, this is a big, fun event held in the very centre of Oxford, bringing together hundreds of people from the city and beyond. Last year, it was one of the first cancellations of the pandemic, scheduled to take place weeks after the country locked down. But this year it is emerging as something quieter but perhaps more profound. After a year of isolation, the organisers are bringing strangers together in pairs to have a conversation together, over a walk or on Zoom, to explore conversations critical to the city and its rebuild. And there is more on the horizon. We’re looking forward to sharing it with you.
With thanks to Harper Lee for this metaphor, of course.