Self Determination, Co-creation and the Beautiful In-between

Friday, 20 December 2019 By Ellie Kidson

A reflection on our work here at Emerson

Since the beginning, Emerson’s purpose has been helping students to find their way to meaningful action by creating ‘a space for people to flourish’ inspired by Anthroposophy.  Whilst the essence of what we do is embedded in the very being of the College, the way in which we bring this into action has changed over the years.

Change comes in response to what is called for or needed, and this has been the case both for Emerson’s own survival and also in order to be able meet the needs of new generations whose feet find their way here. 

Our Directors, Yvette and Steve, have worked very consciously over several years to ensure a financially sustainable future for Emerson and through this created a diversity of offering and initiative, inviting shared responsibility, co-creation and collaboration.   This year, for the first time in many years the College has achieved an operating profit.  This has come largely from the work of our events, hosting and kitchen teams who have collectively welcomed and catered for over 2000 students this year.

The experience that we now provide comes out of the self-determination of the many people who bring their educational impulses here: course leaders, teachers, mentors and facilitators of our own courses, our education partners and our venue hire guests.  This leads to rich encounters between people, ideas, cultures and philosophies, but also requires careful balancing of needs and actions.

Chris (our Estate Manager) and Trude (our Head Gardener) often describe our extensive compost area as the heart of the garden where living forces with which to feed our soil are carefully cultivated.  The work of the staff here at Emerson seems collective compost-making, renewing and enriching our impulse in the most nurturing and vital sense new shoots, initiatives and impulses can be born without depleting the essential nutrients. 

There are many qualities at work in our metaphorical compost-making - getting the balance right and adding the right ingredients in order to create optimum vitality requires (as many a gardener knows) constant care and attention.  Two qualities that I am particularly conscious of at the moment are those of Co-creation and Self-Determination.  This year, I have seen the delicate task of balancing these qualities reflected throughout our daily experiences and encounters at Emerson and beyond.

In a world of increasing chaos the balancing of these qualities is being becoming more and more important not just here but also in the wider environment.   In order to be of service to the world we have to be given the opportunity to find ourselves to find our individual path.  Yet we cannot create the changes we wish to see alone.  Self-determination (determining our path) must co-exist with co-creation, for the collective building of the our future.  Both a grounding in the self and an openness to other ways of being can be difficult on many levels: individually, socially, spiritually and philosophically; but there is something very special in the connections that can be found there.

This year, my second here at Emerson, I have been aware of a much more conscious appreciation of what I think of as the ‘the beautiful in-between’, the meeting point at which these kinds of qualities come to a place of encounter and something new can be born.  This conscious appreciation has been apparent both in impromptu acts of co-creation and in the curation of many collaborative initiatives in our teaching, working and personal encounters.  In a way we are all explorers, sensing our path on the delicate balance between what wants to emerge and what already exists. 

As we begin 2020 there are many questions to be discovered and explored.

How do we hold our centre and create free space where all are welcome?  How can we make invisible connections more conscious in a balanced and healthy way? How can we work with the challenges we face in the world through exploring the beautiful connections that we find in the ‘in-between’?