Writing to reach likeminds
and doers across Swale and Medway

Hello,

To the awesome people I’m yet to meet across Swale and Medway.
I’d like to introduce myself if I may please.
I’m Carl.

I’m better at doing stuff than I am explaining why it works.
I’m a social hacker – I connect the dots between people, and wire them up.
I deliver ideas by example – I lead and do, with passion, and purpose.
And I want to meet like-minds; to make the places you and I live, better.


But talk can be cheap, and I believe we’re defined by our actions:

In 2008 I began reimagining where I live and work (Medway).
In 2009 I wrote a vision for the future and some people responded.
I lead with personal accountability and civic responsibility.
I continue to challenge and question Kent’s Creative Economy.

In 2011, we (an ever-developing community) cofounded coFWD coworking community and participatory space.

Developed upon Tuttle101, coFWD started small. Now eleven months into our larger building move, we’re 49% financially sustainable (still a long-way to go to before we can be declared an overall success), but our community impact has been and continues to be considerable.

 

Ok. So why reach out in 2012?

Well, during early 2012 I engaged in an Arts Council conversation about a new kind of funding opportunity – through supporting and developing connections to public places, grass-roots individuals and community activities, the Arts Council aimed to engage everyday-people in ‘the arts’.

A great deal of probono time and effort later, I’m proud to say that I’m part of the team responsible for securing a £1.4m investment into Swale and Medway, to be delivered over the next three years. Sadly no funds will be available until at least February 2013 whilst we dot the i’s and cross the t’s with the Arts Council team but more news will be announced shortly.

Please do sign up to the mailing-list at CreativePeoplePlace.info

I’ve acquired a track record for identifying and investing in the right people – often people already doing great things but under the radar – and I’ve put my own money where my mouth is to do so. I got involved in the conversation, and this opportunity, to scale my approach and impact.

Given everything I’ve ever done, I feel it important to note that I’ve never been paid by public-sector or third-sector money. Its misuse and miss-allocation continues to frustrate me, as does red tape. I now find myself being asked to advise Medway Council, KCC and the Arts Council – to make the places you and I live, better.

I have little faith in ill researched media agendas, and nor do I run an arts organisation. I believe the economic climate is going to get far worse for arts, cultural, voluntary and public sector organisations, locally and nationally. And that this requires a real adjustment in the way public spending and funding works, and how it’s measured (vanity metrics don’t cut the mustard).

I come from a world of 21st Century enterprise methods and I believe that ‘innovation is creativity with a job to do’, and that this can inspire adaptive communities and responsive models of getting stuff done. I believe people have a civic responsibility towards their local communities, and I believe small actions can create true meaning and positive change for everyone – provided the right dots are connected and the emphasis is placed on discovery through doing, not theory.

I believe ‘art’ and ‘the arts’ can be a catalyst for change, but for it to be so requires a reimaging of how it’s done (and I’m certainly not alone).
I frame this reimaging as ‘the act and art of doing’ (and getting things done), together.

I understand that many arts purists believe ‘the arts’ should be done for arts sake with no requirement for measurable impact, and they will undoubtedly disagree with me. But when it comes to sustainable investment and cultural impact, and local peoples futures, I firmly believe that ‘art’, and ‘the arts’, can and should be used as a tool to connect people and inspire communities, and as a platform upon which to inspire not only dialogue and event attendance, but long-term action and meaningful participation.

Before we can engage people in ‘the arts’, we must first engage them in the conversation, preferably over coffee *~) If you’re a doer with a like-minded spirit for creative experimentation, please do take the time to say hello. I look forward to any comments.

Please do sign up to the mailing-list at CreativePeoplePlace.info

I look forward to meeting you.
Carl @FellowCreative


An introduction to coFWD
Coworking Community & Participatory Space

coFWD is a self managed, independent community of people united by one common purpose – getting stuff done. Venture through the doors of our old bank building at the end of Rochester High Street and you’ll find an eclectic mix of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines. Together we’re building a community where people are encouraged to share and develop ideas, roll up their sleeves and get plans and projects off the ground. More information available at coFWD.org

[A short edit of the following was published in WOW Magazine in April 2012]

Kent is often referred to as the garden of England; for the past few years I’ve fondly referenced Medway as the compost heap. Sure it’s a bit rough around the edges but once you know where to look and who to look for, you’ll always find fertile soil to grow ideas, nurture communities, cultivate participation, and create truly sustainable value for everyone.

I prefer ‘doing stuff’ to writing about it (but I blog, occasionally). Back in 2009 I began a journey by challenging some of Medway’s authorities and the cultural landscape[i]. And I began exploring the soil and creative ecosystem[ii]. By 2011 some awesome people had found each other and a vision existed to create something disruptively better[iii]; through empowering ‘Personal Responsibility over Rights’ and a refocused importance to ‘Identify Passion and Redefine Creativity’.

coFWD (pronounced Co Forward) is a coworking community and participatory workspace, based at 161 (High Street, Rochester). The former three-storey bank building has become a bank of social-capital and community interest, a developmental and participatory place for a diverse community of people (amateur, pro-amateur, freelance and professional ‘problem solvers’, ‘doers’ and ‘social enterprisers’).

Creative insights and innovations often come in non-linear ways, through seeing connections and similarities between things we hadn’t noticed before. coFWD hopes to become an engine of such serendipity, to disrupt the traditional stereotypes of ‘creative industries’ and ‘creative practice’. Artists studios, media agencies, serviced office spaces and creative business hubs can be found elsewhere; at coFWD you’ll find overlapping circles of people whom might just create something much greater than any of them could create individually – to become more than the sum of their parts.

We moved into 161 on November 1st 2011, now only a few months in, the participatory space and its numerous rooms and environments have evolved considerably (painted, second-hand furnished and equipped with pro-bono exchange) but much is left untouched, waiting to be written and shaped. Our vision is open to anyone but we know it isn’t for everyone.

The book selection in 161’s ‘Library’ room is perhaps the most introspective clue about the diversity of the community and its overlapping circles and themes: Graphical Navigation Systems to Fundamental Techniques Of Serious Hacking, 101 DC Comics & Gig Posters to Introducing KANT, The Business Model Generation to The 1000 Journals Project, A Guide To Electronics to The Pedagogy Of The Oppressed, The Handbook Of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines to The Third Industrial Revolution, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to The Brainstorming Toolbox of Game Design, to name but a few.

If you have an incredible curiosity then it’s likely you’re a ‘Hacker’ of things (not to be confused with the malicious geek term ‘Cracker’). Whether you’re interested in how words shape, technology connects, culture forms or understanding develops; coFWD is an agent of change, rather than a guardian of tradition. coFWD and 161 are independent, shaped and run by people not organisations, but legally framed as and supported by ‘Creative Medway Community Interest Company’ (CiC).

Our community calendar currently lists contributions, sessions and activities including: ‘Dr Keevil’s Guide to Teaching Things and Stuff!’, ‘Monthly Coworking Jelly’, ‘Tuttle101’, ‘Lets Ruin Cinema’ and ‘Rochester Writers Retreat’, to name a few. If you’d like to know more or participate please do watch the film below and signup to our mailing-list at coFWD.org.

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