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#228 Evolving Education: Building a Doughnut School with Jenny Grettve of WhenWhen 

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This week’s guest is one of those people whose breadth and depth is an inspiration. As you are about to hear, Jenny Grettve is an author, a philosopher, a systems thinker who takes her ideas and brings them alive in the world. She’s the founder and director of When! When!, a design studio that tests and actively implements ideas and projects on systemic transformation with the goal of slowing down our speeding meta crisis. When!When! regards simplicity as a tool for innovation and create a beautiful and regenerative life for all.

Those who work in and for When!When! believe that at the core of our planetary problems lie vulnerable human ponderings about why we live, what life is meant to be and how that is deeply intertwined with our economic structure. By daring to open up dialogues on economy and emotions, fear and trust, technology and using fewer resources, but also on hope and how all living things profoundly need each other, they believe they can unlock new possibilities for our shared futures.

Jenny’s heart-mind is huge and deep and we explored many areas of the transformation that’s coming, from the evolution of a primary school along Doughnut Economic lines to the future of architecture, to the role of systems thinking in our political, social and, in the end, human, evolution. It was a truly heart-warming conversation and I hope it helps you, too, to think to the edges of yourself.

In Conversation

Manda: Hey people, welcome to Accidental Gods. To the podcast where we believe that another world is still possible, and that if we all worked together there is time to create a future that we would be proud to leave to the generations that come after us. I’m manda Scott, co-creator of the Accidental Gods program and host of this podcast. If you want to find any of the links in the show notes when you’ve listened, they are always on the podcast page at accidentalgods.life. And if you enjoy what you hear, please do give us five stars in a review on your favourite podcast app. But also if you could subscribe, that would be good. I had a look at some new analytics this week, and a tiny fraction of those of you who listen are actually subscribed. And I am told it helps us to whisper nicely to the algorithm if that number goes up. So if you haven’t already subscribed, please do. I also discovered that since the beginning of this year, we’ve been number one in our section in Turkey and Estonia and Colombia. So if you’re listening in one of these countries, thank you. Actually, if you’re listening anywhere, thank you. These conversations are one of the highlights of my week and they wouldn’t happen if you were not out there listening. So really at the start as well as at the end this time, a huge, huge thanks from me.

Manda: This week’s guest is one of those people whose breadth and depth of understanding and thinking and feeling is an absolute inspiration. As you’re about to hear Jenny Grettve is an author, a philosopher, a systems thinker who takes her ideas and brings them alive in the world. She’s also the founder and director of the design studio When!When!, which tests and actively implements ideas and projects on systemic transformation with the goal of slowing down our speeding meta crisis. When!When! Regards simplicity as a tool for innovation and aims to create a beautiful and regenerative life for all. They believe that at the core of our planetary problems lie vulnerable human ponderings about why we live, what life is meant to be and how that is deeply intertwined with our economic structure. By daring to open up dialogues on economy and emotions, fear and trust, technology and using fewer resources, but also on hope and how all living things profoundly need each other. When!When! believes they can unlock new possibilities for all our shared futures. And doesn’t that sound like exactly what we’re here for? We had such a grand conversation. Honestly, Jenny’s heart mind is huge and deep, and we explored wide and deep into the transformation that we both believe is coming. From the evolution of a primary school along doughnut economic lines, to the future of Swedish architecture, to the role of systems thinking in our political, social and in the end human evolution. This was a genuinely heartwarming conversation and I hope it helps you, too, to think to the edges of yourself. So people of the podcast, please welcome Jenny Grettve of When!When!

Jenny: Jenny, welcome to the Accidental Gods podcast. How are you and where are you this fine morning?

Jenny: Thank you. I’m in Malmo in my small office. And Malmo, if not everyone knows is a city in the southern parts of Sweden.

Manda: Everybody knows it because there’s a big bridge, isn’t there? And crimes happen on it a lot 

Jenny: No, no, that’s the view people have of Malmo. It’s the younger brother of Copenhagen, you could say, because the bridge leads to Copenhagen. I mean us in Malmo we would love to see ourselves part of the greater Copenhagen, it’s called. Yeah. Copenhageners, though on the other side, I think they they are as keen as we are. And then yeah famous for shootings and drugand crime. Uh, I know.

Manda: And Scandi noir. In the days when I used to watch television, there was a Scandi noir and it seemed to revolve a lot around the bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen. And there was always a body somewhere on the bridge. You think, gosh, it’s like Oxford where Morse is filmed, it’s like there’s a very high murder rate here. But it’s possibly fictional. Anyway, let’s get us back to why you’re here. Because you do so much stuff that is so exciting and so inspiring, and there are so many ways we could go into this. But I’m going to ask you my favourite question of the podcast, which is how long do you think we’ve got and what is your theory of change? Take that anywhere you would like. 

Jenny: Yeah. I mean, it’s a tricky one because it depends on what you mean with how long we have. Until when? Like until what?

Manda: That’s your choice. You get to take it where you want.

Jenny: Until society collapses, but then where? Or are we talking about Sweden? Or are we talking about other parts of the world where it’s already collapsing? But I will put this locally to where I am based. And unfortunately, not much is happening right now. And if we just talk about climate, the Swedish politics at the moment is moving backwards completely; not believing and thinking that the climate is worth focusing on. So I’m actually hoping that we will see more disasters in Sweden very shortly. So an answer to that might be yes, five years would be a dream for us to suffer, unfortunately. I mean, it’s a bit of a sad view of this, but I also think we’re a rich, safe country and it’s mirroring the possibilities of not acting properly at the moment.

Manda: Okay, so we haven’t even got to the second part of the question, but I’d like to dig into that, because rich, safe country that was known globally for being socialist. And if you read some of the more interesting and thoughtful right wing websites and blogs, and that isn’t an oxymoron, there is such a thing. Sweden, New Zealand, Iceland they haven’t got Iceland yet, but Steve Bannon targeted these to prove to himself and everybody else that if he really worked at it, he could turn them to the right. And it worked. And it worked partly, I think, because nobody on the left really took it seriously. Everybody knew that Sweden was a relaxed, green socialist country and it couldn’t possibly be shifted. And he turned it into a social experiment very successfully. There’s the famous quote of him and Michael Moore where Moore says, ‘how does the right always win?’ And he says, ‘because we’re going for headshots and you guys are still in a pillow fight’. And it’s not even, I think, looking around, that we’re in a pillow fight, it’s that we don’t think there’s a fight. We have this background belief that arose when we were coming of political age that basically the shift is to more progression. And we haven’t caught up with the fact that there are people who are very organised on the other side who are endeavouring to see that it isn’t. So, given that this is in some of the places where the world is actually falling apart, includes the UK, quite fast. And Steve Bannon has recently said that he’s very impressed with Keir Starmer, who is notionally of the left here and is quite evidently not. Is there a move in Sweden amongst people who care about our future generations having a future, who are endeavouring to undo the damage that Bannon has done? And if so, what are your strategies?

Jenny: Yeah, I think those movements are unfortunately quite hidden and not super powerful. So the mainstream and what you see is definitely like a strong move towards the right. I would also say that the majority of society are also following that kind of slight shift, which is very sad. We had such a strong history of being democratic and socialistic and you know, a country that most people were quite proud of being part of. And that’s completely shifting. A lot of of people here are saying that we’re turning into a small version of America, being Americanised, and how that all functions. I think it’s scary because mindsets are shifting in a way that are not necessarily very easy to see, but it’s happening, you know, in deeper layers, which can be referenced back to what happened in Germany just before the Second World War. How that shift is going on. But then, yes, as you’re asking, there are of course other forces, but not strong enough, if you would ask me personally. I feel like I’m part of that side, but, it’s hard work. It’s almost like creating some kind of parallel, not necessarily systems, but parallel kind of pathways or emerging ways of being, relating to these more powerful systems. So a tricky time to be living I would say for sure.

Manda: Yes. And maybe at some point the progressive world will get together in the way that Bannon has managed to unite a worldwide right, that knows where it wants to go and how it’s going to get there. And they keep testing stuff and it works and they do it more. You know, this worked in Germany let’s do it more in Sweden. This worked in Sweden let’s do it in New Zealand, and all of the rest. And we in the progressive side don’t like hierarchies, and we don’t really want to be in that kind of a race to the bottom. I suspect that’s why he thinks we’re in pillow fights. I still have hope and faith and belief that the evolution of consciousness that would take us to a place where these binaries are no longer applicable is still happening, but we will at some point have to change the global media.

Jenny: Yes, absolutely.

Manda: So that it’s got different narratives. I discovered the other day that Henry Overton, who established the concept of the Overton Window, was in fact working for one of the hard right, super hard right Atlas Group think tanks. So it was a very deliberate here’s this window, how do we wrench it to our side of white supremacy? And I had obviously, in my fluffy progressiveness, assumed that it was a progressive idea and how do we move it to the left. 

Jenny: Yeah. And on that, I think as I said in the beginning here, how the right wing parties and politicians, how they will react to climate where you actually see it or feel it, even here in Sweden, I think that’s going to be interesting. Because if they’re pushing it away and almost saying and believing that this is not truly happening, we don’t need to focus on it. I’m personally very interested in watching how they will react to this because it is coming.

Manda: It is. But we can see, you know, Greece had droughts where they had tens of thousands of head of cattle and people dying, and there is a denialist overview there that if you said it was something to do with the climate emergency, you were shut down. So, you know, again, they’ve practised it. We don’t need to wait till it happens in Sweden, we can just watch what’s happening. You know in Italy it became illegal to suggest that the fact that they were having a murderous drought is anything to do with the climate. So I think we can kind of map that one out. What really worries me is if Sweden has got to the point where we’re seeing the impacts of the climate emergency there, I think we’ve hit irreversible changes. And of the meta crisis, the things that are likely to be irreversible seem to me biophysical things like that. There is also the potential of irreversible AI evolution to the point where we don’t know where it’s going and we can’t switch it off. Or irreversible war, which seems to be where various sections of the planet would like to take us. Because we’re back to the old Einstein quote of we don’t know what weapons the Third World War will be prosecuted with, but the fourth will be with sticks and stones. The third will just take us out. Partly because it will also release so much carbon that we will then be over the edge. So with that cheery thought, what is your theory of change?

Jenny: Well, over the last few years, I’ve kind of moved from very large scale thinking. I mean, I’ve been part of this systems thinking theories and worlds for quite some time, but I’ve started to believe in very small scales. And I’ve also started to think, or looking at where I live and my friends or people that I have close, if we are not behaving generously or with care in our own private lives, but then we maybe bike to work and we sit in our offices and then there on the screens we need to work with sustainability or something else. Those two worlds don’t match. So I’m super interested in systems change, but micro micro scales. So that would mean you need to help your neighbour a little bit more. You need to open doors. You need to be really nice to a bus driver and say thank you, or you need to meet someone’s eyes in the food market. Or you need to wave to a child. I mean, I could name a thousand more small actions, but I think they teach us how to think and behave, and then we can scale those up. So I think we’ve been stuck with this massive scale, and it feels frightening and hard to kind of unfold. So, yeah, small theories.

Manda: Okay. And are we working then on systems thinking, where I speak to the person in the supermarket and I give them some of my time, and I actually have a sense of connection, and that ripples through their day and it ripples down the line. Or are we thinking more on a spiritual level where there’s an energetic shift in the overall energy of the world, and I was going to say tips of balance and we’re back into binary thinking again, but I’m thinking that takes us closer to the edge place of emergence from which anything is possible. Either? Both?

Jenny: Yeah, I definitely think both. I think we tend to not believe that these interactions will have an impact on economy. I mean, if I just think about myself, this thinking started a couple of years ago, because I was walking to work. I had a crappy morning. I was so sad and angry and, you know, a really bad day. And then someone was biking past me, and she was listening on headphones, listening to music and singing out loud. She just passed everyone, and she made people smile and it was just, like, a nice moment. And she made me happy and then I went into work, and then I did my workday and I was feeling much better. That has an impact on the economy. So it’s not only a spiritual energy or connection, it’s more, I don’t know what to call that, uh, work traditional, masculine, heart shaped way of connection as well.

Manda: Yes. So I’m going to take a leap sideways here. I want to come back to this. But you wrote a book called ‘oh, What a Way to Die’ and I was wondering, did that happen as a result of this person singing on a bicycle, or was that already something that you had written or were thinking about?

Jenny: Yes. Not not necessarily her. That was more my reply to a patriarchal structure and world. And instead of just like blaming men or thinking that the male structures we have are not functioning, I was truly and honestly trying to place myself into the brain of a man. But trying to be very understanding and I don’t know, placing myself in their seat.

Manda: And the seat of a city trader. It wasn’t just a bloke, it was someone who’s in the heart of the giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity and making it tick. 

Jenny: Exactly. So, yeah, it turned out into a dialogue between two men and how they see the world, which I think is a good practice for my own thinking and my own work.

Manda: Yes. And as a woman, I haven’t read it in depth, but I’ve glanced through it and thought, yeah, really interesting. But then you hit the gender binary, which, however fluid it is, how did men take it? Because I as a woman, I read a lot of books in which men have endeavoured to create women, and I could list on the fingers of one hand the men who can actually do that in a way that feels to me like they’ve actually created women, not a male fantasy. And I don’t know the other way. I look at women writers and think, God, yeah, that was really good, but it might be that that people who identified as men don’t see it that way. So have you had much feedback from city traders, for instance, going, yep, that’s us.

Jenny: It’s tricky because the men that I tend to talk to they have these feminine traits. 

Manda: They’re not city traders, basically are they. Or they’re not city traders for long.

Jenny: Exactly. So I’ve tried to, for example, put it in the hands of my dad just to see what he would say. He’s a very slow reader, so actually, now that we talk about it, I forgot but I need to pick that thread up and ask him what he thought.

Manda: See what he said.

Jenny: Yeah, but I think maybe this book was maybe not necessarily for those men or it’s just to start a dialogue. I’ve had beautiful dialogues after this book, because it kicks off some really interesting ideas. And I think maybe that work is more important than the actual factual book.

Manda: Okay. The process of writing takes us to the edges of ourselves. That’s why we do it. So while we’re on the topic of books, because there’s lots of other stuff I want to go into, but let’s hold this rabbit hole while we’re in it. You have a book coming out late summer, early autumn called Mothering Economies. Tell me a little bit about that, because the thing that I’m thinking is you go into work and you smile at people, you have a better day and that changes the economy. It probably doesn’t stop it being basically extractive and running us over the edge of an extractive cliff. So does mothering economies give us ideas of how economies can not be extractive?

Jenny: Yes, it’s years of research and work and it’s finally taking shape here. I’ve been very, very interested in feminine ways of being and not necessarily women ways of being or how women act. I include everyone in this. But a caring way of relating to each other, to the planet, to systems, to life. And for me, the economy is all of those things. It’s like, how do we how do we trade not only objects and things, but how do we trade care? How am I connected to my neighbour or to you or to someone else in the world? So I wanted to kind of expand the idea of economy, but then also that the main hypothesis in the book is that humans are amazing. Like our brains and the capacities that we have are fantastic, and we can come up with so many things. And we have. I mean, if you just look in society, computers, AI, I mean these recent things, but you know, bicycles, beds, books, I mean everything has been designed and made by beautiful human brains. And then I was wondering, how are we then so completely incapable of producing more caring societies? Like, just a tiny bit more caring. How is that so impossible? And it’s a vulnerable, brutal, honest question. But I’m really wondering, because again, if we can do AI, then how can we at the same time have wars?

Manda: Have wars prosecuted by AI! You know, we’re watching that in the Middle East at the moment. The AI is showing the drones where to go to maximise the kill rate. It’s very clever, but it’s not what you want to be on the end of. So this sounds a really fruitful area to go down. I would take this back to whatever trauma created the schism between what we’re calling the initiation cultures and the trauma cultures, and that that’s probably 10,000 years old, and we’re just at the peak of our capacity to create things where we really don’t care about their impact on each other or the environment. And it seems, because you said really creative people create stuff, which is true. People are amazing. Every time I meet someone and my amygdala jangles because they feel like they’re somewhere else on a tribal spectrum, I remember this person has evolved from hydrogen. Every one of their forebears survived long enough to reproduce. The chances of that happening are tiny, so each of us it’s a miracle that we’re here and a miracle that we have life. And for those of us alive now at this turning point, everything that we do has impact. And we’ve created a system, because really creative people most of the time have been trying to solve a problem. And the problem for almost all of human history has been, how do I survive and how do I help my children survive? We’re now getting to the point where I think the AI thing is, how do I create God? Because somebody else is going to do it if I don’t. Which is a slightly different problem. But until then, mostly with good intent, people have been solving problems. But the value system underlying the problems that we in the West have been solving is fundamentally broken. How do you come at that and where do you take it?

Jenny: Yeah. In these types of conversations, I’ve been missing philosophy quite a bit. And existentialism as well. I’m back to where I am. I’m in Sweden. I was born in this space in a time that is safe. I’ve been very lucky, I’m raised in a balanced country and in a balanced family, but we never choose where we’re going to be born. And for me, that soul kind of core question is so important and we don’t talk about it enough. I mean, if we think about colonialism and how the Western world was using other parts of the world, we also need to talk about these things. And what responsibilities do I have as a person right now in this time? Moral, ethical. But I would also like to enlarge on that question a little bit as well. So what responsibilities do Swedish companies have right now in relation to the rest of the world? But from a very moral perspective. Not necessarily just looking at the climate or economy, because those things are okay to talk about, if that makes sense. But when it comes to why are you as a corporate person or a CEO in a company, why do you have the right to do what you what you do, based on where you happened to be born?

Manda: Right. That’s a tricky question. And it seems to me that the rightward shift is making that less likely to be answered. Because if every company in the world, even just climate, if we actually tallied the the carbon costs and the impact of what they’re doing, the global market would just stop overnight. And similarly if we asked these really deep questions, particularly the historical questions of colonialism and its impact, most companies in the world would cease, I think. Or would have to divest themselves of everything that they own. And if the people running them were going to do that, they would not be running them. They’d have lost their job. You know, the people who care about that have been kicked out because they’re not in alignment. How do you find ways into this? Because reading your website, reading When!When!, reading what you’re doing, you are finding ways in. Yeah. How do you make those happen?

Jenny: Yeah. I’m just trying. I mean, the questions are enormous. But then, for me personally, it’s important to tackle them through very small creative processes. And even if I’m just reaching 1% or even less, of even getting close to a solution or an idea of what we could do, I think it’s work worth spending. So I’m just really trying to kind of unravel a lot of different pathways to, we’ve talked about before the books, to kick off new dialogues, new discussions, new ways of thinking. I believe in art. For example, I think art is a really, really interesting way to channel and open up these questions. Because they are so hard and they are so tricky to come up with answers. There’s no black or white here. It’s an enormous grey scale of multiple different futures and solutions. But art can do that because there’s no right or wrong. So I think there’s potential in art that we’re also not using enough.

Manda: Okay. And it also kicks in at a more limbic level. Art is appreciated with our hearts and not with our heads.

Jenny: Yes. You reach more levels of ways of being within the problem I guess.

Manda: Right. Okay. I really want to read Mothering Economies when it comes out. Maybe you could come back and we could have a whole podcast just on that. Let’s move now towards the way that I found you, was through a school that you and When!When! are setting up in a place you can pronounce and I can’t. But one of the things that really struck me, other than the fact this is a doughnut school, so we can talk about that, was the quote on your website: “did you wake up this morning thinking, today I’ll try to hurt people around me a little less, and by 2050 I aim to be hurting them net zero” – someone whose name I’m not going to be able to pronounce, you can tell me how to say that too. Which struck me if that was the kind of narrative that was on the front pages of our newspapers the shift would happen tomorrow. So tell me about the school and how it arose and why it arose, and how are we going to keep the world stable for the children who go through that school to get to the point where they can have the influence that they will? Over to you.

Jenny: Yeah, a bit contradictory. So up until now, maybe in our dialogue I’ve sounded fluffy and arty and a bit philosophically out there. But I am also very, very interested in working on the ground with real experiments. And I think that within systems thinking as a way of working, I think there’s a tendency to stay within theories only and not to test your theories. So I got the chance, actually, now to do a strategy for an elementary school in Sweden. It’s in Tomelilla, a small village. And the school needs to be based on doughnut economics. So this whole municipality in Tomelilla, they’ve started to implement doughnut economics in a lot of the work they do, with an intention that within a few years, that everything they do needs to be based on doughnut economics. But this school, it’s the first of its kind and no one has ever really done this before, so there’s not much to look at and copy and go like this was one way that worked, or this might not be worth testing. So we’re working very, very broadly.

Manda: So there might be people listening to this for the first time who don’t know what doughnut economics is. So can you tell us that? And then in the process of that, because I am sitting here thinking, I know quite a lot about doughnut economics, but how do you apply that in a school? Because you’d want to apply it at every level I imagine. You would want the buildings and the staff and the playground and the curriculum and the way that you source food, all of these things. It sounds so much fun and really concrete, exactly as you said. So just go: riff on doughnut school.

Jenny: I mean, doughnut economics is an economic model by Kate Raworth. I’m not sure if you’ve had her in your podcast. Maybe.

Manda: I wish! She was one of the tutors when I was at Schumacher and I did try, but she was incredibly busy. We had somebody else from Doughnut Economics Action Lab right at the start.

Jenny: Anyway, she created this system and it was inspired by Stockholm Resilience Centre, who have been working with planetary boundaries for quite some time, and they were using a circular graph of showing the planetary boundaries. Which Kate Raworth then updated a little bit with adding social importance of the planet, and she created this doughnut shape, where we are not allowed to go outside of that shape to stay within a safe future. That was brief!

 Manda: Very good. I’ll put some links in the show notes for people too. So then a doughnut school within a doughnut municipality.

Jenny: Yes. All over the world, people are trying to implement this model onto a lot of different things, and here in Tomelilla we’re trying to build a school. And as you’re saying, it’s not necessarily the architecture and the materials, which I would say is the easy part. You can calculate carbon emissions. We’re aiming for 100% recycled materials. I mean, that’s a space where you get an easy overview. But then when we go into layers such as what is important for children to learn if we look in a 100 year perspective. How is the community involved in this? How can this be a learning space for everyone in Tomelilla? How is it connected to other places in the world? As I was saying before, responsibilities. If we build a school in a rich part of the world, what types of ethical, moral responsibilities does that school have? But also links to what can that school learn from other parts of the world? I’m very interested in disrupting this idea that that the Western world knows everything and we should just implement our ideas in other parts. But then also nature, biospheres, playgrounds. What does that mean? How many animals can you have in a school before it gets super messy? Also self-organising systems; who governs this school? Can a school be just like we’ve seen now all around the world with rivers and mountains, having person rights, for example; what if a school is more of a creature? What would that do to how children and the area connects with this space? What else are we exploring? I mean, it’s very wild.

 Manda: It’s so exciting.

 Jenny: Economic systems. Can can we get more money into learning spaces? Because I also believe that it’s such a key for futures and better futures. We need to unlearn and we need to learn. So, in my opinion, much more economic efforts need to be put into schools than what we’ve seen already.

 Manda: Yeah, because that’s our investment in our future.

 Jenny: Absolutely.

 Manda: So many questions arising. So if we take this back to Kate’s doughnut. The outer boundary arose from the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the planetary boundaries that it would be good not to push through: carbon, phosphorus, nitrates, all the kinds of the things, basically the effluent of a modern society. And several of them have already been breached. And I can see how we want to design a school that’s not adding bad things to the environment. And in the doughnut cities that I’ve looked at, there’s a concept of creating the city and that the biosphere is more resilient and more biodiverse once the city is up and running than it was at the start. And I can imagine grassroots recirculating water, maybe composting toilets, things like that. But then the inner boundary of the torus that is the doughnut was was social floors, below which we do not want to sink. So women’s empowerment and everybody having a voice. So I’m wondering, you’re in a place I still can’t pronounce in Sweden.

 Jenny: Tomellila.

 Manda: Tomellila. Thank you. And do we want then, I’m thinking aloud, do we want to balance out then the gender equity in the area? So we want to have maybe more women teaching, because a lot of men in the area are doing other teaching things, or do we want to have balance within the school? That’s one question. But then another question comes of then the children who come in, because the primary school is basically within walking distance, but do we want to bring into the area more people of diverse races or diverse genders or other aspects of human diversity? How do you approach the floor in the school. That would be the key question.

 Jenny: Yeah, it’s super interesting. And one of the first collaborators I brought into the project, he’s a lawyer, because I realised that this is going to kick off some really complex questions that requires new regulations and policies. So I think the major shift is that this school is not only for kids daytime and then it’s empty. It’s a school for the whole community. And Tomellila it’s a small village or small city. It’s about 6000 inhabitants. So it’s not an enormous community. But this space, in the afternoons it will open doors to retired people to connect with kids that need to do homework, for example. In the evenings it will be lessons and schools for immigrants who might need to learn Swedish. Or architects in Sweden at the moment are losing their jobs; if you want to learn something new by using the school as a connector in society. So it’s much more than just an education for kids. And I think through that way of looking at the space, it becomes something else that we might be missing. I mean, it’s not a cultural house only and it’s not a school only, and it’s not just for organisations only. And there’s going to be a lot of sports activities as well. So it’s a new space of being.

 Manda: It’s a new paradigm.

 Jenny: Exactly.

 Manda: Have you got room for growing? Can it turn into a little farm? Does it have that space so you could grow your own food?

 Jenny: It does have quite a bit of space and we’re trying to keep as much as we can for farming. And then also that could open up work places for people. It can have markets during Saturdays. We’re really trying to explore how this has a larger impact. Yes.

 Manda: And then it becomes a cultural hub. I just want a quick aside because you mentioned Swedish architects, and I am remembering the meme that flew around Facebook a little while ago: in every relationship, there is someone who stacks the dishwasher like a Swedish architect and someone who stacks it like a raccoon on meth. And of course, you argue about which you are. But then I’m thinking Swedish architects are in risk of losing their jobs. Really? Is this because the AI is just designing stuff?

 Jenny: This is super, super interesting. So the economy in Sweden is not great at the moment and all the construction sites kind of froze last year. So it’s very unstable and of course, within the construction industry, architects are the ones that are being removed first. But this comes out of economy, but at the same time, this parallel system that we have is about construction and carbon emissions. So the construction industry, they stand for around 40% of the global carbon emissions. And last year there was a big conference in Copenhagen on, the future of architecture. And a lot of people spoke about we need to stop building; we can’t we can’t build anymore. And that raises so many questions, because people need somewhere to live. How do we solve this? What’s the role of an architect if we’re not supposed to build new buildings anymore? And this merges into the project in Tomelilla as well. Like, if we want to stay within the doughnut and we cannot build, but we have to, then what do we do? So that’s why I mentioned before 100% recycled materials. It’s not going to be viable, I think, because we don’t have the the foundation for that. We’re lacking supply chains, we’re lacking logistics. There are no enormous sites where you can find all of these materials. So there’s a lot of dialogues that we need to have within the architecture kind of business and social work.

 Manda: Yes. And so I’m thinking a number of things. Do we really need to stop building? I’m prepared to believe that we certainly need to stop building in the way that we were. I heard someone the other day point out that in Scotland, 70 or 80% of the buildings are timber framed because Scotland has a lot of trees and Sweden has a lot of trees. And I’m thinking, why not just have a yurt or a roundhouse? Or why does it have to be a brick house with classrooms? And I’m guessing you’ve been round all of those circles. There’s lots of ways of creating shelter that don’t even have to be permanent. You have the Sami who who are there, and could probably build you something in half a day that that wouldn’t last very long, but it would last long enough and it would be safe. And cool in summer and warm in winter, whatever you need it to be. Are you going round those ‘what is a building?’ cycles?

 Jenny: Yes absolutely. It’s interesting you’re mentioning the Sami because they have textile tents. I mean, because normally if you ask these questions people say Sweden is cold, we need proper buildings. We can’t just use something very temporary in its structure. But we do have that as a very old culture. And again, referring back to where we started, I think we haven’t seen enough suffering in Sweden so that people will go, yes, actually, let’s do this, this sounds like a good idea. So if I would turn up here in Tomelilla and say let’s do a tipi as the Learning Hub, they would not say yes.

 Manda: Until maybe they tried it? Because my experience of tipis and roundhouses and things is you just need to spend one night in one, and you’re going, why have I not done this all my life? It feels to me we’re back to thrutopian angles of people say no because they haven’t experienced the yes. And the people who are peddling fear that we were talking about at the start, want them never to experience the yes. And the more we can go, hey guys, we haven’t got school built yet, but look, we put up this tipi we could start in that. And I would say probably three weeks down the line, people are going we don’t need to build a school. This is fine. We like this. Worth a try.

 Jenny: It’s a wonderful and very radical small municipality. So they actually already have another school which is Sweden’s only school where the kids are outside all the time. So in Swedish it’s called, I don’t know how to translate it, but like out in the rain or something a little bit on that line. So they can go inside if they have to, but the idea is that they are only outside, no matter climate, weather, temperature. 

 Manda: Wow! Is this primary kids or older?

 Jenny: It’s actually primary and elementary.

 Manda: Okay, fantastic.

 Jenny: So there are those things happening, like small ideas and things to build on. So yes, maybe I should get back to them next week.

 Manda: Get the Sami down, show how you build a felt yurt, whatever they have.

 Jenny: Exactly. Yeah.

 Manda: And then I’m remembering doing a podcast with Emily Harris and before that with Indy Johar of Dark Matter Labs, and their concepts of the autonomous house and the legalities of that. And I’m wondering where that goes in a really progressive little municipality. You got a lawyer in; what happens with the legalities of this building. Does it have its own autonomy? Are you heading down that route?

 Jenny: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah.

 Manda: Tell us a little bit about how that’s working in practice.

 Jenny: What it probably is going to look like in the beginning is it’s more of a mental mindset for the municipality and how they relate to the school and what they believe they can… I don’t know how to explain this… it’s not a spiritual kind of connection

 Manda: I think it is

Jenny: But it’s a way of seeing things different than what they’ve had before. And I think that’s a very important way to start this. And economically you could argue how should that be? Who should decide what to do? Again, the larger community we’re looking in, I’m often quite against technology, but for this specific case we’re looking into blockchain ways of kind of democratising what to do within this space. But also we’re looking into adding quite a bit of solar panels so that the school would actually have its own economy, its own fund, and maybe a little bit more money than they need. Now what do they do with that money and who decides? Is it the whole community? Is it the kids? Is it everyone together? We’re exploring this.

Manda: Interesting questions. And is it even whatever your fiat currency is? Is it kronor?

Jenny: Yes.

Manda: Sorry, I should know these things, but I was listening to a fascinating podcast the other day, the frontiers of Commoning, with someone who was working in Africa with alternative currencies. And what they’re doing is rediscovering the exchange economies. It’s not even a gift economy because gift economy just runs on Western lines, so much this concept of, I don’t know, I give you a chicken and later you give me, um, a chair. And it’s not like that, it’s these webs. And he said, we have a distributed ledger, it’s called people’s minds. And a tribe can remember amongst 150 people where the flows of things are going. And because everybody knows everybody remembers, it flows. And and I’m thinking again, you’ve got indigenous peoples who will still have the memory of this. And I’m wondering if you could create, I would be wanting to explore creating solar coins or something that is is on a distributed ledger, it’s on a blockchain, because we have that technology. Ruth Catlow has evolved quadratic voting on the blockchain app.

Jenny: Yes, exactly. Yeah.

Manda: And that gives you the capacity to have much more nuanced concepts of who says what. And then I’m still quite inclined, and I know there are podcast listeners who don’t like this, but I would give the younger people a weighted increase in the vote because it’s their future that they’re voting on. And it also gives them a greater sense of agency in a world where that agency is routinely stripped away from young people and given to the oldest in society. Are these directions you’re heading? Because I’m on the way to moving to Tomellila, because it sounds fantastic. I can even say it now. I could learn Swedish!

Jenny: We’re writing everything in English because there’s so many followers from all over the world, to just make this transparent knowledge for everyone. .

Manda: Open source.

Jenny: But what you said made me think of time as well, because I think, I adore gift economy, but not when it becomes very close to barter economy.

Manda: No it mustn’t. That’s not how it really works.

Jenny: No exactly. But the gift economy where the time frame can be enormous. I mean, I might give something and then I’ll get something back in 50 years; or it was actually not me getting something back, but it was my daughter. That way of being.

Manda: Or even you don’t need to get something back, because what you’re doing is supporting the community. I don’t think in real healthy exchange or economies, it’s not about ‘I get’. We’re back to a US president ‘it’s not ask what you can get. It’s ask what you can give’. And the giving in itself is the getting. And then if the whole community thrives, you thrive with it. And that’s all you need.

Jenny: Yeah absolutely.

Manda: And raising kids who understood that, who lived it, that would be a radical act.

Jenny: Recently, 2 or 3 weeks ago, there was a new report released in Sweden, called the Youth Barometer. So they measure the well-being of youth in Sweden. And it was such a sad report, which I’m also trying to weave into this project. Because they’ve done interviews with thousands of young Swedish people from the age of 15 to 24 and there is a massive decline in believing in feminism, thinking that anti-racism is important. Decreased belief in democracies, they don’t think that climate is important to work with, they don’t think politics is interesting. And then what they want is money and to hang out with friends and family.

Manda: Well, the latter bit is okay.

Jenny: But the analysis of this was super interesting. So the people that have looked at this report, they said this is actually exactly what we were expecting. And they were saying it’s because the world feels so heavy, it’s so scary, there’s so many different types of crisis going on. No one knows. I mean, if you’re 15 today, you don’t know what your future is going to look like. Will you have a job? Where are you going to live? Will it be safe? Will you have kids? All these questions. And then I was thinking, are we meeting young people with their fear? I’m thinking we’re not properly doing that. Like we’re not philosophically talking about it in a way that makes sense. So I’m also super interested in weaving this into the school. Now, these kids are way younger, but how do we talk about these things from an early age, to kind of create a another type of wellbeing that is not necessarily focussed on money?

Manda: Because so many reasons, but because money might not be there and even if it is, my vision of the future is we’re not just born to pay bills and die, that the economy needs to have shifted so much that it is in service to life, not all of life being in service to the death cult. And yet you still have to pay the bills. And exactly this; we’re still told, everyone’s narrative is there have to be jobs. And I’m away with David Graeber of there’s a difference between jobs and work, and jobs are the things you hate and work is what makes your heart sing. And at the moment, the jobs are what are being offered. And even those, not very many. Because as it seems, the AI is taking away the interesting creative stuff and leaving people shovelling the things we don’t want to shovel. And that’s not really why we planned it, I think. And I wonder with surveys like this, because this is feeding into a narrative of despair. I would, with the surveys in the UK, really like to look at the questions. Because it’s very easy to get the answers that you want by asking very specific questions. And I wonder if it would be possible to craft a survey that got very different set of responses.

Manda: And in the doing of that, asking questions is a political act. One could create a survey that not only created different responses, but created a different mindset. And the Bannons of this world are very, very good at the surveys that create the mindset that they want. We’re heading towards the end, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the list of questions that I had in the topics that I wanted to cover. Let’s just stay with that one for a minute. So if you’re able to answer all the questions, is this gorgeous school in what sounds like an amazing community, I definitely want to move to Sweden now. If it thrives in the way that it could and the ripples ripple out and you look down the line 20, 30 years and let’s assume that that the ice hasn’t melted so far, that the entire surface of the planet is covered in water. And/or the wildfires haven’t got us, and/or we haven’t also come to Bannon’s 10,000 year Reich. What does your world look like, do you think? How does it feel?

Jenny: Uh, an enormous question. I’ve been working a lot with the idea of joy, and I’m hoping that there can be joy for everyone. Not only for the kids in Tomelilla. I’m 100% sure they’re all going to be fine. So this is a small bubble in a larger context, a global context. But we live such a brief life, a human life is so, so, so brief, and we should all feel joy, excitement, emotions, sadness, creativity, inspiration. Because life is really beautiful. And sometimes we forget that in all of these dialogues about the meta crisis and climate crisis and the economy and everyone is stressed, we’re running to work in this machine. And very few people are standing still and actually giving themselves time to realise that this is so beautiful. So I would hope that everyone gets the chance to feel how beautiful it is to live. 

Manda: That’s gorgeous. That’s really gorgeous. We could probably stop there. We should probably stop there. But I had a couple of other things, because in parts of what I’ve been reading from you, you had some really beautiful examples of other places in the world that are also doing really heartfelt, inspiring things. Grenoble and Minnesota were two that really leapt out for me, either one or both.

Jenny: They were also part of my thinking of now working with Tomelilla in Sweden. Like there is something really inspiring happening in smaller municipalities and smaller settings. And now, having worked with this municipality in Sweden, I can see that for example, the decision making happens much faster than than if you’re in a big city. And if you just get one person on board that is radical or inspiring, they can shift everything overnight, more or less. Super, super interesting. But Grenoble, they’ve worked with public urban advertising, banned advertising, which I think every, every, every city should do that tomorrow.

Manda: The entire world should do it.

Jenny: Yes. It’s such an easy way of of shifting the whole system of consumption, if we just start there. Like it’s easy to implement. Yes it will make some companies angry, but it won’t make the companies fall. I mean, they’re their lives are not dependent on these public advertising. So it’s safe enough but you’re still pushing society. I mean, those small implementations of micro radical actions, I would love to see more of those. And then in Minnesota, the council there also a smaller municipality, it was just announced last year I think, that it’s now made up of women only, the council. 

Manda: And women under 40 as well I think.

Jenny: Exactly. And of different background and different race and a beautiful mix of minds. And it just gave me a little bit of hope because a lot of the work I do is still based on feminism. Like, we don’t have enough female leaders in the world. I grew up thinking that that problem was sorted; thinking that my mother had worked with it and her mother had worked with it. And then for me, in my generation, that would not be an issue. But it still is. And I actually looked at it just the other day, it’s around 15% of women leaders in the world, country leaders, which is nothing. And we need to reach the equal kind of levels of this, but also in municipalities, in councils, within politics. The World Economic Forum shared a report last year saying that within the speed that we’re working right now, we will reach gender equality in 2154. Like in 130 years.

Manda: By which time the climate emergency and the biophysical limits will have smashed into us. It’s like they have dual thinking. If we can look forward to halfway through next century and worry about equality, but we’re not going to address the fact that there might be nobody left alive to be equal.

Jenny: So there’s a lot of work to be done. And I’m going to intensely follow this council because I think the work that they will be doing is going to be dramatically different from a lot of the other municipalities that we can see now in the world.

Manda: And might engender politicians who can move up the completely awful political tree in the US and know what they’re doing and be able to craft narratives and be inspiring, because heaven knows we could do with that. So yes. All right. So there we go. And then Grenoble as well. I think they planted trees where the advertising boards had been. So do you know, have you followed that? Has that made a difference to how capitalism functions there at all?

Jenny: No. I mean, this is exactly also within the doughnut economy and how we’re trying to work with that in Tomelilla. But to measure things. I’m super interested in that. That’s such a big problem. And wherever we go, people are asking how can we how can we prove that this is working? And there are different takes on this. I have colleagues who are trying some ways of measuring, but I actually believe that we can feel it. You can feel it in your stomach when you’ve done something that has a good impact. And again I think if we slow down a little bit and you sit with whatever work you’re doing, you know if it’s good or if it’s bad. And I think to spend hundreds of hours to try to convey this or make it into a spreadsheet that you can give to someone and then go, ‘yes, this is going to work’, I think we need to believe in that system a little bit more and give space for it. I mean, kids know what’s good or bad. They know if they’ve done something bad to someone, they can feel it. But as grown ups, I think we maybe lose that, maybe not the ability, but the space to sit with it.

Manda: Yes. Gosh, that sank so deep. I’m in the middle of writing and about to record a module seven for Accidental Gods, which is all about settling into the three pillars of the heart mind, which are gratitude, compassion for self and others and joyful curiosity. And what I’m realising is, how do I encourage people to take the time to evoke and build those? Because if they were part of our being, it doesn’t mean we’re not going to be sad or angry or despairing, but that the foundations of our heart space are solid. And that exactly what you just said settles in. I need to somehow find a way to take what you said and weave it into what I’m doing. So thank you. I’m glad we didn’t cut at the end there. That’s just truly fantastic. Thank you so much. I’m so inspired by the depth and the breadth and the clarity of your thinking. So Jenny, thank you for coming on to the Accidental Gods podcast.

Jenny: Thank you so much, Manda.

Manda: And that’s it for another week. Enormous thanks to Jenny for the depth and the breadth of your thinking, and for all that you’re doing. This bringing alive of the ideas into the real world. Casting the pebbles in the pond and trusting that the ripples will spread and spread. This is what we’re here for. And it occurs to me that if each of us could move our local councils towards doughnut thinking, that would be a huge change in the world. So if you’ve got elections coming up wherever you are in the world, and you can stand, or you can find someone, particularly a young someone to engage with the politics of the world, to bring doughnut thinking into everything that we do. That would be amazing. So there we go. That’s it for this week.

Manda: For those of you in the Accidental Gods membership program, I am still working on the module seven that I mentioned at the end of the podcast. Working out how to help you all evolve the gratitude, the compassion for self and others, and the joyful curiosity that I absolutely believe are the core foundations of heartmind, and an absolute essential on the step towards conscious evolution. It’s taking me longer than I expected. Partly because I keep hitting more edits on the book. We’re going to get it polished. It’s going to be shiny and glittery and beautiful, I promise. It just takes longer than I remembered. But also and mainly actually seriously, if I’m going to teach something, I have to not only practice it, but practice it consciously. Unpick it, see where the holes are, see where I’m not doing what I’m endeavouring to help people to do. And then watching the small and subtle changes and see how they multiply out or don’t. Because there’s no point in my recording stuff that isn’t useful. And when we recorded the first six modules, I had an entire year to prep. So it’s coming, I swear. Just hang on in there. I fully intend to be recording sometime this week, which is middle of March. I also fully intended to record sometime in February and before that, sometime in January and before that sometime in December. So there is no guarantee. But we’re a lot closer than we were. And the end result, I sincerely believe, will give foundations that are durable whatever else happens in the world. So there we go. That is it for this week.

Manda: Enormous thanks as ever to Caro C for the music at the head and foot, and to Alan Knowles for the production. To Faith Tilleray, for all of the conversations that keep us moving forwards and for wrestling weekly with the tech. Huge thanks to Anne Thomas for the transcripts. And as ever, as I said at the top, enormous thanks to you for listening. If you know of anybody else who wants to understand the potential of what’s possible if we all get together, then please do send them this link. And that’s it for now. See you next week. Thank you and goodbye.

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