‘Does what I do really matter?’ Whether it’s a political vote, or if you don’t put that can into the recycling, the question will have passed through everyone’s minds at some point. Does what you do really matter to the world? It makes us question if our tiny action really will make a difference in the millions of other actions completed by our fellow humans.
My research on kindness has given me the conclusion that maybe it does matter. However, when I interviewed the formidable Pam Warhurst I was reminded of this fact very clearly. I was given Pam’s details because a friend had heard her speak and was moved to action through her words. When I interviewed her, I understood why.
“…I fell into politics at a local level and ended up leading the council, it wasn't a game plan. I didn't have one of these big boards that said, What am I going to achieve today. People just kindly asked me, would I have a crack at doing this. And I did and that led to my work on economic regeneration, health and well-being, and to do with a whole range of things which reflect our everyday.
I'm basically a Street Fighter, I'd like to think I do it as kindly and with as big a smile as I possibly can. But ultimately, I'm fighting the corner for those people who need it, to have a passion to give their family the best chance and opportunities in life; they don't always have the best deal. What drives me forward is a sense that if we don't roll up our sleeves with the gifts that we've got, working in the places that we can actually touch and do things differently and hopefully inspire a few people to recognise the power of small actions, then when the real challenges come to our doorstep, they'll be even worse off than they would have been had we not all tried to be more positive, and just change the way we live our lives. So that's why I do what I do, to demonstrate that you can do it differently. Not perfectly. Do lots of things wrong, don't always get the recycling right. As far as I can, I try and walk the talk. We've all got that problem though with recycling.”
So, I wanted to hear from her about how the legacy of Incredible Edible was launched and why. Incredible Edible is a movement designed for people to set up growing vegetables in their town for everyone to access, although it is so much more. But why and where did it come from.
"I've read a lot of reports I've heard a lot of talking. I've seen a lot of top down actions all well intentioned, all done by people who want to make the world, in some way, a better place. But I've also seen that they haven't made a lot of difference. And when it actually comes to the big challenges of life around fairness, there has to be another way of doing it.
I was in London at a landscape conference, because I am involved in some of the issues around landscape and its management, and people were talking about sustainability and the planet. All the stuff that we've known since the Rio Earth Summit, which happens to be more than 25 years ago. Everybody's been on the boat, there are reports written about it, people making careers off the back of it, and yet here we are with the same conversations. I left that meeting and I thought, ‘well, this is just ridiculous’. I got on a train and I thought, let's start with my hometown. Let's start with me. Let's see if we can put a proposition forward to a bunch of people in our communities that says, ‘Do you want to do something differently?’ So I'm thinking, Okay, how are we going to do that, because we all come from different bases, let's talk about food. Right? Again, it's as fast as that. This little flash came to me that we would invent a model that said, we're going to plant loads of food all over the place whether the people give us permission or not, and we're going to share it, which demonstrates a different approach to ourselves, as well as our spaces. We're going to share some gifts about how to do that.
Because why would you bother planting carrots if you don't know how to cook them? Then we've got to think about our kids in the next generation. Wouldn't it be great if they had local jobs around food? Let's have a crack at doing that. I got a train and went see a friend, Mary, who is an amazing community networker. Because you want a flash fire, you need this to get out fast. There's no point in me talking to myself at home. We pulled a meeting together in a cafe and 60 people turned up, which is amazing. They all got really quite excited about a really simple proposition. Because as I suspected, we all want to do something, but you don't know where to start. That simple entry point of Shall we plant some stuff? Shall we cook some stuff? Do we buy some stuff? It's all part of our lives. And that was how it started….”
And just like that,
a movement started. A conversation happened and people started to believe that in fact every action they take does in fact matter.