While most companies feature team-building exercises in some form, few can claim that their employees have danced in a circle in a yurt in the middle of the Devon countryside. But Coexist is no ordinary workplace, and so last month, the bulk of our team headed down to Hunger Hill Yurts, a few miles inland from the Jurassic Coast, to do precisely that.
The occasion was our quarterly Vision Day. As a social enterprise that is run for community benefit rather profit, Coexist is underpinned by a very strong social ethos, and built on continual development of our goals and approach.
Vision Day is an opportunity for all those involved in the organisation to reflect and engage in conversation on some key questions: are we fulfilling our core purpose and working towards the wider change we would like to see in the world? And do our individual roles contribute to this broader vision?
Since its inception, Coexist’s core purpose has been to ‘create spaces that best provide for the community’. Everything that goes on in Hamilton House, through our various projects and collaborations with partner organisations, is in some way linked to this central objective.
Taking advantage of the chance to breathe among the idyllic two-acre meadow surrounding the yurts, our team took part in a number of conversations, exercises and group activities (not all of which involved dancing). We also explored Theory of Change, a framework developed to help community organisations and social enterprises identify tangible steps they can take in order to reach their goals.
A key part of the day’s conversation was how to define ‘community’. Although the idea is integral to Coexist’s work, several members of the team expressed hesitation or frustration that the spaces offered by Hamilton House are not always accessed by the widest cross-section of the local population. Many ideas were shared about how we could expand access to residents in Stokes Croft and St Paul’s, particularly to homeless and vulnerable individuals.
We also discussed our relationship with money, and how as a social enterprise we understand the notion of ‘value’. As the structure of Coexist prevents the assets of the organisation being used for private profit, we have a different relationship with money than conventional businesses. There was a lively discussion around how to best make use of the monetary resources available to us in ways that are empowering, accountable and participatory.
In the afternoon, we worked in groups, and through role-play, tried to find collaborative solutions to some of the obstacles (such as increased workload) that crop up in day-to-day working life.
The day was full of debate, exchange of ideas and some hastily-choreographed amateur dramatics. But it was also a chance to cook, eat and drink together, to share a few more dubious dance moves and to enjoy the break from Bristol to sit around a fire before tumbling into a luxurious night’s sleep in one of the five amazing yurts.
Reflections by Coexist team members
A beautiful setting for such an inspiring and productive day. Taking time out of the office to rethink, strategise and learn more about each other is essential for the development of Coexist. — Matt
Giggling, moving around, colourful diagrams and creative-collaborative problem solving, caffeine, comfy beds — B
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