Changing shape to shape change: why I’m joining Huddlecraft

Daniel Ford
Published in
6 min readNov 20, 2022

I’ve just started a new role as Learning Ecosystem Lead at Huddlecraft.

This is an attempt to capture some of my motivations at the beginning of this new journey, and take a snapshot of my intentions going in that I can look back at in future.

I first heard about Huddlecraft (née Enrol Yourself) in a London pub in 2015, when Zahra was telling me about an idea for peer-led learning. Her and Iacob had been struggling with finding affordable lifelong learning opportunities, and were thinking up alternative models to expensive Masters and impersonal online courses. I was immediately interested. It’s evolved a lot since then, but there was something about the freedom of it combined with the community of support that spoke to me at the time. I joined the pilot Huddle (née Learning Marathon) in 2016. Since then I’ve participated in another Huddle on the theme of human connection, I’ve hosted a Huddle as part of the Host Fellowship, and now I’ve joined the core team…

So what is it about this strange model that keeps attracting me back?

Partly it’s about my thinking about change. I see the dynamic of how change happens as more powerful over time than any static changed state. So the question for me is: how do we keep learning how to change? Huddlecraft’s approach to change centres learning, shifts power and creates the structures of support and care needed to sustain our commitment to change. Some of its characteristics that attract me are:

  • Creating microclimates: pockets of activity that design in the conditions for groups to express different rules, cultures and behaviours to the surrounding environment. From my experience, these groups can multiply how effective, intelligent, caring, creative and committed you are, tapping into the potential of each person and amplifying the impact of those involved.
  • Changing shape to shape change: peer-to-peer learning makes you so much more adaptable. You have to become a more self-aware member of a group, change roles, take on more responsibility and listen to and adapt to feedback. I believe now more than ever that people who want to shape change have to change shape, and peer-to-peer (P2P) approaches support you to do that.
  • Scaling through trust: the type of change this approach sparks is relational, fractal and viral. It ripples out and spreads through networks of encounter and interaction between people who trust each other. This, for me, is a breath of fresh air from the obsession with ‘scaling up’, which is a model of scaling that has its uses, but seems to want to apply to everything everywhere regardless of use value or context.

DALL-E: shape shifting people create change through trust

Putting trust at the centre

The issue of trust is central for me. Looking around at so many of the systems around us — and the lack of integrity in most of the politics I see — I wonder sometimes where we’re going to find the relationships and resilience to deal with the times we find ourselves in. Which is why I’ve been increasingly drawn to decentralised organising, and respect approaches that treat this as a core part of the needed shift. From what I can tell, it’s one of the best approaches for supporting different behaviours, mindsets and ways of being in the world to take root. I’m looking forward to being a more intentional part of a community that works in this way, and connecting to others doing the same, for example Microsolidarity, Better Work Together and Transition. This type of scaling is messy, relational and reflective of our complexity — but it might be the best shot we have at reaching the depth of change needed.

Trust is central to Huddlecraft’s way of making change, but it’s also one of the reasons why I joined: I know and trust the team. Basically I think Anneka and Zahra are awesome. And what they’ve built with Katie, Sarah and the wider community is pretty special. One of my dad’s mottos is ‘follow the who’. So many organisations don’t live their stated values or suffer from unhealthy power dynamics, burnout or narcissism. Often, the way they try to create change is detached from the change they are trying to create. With Huddlecraft, I’m following people that have a practice of living the change we want to see in how we work together. Joining a small CIC at the beginning of an economic recession feels a bit precarious, but I’m confident that we’ll keep our values at the centre as we move forward together.

I believe that we need the role of trusted organisations to evolve to face into times when so much change is needed. I learnt about Deliberately Developmental Organisations (DDOs) on The Hum course a while back. These are organisations that make continuous learning and adaptation a priority. They have an effective combination of a developmental ‘edge’, ‘home’ and ‘groove’: they keep exploring their edges; they create a supportive developmental community and they have developmental ways of working that support them to continually evolve. I see Huddlecraft as embodying this, and I want to be part of its development as it responds to what the world needs now.

Crafting Huddle

The last reason I’ll share about why I’m joining Huddlecraft is the ‘craft’ bit of Huddlecraft. I’ve spent the last 5 years with Forum for the Future working on collaborative system change projects and strategy. During that time I’ve been increasingly interested in the relational and power dynamics of change. I wrote a bit about that here, but I’ve been continuing to explore effective ways for people to work together; beyond polarisation, beyond unhealthy power dynamics, beyond being driven by stress state responses. That’s partly why I’ve been training in Deep Democracy and Healthy Human Cultures. But it’s also a reason why I think the craft of huddlecraft is so crucial. It takes craft to facilitate a healthy sort of change that doesn’t rely on guns and power-over. I’m looking to develop that craft with others who are doing the same.

I’m not saying that huddling is the only response to the multiple cascading crises we’re facing, but it does seem like an appropriate response to these times — like penguins in the sub-zero winds of the Antarctic, our chances of survival are better if we do this together. I heard Jonathon Porritt say recently about one of the IPCC reports, that basically “it’s getting worse, everywhere, faster than we thought”…It’s difficult to ever feel like you’re doing enough in that context. But sometimes when I’m feeling a bit daunted by it all, I like to think about what Gandalf said in Lord of the Rings to Frodo: all we can do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.

DALL-E: ‘emperor penguins huddle together in sub-zero antarctic winds’

From my perspective, it’s sort of an all hands on deck situation. So I’m particularly excited to be joining Huddlecraft at a time when we’re thinking about who Huddlecraft needs to be in this next pivotal decade. Zahra, in a recent blog, asked “How might we create a mycelial cross-movement infrastructure, using P2PL [peer-to-peer learning] to amplify the movements that are building towards a regenerative civilisation at this crucial moment?”. Good question Zahra — let’s find out!



Daniel Ford

Learning Ecosystem Lead at Huddlecraft. Lifelong learning, systems change, Deep Democracy, healthy human cultures...