What if we became the creative directors of the estate?

Addressing the Mandem, a design fiction

Reimagining Economic Possibilities
13 min readOct 27, 2022


“Andre Anderson” in an italic font, on a peach background with a graphic image of an estate block rising on the right hand side.

This blog is part of the Reimagining Economics Possibilities series. This series accompanies the Neighbourhood Doughnut portfolio of work in which CIVIC SQUARE, along with many neighbours, researchers, partners and visionaries have since 2019 been exploring large and small scale ways to reimagine economic possibilities.

The series brings together 15 commissioned works by visionaries who are reimagining economic possibility from a number of different angles. We are deeply passionate about Doughnut Economics and recognise the wealth of possibilities it unlocks, as well as its limitations. As Kate Raworth has said, quoting British statistician George E. P. Box, “all frameworks are wrong, but some are useful.” Therefore, we want to be able to stretch as far and wide as the Doughnut Economics Action Lab invites us to, seeing it as a platform to organise, whilst also encompassing a plurality of bold visions.

In this contribution ANDRÉ ANDERSON, co-founder of the Creators of the Estate Initiative, shares a letter written from the perspective of 2030 when Privatise the Mandem, an initiative to turn city council estates over to the communities that live (and dream) there, has been realised.

[The following article is a segment of a letter written by André Anderson. This letter was given to 32 Free Estates (formally called Council Estates before the Mandem bought them, and renamed them) to announce the 10th annual Creative Directors of the Estate Conference, May 10th 2033]

“We went from writing bars, to writing books, to designing (or designating) creative climate for our neighbourhoods to thrive and learn within.”

Mandem, salute.

Apologies for my radio silence over the last few months, we’ve been behind the scenes making sure that as we approach the 10th annual conference, we not only have the right questions to ask, but we have the best resources to answer these questions. You already know my stance, talk is cheap. We get the world around us to speak for us now.

That said, a lot of you man have been speaking volumes in the past few months with your work. You have taken the questions we raised in our last conference, and not only explored them from every angle, but brought back creations that posed new questions. New questions that can open up new possibilities for the Mandem.

Imagine the ends is owned by the mandem. OFB running Broadwater Farm, Ice City running Church Road etc. There’s growth in responsibility. Being responsible for our own. Being held accountable by our own. Imagine hailing up our block, and actually have it as “ours”.

Speaking of new possibilities, I think it’s fitting to give a special shoutout to the Mandem in Stonebridge this year. The growth you have made, in creativity, ingenuity, and spiritual vitality, in the past decade, has not only shaped the cultural climate of N.W London to be what it is now, but has given a UK-wide example of what happens when you “chase down our healing with violence”. I didn’t get that mantra at first, but now I do, and now I can’t stop quoting you man.

I think, out of all of us, this year, Stonebridge has been one of the best estates to demonstrate our Creative Director Objectives:

  1. Create in order to unify the Mandem, both near and far
  2. Form new aesthetics to unearth the unspoken and unseen
  3. Speak with our whole, audacious voice, without fear or restraint

Stonebridge, you man are doing bits! Thank you, we love you.

“We have replaced the harmful narrative tropes surrounding us, with stories that present new possibilities for our estates.”

The growth we’ve made in the past decade is ridiculous. We went from writing bars, to writing books, to designing (or designating) creative climate for our neighbourhoods to thrive and learn within. Yes, we’ll continue to make books, compose music, design clothes, shoot films, code technology, but most importantly, we’ll continue to create new directions of growth for our residents; and as many of you have discovered while doing this work, you can only create directions for others you’re willing to experience yourself. This is spiritual work, people. It requires not just all of your creativity, but all of you. Let’s never forget.

We adopted some of these local questions you’ve been asking, and added them to this year’s agenda. It’s important for us, as Creative Directors, to take these questions, and have it explored and expressed through all areas of our estate, from the young to the old, from the OGs to the young bucks, for the next 12 months.

We don’t care exactly how you explore these questions. whether by group conversation or by creative project, as long as the entire estate is given an invitation to participate (there have been complaints from estate residents that too many design sessions go unannounced or made private; we gotta fix up).

Anyhow, I’m rambling. Here are the questions. Read them, meditate on them, pray over them.

I’ll see you man May 10th to discuss these questions further.

Here’s to another year of growth!

Super love,






A street sign on a brick wall that says “no ball games” has been edited so that “no” and “b” are crossed out. Above it says “privatisation means we get to play” so that it reads “privatisation means we get to play all games.”
@privatisethemandem on Instagram


Over the years, we have replaced the harmful narrative tropes surrounding us, with stories that present new possibilities for our estates. We can do better, though. Yes, we are internationally respected for our pen, but we need an even stronger sense of direction in the stories we tell our children and our world.

1. How can our stories provide clear directions of growth for our culture?

2. How are we developing and challenging the values behind our artwork?

3. What new forms can our stories take shape in?

4. Who in our community has the stories we are yet to hear?

5. What’s our true origin story?

6. What about our past can be reinterpreted for a new generation?

7. What do we need to unlearn about the western understanding of storytelling?

8. How do we deal with the painful parts of our narrative?

9. Where do we go to allow new narratives to grow?

10. How do we strike the balance between sharing our stories with pride, and propaganda?

“What can Grandma teach us about getting the most flavour from minimum resource?”


I think we’ve finally rediscovered something our ancestors always knew, the power of aesthetic, and the ability to hide entire worlds within them. Still, we are very young in developing our collective voice. We are still hung up on the ‘right’ and ‘proper’ way to use our voice, and we’re still looking for permission to speak our minds. Not for long, though. It’s time to truly “Speak with our whole, audacious voice, without fear or restraint”.

1. At this point, what does it mean to have a ‘professional’ aesthetic?

2. What do we need to unlearn about being ‘established’ artists?

3. What part of our experience does ‘traditional design thinking’ ignore?

4. What aesthetic practices have we adopted that have done us more harm than good?

5. What untapped creative potential does our slang provide that ‘proper’ English doesn’t?

6. What could our slang look and feel like in design form?

7. What unnamed emotions and intangible thoughts do we still need to build aesthetics around?

8. When are the appropriate and best times to keep silent, creatively?

9. How can the things we create deepen our understanding of black joy, pain, and liberation?

10. How can our creations, not only imagine a new world, but when used, grow a new world into existence?


We’ve had some successful partnerships in our day. Some rubbish ones, too. Thankfully, we’re beginning to mature past the habit of partnering with organisations solely for Clout. Many of us are beginning to make good, well-thought-out deals with organisations outside our estate. We need to, however, ensure this skill and ethos is cultivated amongst us all. The days of the Mandem getting finessed for crumbs is over and done.

1. Who are we aiming to partner with this year?

2. What are we exchanging within this partnership?

3. How long do we want these partnerships to last?

4. What do we want these partnerships to achieve?

5. What do our partners provide that we could not provide ourselves?

6. At this point, what purpose does Clout serve us?

7. At this point, why would we need to partner with organisations outside of the estate at all?

8. How do we create partnerships that are both fair, generous, and generative?

9. What already existing partnerships within our estates are we neglecting to grow?

10. How can our partnerships evolve us, to be less like an organisation, and more like an organism?

What follows privatisation is “hood futurism” — a new genre of study, speculation, philosophy and visioning. Dedicated to exploring…


I know the estates that have mostly African or Caribbean residents have begun conversations with their families and communities overseas. The artists exchange programme the Creators from Moss Side Estate facilitated with the young artists in Spanish Town, Jamaica was particularly impressive. Unfortunately, I can only use Moss Side’s example, because they’re the only estate who has made a substantial partnership with the Diaspora beyond a handshake and a video conference call. We need to be more intentional (and substantial) with how we connect with our extended families.

1. Who are we connecting with overseas? Be specific.

2. What could the Diaspora, creating with one voice, sound like?

3. What presumptions about connecting with the Diaspora do we need to unlearn?

4. What do we need to address about our past with the Diaspora before we move forward?

5. How can our connection with the Diaspora remain genuine?

6. How tangible can our connection with the Diaspora be this year?

7. What provisions are we making for it to be possible for our Diaspora to connect with us in the UK?

8. What do we need from the Diaspora that the UK does not provide?

9. What can we create together that we could not create separately?

10. What does ‘growing together’ with the Diaspora truly look like?

“Our goal is not to reach worldwide success and acclaim with our art. Our goal is to reach God.”


We have made breakthroughs in art, design and culture in major ways this decade. It goes without saying that our voices have majorly shaped and steered the wider national conversation around learning and innovation. But our goal is not to reach worldwide success and acclaim with our art. Our goal is to reach God. We have to keep searching.

1. What questions are we exploring as a community?

2. How are we carving time to evolve in perspective, as well as craft?

3. What are we praying for?

4. When it is quiet, what can our hearts hear?

5. What is annoying us about the current state of culture that we need to address?

6. What have we been settling for?

7. What old or discarded ideas do we need to revisit and revive?

8. What new technology is out there that we can play with and make our own?

9. What slang words do our children using that can be made into more concrete aesthetics?

10. How do we balance experimenting with new forms and developing tried-and-tested ideas?

Title: Privatisation “non-zero sum game”. The image is of aven diagram with “The Mandem” and “The Ends” on either side and “Win/Win”
@privatisethemandem on Instagram


Yeah, the money is now coming in, but don’t let the money turn us into ediats. We still have to manage our resources both logistically and spiritually well, just like Grandma taught us.

1. What is our physical and spiritual heritage to steward?

2. How do we manage our resources so we all can create freely for the next 100 years?

3. How do we keep ourselves from the temptation to scale up for scaling-ups-sake?

4. What old technology can we breathe new purposes into?

5. How can the materials and processes we use serve more purposes than one?

6. What can Grandma teach us about getting the most flavour from minimum resource?

7. How do we create formats that are easy for younger generations to adopt?

8. How do we create formats that help other estates do what we do, without much supervision?

9. What ideas do we distribute widely, and what ideas do we hold sacred?

10. How do we properly understand both the physical and spiritual cost of the work we do?

“What harmful business practices have we learnt from the Old Regime that we need to stop this year?”


We have become our own creative industry. Over the decade, we have transformed from individual voices to infrastructural voices. The goal this year is to figure out how the structures we build can serve us, and speak for us better.

1. How can our infrastructure best serve the needs of the estate, rather than the other way round?

2. What structures best distribute our resources throughout community with ease?

3. What values motivate the design of our infrastructure?

4. How can we get our infrastructure to speak our slang?

5. What elements of our practice are better understood with the body than with technology?

6. How could we teach and pass on embodied infrastructure to future generations?

7. What can we learn from nature about producing, sharing and receiving resources?

8. What can we learn from industries and sectors we do not yet occupy about infrastructure?

9. What harmful business practices have we learnt from the Old Regime that we need to stop this year?

10. How can we keep our infrastructure (and all it needs to survive) down to its bare essentials?

“Many of us come from cultures that have long beautiful narratives, that are often torn, interrupted and forgotten over time due to colonial erasure.”


Many of us come from cultures that have long beautiful narratives, that are often torn, interrupted and forgotten over time due to colonial erasure. It’s easy to take our recent successes for granted, and forget that what we are building is intended to outlast us. Our train of thought spans across generations, and we must do all we can to keep that train of thought alive.

1. What could a multi-generational design process look like?

2. What is our responsibility as founders of a multi-generational design process?

3. What questions are we aiming to gift our great-grandchildren on their 18th birthday (100 years from now)?

4. What can we learn (and unlearn) from cultures that have had long, uninterrupted narratives?

5. What is the simplest, most intuitive way to pass down what we know to our children?

6. What can our ancestors teach us about embedding our beliefs into song, food and dance?

7. How do we ensure that latecomers of the New Regime can still find a place to grow with us?

8. What could we do to ensure our intentions remain genuine over long periods of time?

9. How do we stay fluid enough so the things we’ve learnt does not morph into dogmatic tradition?

10. How do we avoid the temptation of being ‘big and famous’ over ‘steady and long-lasting’?

The ends is fertile ground, “regeneration” assumes that a place requires “generating”, that there is no energy or life in a space. We don’t need to be “regenerated”. Why are we pretending like the ends isn’t the epicentre of cultural activity in the UK? #privatisethemandem


Dark times are not new to us. Dark times have never left. We cannot, however, allow dark times to derail or silence all of the good work we’re collectively building. Hope is the most important weapon in times of battle, a good plan is second best.

1. When everything goes completely left in our estates, how do we respond?

2. How do we move when the money and resources are low?

3. What do we do (or not do) when we face untimely losses?

4. How do we show up when we’re in the darkest part of our story arc?

5. How do we handle bad deals and partnerships?

6. How do we show up when our family overseas is in trouble in their homelands?

7. How do we respond when the world seeks to either silences our voice, or co-opt it?

8. What do we do, if our experimentations are unfruitful?

9. What if the younger generations after us warp, misuse or abuse what we’ve built?

10. What do we say, what do we do, if we’re collectively in a spiritually dark place?

“It is important, as Creative Directors, that we do not only promote good spiritual health amongst the Mandem, but our hearts, when no one is looking, are whole.”


When we commemorated the day of finally buying our estate, St.Raphaels Estate, we made it a point to tell our young people that Saint Raphael was known as the Saint of Healing. It is important, as Creative Directors, that we do not only promote good spiritual health amongst the Mandem, but our hearts, when no one is looking, are whole. I know we have many difficult things to work out, and I am aware that many of us are doing this work whilst simultaneously dealing with grief. It’s important to remind ourselves why we do what we do. It is not to be cool. It is not to appear quirky or innovative. It is not even to provide better resources for our estates. It is for spiritual well-being. It is for freedom. More important than the artwork we publish, is the Heartwork that fuels it.

1. Where are we feeling the pain in our body?

2. Where are the places where we can regularly process our hurt?

3. What passed beefs between us remain unresolved?

4. What are we practicing collectively that is generationally unhealthy?

5. How do we ensure that we are not creating to run away from unresolved traumas?

6. How can we improve the medicinal properties of our creations?

7. What ways can we heal our cultural imagination?

8. How can we develop our understanding of ‘whole aesthetics’ even further?

9. How can rest, recovery and rejuvenation be better integrated in our creative process?

10. What can faith teach us about growing the Eden from within?

That’s about it, Mandem.

I’m hoping that these questions are nourishing to your estates.

If you have any questions or comments, you know where to find me.

Those who rule are those who write.

See you all soon,


Reimagining Economics Possibilities also builds upon CIVIC SQUARE’s Department of Dreams portfolio of work, a site to imagine bold new futures that weave together the dreams of many.

Whilst understanding, investing, and unpacking the dark matter of large scale system change, we have learned quite deeply through the practice, inspirational movements, and from imagineers and pioneers that came before us that we must also invest in the dream matter — the artists, writers, designers, dreamers and creative visionaries — those who dare to dream up bold new futures for humanity, and have the capacity to stretch our imaginations further than we ever thought possible.

Thinkers, doers and makers dreaming beyond our existing systems have played, are playing and will continue to play a central role in crafting collective visions that transcend our current reality, and radically illuminate the responsibilities we hold to future generations. This is particularly driven by practices of imagination and identity, and, when woven together with dark matter findings and interventions, has the power to create a supernovae of transformation; the thinking, relating and behaving differently required to usher in a new reality that becomes irresistible, that we can all build and craft together.

Find out more by exploring the following materials from Department of Dreams 2020–2021:

Initial Dept of Dreams Blog — May 2020
Watch Back Re_ Fest Talks — June 2020
Dream Library Launch — November 2021
The Matter of Dreams: 2020–2021 — December 2021



Reimagining Economic Possibilities

Demonstrating neighbourhood-scale civic infrastructure for social + ecological transition, together with many people + partners in Ladywood, Birmingham