Silver bullets and cross stitch

Published by Lucy Gower on

At every conference I have ever been to there has been a session called ‘the next big thing’ and delegates turn up expectantly hoping for a silver bullet that will give them all the answers.

Last week was no different, at e campaigning forum (ecf), digital campaigners, volunteers and fundraisers gathered expectantly at Oxford’s Keble College hoping for the answer to the next big thing. Alas, the surroundings were more reminiscent of a scene from a Harry Potter film, and delegates had more hope of finding a werewolf-slaying silver bullet than the answers to the many and varied problems that NGOs are facing today.


The18th Century surroundings served to only to emphasise just how fast the digital world is moving. The digital landscape has moved on significantly even in the last year. A year ago we had no experience of the power of viral campaigns including #nomakeupselfie and #icebucketchallenge.

I learned about new apps and technologies, as well as passing fads that came and went practically overnight. Most delegates had multiple devices, were constantly connecting online, recording audio, images, video that they were sharing over multiple platforms for different audiences. Every person was looking for the digital solution that would enable their messages to stand out in a crowded and noisy digital world.

It’s exhausting being constantly connected. The pressure in today’s world of being partially focused on multiple tasks, constantly interrupted and bombarded with information, its no wonder that that meditation tools and the practice of mindfulness is gaining popularity. There is even an app to help you to be mindful (anyone else find that ironic or is it just me?).

Rooted in Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies mindfulness is being reviewed as more than just a way to cope with the anxiety associated with constant connectivity and multitasking business demands, its being advocated by corporations including Google, Walt Disney and General Mills as having a key role in driving creativity and innovation.

Research has even shown that people who meditate have greater cognitive rigidity and flexibility to solve problems in more creative ways than those that don’t. A Wired report on Silicon Valley’s meditation habit cites ‘meditation here isn’t an opportunity to reflect upon the impermanence of existence but a tool to better oneself and improve productivity’

6254785235_20737954a4_zSo last Friday afternoon at ecf, I was intrigued to observe a group of delegates who stepped out of their digital worlds to be more mindful with Sarah Corbett, leader of the Craftivist Collective.

The Craftivist Collective exists to facilitate and encourage craftivism; activism through craft. Their manifesto is simple:

“We believe craft can be a tool for gentle activism. By using the quiet, reflective time craftivism gives us to explore global issues and how they affect the world around us, we can create something beautiful, considered, positive and poignant.”

I watched the group of delegates stitching personal messages on hand drawn footprints, some people were talking, others just working in quiet reflection, it was peaceful just observing a group of people connecting with what was important to them without the help of the internet or any devices.

The Craftivist Collective works with groups who can use their passions and talents to make the world a better place including universities; the campaigners and supporters of the future; and art institutions where they help audiences who would not view themselves as campaigners or activists to find their voices for change.

8622745632_bcec9fb6b2_zAs our world becomes increasingly digital, could reconnecting with traditional crafts help us cope with stress, increase our productivity and creativity and also inspire our supporters in old – but new ways?

The next big thing, in my opinion, isn’t about technology; it’s the ability for us as individuals and as part of communities to focus, be present in the moment, think creatively without interruption about what is important to us as human beings and connect to the causes that we care about.

When was the last time you made something by hand, or received a hand made gift? In a digital world, where we battle hard for attention, could physical reminders like craft become ever more important?

If you are interested in more about Craftivist Collective go here.

For more on ECF check out the community here and the storify from last weeks event here.

(all pictures belong to Craftivist Collective)

Lucy Gower

Lucy has been a fundraiser for over 10 years and is passionate about innovation and how it can transform organisational and individual performance. Lucy is an independent trainer and consultant specializing in innovation in fundraising. Lucy also blogs for fundraising website sofii.org and is a conference speaker both in the UK and overseas.


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