The art of changing gracefully

Does the Findhorn model have lessons for all of us?

Much of this last week was taken up with the visit of an old friend from what we here sometimes refer to as the ‘real’ world. I hugely enjoy such visits because it allows me to see this wonderfully unique place in which I live with fresh eyes. I have lived here for over 20 years and sometimes I take it for granted. Life feels quite ordinary and not that different to life anywhere else. And in many ways it is not. We eat, work, shop, watch TV, have families and other relationships, go on holidays and do all the things that people everywhere do. The difference lies perhaps in the way we do these things and the priorities we have.

I was showing my friend around and explaining to her the various connections between the Findhorn Foundation and the affiliated but independent organisations, the distinction between the Foundation and the community as a whole, the different relationships that individuals have with the place and I became aware of how complex, yet successful, this particular organism is.

There is no place quite like Findhorn— spiritual community/intentional community/educational centre/ecovillage/light centre/therapeutic community/experiment in alternative life styles/hippy commune—it has been called all those things.

All of these are partly but not entirely true. Take two or more Findhorn residents and ask them what this community is about, you would find that there is no agreement. So anything I write about it is my perspective only.

For me the uniqueness of this place comes from the fact that it has been allowed to grow organically, moving in response to an inner pattern that is not altogether clear but presumably knows what it’s doing, and outer conditions. This ability to metamorphose and adjust is, I believe, the reason why Findhorn continues to thrive whereas deliberate communities with a more rigid structure tend to die or become calcified oddities, estranged from the world and talking only to themselves.

From the early days the qualities of change and flexibility were highly valued here. Change was generally regarded as favourable (even when it wasn’t) and transformation welcomed. We were encouraged to embrace the New, whatever that was, and release the Old. This attitude has allowed the community to move gracefully with the shifts of time and circumstances.

The evolutionary imperative is ‘adapt or perish’ and Findhorn has proved itself able to adapt and survive. We will increasingly need these skills in the future. Major environmental change is in process and business as usual cannot continue despite the assurances of the dinosaurs. The small mammals like Findhorn and other ecovillages modestly lurking in the undergrowth, learning to live differently, may be the ones to show a way for us all to survive.

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A global marketplace: the internet represents exporting’s biggest opportunity

The advent of the internet age has made the whole world a single marketplace. Selling goods online through digital means offers British businesses huge opportunities for international growth. The UK was one of the earliest adopters of online retail platforms, and UK online sales revenues are growing at around 20 per cent each year, not just driving wider economic growth, but promoting the British brand to an enthusiastic audience.

Global e-commerce turnover grew at a similar rate in 2014-15 to over $2.2trln. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, is embracing e-marketplaces with 28 per cent growth in 2015 to over $1trln of sales. This demonstrates the massive opportunities for UK exporters to sell their goods more easily to the world’s largest consumer markets. My department, the Department for International Trade, is committed to being a leader in promoting these opportunities. We are supporting UK businesses in identifying these markets, and are providing access to services and support to exploit this dramatic growth in digital commerce.

With the UK leading innovation, it is one of the responsibilities of government to demonstrate just what can be done. My department is investing more in digital services to reach and support many more businesses, and last November we launched our new digital trade hub: www.great.gov.uk. Working with partners such as Lloyds Banking Group, the new site will make it easier for UK businesses to access overseas business opportunities and to take those first steps to exporting.

The ‘Selling Online Overseas Tool’ within the hub was launched in collaboration with 37 e-marketplaces including Amazon and Rakuten, who collectively represent over 2bn online consumers across the globe. The first government service of its kind, the tool allows UK exporters to apply to some of the world’s leading overseas e-marketplaces in order to sell their products to customers they otherwise would not have reached. Companies can also access thousands of pounds’ worth of discounts, including waived commission and special marketing packages, created exclusively for Department for International Trade clients and the e-exporting programme team plans to deliver additional online promotions with some of the world’s leading e-marketplaces across priority markets.

We are also working with over 50 private sector partners to promote our Exporting is GREAT campaign, and to support the development and launch of our digital trade platform. The government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign is targeting potential partners across the world as our export trade hub launches in key international markets to open direct export opportunities for UK businesses. Overseas buyers will now be able to access our new ‘Find a Supplier’ service on the website which will match them with exporters across the UK who have created profiles and will be able to meet their needs.

With Lloyds in particular we are pleased that our partnership last year helped over 6,000 UK businesses to start trading overseas, and are proud of our association with the International Trade Portal. Digital marketplaces have revolutionised retail in the UK, and are now connecting consumers across the world. UK businesses need to seize this opportunity to offer their products to potentially billions of buyers and we, along with partners like Lloyds, will do all we can to help them do just that.

Taken from the New Statesman roundtable supplement Going Digital, Going Global: How digital skills can help any business trade internationally

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