Walking Conversations

A new initiative to explore how walking creates connection with the Crown Estate, Somerset House and Eden Project.

At Reboot the Future, we're continually looking for new ways to integrate the Golden Rule into daily life, seeing it as the universal principle guiding us towards a more compassionate and sustainable future. Central to our ethos is fostering connections – with ourselves, others, and the planet – as the bedrock for meaningful action.

Creating connection can be a complex challenge, particularly in an era dominated by digital interactions. As we find ourselves working from home and living online, opportunities for forging meaningful connections with others and our surroundings diminish. And the more we neglect this vital aspect of life, the more daunting it becomes to rekindle it. 

That’s why, over the 12 months, we’ve partnered with the Crown Estate, Somerset House, and the Eden Project to pilot Walking Conversations. By engaging in relaxed, open dialogues while walking, we’ve discovered powerful insights which we’re excited to share.

What is a Walking Conversation?

At their essence, Walking Conversations serve as a journey of sharing and listening, offering a space to consider our thoughts and feelings on pressing issues and to envision a positive future.

These conversations are adaptable in length, group size, and location, catering to groups ranging from 5 to 30 participants and typically lasting 1-2 hours.

Crucially, Walking Conversations unfold outdoors, whether amidst nature's tranquillity at the Eden Project or the bustling heart of London at Somerset House - walking eases tension. Freed from the intensity of face-to-face interaction, we have found participants feel more energised and at ease to express themselves.

Each conversation revolves around a central theme and a collection of stories designed to ignite curiosity and stimulate imagination. So far these themes include:

  • Future Ancestors: Delving into our roles as ancestors to the future, contemplating our impact across time.

  • Nature Connection: Exploring nature's wisdom on balance, reciprocity, diversity, and interdependence.

  •  A Life of Meaning: Reflecting on personal roles and aspirations for effecting positive change.

Importantly, these conversations also introduce participants to invaluable skills for building connection in their personal and professional lives, such as deep listening, open conversations, and sharing feedback.

Case Study: Nature Connection for the Crown Estate

In early 2023, Reboot were approached by the Crown Estate who were looking for new ways to engage their Sustainability Team in the Crown Estate’s Nature Strategy. Like many organisations, there was a tendency to focus on the technical aspects of delivering the Strategy, and they wanted to create an opportunity for employees to connect with their values, each other, and to free up their minds to take on new concepts.

In response to the challenge, on a wet afternoon at Richmond Park in late March, Reboot led The Crown Estate’s enthusiastic Sustainability Team through an inspiring session of conversation and activity, themed on Nature Connection. The session aimed to promote fresh thinking on how individuals can lead through connection, empathy and balance. On our walk, we covered the following questions:

  1. Where is your favourite place in nature and why do you love it?

  2. When you think about where we are on the Deep Time clock, what worries you?

  3. What are the wild things teaching me?

  4. What have you learned from nature, and how can you bring it into your work?

All employees engaged enthusiastically in conversation and the creative activity tasks such as creating the ‘Museum of Wild Teachings’. They were willing to share vulnerable examples to benefit the team. Walking in pairs, discussing meaningful questions, was clearly a powerful tool to deepen relationships.

Since taking part in the session:

We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with the Crown Estate on the next phase of their Nature Strategy this spring. 

Top takeaways from Walking Conversations so far

Whilst it’s early days for our Walking Conversations, we’ve found the following is important:

  1. Leave the job title at home - participants are encouraged to approach the walks as their authentic selves, not as their job title. So we always take a moment at the start to introduce everyone and to create a level playing field.

  2. Connection takes courage - In Walking Conversations, 'Deep Listening' is practised, often for the first time for many people. Deep Listening encourages full attention on the speaker and the embrace of silence. Despite initial discomfort, the vulnerability strengthens bonds, especially with the support of an experienced Programme Manager.

  3. Be creative: We deploy a wide range of tools and methodology to support discovery and connection including deep listening, creative reflection activities, and stimulus pieces to provoke new thinking such as storytelling and poetry.

  4. Location isn’t a barrier: While the essence of Walking Conversations is to establish a connection with the environment, this connection can manifest anywhere. We've encountered remarkable surprises in urban settings, where nature resiliently thrives, and where architectural designs mimic natural forms.

Setting intentions: We want participants to leave the Walking Conversations feeling inspired and with a fire in their belly. That’s why we always conclude the walks by drawing out emerging themes, identifying fresh thinking, aspirations and energy to take forward.

What next?

As summer approaches, we are gearing up for more Walking Conversations with new partners. If you are interested to experience one, you are welcome to join our next walk at Somerset House on 30th April 2024. Find out more and sign up here.

Alternatively to find out how we could work with your organisation and employees to introduce a programme of Walking Conversations, please contact our Programme Manager, Sandy Glanfield.

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