A retrospective goodbye


This blog follows on from the announcement in ‘Losing Control – It’s time to say goodbye’

Adios, farewell, adieu, au-revoir, laters… no matter what words we use to describe our parting, none of them will convey the deep feelings we have around this particular ending.  We have spent so much time living and breathing all things Losing Control that we can’t quite believe it is going. New friends were made, new ventures set up, governance quagmires were thought through, we’ve rethunk entire funding systems, and re-organised decision making and much much more over the four years.

In summary Losing Control is a network of people from all backgrounds and sectors that believe we can build a more equitable society by working together to share power and let go of the illusion of control. 

There was never any cost to joining the network, and everyone in it got access to:

  • Connections: Connections with and shared learning from other like-minded people across diverse sectors and backgrounds.
  • Inspiration: Access to useful resources, insights and training
  • Support: Support to share stories and research, and to promote and run aligned activities how people wanted to.

Until last month, Losing Control was run by a small central organising team of staff from the Social Change Agency, Practical Governance and Collaborate CIC with specific contract work from people connected to the network, like the wonderful Mikee Whitesun, who became the LC network organiser over the past year.

So just before we say goodbye, we wanted to take a retrospective look at all we’ve done and achieved over the past 4 years.

Losing Control Network

In the beginning

In April 2017 it all began with a two day event in Oxford bringing together funders and changemakers looking for imaginative ways of creating networks. We were stuck in a windowless room for two days as part of the Marmalade conference – but did we care? Nah… we were too busy trying to Lose Control in the Youth Movement, Migrant and Refugee Movement and more.

It was an exciting time with lots of green; green lanyards, green badges, a green website, plus our own Losing Control soundtrack!

At that point for the 120 people who attended the conference (including a fantastic mix of funders and grassroots movements), Losing Control was all about exploring practical ways of driving social impact that supported the distribution rather than concentration of power,  and building communication, activism and governance techniques that support this.

This was the first time our funders came to talk about Losing Control and opened up their vulnerability around the topic on stage in front of their own grantees…

Losing Control

A grant experiment

Two years later, in 2019, we held another conference. Bringing together more than 300 people in Birmingham for 2 exciting days of connecting and thought provoking peer-led content.  We had more green, glitter, a permanent tea party, an arts and chill out area run by our friends at Eden Project, and a lot of engaging and oversubscribed sessions.

After the Birmingham event, two Advisory Council meetings were set up, one in Leeds and one in London and some of the people who came to these events were to go on and help shape the network as it moved forward.

Action learning sets were also an ongoing force throughout the Losing Control network’s time. They were organised by The Social Change Agency but attended by a diverse group of practitioners who came together to share, challenge and support each other through reflection, listening and questioning.

We started Losing Control Safari’s at the end of 2019.  Groups of Losing Control members would visit other organisations for in-depth tours and a warts and all approach to challenges they were facing. We then spent some time collaborative challenging and supporting the host to address these issues and opportunities. Our visit to the Black Prince Trust was a highlight of these events.

We instigated Teach-Me’s; a programme of Network member events, run by members for members in early 2019 and these included great sessions such as …

  • Getting Agreement to Get Things Done – Decision-Making in Action by Richard Burden
  • Losing control you were never in control by Kalina Stemanova
  • Navigating Uncertainty by Francois Knuchel + Patrick Andrews, Human Organising Co.
  • Storytelling for change by The Acumen Academy 

And many more….

By then we had over 700 change makers keeping up to date through our newsletters and over 1000 Twitter followers.

In Feb 2020 we formed an exciting new spin off, Losing Control in Funding and Commissioning – a space for funders to connect with like-minded peers who were passionate about radically rethinking funding approaches.

In March 2020, funders, commissioners and local organisations from multiple sectors came together in Westminster to re-imagine what supporting the process and practice of social change could be, not just through projects, programmes and organisations, but also through movements, communities and networks. More about this event can be found here

**Global pandemic**

After the dramatic change of the pandemic we tried to recreate some of the human connection which was the cornerstone of the network by creating Digi unconferences. We looked at Youth organising, Mutual aid, Open source software and more.  These sessions then developed into our Open House.  A monthly zoom meeting posing provocative questions to the network such as:

  • When might losing control mean passing the buck?
  • Whose space is it anyway?
  • Is co-production a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
  • What can mutuality and mutual aid teach us about Losing Control?
  • Whose space is it anyway? Is building networks of networks possible?
  • Our final Open house happened on the 20th May asking: Are global//local networks really possible? 

As we continued to try and connect online we launched a platform at the end of 2020 with the intention of developing a space together to share events and resources and have  honest conversations. Groups around a diverse range of issues developed such as Radical Inclusion, Co-production, Mutual aid and Facilitation. We then began a collaboration with our friends at Ctrl Shift and enabled the platform to be used by the Transition Network for their Whats next Summit.

Our involvement with the Summit was an intense 3 week journey into how Losing Control could work alongside other networks. We managed to onboard over 2000 people onto the platform and gave a Losing Control feel to an excellent event.

So now as we look to draw the grand experiment that was Losing Control to a close, all that remains is to thank you all for being here and we hope the connections you have made will continue to flourish and the seeds planted during the last 5 years will keep growing. We look forward to seeing what things develop from here.

Love from all in the Losing Control team x Esther, Bob, Ediane, Dawn, Betsy and Mikee

(Blog originally published in 2021 via The Social Change Agency)