Canopy was set up to grow the social imagination. We believe that without new and shared imaginations our society will stay stuck in its current destructive and unequal patterns. We know that all of us are deeply imaginative, but society is not set up to support us to imagine together. The result is that we’re always building the future based on imaginations that are incomplete, one-sided and disconnected. This is what we seek to change. We seek to create the conditions for new shared imagining, new stories and new action for a better world.
WHO WE’VE WORKED WITH
We work in the UK and internationally with partners who want to learn with us how to imagine and build a better world. This has included various local authorities, and institutions such as Mind, Children’s Society, Goodstart (AUS), Smithsonian (US), Centre for Policy on Ageing, UnLtd. We also work directly with the public and with local communities to grow social imagination.
In 2016 a small group of us were working in partnership with a community in Shirebrook, a small ex-mining town in Derbyshire. The media called it the ‘village of the damned’ and people there told us their place was ‘shit’. (The top Google search result was ‘shitbrook’ and the term had stuck.) Yet there were many seeds of hope and imagination holding the community together and pointing towards a different kind of future. For us the idea of the social imagination sprouted from a creative partnership with members of this community.
As we explored the idea of Social Imagination, the conservatism built into the foundations of the structures we had been trying to operate in for years became increasingly clear. We developed the motto of ‘form follows purpose’ as we re-examined some of the underlying structures that were getting in the way of change – e.g. the business models, risk management, market analysis, management structures and much more.
Our first organisational form was W.I.G.S., also a not for profit organisation, which sought to create an experimental space for practitioners to work together on imagination-led social change projects. Through these projects, we were learning what was needed for imagination to be our central method and ‘way’ and for that way to bring the changes that our clients and communities were longing for.
Many people were involved in W.I.G.S., however a special mention has to go to co-founder Jo Harrington, whose leadership and vision was instrumental and who remains a friend and ally of Canopy. Much of W.I.G.S.’ foundational learning and thinking about social imagination is being collated on the W.I.G.S. website.
Canopy grew out of a desire to open and share this exploration of social imagination with others.