The What if Experiment is led by Sade Banks and Chloe Osborne who have spent the last 15 years agitating in the creative and cultural sectors.

In Jan 2022 we formalised a team of Associates who share our hunger for disrupting the power structures at play in our sector today and creating spaces to imagine and practice alternatives. 

We are facilitators, thinkers, innovators, artists, activists and community organisers. 

Our specialism is anti-Blackness, and the intersectionality of our team allows us to apply multiple lenses to our approach and respond to what we find. 

The What If Experiment is an evolution of Sour Lemons, 2016-2021, created to disrupt decision making tables in the creative and cultural sectors with leaders who happened to be diverse. Sour Lemons was funded by Arts Council England’s Transforming Leadership Fund, National Lottery Community Fund’s Leaders with Lived Experience Fund and Esmée Fairbairn’s Open Funding for organisations addressing systemic racism. Its legacy is being played out in The What If Experiment’s ongoing commitment to creating anti-racist and human centred practices.

Sade Banks

Co-Director

She/Her

Sade is a Disrupter, a Dreamer and a Doer who believes that power can and should be dismantled with kindness and compassion.

She creates opportunities that support people to know better, so they can do better. Sade is guided by an abundant imagination that understands there is never one way of doing things, that there are always more questions than answers, and that failure comes with the gift of starting again.

Sade works collaboratively to create safe spaces for herself and others to grow, evolve and unlearn. She moves with tenacity and care. With radical generosity at the heart of her practice, she advocates fiercely for the safety of Black and Global Majority folx.

At The What If Experiment, Sade listens deeply to understand where harm is being caused, what needs to change, and creates strategies that build cultures of belonging.

Chloe Osborne

Co-Director

She/Her

Chloe is a builder, connector and agitator who supports people to explore the hows and whys of their work.

She is a map maker, dot connector and fierce advocate for everybody’s capacity to grow and learn.

Fuelled by creative strategies for navigating complexity, speaking truth to power and exploring radically generous ways for us to hold each other accountable, her practice is grounded in the belief that we are all on a journey to become more useful in the movement towards collective liberation.

At the What If Experiment Chloe offers multiple ways into white people work. She works to support white identifying folx to develop the strategies needed to regulate their emotions, prioritise the safety of Black and global majority people over their own comfort and collaborate to develop cultures of belonging in which everyone is able to thrive.

Simone Watson-Brown

Associate

She/Her

Simone is a creative architect, process deviser and personal connector with a methodology that brings engaging and experiential learning into the training room.

Simone is intrigued by the human experience - the intricate details that influence our habits, decision-making and behaviours.

At its core, Simone’s practice is people. She came into this practice through creativity. Fuelled by the radical and generous possibilities that rehearsal can afford us as a space to try, and fail until we succeed.

Within the rehearsal space for real life, Simone works with people to lead more impactful professional lives - whether that be by developing the self-esteem of young adults, building trust amongst board members or supporting leaders to be authentic and impactful communicators.

At the What If Experiment, Simone guides organisations through discomfort into accountable action, so that Black and Global Majority People can thrive in their creative endeavours and professional careers.

Aisha Mahmood

Associate

She/Her

Aisha is a processor, planner and facilitator who helps put the puzzle pieces together to make the bigger picture clearer.

She holds deep awareness, care, and an open heart at the core of all she puts out into the world, willingly stepping forward to make the process of systemic change as accessible and compassionate as possible.

At the What If Experiment, Aisha supports people on our Awareness Journeys and holds up mirrors to the way we choose to work together.

She works to create the conditions for people to come together and untangle in community.

She thoughtfully facilitates, guides, and helps to connect the dots towards collective change.

Sheila Fearon-McCaulsky

Associate

She/Her

Sheila is an experienced HR professional who has worked in a variety of industries.

She is a problem solver that is decisive, constructive and passionate when advising her clients.

At the What If Experiment, Sheila offers a flexible and pragmatic approach to finding the right solutions. This supports the development of a culture where everyone can flourish.

Cheryl Ndione

Associate

She/Her

Cheryl is a Facilitator, Coach and Writer.

She believes that everyone has something of great value to share and wants to create environments where people feel safe enough to offer up their gifts.

Her practice is wholistic, practical, and deep. As a coach she travels alongside people to facilitate the unconscious becoming conscious, and as an artist she spends her energy finding ways to share the shadow side of adulting so people feel less alone, and less afraid to be their full selves.

Cheryl’s practice is grounded in the desire to boost the self-esteem of the unseen and to celebrate difference.

At The What If experiment Cheryl’s work focusses on expanding consciousness and supporting a healthy unveiling of the truth of the society with live in, so we can collectively move towards a greater good for all.

Rukiya Jemmott

Associate

She / Her

Rukiya is a London born Black British Caribbean cis gendered woman and a systemic psychotherapist.

She has over 30 years’ experience of working therapeutically with individuals, couples, and families.

She has a private practice called Conversations in colour where she provides a reliable, boundared space in which to explore the difficulties which may arise in the course of our everyday lives of family relationships and work.

She works with theatres across the UK, offering support and exploration to all staff; cast members, front of house staff, members of the stage management team or executive directors and directors.

She offers consultations to organisations to help them explore the dynamics of the staff groups. This work supports staff moral and lessens stress and can lead to positive changes for everyone. The work may involve considering areas of tension and discomfort around race.

Rukiya is also a lecturer and head of two courses at the Tavistock and Portman Clinic, teaching and supervising trainee systemic psychotherapists. In addition she provides teaching for various adult educational institutions as well as facilitating training days for health, education, and social care services across the country.

Ebony Montague

Associate

She / Her / They / Them

Ebony Montague is an HR associate with the What If Experiment, using both her HR and lived experience to support creative organisations to be anti-racist in their workplace practices.

Ebony is the Director & Founder of HR Said That - an affordable HR service for small-to-medium creative businesses. She is a problem-solver, art-lover and deep-thinker.

She started HR Said That after experiencing and witnessing the impact of poor HR on the workforce. Lack of HR initiatives centred on employee development and wellbeing caused discrimination, burnout and high turnover and for Ebony, this resulted in severe depression and anxiety.

As someone in a junior role at the time, Ebony couldn't make any changes to improve the workforce and was dependent on under-resourced HR departments. Wanting to make real change, Ebony started HR Said That to use her lived experiences to provide an accessible HR service that will improve creative businesses whilst ensuring no-one else has to experience poor HR like she did.

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  • 2015 What if we disrupt from the inside-out?

    2015 What if we disrupt from the inside-out?

    As the Community Engagement Manager at The Barbican, Sade brought Chloe in to collaborate on the legacy planning for the Walthamstow Garden Party. This collaboration led to the development of the Creative Citizens Fellowship – a capacity building programme for community partners, The Walthamstow Ideas Kitchen – a model for participatory grantmaking and prepared the ground for LB Walthamstow Borough of Culture in 2019.  This began our relationship and catalysed Sade’s departure from working within cultural Institutions. From this point onwards, We began to experiment with disrupting institutions from the outside. 

  • 2016 What If we disrupt from the outside-in?

    2016 What If we disrupt from the outside-in?

    Sour Lemons was conceived to level the playing field for Black, Global Majority and working class young leaders wanting to develop careers in the creative and cultural sectors. The Making LEMONADE programme was developed with support of over 22 industry partners and provided each learning cohort with personal and professional development, as well as access to the social capital their privileged peers inherit. The pilot was crowdfunded which evidenced the appetite and need and inspired us to create a business model not reliant on one source of income.

  • What if Lived Experience was prioritised?

    What if Lived Experience was prioritised?

    We developed a consultancy model so that our Young Leaders could get paid to work with cultural and creative organisations who were struggling to access Black, Global Majority and working class talent. For a while it was fun and everyone got paid, but we started to realise the limitations of this model. As long as external consultants could tick the boxes that institutions were failing to meet, there was no accountability for long term, embedded change.  The institutional practices around diverse recruitment are deeply flawed and maintain the status quo of white middle class leadership extracting knowledge from Black, Global Majority and working class communities. 

  • What if we scaled up?

    What if we scaled up?

    We received large scale grants to sustain and support Sour Lemons. Building on the learnings from the pilot we experimented with scale, saying no to small consultancy projects that didn’t value our lived experience and providing wrap-around support for our alumni to support them as they navigated the sector over a three year period. We learned from our Alumni that we had created a safety net for them to show up as their true selves and when they entered working environments, they were forced to assimilate and reduce themselves in order to ‘fit in’.

  • What if we worked deeper?

    What if we worked deeper?

    We created a new strand of work that moved away from developing individual leaders and supported organisations to become enabling environments. Hit by the global pandemic, we spread ourselves thinly in an effort to support the diverse needs of our young leaders navigating uncertainty and increased hardship.   We collectively witnessed racialised murders in the US which amplified the global Black Lives Matter movement and highlighted the racial inequites at play in the UK’s creative and cultural sectors.  Our plans accelerated and we sent a call out for organisations that were serious about addressing systemic racism and began a two year partnership with The Royal Court Theatre and Young Vic.   

  • What if we shared responsibility?

    What if we shared responsibility?

    After an exhausting year, we took time to rest and consider how we could model collaborative leadership within Sour Lemons. We paused all delivery, invested in a new team and began experimenting with sharing power and responsibility. The challenges of scaling up fast and bringing on a bigger team to manage two programmes simultaneously gave us an ironic insight: we were unintentionally recreating the systems that we were trying to dismantle externally.  At the end of the year, we took the leap to close Sour Lemons and activated a new, more adaptive organisation. The What If Experiment, free from the charitable constraints of its predecessor, was designed to create more surgical, systemic interventions in the creative and cultural sector.

  • What if we began again?

    What if we began again?

    “If you wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down” – Toni Morrison. The What If Experiment is an experiment.  We exist to ask the questions that the sector needs to hear. We give our energy to people who are exploring the answers.