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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. 
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March 31, 2022

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.
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March 23, 2022

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.
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March 23, 2022

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.   
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March 23, 2022

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’.
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March 23, 2022

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. 
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March 23, 2022

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.
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December 15, 2015