UOT - Lab for new Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future

LAB for New Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future

Communication | Published: 07.09.2018

EARTH FORUM Introduction & Training 1-4 Nov 2018

Earth Forum is a social sculpture - connective practice process relevant to many kinds of change-makers. Join us for this 1-day introduction and 3-day training opportunity in Oxford, in November 2018. Learn to guide this connective process and join the global community of Earth Forum facilitators. In German and in English!

[Unten kannst du die Informationen auch auf Deutsch runterladen!]


Earth Forum is an eco-social workspace for mind-shift work, relevant for many different kinds of change-makers.

  • It links imaginal methods and transformative practice
  • It enables individuals, organisations and diverse stakeholders to develop and tune their 'agendas for transformation'
  • It enables participants to experience the link between inner work and outer action, to perceive the connections between our attitudes, values and social and ecological justice, and to gain a direct sense of one's agency
  • It creates a space for experiencing different modes of thinking and what 'thinking together' involves

In these ways and many more it builds capacities for the future!

The process is designed for 5-12 participants. It takes a minimum of 2-3 hours. Depending on the situation it can last for a full day, or up to two-days. An Earth Forum can take place in many different contexts and situations. It can be adapted, as appropriate, to the group’s needs.


Earth Forum is a connective practice module in the University of the Trees: Lab for New Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future. It is based on the understanding that we are ‘emergent beings’ who need to allow things to unfold, whilst at the same time shaping and directing this unfolding. Like all practices, actions and research in this alternative university it is in tune with Joseph Beuys’ perception that ‘every human being is an artist’... a social sculptor, working with the ‘invisible materials’ of thought, discussion and speech to shape our own lives and new eco-social forms and structures toward a humane and ecologically viable future.


"Every human being has the capacity to see, reflect on, and share the pictures in their mind: of the past, of the present and the future. Sometimes we forget that practicing this imaginative, reflective ability is a key form of capacity building that enables empathy, creative perception, connective vision and mind-shift work. Earth Forum is a process of creative imagining and exchange that enables us to recognise and work actively with our mind-sets. It also enables a form of thinking together that goes beyond swapping opinions, argument, and debate. It enhances two important individual and social capacities: the capacity to imagine and the capacity for active listening." [Shelley Sacks]

Earth Forum has no preconceived outcomes or agendas. The Earth Forum process generates real social substance with which we can engage consciously as individuals and as a group. It enables an experience of thinking together that simultaneously builds individual capacity.

Earth Forum works well with people from organisations and networks who have similar commitments and values: through the Earth Forum process they can clarify and deepen their agendas for transformation.

It is also very productive with groups of people who have different ideas and values. In situations where stakeholders have very different ideas and ‘takes’ on what progress or sustainable development might mean, Earth Forum is an transformative and inspiring way of bringing people together who are not readily listening to each other. Through the Earth Forum they experience each other's perspectives, and create a genuine basis for solutions to unfold.

Whether you are a youth leader, communicator, government official, activist, farmer, scientist, entrepreneur, teacher, member of an organisation, decision-maker, artist, learner, community leader, or any other citizen, Earth Forum is an opportunity to creatively engage with others in your community, group, or from completely different situations.


Earth Forum was designed and developed by Shelley Sacks in 2002, for use in a village torn apart by different takes on 'sustainable development', and then further developed for Climate Summit NGOs in South Africa in 2011... to be scaled out by apprentices and trained facilitators.

Since 2011, it has been used widely in Germany and Holland, as well as South Africa, Brazil, Portugal, China, India, and the UK. In this time thousands of people have taken part in the Earth Forum process and more than 100 people have been trained as Earth Forum guides or ‘Responsible Participants’.

Earth Forum has also been invited to participate in many initiatives including Citizen’s Art Days, Berlin; the Überlebenskunst programme at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt; the Art and Social Practice Group, Mumbai; at various universities in Pune and the Pune Biennale; in Böll Foundation workshops and conferences, Berlin; the Green Party Congress, Düsseldorf; Creative Challenge, London; the OYA lecture tour with David Abram in Germany and Czech Republic; the Earth Conference in Ireland; the Making a Difference-Asia event in Hong Kong for hundreds of young ‘change-makers’; for Occupy Democracy in London; an international network of 120 leadership and social development consultants; for Transition Towns and Edible City groups in Germany; for a national health workers network in Holland, and for farmers and agro-ecology students in the UK.


We are currently exploring links with organisations and networks to scale out the Earth Forum process to enable thousands of people to be trained in this experiential knowing, capacity building, social emergence practice.

Training to become a 'Responsible Participant'

Earth Forum participants who do the training are known as 'Responsible Participants'. As they gain experience they can guide the process for groups of individuals and organisations in many different contexts, offering it one or more of the following:

  • a capacity building process that links imaginal methods and transformative practice toward the shaping of a humane and ecologically viable future
  • an experiential process for 'coming to our senses'
  • a generative space enabling individuals, organisations and stakeholders to develop and tune their 'agendas for transformation'
  • a listening space to create the conditions for working with difference, and for multi-stakeholder groups to ‘live into’ the consequences of different, sometimes conflicting ideas
  • a new knowledge space for understanding the link between inner work and outer action; to perceive the connections between our attitudes and social and ecological justice; and to gain a direct sense of one's agency and what it means to 'think together'
  • an imaginative space for social emergence and becoming agents of the future.

After this training, you will be an Earth Forum Responsible Participant, but you will still need practice and support.

The best way to become a skilled and creative Responsible Participant is through guiding the process, reflecting on it, and sharing these reflections with others. We will provide you with an Earth Forum Logbook for Responsible Participants to support your reflective process, which in turn enables an ongoing dialogue with others and with us.

What does it cost?

Prices for the training are on a sliding scale.

Full price: £400-600 / €450-680
Concessions: £150-300 / €170-340

As part of the Earth Forum training you will receive a certificate and an Earth Forum Responsible Participant handbook. You will also be listed on the University of the Trees website as a recognised Earth Forum guide. This handbook will support your ongoing use of Earth Forum, and the website will enable people to locate people offering the Earth Forum in their area.

In order to offer an Earth Forum you will need to have your own Earth Forum kit. This includes an oiled cloth in a bag and a UOT band. This kit can be purchased jointly and shared with people in your area.
Price for an Earth Forum kit: £50 / €56

The location of the training will be Headington Hill Campus at Oxford Brookes University.

Facilitators of the training in November are: Annelinde Kirchgaesser, Markus Stefan and Shelley Sacks. Annelinde and Markus have been working with Shelley and the Earth Forum process since 2013. As Responsible Participants, they have co-facilitated and guided processes in different contexts, languages, and countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. They also helped develop the Earth Forum Handbook for Responsible Participants and the new 4-day training format.

Earth Forum is one of the University of the Trees: Lab for New Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future [UOT:LAB] ‘modules’. Shelley, Markus, and Annelinde are directors of the UOT:LAB which is an alternative, mobile university and not-for-profit social enterprise. They also work together in the Social Sculpture Research Unit linked to Oxford Brookes University and have delivered its Masters in Social Sculpture and Connective Practice.

For more information in German or English and to sign up, contact Markus Stefan: markus.stefan@hotmail.com

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