Reflections after the first gathering of Untitled Alliance: a quest for a new narrative

Now that the reactions to the pandemic are showing (very different kinds of) results and the magnitude of the economic shock that follows is revealing, one thing is clear: The hegemonic narrative of the past 40 years is not coming back. 

The reflections of the Untitled community reveal an eagerness to go deeper to the change at hand, to start exploring new ways of living, producing and caring and to do it at a scale unforeseen for our generation.

We seem to agree that “the old world has been dying” even before covid as we have witnessed the “morbid symptoms” around us. Now the question is how “the new world” could be born. 

The urge to be more precise and to implement gives a lot of hope. We want to go deeper, faster and challenge the current narratives of transformation. This post outlines what we learned from the Reimagine the Agenda online gathering held 11–12 June 2020 and from the discussions with Untitled members.

The diversity of reactions to the methods used in the online gathering was great: some thought they were eye-opening, some liked the way of getting to know each other, many wanted a more freeform way of discussing or to go into practice already. 

We want to stress the uniqueness of what we have together founded. Especially its time frame: we have initiated a ten-year process, so let’s value that with giving ourselves time to figure out what is that we are aligning for. 

For now it is easier to speak what we believe the Untitled narrative is not about:

  • Firstly it is not the “green reform” narrative. The one that believes our institutions do not really need to be reimagined nor replaced. We just need better leaders to make better – more green and social  – decisions. This narrative enforces the current institutions, current mandates, current agencies.
  • Untitled is not about the tech solutions narrative either. The one where exponential technology solves wicked problems. Where either Silicon Valley or China will cook up unstoppable technologies that will replace old ones, take emissions out of the economy, and by doing so create immense amounts of wealth and spread unforeseen tools available for everyone to use. 
  • It is not a narrative about the imminent collapse or imminent progress: The deep adaptation narrative that readies us for the time after the collapse. Or the deep enlightenment narrative that pulls out of today only to see that in the long run progress is unstoppable. 
  • We are not propagating the mass movements narrative, where (young) masses take the streets and put pressure (and eventually spread fear) among the elites. 
  • Finally, Untitled is not seeking refuge through developing the personal spiritual sphere alone. According to this narrative where we must first develop our inner worlds, only then we are to be able to take on the material world. 

What is wrong with these narratives? Quite simply they don’t describe enough change. They give very little room for genuine development of human agency, our ability to imagine new institutions and ways of living and our courage and curiosity to go about experimenting with what we imagine. Most of them also hide the tensions that emerge with the old and the new, the new voices that can contribute hugely to guiding the transformation to the right direction. To avoid creating a dystopia we need to reflect deeply on what is the way of “being” of human beings we wish to see, and enquire on what are the things we want to depart from.

Untitled is a ten-year process of unfolding the new world. An experiment in creating an alternative narrative of the metamorphosis we are in. We believe that a genuinely new story can emerge through an unlikely alliance deciding to come together to imagine new concepts, making them tangible and learning from them through real world experiments.

The fresh Co-creation Manual for the Untitled Festival enables to start contributing to the community right now. Participants can set up conversations, design experiment workshops as well as help people to transcend their everyday perspective through art and imagination interventions. Each member of the alliance is expected to contribute to one or more of these.  

We won’t reach perhaps yet as developed a narrative as the ones listed above, but it will be a start. We believe strongly that at this moment in history requires a forum for a self enforcing and widening loop of imagination and experimentation. Viewed in this way, future is a colouring book, with no colours, just rough outlines. 

We are not in a hurry. We are starting a ten year process. In that time we believe a  genuinely new narrative of the development of humanity can be unfolded.