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Creative, critical, collaborative and caring

Updated: Dec 24, 2021

Using the 4Cs of philosophical thinking to make plans for progress: what's new for '22?

Philosophy for Communities (P4C) is a methodology that engages a group in philosophical enquiry. We use the 4Cs of philosophical thinking in this process: creative, critical, collaborative and caring. In the past few years, I’ve facilitated many enquiries, with multiple groups, with people of all ages, in a variety of contexts. I love this work!

I was working online during the pandemic but it's such a joy to be back in the room - filling these empty chairs with people who are ready to talk and think together. As to how we'll be working in 2022, I don't know but one way or another I'll be faciliating enquiry-based discussions.

I’ve found those 4Cs are more than just a facilitation technique. They inform my thinking throughout life, and my thinking informs who I am and what I do. So, when I came to consider what’s in store for next year and what I want to make happen, I turned to the 4Cs for a way to frame my planning.

Creative approaches

I’m a creative person. I love coming up with new ideas, trying different ways of approaching a task and experimenting with possibilities. One of the things I love about Philosophy for Communities is the opportunity it offers to take a playful approach to thinking together. When I’m developing plans for facilitating a session I love testing out new ways of doing things.

I sometimes have to remind myself that it’s ok to use an exercise again!

In 2022 I will keep developing new ideas for opening up big questions in group discussion and I’d like to do more work bringing creativity into community settings.

This fabric collage was created as part of an online retreat I co-facilitated early in 2021. The opportunity to bring groups of people together nationally and internationally has been one good thing about the increased use of zoom. Creativity can flourish anywhere and everywhere!

Critical development

I’ve been self-employed for 5 years now and I’ve developed the confidence to focus on what I really want to do: which is using Philosophy for Communities as an engaged creative practice. I’ve gained lots of experience in facilitating philosophical enquiry in a range of contexts and I’m clearer about what I offer and how it’s valuable. Thinking about this critically, I’m clearer that there are two parts to my practice. Firstly, that for me facilitation is a creative practice in its own right, and secondly, that it provides an exciting method for engaging people in creative work.

Four particular examples from work I’ve done this year demonstrate different aspects of this:

1. Bringing people together for a shared experience of creative work.

As part of a micro-commission from Age Friendly Sheffield, I was able to offer some open access sessions called Sharing the View: Philosophy in the Gallery. These took place in the Graves Gallery and used artworks in the permanent collection as the starting point for enquiry. A great way to encourage people to come into the gallery and have the chance to talk with others about their experience of the art.

2. Opening up ideas and questions to inform creative development.

The Sheffield Museums Young Makers (aged 14-25) were working with a local artist to develop ideas for new work in an exhibit about Sheffield. I facilitated a one-off enquiry

session that drew out their ideas on what themes were important to explore and express. They came up with nine themes which set the focus for rest of the programme: identity, food, protest, culture, pride, media, politics, history and finance.

3. Engaging in creative work together.

In my work with the Writers Workshop, I’ve been developing use of philosophical enquiry methods to develop creative writing. In this work, I use the method in two ways. Firstly, as a way into original creative writing, and secondly as an enquiry process to find out more about what the reader experiences in what’s written. This latter workshop, called ‘Creative Critique’ has enabled writers to get into a critique process that goes beyond word choice and style preference to uncover the underlying meaning experienced.

4. Thinking together for community engagement.

At Zest Community Centre I facilitated an enquiry for their newly developing multi-cultural women’s group. Starting from a story we found our way into thinking about friendship and the most important qualities of a good friend. It was a great topic for building connections across cultural difference, and exciting to experience the live action critical thinking that emerged.

This process of critical analysis of what I can offer and its relevance and potential value in different contexts, helps me to clarify how I need to focus my business development.

Collaborative work

It’s so important to me to work collaboratively! So much more fun, friendly and effective. New ideas emerge in conversation and blossom in collaboration.

I’ve worked with some great colleagues this year, including:


· Zest


As a freelance practitioner I have to put myself out there to find colleagues and I’m always open to making new connections. An online speed networking event organised by Sheffield Creative Guild provided new and unexpected working relationships. I’m open to connecting and excited to find new partners who want to work with me.

Get in touch – I’d be happy to talk ideas and possibilities!

Caring for myself and what I do

In many ways the quest for a good work/life balance is the core narrative in the tale of a freelance life. Partly because of the enduring concern about the next project never materialising, but also because you love your work and want to do all the things. It’s an exciting adventure and one that just isn’t entirely in your control.

I think it’s fair to say that there have been times I might have over-worked this year. Especially the bit where I fell off my bike, broke my arm, got concussion and still thought it was a good idea to turn up to meetings the following week… My ambition for 2022 is to take it steady. To find the balance between loving my work and remembering to take time off. Especially during these mixed-up times, it can be all too easy to blur the boundaries. I want to take care of myself, and to get back on my bike!

But there’s another kind of care at stake – caring about what I do. Caring about quality and development and making success happen. Caring about the importance of getting people talking and thinking together. This is the values base of my work. That creativity is intrinsic to being fully human, that engaging with difference brings rich possibilities for connection, and that fostering community is vital to our well-being in society.

The simplest version of my ambition for 2022 is to continue to build my freelance practice as a creative facilitator using Philosophy for Communities, bringing people together to explore big questions.

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