The Sensemaker Workshop
Here’s a PSA for my new project in London: a retail venue entirely dedicated to coming together to discuss ideas in convivial surroundings.
It’s called the Sensemaker Workshop.
Sensemaking is the activity of making sense of life, ourselves and the world. The frameworks and assumptions we use about the world shape how we can understand it and can act in it. Discovering new frameworks to understand things has become an important activity for increasing numbers of people, probably because we are living in Weird times.
I primarily engage in conversation about strategies for sensemaking or meaning-making on Twitter and in this blog. However I’ve been delighted to meet and host some Twitter friends in real life. With an online background of shared interests and concepts to draw from, the through-put of meaningful conversation can be very high. Talking in person leads to new synergies of ideas that are not always possible in text-based communication. And of course it’s so great to meet a person to deepen the friendship.
I chose the name workshop in the same vein as a car or wood workshop. A workshop is a dedicated place where one goes to be surrounded by the tools one needs to get a job done. It’s a place to shut out distractions and focus on a task, whether that’s a creative hobby or a livelihood.
There have been similar spaces throughout history. Coffeehouses of the 16th and 17th century were places where men of any class could meet and discuss the topics of the day. Many of these coffee houses became or birthed institutions that still exist today. Lloyds coffeehouse transformed into the insurance giant Lloyds of London, which still has headquarters on Lime street. Other coffeehouses birthed the private members clubs now resident in St James’s. The coffeehouse culture was of polite and sober conversation.
Similarly the Salons of Italy and France in the 18th and 19th centuries were gatherings of people invited by a host for conversation and intelletual amusement. The most intimate of these were hosted in a bedroom, avoiding the more formal manners necessary in a drawing room.
Still later the Bloomsbury group, a loose community of friends and relations, lived together in a number of shared houses, most famously in Gordon Square where they would have intellectual evenings together presenting papers and exchanging ideas. This group had lasting impacts on British culture through literature, visual art and economics.
The Sensemaker Workshop wants to do the same. The ‘tools’ arranged along the walls will be books and concepts and the projects we’ll be tinkering with will be ideas.
The aesthetic will be informed by private member’s clubs and cafes. The aim is for easy-going space, low pressure and friendly while at the same time not being shy of comfort and a little luxury. I love the aesthetic of this private cafe in Picadilly:
Privacy is fairly intrinsic in the idea of the space, in the sense that members need to ‘opt-in’ with a small fee. This is so that we can fund the space, which has to pay rent and staff costs! But it also means the members are a self-selected group with a committed interest in a salon-style discussion venue. It also means there is no awkward culture of a noisy cafe where there is pressure to buy something or vacate the table. It can also double up as a nice venue to meet someone, whether it’s business talk, friends hanging out or even going on a date!
The very first iteration of the Sensemaking Workshop is going to be a short pop-up shop held in a temporary retail space. The idea is to test out the concept in a low-risk way, to be sure there is a sufficient audience for the space and discover any unforseen problems. You can see all the details of the first version at the official website here:
The first version is going to be in an pop-up shop space, but with furniture similar to the picture above such as low tables, sofas and wing back chairs. NB: The space will NOT be providing any food and drink, the service provided is introduction, networking and discussion.
If you’re excited by the idea of the club, please support this first version in January. We have a range of special guests already provisionally booked to be coming to the space, as well as some discussion groups on the weekend.