By Louise Treneman


Stepping out of our comfort zones for social change.

In July 2016 a small group of alumni from Embercombe’s Catalyst course underwent an intensive facilitation training. One outcome of the training was the launch of ActivateLDN, a day-long workshop series for young adults in London. This experience of designing and delivering a purpose-driven event has entered a new phase as the baton is passed to the next cohort of Catalyst alumni bringing ActivateBRS to life in Bristol.

In February, at the annual Catalyst Homecoming in the beautiful valley of Embercombe, the idea of ActivateBRS was born. Following from the success of ActivateLDN in January of this year, the organising team put forward the idea of a second Activate event, to be led by a new group of Catalyst alumni. Following their proposition, a group of us stepped forward, and began navigating what is, for most of us, the uncharted territory of organising an event from scratch.

With the support of a few members of the ActivateLDN team we began dreaming up an event that we hope will reach a wide audience of young people. Our group aspirations for the event centre around giving young people a space in which they can feel connected, empowered to address issues that concern them and feel a little less overwhelmed by the ever-changing, ever-more divided world we live in. The importance of safe spaces, where being truly honest isn’t a radical act, is something we all feel very strongly about, and feel is lacking. ActivateBRS is, amongst other things, our way of bringing such a space to Bristol, and hopefully it will leave a legacy of connection, creativity and optimism in the hearts and minds of the attendees.

To give a little context to the event, we all (bar one) have taken part in the Catalyst course at Embercombe, which influenced all our lives in many ways, big and small. The course gave us a space to be our true selves, pulling us out of our comfort zones to confront issues we are facing in the world, and building our capacities to act, both inwardly and outwardly, for positive change. It is very easy to become disillusioned when you walk out of Embercombe’s gates, and feel the sense of connection ebbing away as you return to the wider world. We are lucky enough to be a part of the Catalyst alumni network, a wonderful, caring, supportive group of inspiring young people. But we are very aware that for many such a network isn’t something they could even imagine existing. We would love to bring this sense of belonging to a group of young people who haven’t experienced Catalyst, and create a space to listen, be heard and learn from each other.

ActivateBRS will be a one-day event, filled with workshops exploring topics pertinent to young people in today’s world, such as social inequality, communication, self care, emotional resilience and environmental action. We hope the workshops will explore issues in creative ways, giving people the tools to feel empowered to act, engaging with both personal, inner work, and outer work in the world around us.

As well as the purpose of bringing a safe space to inspire collective conversations to catalyse positive change, the event is giving us, the organisers, a chance to learn, looking inward to our strengths and weaknesses, how we work as a group and the challenges of staying motivated when we cannot meet in person. On a personal note, it has been a privilege to go on this journey with a group of inspiring people I have the honour of calling friends, and I am excited to see our months of dreaming emerge into a fully fledged event!

ActivateBRS will be held at Hamilton House in Bristol, on the 20th of January 2018 – Find out more here!

If you can help at all in donating funds towards our venue costs, that would be hugely appreciated by the whole team. Follow the link to our fundraising page here:

Louise_CatalystAbout the author

I am lucky enough to be a part of the inspiring Catalyst alumni community, which led me to becoming part of the ActivateBRS team, after attending the course in September 2016. I am currently training with Devon Wildlife Trust, where I spend my time helping to protect and enhance Devon’s beautiful natural spaces, striving to bring the non-human and human elements of this world back together. For more about what I get up to, go to


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