Developing A Regenerative Futures Fund #9: Imagination Is Not A Luxury (Gabriella Gomez Mont)

Leah Black
4 min readJul 19, 2023

I’ve been hugely inspired by LOTS of things recently that I think are at the intersection of creativity and bureaucracy. Collective imagination, imagination activism, municipal imagination, futures, joy and creativity in the funding, philanthropy, policy, local authority world. My worlds are definitively colliding right now as someone who has pretty much always worked in and around the arts and creative industries as a practitioner, administrator and leader, straddling funding, and has now jumped right into funding, philanthropy, grantmaking. Continually fascinated by the professional and personal webs we weave.

Firstly I must credit Gabriella Gomez Mont for the phrase ‘Imagination Is Not a Luxury’ (more below).

Today I spent ages writing an email to people I’m working with or would like to work with in Edinburgh. I spent a while writing it, editing, honing, adding in links. I then got some enthusiastic responses back (as well as a number of summer hols out of office notes). It dawned on me that I should share this more widely.

So here it is…

I believe we are connected around creating the conditions and resources for a thriving future Edinburgh.

I wanted to share a few things I have come across recently around municipal imagination. I’m planting seeds for now (and giving you lots to read). I think it would be amazing if we could come together and do something similar in Edinburgh.

  • A few weeks ago I met Phoebe Tickell today from Moral Imaginations, online — she was a scientist, now systems thinker, and imagination activist, has worked in funding, and wow, the work she is doing is fantastic. Last week in London I attended an event about Camden Imagines, with Phoebe and one of the senior leaders of Camden Council — where Phoebe worked with Camden Council leaders to train around 30 employees in ‘imagination activism’. Fascinating results. You can read the report here
  • A few weeks ago Carnegie and Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland pulled a group of people together to meet Sophie Howe — the first Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. Lots of fascinating conversations about what difference this has made in Wales. And calls for Scotland (by Carnegie and others) for us to have the same in Scotland. I believe the main difference between a standard commissioner role and the role Sophie had in Wales is that it’s set out in law (The Future Generations Act) that policymakers have to take into account future generations in every aspect of their work and the commissioner holds them to account. Worth having a look into.
  • Last week 200 people signed a letter to urge Scottish Goverment to turn Wellbeing Economy rhetoric into action
  • A few weeks ago I was invited to a workshop on Municipal Imagination led by Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). I was there in relation to my work on the Regenerative Futures Fund for Edinburgh. The session was eye-opening for me to find out what’s happening across the UK. It was described by someone in the meeting as a mix of radicals and bureaucrats — local authorities, funders, artists and activists talking about imagination practices in cities. JRF — Cassie Robinson and Sophia Parker and team are doing real system shifting work on this and how do we move the resources required to do urgent but long-term work towards social justice. Next Frontiers, conference, last week in London, was mind-blowing. What an impressive undertaking with speakers bringing extreme diversity of views and experiences. I’ll be writing some reflections on this soon.
  • As part of the developing Regenerative Futures Fund we are starting a programme of collective imagination, called Future Fridays: Write Now — these are monthly sessions led by Shasta Ali and Jennifer Williams. We aim with this to get people out of damaging short-term thinking into futures, long-term upstream thinking, ready for launch of Regenerative Futures Fund in 2024 — . These are not open widely for bookings yet, for our learning groups to start with, and we’ll open them out soon. Shasta is a poet, writer, racial equality campaigner, she used to work in Wester Hailes with SCOREscotland, and now works in funding and communications with Corra Foundation. Jennifer is a poet who also works at Edinburgh Futures Institute with and runs a fabulous initiative called Utopia Lab
  • Rob Hopkins — we love him and his wonderful and creative approaches to imagination. We’ve taken Edinburgh-based people in his time machine a few times now. Check out his work on from What Is to What If. Shasta and I will be appearing on his ‘What If…’ podcast in Aug (eek!)
  • And finally — Gabriella Gomez Mont and her work leading an experimental lab focused on urban development in Mexico City, she is a creative person who ended up working for the major of Mexico City and Chief Creative Officer running a lab, which resulted in huge changes in the city — Imagination is still not a luxury
  • I enjoyed the 2050 City Vision event at Edinburgh College recently and the strength of voices of young people within that was beautiful. One of my highlights was the boy who wanted a slide from his house to school 👍
  • Finally — a few of us have been looking at visualising a system map for long-term and systemic transformational change in the city — which will hopefully inform a way of working collaboratively long-term and upstream. For me this is linked to the work I have been doing developing the Regenerative Futures Fund. I want to be able to develop this as part of a bigger system for transformational change. I know that there are some other conversations happening about developing this further which is great and look forward to following this up.

As always drop me a line if anything resonates.

Finishing with #14 of my attempt to do 42 outdoor swims in my 42nd year. River Feshie in the Highlands. On track!



Leah Black

Lead, Regenerative Futures Fund Edinburgh; Chief Executive, Whale Arts; Warden, Incorporation of Goldsmiths; MBA student, Edinburgh Business School.