Frequently Asked Questions
1) Why is The Rules closing?
When The Rules (TR) was formed in 2011, we knew we wanted to focus on a specific challenge, and not to have an organisation that exists for its own sake. In 2015 this instinct solidified into a firm close down date of December, 2019. We hoped that living for a time-bound period would free us from preconceived structures of how we work, play and make trouble together; that it would enable us to develop creative and nimble configurations, and empower us to respond in fresh and relevant ways to the troubles of our time.
It turned out to be a great decision. We found it helped clear away unnecessary strategic and bureaucratic clutter, and helped us focus on what was most important to our original mission.
One of our guiding mantras has been Carlos Castaneda’s famous line, “Live with Death as your advisor.” Being aware of our mortality gives us the freedom to truly live – but also the responsibility of making our lives and work count.
2) Why did The Rules start?
TR was conceived in a pre-Arab Uprising, pre-Occupy world. It grew out of a deep frustration with the failure of NGOs and politics-as-usual to identify and address the deep, structural drivers of poverty, inequality and ecological breakdown – the three overriding and interwoven challenges of our age. We were done with tinkering around the edges. As the social movements of 2011 unfolded, it became clear that many others were done with tinkering too.
We also knew that traditional analysis wasn’t enough, in and of itself. Our work rested on two core insights: all power rests on the ability to control language; and humans make sense of their worlds through stories. The stories we tell shape the way we see the world, and guide our responses to the problems we face. The best way to change the world, then, is to change the stories at the heart of our culture(s).
No two people or cultures tell stories the same way. The specific ways a story about the root causes of poverty is told, and the context in which it exists, can be very different in Detroit compared to Dar es Salaam, for example, but they can still express the same essential logic for how the world works. We call systems of stories like this, that are bound by a common and ubiquitous logic, dominant cultural narratives. These narrative shape and define the world.
In 2012, The Rules set out to better understand the dominant cultural narratives around poverty, inequality and ecological breakdown. We also knew that we needed better tools and methods to seed and grow new narratives – ones that would draw a lot more focus onto the root causes; that would expose the dominant culture’s operating system of neoliberal capitalism and its logic of separation, hyper-consumption and infinite material growth on a finite planet; and instead strengthen the intrinsic values that bring people together like solidarity, interdependence, generosity and symbiosis with Nature.
The result, after 8 years of trial and error, is a model for data-driven narrative campaigning that we believe has a track record, and even more potential, to make substantive contributions to evolving and improving these narratives.
3) When did TR close?
The Rules officially closed on November 30, 2019 after eight years of service.
4) What happened to TR’s work?
The focus of TR’s work was on hacking the dominant cultural narratives in order to create spaces for alternative narratives to emerge. “Culture hacking” is what we call this method and practice.
We hosted a series of workshops – Culture Hack Lives – in places such as Greece, England, South Africa, Mexico and Guatemala to support the next cadre of “meme warriors” from various social justice movements.
If you want to deepen your relationship to culture hacking, here are five possible avenues:
1) You can reach out Culture Hack Labs, a cooperatively run consultancy started by former members of TR.
2) We have created a series of open source tools through our Culture Hack Platform. You can access the open-source code on GitHub here.
3) You can watch this video on what is culture hacking by members of the TR collective.
4) You can also download a pdf of our Culture Hacking Toolkit here.
5) You will also be able to find many of TR’s key case studies here.
5) Have you achieved what you set out to do?
TR’s work has always been part of a much bigger story – one of resistance and re-imagination in the Anthropocene. And this work will live on in various forms, permutations, and expressions.
When we started TR, many people thought we were crazy when we said things like “poverty is the logical outcome of the rules of capitalism” or that “capitalism creates climate change”. Now this has become a more common understanding. We’ve seen a growing global resistance to late-stage capitalism around the world – from the Arab Spring to Occupy to the Indignados of Spain to African Awakenings, to the #YoSoy132 student movement of Mexico, to the Extinction Rebellion. We’ve arrived at a place where it’s impossible to turn back now.
What was our role in any of that? This brings us to the idea of cause and effect. As keen students of systems science, we know that cause-and-effect tends to be a complicated question and messy affair, most certainly when dealing with narratives involving countless agents and actors. We would never claim that anything we did resulted in a neat, linear change. We understand the cultural pressure and desire to tell good stories about the impact one’s work has in the world, but our desire is to not claim credit for emergence. Fortunately, our community has never demanded claims we have not been comfortable making and we have had some very supportive and sophisticated funders who have been keen that we explore and innovate, more than we claim unverifiable linear impacts.
All that said, we do believe we have made a meaningful contribution in a non-dualistic sense. By which we mean, we can trace some connection and emergent resonance between our action and change in the wider world. We would point particularly to the following case studies.
6) How will I be able to stay in touch with the TR team?
All of us who came together over the course of 8 years to form and run TR are individuals who are connected in desire for a post-capitalist, post-patriarchal, post-colonial world based on the values of interdependence with Life, generosity, solidarity, compassion and celebration across difference.
Since none of us speaks for TR, and TR no longer exists as an organization, there is no one to get in touch with directly.
Our work lives through some of the projects started by members of the TR collective and work we admire in its ability to shift the cultural norms of consensus reality. You can explore some of these initiatives on our home page.
You can engage in a culture hacking practice of your own with the online communities that have been created through the course of our work:
Instagram – CHL
Twitter – CHL