Findhorn Foundation: Camilla Bredel Pedersen

Camilla Pedersen is the chair of management of the Findhorn Foundation, which lies at the heart of 40 organisations making up all aspects of life at the Findhorn ecovillage, founded over 50 years ago on principles of spirituality and environmentalism. Under her leadership, Findhorn has become established as a forum for innovative events involving major organisations in the fields of responsible investment, corporate social responsibility and climate change.

What do you do?
My name is Camilla Pedersen and I’m the chair of management of the Findhorn Foundation, which involves the overseeing of the running of the Findhorn Foundation, the organisation at the heart of the community. We bring between 3,000 and 4,000 people here every year for different experiences.

What is the point of the project?
The Findhorn Foundation was founded by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean in the sixties. From that time we have three principles that we continue to work with to this day. These are inner listening and co-creation with the intelligence behind all life and the concept that work is love in action. We have stayed pretty true to the original impulse and the founders’ ideas.

Increasingly in the last few years the Findhorn Foundation has focussed on how we can make the work we do here every day, how can we make it more tangible? How can we use 50-plus years of experience and the network that spans all over the world, how can we use that in a way that we can see that having a wider impact than what we have been used to?

We have collaborated with the local council to bring in people who can really benefit from what we do here every day. We have created programs for socially excluded young people.

But we have also developed the identity of a meeting place where people can have conversations that matter and continue to have them. Finding synergy, creating collaborations and potentially influence policy making or have other meaningful outcomes.

When was the moment you decided to do this?
I originally came when I was 19 from Norway. I was going to stay for a week and then go and travel the world. I was really fascinated by the way of life here and the community. I also had an internal spiritual enquiry and I wanted to have an experience of something different to what had been my life.

Like many people, I stayed on after the first week – I fell completely in love. I never left, like many people, they stay for a week and are still here 15 years later. In a way that has been my education. It has been an alternative education.

We have stayed pretty true to the original impulse and the founders’ ideas.

I feel much more holistic, I feel like I have been supported in developing aspects of myself by the community. I’ve chosen to dive into roles and take on responsibilities that I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing if I hadn’t come here.

The trust that is given to you is a very beautiful thing and very enabling.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?
For me personally, it’s positive to wake up every day and to really look forward to going to work. To feel that there is so much possibility, there is no dread, there’s no stress, it’s a sense of excitement most of the time. That’s a good thing personally.

In terms of my contribution, I am proud of the creation of the initiative called building bridges that reaches out to local disadvantaged young people, or local disabled people, or business people in the corporate world.

These are audiences we wouldn’t normally work with. It has been incredibly satisfying finding tangible way of translating what we do into things that are useful for those people and seeing that grow and have impact.

What’s been hardest?
One of the challenging things that we are experiencing is the fact that we are an international community.
We are who we are because we attract people with different viewpoints and we bring people together for this big social experiment.

In order to do that we have to be able to get people into the country on visas that make it possible for them to stay for the time that they want to. That applies to people who come for short-term programs but increasingly the longer term. Given we’ve just had the Brexit vote and we don’t know where that will lead us.

What drives you when it gets hard?
As a community, what we can do and what we are doing is to inform ourselves and support each other. There are two issues, one is what will Brexit look like in the end. We won’t need that. We can try to influence in ways that we are able but we will need to wait and see. But what we can do is work with the feeling of uncertainty and to cultivate a trend of trust and hope.

What would you say to someone looking to do something similar?
What would I say? Come and experience it and see for yourself. See what your experience might. If you come here expecting this to be an ideal society or a place to run away to you’d be disillusioned. It’ a microcosm of the larger and all the voices that are different from yours are going to be here. Maybe in this environment you’ll be able to find a different way of meeting those challenges and there will be support to help you grow as a person.

What does community mean to you?
Community means a sense of belonging, a place where I can give and receive support, it means that I’m part of something bigger and it makes me consider what’s best for the whole. It involves relationships and honesty and showing up. For me personally, it also means not shying away or hiding. It has a lot of power to it.

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