Harnessing the storm.

"At times of great winds, some dig bunkers and others build windmills."


Years back when travelling I came across a saying that at times of great winds, some people dig bunkers and others build windmills. There’s little doubt that coronavirus COVID-19 has created winds of unimaginable power. What we do with the energy they bring will define us as leaders and citizens for generations to come. 


As we sit here isolated from friends and family, wondering what the next few months will be like, it’s hard to think clearly about the tectonic impact shifts ahead. When we move past the virus’ peak of infection and mortality to safer and saner ground though, we can be ready.


What we’re ready for depends on the choices we make now. We could hand out the spades and shift dirt to protect ourselves in those tempting bunkers, surrounded by the same pretence that we’ve lived by for so long. Or, by leaning in close, we can notice patterns of change in the world that we haven’t fully heard before. Listening with open hearts and minds, we will know beyond doubt that our duty is to build windmills. It is our responsibility to fully harness the power of change, disruption and opportunity ahead. That is our choice at TYF.


Our heritage is one of adventure, activism and fixing broken systems. On recent team calls, that history shone through with continued commitment to make shift happen, regardless of what happens to business funding, closures or anything else. TYF’s vision is determined by who we are, not by what we have around us.


We are hugely encouraged that although our clients have inevitably cancelled or postponed their programmes, they are fully committed to a journey of learning and growth with us, realising perhaps for the first time how deep change must reach. With schools closed, there is added pressure on nurses and doctors as they balance patient care and childcare. We have sent Gold Command an offer to deliver long-term residential education and adventure camps across the country so that if they need it, health professionals and social workers can focus on their work knowing that children and parents are safe. Working with our adventure trade partners, we can care for thousands of children.


TYF have cancelled July’s ‘Black Belt Big Heart’ celebration of environmental action at the Principality Stadium that we were delivering with Cardiff City Council. We were well into the process of planning an event that would bring together 7500 children and parents as part of a cross-generational learning journey to transform the capital into a UNICEF-certified Child-Friendly City. Although the stadium event won’t happen in 2020, we will continue to build the digital assets to help every child in every school grow an unshakeable confidence in their ability to bend the arc of the future, building skill and muscle through real-world sustainability problem solving.


More than ever, we need to look after ourselves, our families and communities, without ever losing sight of the work that counts. I’m using my time for Zoom conversations with change partners around the world to build projects that we can deliver in a few months’ time. TYF’s Head of Adventure, John is training this season’s guides remotely, with an expectation that by July we’ll be safe and ready to take a breather and step back into the world of play and hugs together. Izzy is doing an epic job in keeping our change-partner schools up to date and ready for whatever comes. Chris is working with B Corp and Impact business leaders to help their longer-term change journeys. Stacy, Johannes and Bonnie are connecting our community with the possibilities of play and impact that will come in good time. Jack and Brigit are holding the back office together and liaising with government.


Together, we are committed to harness the power of the biggest disruption to ‘business as usual’ that’s happened in our lifetimes and make sure that whatever grows out of the other side of this is fit for purpose, life and thriving communities. 


If you need someone to listen or a sounding board for batshit-crazy ideas, then get in touch with me or the team any time. We’ve got time on our hands. Let’s use it well and build a windmill powerful enough to turn the earth. 


Stay Safe,


Andy Middleton

23 March 2020 


1 comment


  • Mike

    From Amsterdam:
    Dear Mr Middleton, Andy, thank you for this great slogan and inspiring peptalk. Your words are valuable for the international community of “windmill builders” (at which we in Holland are pretty good) ;-) Take care, stay safe.


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