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‘Bottom Up’ is the New Black

November 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Leeds – Dec 1st

Whether it is more ‘civic enterprise’, community engagement or ‘Big Society,’ people with power, but increasingly little money, are looking for new ways to get things done.  The large capital infrastructure projects have not given us more inclusive communities and now we can’t afford them any way, so in some quarters at least interest is shifting from old school top down strategy to a more emergent process of bottom up development.  To processes where large numbers of people can shape their own futures and as a result the futures of the communities that they live in.

But making the shift from top down to bottom up is far from easy….

Over the last few years I have been developing low and no cost approaches to economic, personal and community development leading to new projects such as:

These are my best efforts to provide an infrastructure that allows the private, public, third sector and those of ‘no sector’ to give and get the help that they need to develop enterprising projects and people, and for the development of ‘community’ by building relationships and networks around local activists.  To bring ‘bottom up’ development to life.

This one day masterclass will provide:

  • an overview of the ‘responsive’, bottom up philosophy that underpins each of these projects and its relationship to more commonly found ‘strategic efforts at community development and strategy implementation
  • the implications for strategists and policy developers of the patterns and themes for development that emerge from these bottom up activities
  • practical ‘warts and all’ insights into each of the 5 projects listed above including their progress, impact and cost base
  • an exploration of the links between the various projects and how they work together to provide an infrastructure for progress
  • an overview of the factors that drive their development and an exploration of how these can be managed
  • insights into how the projects manage social inclusion
  • opportunities to explore how these projects can be used to inform economic, community and personal development in your own area.

Who Should Attend?

  • Professionals and practitioners interested in new apporaches to economic and community development
  • Councillors and lcoal authority staff with responsibility for neighbourhoods and community
  • Representatives from the private sector with an interest in community and neighbourhood development, corporate social repsonsibility or looking to develop links with their community
  • Funders looking for new ideas in community development and regneration
  • Local people looking for affordable and accessible approaches to community development
Find out more and book your place here – http://bottomupisthenewblack.eventbrite.co.uk/
First 15 to book get 50% off.

Here’s to the compliant ones…

October 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Another afternoon talking NEETS and another bunch of folk who think that a few more entrepreneurs going in to schools to raise aspirations will make things better.

It wont.

Because for the vast majority of the time our cultures, in schools, councils and other machine bureaucracies actually teach a very different lesson.

The celebration of compliance and subjugation to the system.  So….

Here’s to the compliant ones

The submissives

The ‘OK’ folk

The shapeshifters occupying the shape shifting roles

The ones who see the reason of others

They are fond of rules and the security of routine

They can quote you, agree with you, glorify, and support you

And, when you need to, you can ignore them.

Because they challenge nothing,

They don’t push the boundaries

And, while some may see them as automatons, we see them as gun fodder

The people who will threaten nothing and will work for little more.

The business of human endeavour…

August 3, 2011 6 comments

For a long time now I have had real concerns about the focus of policy makers, and the projects that they spawn, on ‘enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ as being just too business oriented.  It is as if the only fields of human endeavour that matter are commerce of some kind.  Making money or fixing societies ills.

This is especially un-nerving when you see it played out in our primary schools as 6 year olds are encouraged to wear badges that proclaim them be a ‘Sales Director’, an ‘Operations Manager’ or a ‘Brand Executive’. Yuk!

What about all of those other great fields of human endeavour?

Climbing mountains, making art, having fun, playing sport, writing, cooking and so on.

What if we encouraged our 6 year olds to wear badges that proclaimed them to be ‘Footballer in Training’, ‘Ballet Dancer under Construction’, ‘Surgeon to Be’ or ‘The Next Michael McIntyre’?  OK, so perhaps we don’t need another Michael McIntyre…. but you get my point?

Because what really matters is not exposing more people to the world of business and entrepreneurship.  It is to get them imagining possible futures, and learning how best to navigate towards them.  It is about developing people with a sense of agency and influence over their own futures.  It is about building a generation with both power and compassion. And a generation who really understand how to use the tools of collaboration, association and cooperation in pursuit of mutual progress.

Does it really only matter if their chosen endeavour contributes to GVA?  Or is there more to our humanity that we need to recognise and encourage through both our policy and practice?

And this is not just an issue in schools.  It runs like a plague through our communities from cradle to grave.

I think this is important because we lose so many who are completely turned off by the thought of a world of commerce (and let’s face it we don’t all want to dive headlong into a world of Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice).

So what about if instead of focussing on enterprise and entrepreneurship we attempted to throw our net wider and to encourage and support people to build their power and compassion in whatever they choose to be their particular fields of human endeavour?

The Art and Enterprise of the Luthier


One Way to Raise your Profile…

June 7, 2011 2 comments

Towards the Enterprising Community


No-one can agree on a community.  Is it defined by political geography? Physical geography? Economic geography?  Interest, practice, culture?  So how do we use such an elusive, slippery yet, for some of us, attractive and powerful concept?

Well, personally I have given up worrying about how ‘communities’ are defined by outsiders (politicians, funders, missionaries of various kinds, what Paul Theroux calls the Dark Angels of Virtue).  The only thing that matters for me is the individual, or the usually small group sat in front of me, and their perception of their community, defined their way.  Any other attempt to work with the concept for me is just hot air.  We all define community personally and, very probably, uniquely.

But that does not make the concept useless.  Quite the opposite.

I spend a lot of time helping people to look at the relationships and contexts that they are a part of and the extent to which they help or hinder them to become the kind of person that they wish to become, accomplishing the things that they most wish to accomplish.  And I will spend time working with them on how they can get more of the support that they need from their ‘community’.  I spend a lot of time and energy building networks of people who just love to ‘help’.  Many of these networks are a blend of face to face and online – mediated through blogs and social networks as well as through a range of meetings, gatherings and parties.  And I try to connect individuals from one network into individuals from another, so that help can start to flow across and between different groups.

So first we have to find self interest.  That which really matters personally.  That which shapes who we are.  That on which our identity is based and through which it can be constructively shaped.

Then we have to find common cause and build networks and relationships where we can successfully negotiate our self interest.  We then forge connections between these networks to build a diverse, resourceful ‘community’ of individuals who are helping and being helped as part of their daily practice.  Surely this puts us firmly on the trail of the enterprising community?

And for great things to happen people have to learn to help each other.   The stereotype of the selfish backstabbing ‘Apprentice’ does not thrive in an enterprising community – though they may do well in The City.  Successful citizens in the enterprising community learn to associate, collaborate, cooperate and mutualise.  To find those with whom there is a common cause.  And they understand that giving hep to others is as important as getting help themselves.  The have theGo-Giver mindset and they express it through their actions.  They live it.

So, as those who attended Enterprising Community: Big Conversation explored, enterprising community is not a place or a neighbourhood but a philosophy, that can be summed up as ‘Concentrate on yourself and helping your neighbour’.

And where does entrepreneurship fit into this practice?  How does this help the start up rate?  Well the more powerful and enterprising individuals we have, embedded in enterprising communities the more great start-ups we will have, borne into a context where they may well enjoy the support of a wide web of community.  We are truly building a community where enterprise and entrepreneurship may thrive.

Developing Enterprising Artists Using Open Space

February 2, 2011 1 comment

Yesterday I was invited to help Axis and the ever wonderful Culture Vulture to run a ‘Cultural Conversation’ to help a group of around 60 artists, project managers, collectors and gallery managers to explore the role of social media in supporting their work.  The group included some social media users and ‘experts’ (I use that word cautiously) and one or two technical types.  Peopl trsavelled from all over the north of England to take part and the venue at Project Space Leeds was rammed!

Instead of using the default setting of finding some experts to explain it all to the numpties we went with an open space meeting.  In this format groups of people meet to explore as peers the issues and topics they wish to explore.  They set the agenda, in real time on the day, and learn by exchanging experiences, insights and challenges.  They talk to each other, like human beings, in conversations.

In under four hours the group of 60 were each able to attend 4 conversations chosen from a schedule of 18 or so.  The topics included:

  • ‘What is Twitter and How Do I Use It’
  • Social Media Dialogue as Artwork’
  • I am Completely Overwhelmed! Where Do I Start?
  • Using Social Media for Critique

and many more.

Despite the fact that there are no experts holding forth, no lectures and no exhibitions the feedback from those who attended was excellent.  They enjoyed the process, they learned a lot, and most (perhaps all?) went away enthused about increasing or changing the way they use social media either to produce or attract and audience to their work.

This kind of open space conversation that builds relationships amongst participants and fosters enquiry and peer learning, rather than sitting passively while an expert holds forth, seem to me to be consistently effective ways to both build the social capital that forms the bedrock of an enterprising community and enable them to access the insights that they need to know, right now.  Indeed as the afternoon wore on a few new conversations were added as people though ‘Right, know I need to find out about….’

60 people smiling, laughing, talking, challenging, enquiring and advocating.  In short being human and exploring the implications of social media for something that they love.

A low cost, high value and extremely productive contribution to the enterprising ecosystem.  At a time when we need to be creating more value for less cash I can’t help that the world of enterprise development needs to embrace this type of peer to peer learning event.  We not be able to do much to improve the transport infrastructure in the city without a great big dollop of cash from government, but we can surely improve the enterprising infrastructure for next to nothing!

Some more thoughts were captured on the day in this audioboo – Why Open Space Works for Artists

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