Archive

Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

‘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.

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?

Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious…(unless you are policy wonk or their lackey…)

July 5, 2011 4 comments

  1. Not every small business or micro-enterprise owner needs a mentor.
  2. Mentoring is NOT the only helping relationship.
  3. Good mentors are rarely trained in ‘mentoring’, nor are they picked from a register.
  4. Successful mentors are usually selected from within the pre-existing network of the mentee.  They are spotted and developed as someone from  whom the mentee really wants to learn.
  5. Mentoring is an intermittent rather than a continuous relationship.
  6. Access to good mentors is usually restricted and respectful rather than a tradeable commodity.
  7. The success of the mentorship is usually down to the mentee rather than the mentor.  Good mentees know how to choose a mentor and manage the relationship with them to get the learning and the introductions that they need.
  8. The commoditisation of mentoring is not a good thing.
  9. Mentors are not coaches, advisers, consultants, counsellors or facilitators.  People looking to learn and develop themselves and/or their organisations should think carefully about the kind of ‘help’ they need.
  10. We should help people explore what they want to learn and how they are going to learn it – rather than prescribe yet another ‘cure-all’ that happens to be ‘affordable’.
  11. We should focus our efforts on building social learning contexts and helping people manage their learning processes rather than setting up registers and schemes.
  12. If the national association of image consultants got their lobbying act together I am sure we might all end up being encouraged to use a national register of image consultants in pursuit of GDP.

If you are interested in implementing ill thought through policy and exploiting it as way to make a few bob please do not get in touch.  If on the other you are serious about building a context in which people  can really learn then I would love to hear from you.

Just leave a comment below.

Elsie is Born…


I seem to have been a bit quiet on this blog, while I have been doing other things, including pushing Progress School along, working on Collaborate Leeds and incubating a new idea which has finally found the light of day today:

The Leeds Community Enterprise Accelerator or Elsie for short.  This provides a community based network of support to local enterprise coaches, advisors, facilitators, in fact to anyone who is helping someone else in the community to make progress.

I have high hopes for Elsie in post Business Link austerity economy.  I think it will provide a sustainable high value model to provide practical crowd sourced enterprise support to those that most want and need it.

Have a look at Elsie and tell me what you think.

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.

Breaking the Stranglehold on Enterprise

May 9, 2011 2 comments

For a few years now I seem to have been living in Groundhog Day.  Not everyday, but enough to be disconcerting.

I will be chatting with an enterprise professional, perhaps a lecturer in a University, an enterprise coach in a ‘deprived’ community, a start-up business adviser or a bureaucrat managing an enterprise project.  In our conversations about enterprise we will recognise how it is not all about business.  How enterprise can be expressed in a seemingly infinite number of ways.  Sure, for a significant and important minority, it is about commercial endeavour. Business, profit, and social impact in some combination.  In order to express their enterprising soul a minority have to start a business.

But for the majority being enterprising, being proactive in pursuit of a better future, does not mean starting up a business.  It may mean making a phone call, having a conversation, calling a meeting or writing a letter.  Taking some action that increases agency and power in pursuing a preferred future.  It may be taking the opportunity to reflect on ‘The direction in which progress lies‘, or ‘What are the next steps that I can take to make progress?‘  or ‘What options have I got?

We will reflect on how some of the most enterprising people we know may work in the Council, or the University, or organise festivals and campaigns in the community.  That the enterprising soul finds its expressions in many forms and not just in entrepreneurship.

We will agree that the real point of leverage in our communities lies not in providing start-up advice with those who are already minded to start a business, although of course this IS important.  The real leverage lies in helping more people to establish the direction in which progress lies for them and their loved ones and helping them to plan and execute actions designed to move them in that direction.

If we can significantly increase the stock of enterprising people then, as sure as eggs is eggs, we will also increase the stock of entrepreneurial people.  And we will not lose so many who are completely turned off by enterprise because of the Gordon Gecko or Victorian perceptions of enterprise nurtured by the reality TV shows and newspaper headlines.

We will also increase the survival rate of new businesses as people make natural progress into entrepreneurship instead of being persuaded to start a business (‘all you need is the idea and the determination to succeed’) when they have not yet gained the real skills or capital that they will need to succeed.

In our conversations we will agree on these things.  And then almost invariably they will head off to run another course on ‘Marketing and Sales’ or ‘Business Planning’ or to look at monitoring returns that count bums on seats and business start-up rates.

If ever there was an industry that needed to innovate and re-invent itself and its role in modern Britain it is the enterprise industry.   If we really want to build a much more enterprising Britain then we need to break the stranglehold that the business start-up industry has on enterprise policy.

This might be just one of the ideas we can explore at Enterprising Communities: The Big Conversation in Leeds on May 19th.

Dock Street Market – and the role of the Leeds communities

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I went to a very wonderful opening for Dock Street Market last Friday.  It used to be a decent enough shop that had many fans and reportedly turned over a million a year.  But still it could not survive.

Now the shop has been taken over by a number of local artisan producers and entrepreneurs, all of whom offer a phenomenal product.  We have fish and chips reinvented by the wonderful Fish &, excellent north Italian coffee and more from Bottega Milanese, superb breads from the Riverside Sourdough Bakery and more.  The people behind these businesses are phenomenally hard working and focussed on quality, service and value.  They are doing their bit to make the collaborative project a success.

But my interest is in the role of the rest of us.  The fine citizens of Leeds.  Of the 700 000 plus people that live in the city, my guess is that the vast majority will not even know that the Dock St Market exists.  They are ‘strangers’ to the market.  Perhaps 10 ooo or so are aware of the market and certainly a couple of hundred rocked up at the opening last week.  These constitute ‘prospects’.  People who know the market exists and may become customers.

But customers so far, by definition, are a smaller group.  Having only just opened not many of us have had the chance to spend our cash in Dock Street Market yet….

A large part of the success of the market will depend on the rate at which strangers are turned in to prospects, prospects are turned into customers, and customers are turned into loyal supporters of the brand.

Historically this process of marketing and sales would be down to the entrepreneurs.  This is their job.  But I am interested in the role of the rest of us.  Those who are already prospects and customers, and our ability to help in the sales and marketing process.   Our power to influence others to check out and support the development of the great independent traders  in Dock Street Market.

Because the ability of a community to support great business is perhaps as important in developing an enterprise culture as the development of the entrepreneur.

Social media has amplified the voice of the prospect and the customer.  It can help to reach the strangers.  As can word of mouth strategies based on good quality referrals and introductions.

So of course let us keep giving the entrepreneurs the training and skills that they need.  But let us also consider how we can equip the rest of us to properly support businesses in our community.

Good luck to all behind the Dock St Market venture.  And let’s see just how much the rest of us can do to really support the kind of independent, artisan based businesses that many of us say we want to see thriving in Leeds.

You can find Dock St just south of the river.  It is well worth checking out!

More on Dock Street Market. And More…from Bronchia

Dear Lord Young…

November 1, 2010 7 comments

Congratulations on your appointment as the new enterprise csar.  I am sure that the unpaid and part time role will keep you engaged.

I am pleased that you will look at how to ‘encourage people to start businesses rather than find jobs as employees’.  It makes a refreshing change from the usual line of the ‘private sector creating jobs’.  As we know big businesses have, on the whole, been laying people off over recent decades rather than taking them on. And just how long can we keep going with the mentality of ‘gizza job’ and ‘on yer bike/bus’ in a 21st century globalised and localised economy?

Can I suggest you take an early look at the semantics of ‘encouraging people to start businesses‘  and the very practical consequences that are likely to flow from it.  When a figure in authority, never mind Government, sets out to ‘encourage us’ to do something, some of us come over all suspicious.   Are you really interested in our well-being, or is there a more self centred game being played?  There is a good chance that in the very act of ‘encouraging us’ you serve to engender resistance to the very idea you wish us to entertain.  Psychologists call this reactance.

I have not read in detail the guidance on the Regional Growth Fund.  But I understand, from correspondence with someone that has, that it specifically says that self-employment is not something it should be used to promote.  Instead it should be used to encourage jobs created by employers.  There seems to be somewhat of a contradiction here.

But back to the point of encouraging  people to start businesses.  I believe that what you really want to achieve is a society where more people do start businesses that survive and thrive.  This should be the real policy goal.

So how to get there?

I would advocate that you should dissuade as many people as possible from starting new businesses.  Only for those people who insist that this is something that they have to do should we roll up our sleeves and help.  By working in a focussed way with a relatively small number of highly committed people we might have a chance of getting some real success stories.  And as we know, success breeds success.  More positive role models out there leads to more people following in their wake.  This contrasts with the current approach of offering a little support and encouragement to a lot of people, resulting in high business failure and loan default rates and a widespread perception that a journey into enterprise is likely to leave you worse off than when you started.

Can I also suggest that you do not wave money at people, New Enterprise Allowance style,  in a bid to encourage them to start a business?  The reality is that we have armies of advisers out there wading through thousands of appointments with people who are often half-hearted in their aspiration to start a business, but whole hearted in their commitment to securing the money that they see themselves as entitled to.  Instead of offering them a carefully calculated economic incentive (calculated to make things cheaper for the treasury I suspect rather than enabling people to start businesses with a decent level of working capital), offer them nothing, except excellent and committed advice, coaching and support that they need to put together an idea that is worth investing in.   I suspect that almost overnight the numbers of individuals engaged in ‘enterprise development’ would fall dramatically, but those that remained engaged would be there for the right reasons – to develop long term and sustainable strategies for self employment or entrepreneurship – and not just to secure a grant or a loan that they can default on with relative impunity.   NB don’t expect many of the enterprise support agencies to support this idea.  They have developed business models that survive on a mass market for enterprise development.

Of course access to finance matters.  But let others be the gatekeepers to it, not those who are supposed to be coaching clients to develop their enterprising ideas.

Then of course we have the challenge of helping the hundreds of thousands of people who will be faced with redundancy over the next few years.  Can I suggest that we put in place a service that does not ‘encourage them to start a business’, but that does encourage them to fully explore and understand all of their options?  I am sure that many of them have the potential to become successful, if initially reluctant entrepreneurs, if only we can provide them with the right kind of support.

And finally, don’t get all hung up with ‘national voluntary mentoring schemes’ and traditional business support organisations.  Instead get interested in what you can do to encourage communities to provide the support that local people need in pursuing their enterprising ideas (these may be much wider than self employment and business start ups).  Some of the more imaginative enterprise coaching schemes have started to develop community panels to provide practical assistance to local people.  This is an approach that can certainly be developed further.

There is tons of potential out there – and at the moment we are wasting much of it.

After Business Link…Time for a change of tack?

October 29, 2010 7 comments

So it was confirmed in the White Paper yesterday that Business Links will be gone by the end 2012.  All that will remain is a website, and perhaps a call centre.

So what will replace £154m per year of business information, advice and guidance?

Time for DIY support I think.

Time for businesses and the wider communities of which they are a part to help themselves on their own terms.

I am not talking about ‘local’  Chambers of Commerce or Enterprise Agencies winning contracts from the State to deliver outputs and targets in return for tax payers cash.  That will just recreate the problems of the old regime:

  • post code lotteries,
  • sectoral discrimination,
  • services designed to trigger funding payments and hit targets, rather than work in person centred ways to deliver just in time support to the people who are hungriest for it,
  • groupies who learn to lunch with the bureaucrats and help them to deliver the targets while some people who are the most hungry for support are denied it because they are not aiming to turnover £2m within 24 months, live in the wrong part of town, aren’t working in a priority sector and so on.

DIY culture can provide support that is:

  • more accessible,
  • more inclusive,
  • much less expensive and I suspect,
  • much, much more impactful in terms of creating economic, social and political progress than the current system.

Why, because it is convivial, inclusive, centred on people and relationships, not focussed on policy goals and targets, bureaucracy light, puts experts and expertise in the back seat rather than the driving seat (it is great to have them on board when we need them – but much of this stuff we can figure out for ourselves), dynamic and above all fun!

And I would ensure that everyone who wants it, who really wants to work on making progress, should have access to free, confidential and competent coaching, in the community, from a coach who is supported, and held accountable by local people.  This is both practical, sustainable and affordable with the potential for a tremendous return on investment in terms of business, culture, health and well-being, community development, skills development and so forth.

The radical secret to this is that the coach engages with and works on the clients agenda – not the agendas of the planners and policy makers.

Time to take ‘enterprise development’ out of the ghettos of ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘business support’ and to put it at the heart of our strategies for community development.

Because if we develop the people and the communities then they will build the economy.

I wonder if any of the new Local Enterprise Partnerships will have the courage, foresight and leadership to give it a go?

Social Enterprise and Good Work…Provoked by Craig Dearden-Phillips

September 23, 2010 2 comments

Craig Dearden-Phillips wrote an excellent piece on the need to financially incentivise social entrepreneurs.

When I read it I was not sure whether I agreed violently or disagreed violently.  Let’s just say I ‘felt’ strongly about it.  It troubled me.  I was provoked.  As I am sure Craig was when he wrote the piece.

Schumacher (Fritz, not Michael) helped me to explore the basis of my feelings.

He pointed out that from the perspective of the employer, work is a bad thing.  It represents a cost.  It is to be minimised.  If possible eradicated – handed over to a robot.  This truth always makes me smile when the government talks of the private sector ‘creating jobs’.

From the perspective of the worker too it is  often a bad thing. What Schumacher called a ‘disutility‘. A temporary but significant sacrifice of ‘leisure and comfort’ for which compensation is earned.

Schumacher pointed toward a Buddhist perspective where work serves three purposes:

  • to provide an opportunity to use and develop potential
  • to join with others in the achievement of a shared task – to provide opportunities for meaningful association
  • to produce the goods and services that are necessary for what he called a ‘becoming existence’

He then went on to say

to organize work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence

What can we do to make sure that more of our work is ‘good work’ and not merely a disutility for which we are compensated?

What products and services do we really need for a ‘becoming existence’.

This for me is the true role of the ‘Social Enterprise’ sector in our economy.  The development of good work.  The enhancement of association and compassion.  To provide a real alternative to the mainstream work as profitable disutility philosophy of much (but not all) of the private sector.

And there is no good reason why we should not take sufficient value from our business to lead a ‘becoming existence’ is there?  So I agree with Craig’s thesis, but not with the line of argument that took him there.  Are the risks really any greater?  Can a business be anything other than directly social?

I’m trying to learn just to die with pride,

Like the birds and the trees and the earth in time

But I’ve got this complex and it makes me fear,

That I’ll die knowing nothing and feeling less.

Hope and Social

Now, anyone for some truly social enterprise?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53 other followers