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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.

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.

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

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

10 Reasons Why You Should Never Start a Business…

August 9, 2010 3 comments

I have just been reading Steve Pavlina’s post on 10 Reasons Why You Should Never Get a Job.  Although written with, in my opinion, an offensive and patronising tone (people with jobs are morons, bosses are idiots etc) it does raise some interesting points.  Including the one about ‘getting paid while you sleep’ rather than while you work.  Seductive stuff!

But like so much of the self help and entrepreneurship industry it lacks balance and feels manipulative. So, in the interest of balance, here are 10 reasons why you should never start a business.

1  It may lead to debt and misery

The stats on business success are not that pretty.  For everyone like Steve that earns $40 000 a month from their website there are hundreds if not thousands who are trapped in a business that does not make enough money.  They work long hours for little or no money.  You talk to a Venture Capitalist and most of them will tell you the same.  For every 20 businesses or so they invest in the majority never make a return on the investment.  A few will just about break even on the investment.  And, if they are lucky, perhaps one or two will make some serious money.  Serious enough to cover the failed investments in those other businesses.  So what are the odds?  Are you sure you will be one of the lucky ones?

2  It will put strain on your relationships

When you run your own business it nearly always takes time.  A lot of time.  If you have had children and gone through the ‘terrible twos’ then you will understand what I mean when I say a new business is demanding, just like a toddler.  It takes time and energy.  Of course, so does holding down a job, but running your own business is way, way more invasive.   Many successful business people have left behind them a trail of broken marriages and damaged friendships.

3 It is difficult

Don’t believe those that tell you starting a business is easy.  ‘Just follow these 10 simple steps to business success’ etc.  Business is hard.  And small business is the hardest of all.  Because often there is only you to get the product right, to deal with customers, to do marketing and sales and to manage the money.  In a small business one mistake can take you down for a very long time.   Big business can afford the odd dodgy product launch.  But for small business it may be the end of the road.  You get sick as an employee and there will probably be a job for you to go back to when you are well.  You get sick when you are the business and that might be curtains….

4 Everyone becomes a mark

Unless you are careful the pressure to sell your business will turn everyone that you meet into a potential sale.  Not so long back I heard a primary school teacher telling one of the charges in her enterprise class that ‘everyone you meet is a potential customer’ and ‘remember you are ALWAYS selling’.

5 You become a mark

Once you have got a business everyone is trying to sell you something.  Mobile phones, office equipment, a sure-fire way to earn money while you sleep – yada, yada…And if they are not trying to sell you something they will portray you as a profit obsessed capitalist taking us all to hell in a handcart, profiting from the poor and ruining the environment.  You had better have thick skin.

6 You may become obsessed with money

Because that is how you ‘keep score’ in business.  It is  not enough to do good work. That work has to be profitable.  And if you have not got deep pockets it has to be profitable quickly.

7 You become a lackey to Government

Contributing to their goals of a sustainable growing economy, rather than a sustainable planet, collecting taxes for them and generally helping them to maintain their economic scorecard

8  You become that evil bovine master

When you start a business you are the daddy.  Or mummy.  You are the idiot.  And the hero.  It all rests on your shoulders…

9 You will have an inbred social life

I have met so many entrepreneurs for whom their business has become their life.  And they are trapped in it.  They can’t stop trading, but nor can they make good money. And if they do make good money then they have no-one or no time to spend it with.  They are literally married to the business.

10 You become a coward

If you are lucky, you find what works and you stick to it.   You don’t take major risks.  You can never walk away.  Just day after day the same old same old feeding the beast.

Now of course my 10 reasons are no closer to the truth than are Steve’s.  And that is the point.  No-one can tell you what the right thing is for you to do.

Not now.  Not ever.

So, the next time a slickly dressed and white-toothed smiler promises you that jobs are for idiots and that you too can make money while you sleep, well my best advice is just to look that particular gift horse in the mouth, very carefully.  Especially when they close their post with a link to your very own ‘Make Money Online’ business.

We Are All Creative and it Matters for Economic Development


and when it comes to an abrupt halt…

However I think people and communities become creative in response to not being supported.  When we ‘support’ creatives we can unwittingly clip their wings…

Crib Sheet for The Entrepreneur’s Workshop

June 18, 2010 2 comments

A Crib Sheet

Workshops are fascinating and dangerous places. In the right hands they can produce things of great beauty and real lasting value.  In the wrong hands they can do great damage and wreck lives.

The entrepreneur’s workshop is no different.

True enough; the tools in the entrepreneur’s workshop have no sharp edges, burning fires or high speed drills.

The entrepreneur’s tools are a set of ideas, principles, practices and habits that, applied with care and passion, can produce a wonderful lifestyle.  Learn to use these tools properly and they will serve you well.

Misuse them and the consequences are likely to include debt, damaged relationships and misery.

10 of the most powerful tools in The Entrepreneur’s Workshop:

  1. The Truth Detector – How to decide what might work for you
  2. Want to or Have to…?
  3. The Double Edged Sword
  4. Getting Organised – doing what has to be done, and doing it well
  5. Entrepreneur Artisan or Artist?
  6. Have, Do, Become…
  7. Build a Team OR Do it All – the choice is yours
  8. The ‘investment ready’ Business Plan
  9. Situational Enterprise – the importance of technique and motivation
  10. Towards the Total Quality Enterprise – a tool to decide ‘What’s next?’

For more information contact Mike on 07788 747954

Twitter: @mikechitty

Facebook: mikechitty

LinkedIn: mikechitty

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